The Ghost of Salomon Pavey ... Shakespeare's rival?
In the Programme of the 400 Year anniversary - Shakespeare's Globe (London) - Globe Education production, (October 1999), Owen Dudley Edwards, Reader in History at Edinburgh University wrote ...
"Has Salomon come home to the Globe, or is he an unwanted intruder whose ghost will be ostracised by those of Shakespeare and his company?
The Children of The Chapel Royal had become highly successful rivals of Shakespeare's fellow-actors in the early years of the Globe (and the last years of Queen Elizabeth). And we are always reminded that Hamlet,II.2 includes rude remarks about "little eyasses" now fashionable for theatre audiences, and so Shakespeare is the enemy.
Or is he?
"As Shakespeare says" is the most commonplace and most contemptible of cliches; Shakespeare does not say (except maybe in the sonnets), he gets his characters to say. And in this case the rude remarks are put in the mealy mouths of Rozencrantz and Guildenstern. And when it comes to credibility, Rozencrantz and Guildenstern are dead.
It is certainly intended as a topical pantomime-style joke, and no doubt went down well, but the adverse judgement ascribed to blatant timesavers would be much more likely taken as a genial salute from a fellow professional. Or are we to assume that when later, in "Hamlet", the First Grave-Digger says that all the English are mad, this was seriously accepted as the playwright's judgement on himself and his country? Both are pantomime gags, and good ones.
What, apart from acting, did Shakespeare and Salomon Pavey share? Each received a deeply moving elegy by Ben Jonson, the richest account we have of each of them. The love Jonson obviously had for each of them did not commence with their deaths: Shakespeare would have known of the miracle of Salomon's epiphany as greybeard.
And while the Chapel Royal and the Chamberlain's Men were rivals, the blood was not that bad. Nathan Field, Salomon's comrade, joined Shakespeare's Company when he grew up - and he was not one to mince matters when it came to a grudge, denouncing a hostile puritanical cleric in 1616 for "uncharitable dealing with your poor parishioners, whose purses participate in your contribution and whose labour you are contented to eat", adding that the Bible "which I have studied my best part" contained no warrant for the preacher's attack on actors.
Moreover, the Burbage family owned Blackfriars Theatre where the Chapel Royal children performed while Richard Burbage was bestriding the Globe as Hamlet.
Could it have been the other way round? Hamlet was a tad risqué for the Chamberlain's Men: it contains a wickedly satirical portrait of a Chamberlain. The patronage was declining, and they became the King's Men after King James's accession in 1603. What about borrowing an actor from another company so that odium would not fall on the Chamberlain's Man who played the Chamberlain? Suppose the actor was the most famous performer of old men in the London theatre at that time? Suppose that the rude remarks about "little eyasses" are made to an audience already splitting its sides at the performance of Polonius by the most illustrious little eyass of the lot? Suppose that is why Polonius, much out of character, admits he had been an actor? It would explain why so essential a character to the tragedy should be made such a figure of fun even when Hamlet has killed him ("Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell").
Just supposing. But the case is as good, and better, than the notion that Shakespeare would resent Salomon's ghost appearing in the Globe.
His obvious answer would be: