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OSTLER, WILLIAM (fl. 1601–1623), actor, was in 1601 one of the children of Queen Elizabeth's chapel, playing at the theatre in Blackfriars. His name is found in the list of children who performed in Ben Jonson's 'Poetaster' in 1601. As he does not appear in the previous play of Jonson's 'Cynthia's Revels,' 1600, it may perhaps be assumed that this was Ostler's first appearance. Ostler played women's parts, whence Gifford assumes that the character he took was Julia. The age at which these children were first engaged appears to have been about thirteen. Collier assumes that Ostler was drafted into the King's players before 1604, the name Hostler being given in a list of the king's company at that date. In December 1610 the Burbages, who had bought the remaining lease of the Blackfriars, engaged Ostler, who in the same year appeared in Jonson's 'Alchemist,' The following year he took part in the same author's 'Catiline.' In the register of St. Mary, Aldermanbury , appears the entry : 'Baptised 18 May 1612 Beaumont, the sonne of William Ostler.' Ever fertile in conjecture, Collier states that Ostler was married before 1612; opines that Beaumont the dramatist might have been godfather to his child; and asserts that Ostler took part in Beaumont and Fletcher's 'Captain,' 'Bonduca,' 'Valentinian,' and 'no doubt in other plays, though his name be not found at the bottom of the dramatis personæ in the folios' (Eng, Dram, Poetry, in. 423). In the first representation of Webster's 'Duchess of Malfy,' about 1616, Ostler played Antonio, soon after which he is believed to have retired or died, the name of R. Benfield appearing as the exponent of the part on its reproduction. He was a popular and an applauded actor, as is proved by a mysterious epigram upon him, included in the 'Scourge of Folly' by John Davies of Hereford, circa 1611. This is addressed 'to the Roscius of those times, Mr. W. Ostler:'

Ostler, thou took'st a knock thou would'st have giv'n,
Neere sent thee to thy latest home : but, oh !
Where was thine action, when thy crown was riv'n,
Sole King of Actors? then wast idle? No:
Thou hadst it, for thou wouldst be doing. Thus
Good actors' deeds are oft most dangerous;
But if thou plaist thy dying part as well
As thy stage parts, thou hast no part in hell.

[Collier's English Dramatic Annals; Fleay's Chronicle of the Stage; Malone's Historical Account; Webster's Works, ed. Hazlitt; Jonson's Works, ed. Gifford.]

J. K.