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Taylor, Joseph (DNB00)

TAYLOR, JOSEPH (1586?–1653?), actor, may with some likelihood be identified with Joseph Taylor who was baptised on 6 Feb. 1585–6 at St. Andrew's in the Wardrobe, near Blackfriars Theatre. In 1607 Taylor was residing at ‘Mr. Langley's new rents, near the playhouse,’ probably the Globe, for in the next year his name appears as owner of a share and a half of the receipts at Blackfriars Theatre (valued at 350l.), which was then occupied by the king's players. On 30 March 1610 he was nominated one of the players of the Duke of York (afterwards Charles I) (Shakespeare Society's Papers, iv. 47), but by 29 Aug. 1611 he had become one of the players of Prince Henry under Philip Henslowe [q. v.] (Collier, Memoirs of Edward Alleyn, 1841, p. 98). He remained but a short time with this company, which dissolved on the prince's death in 1612, and by 1613, probably after a short connection with the company of the palatine of the Rhine, he had rejoined the actors at the Globe and Blackfriars. By January 1613–14 he was incorporated in the company of the Lady Elizabeth (Cunningham, Extracts from the Accounts of Revels at Court, Shakespeare Soc. 1842, p. xliv). In 1615 Taylor was at the head of the players of Prince Charles, who were partly recruited, in all probability, from those of the Lady Elizabeth. He performed also with other actors for Henslowe and Jacob Meade at Paris Garden after it had been fitted up as an occasional theatre. After Henslowe's death in January 1615–16 the players quarrelled with Meade and appealed to Edward Alleyn for pecuniary assistance (Alleyn Papers, Shakespeare Soc. 1843, pp. 86–7, with a facsimile of Taylor's signature).

At a later date Taylor rejoined the king's players. Collier conjectures that he attached himself to them after the death of Richard Burbage [q. v.] on 13 March 1618–19, and that he succeeded Burbage in most of his characters. On 24 June 1625 Taylor's name appears in the royal patent as a member of the company, and it is clear from other evidence that by that time he was already one of the principal performers. About 1637 he petitioned for the next waiter's place vacant in the custom house, London (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1637–8, p. 99). On 11 Nov. 1639 he was appointed ‘yeoman or keeper’ of the king's ‘vestures or apparel’ under Sir Henry Herbert (1595–1673) [q. v.], master of the revels ({sc|Cunningham}}, Accounts of Revels at Court, p. 1).

Taylor's name is found in the list of twenty-six ‘principal actors in all these plays’ prefixed to the folio ‘Shakespeare’ of 1623. The characters he assumed, with two doubtful exceptions, are unknown. James Wright, in his ‘Historia Histrionica’ (1699), asserts that he performed the part of Hamlet ‘incomparably well.’ Burbage was, however, the original Hamlet, and, though Taylor may have succeeded him and may even have served as his ‘double’ or understudy, the assertion of John Downes in ‘Roscius Anglicanus’ (1708) that he was instructed in the part by Shakespeare himself is of little value. Wright also states that Taylor took the part of Iago in ‘Othello.’

Taylor did not appear originally in any of Ben Jonson's plays included in the folio of 1616. According to Wright, however, he subsequently obtained much reputation for his Mosca in ‘Volpone,’ for his Truewit in ‘Epicœne,’ and for his Face in the ‘Alchemist.’ He acted many parts in Beaumont and Fletcher's plays, including Rollo in the ‘Bloody Brother,’ Mirabet in the ‘Wild Goose Chase,’ and Arbaces in ‘King and No King.’ He took the character of Paris in Massinger's ‘Roman Actor,’ and of Mathias in his ‘Picture.’

The outbreak of the civil war was disastrous to the players. The ordinance suppressing theatrical performances was passed on 2 Sept. 1642, and was rigorously enforced by 1647. Taylor was one of the ten actors who endeavoured to sustain themselves by publishing the first folio impression of Beaumont and Fletcher's plays in that year, and he, with the others, subscribed the dedication. In 1652 Taylor and John Lowin published Fletcher's ‘Wild Goose Chase,’ which they failed to obtain five years before for insertion in the folio. The date of Taylor's death is uncertain. Richard Flecknoe in one of his ‘Characters,’ written in 1654, speaks of him as then dead, which fixes his decease between 1652 and 1654. Lysons mentions a tradition that he was buried at Richmond, but no record of his interment has been discovered (Environs of London, i. 466).

On 2 May 1610, at St. Saviour's, Southwark, Taylor married Elizabeth Ingle, the daughter of a widow. By her he had three sons—Dixsye, Joseph, and Robert—and three daughters—Elsabeth, Jone, and Anne—all of whom were baptised at St. Saviour's between 1612 and 1623.

Some commendatory verses by Taylor are prefixed to the first edition of Massinger's ‘Roman Actor,’ published in 1629. The assertion that he was the painter and the first owner of the Chandos portrait of Shakespeare (now in the National Portrait Gallery, London) is supported by no evidence. It is possible that the statement is due to a confusion of the actor with a contemporary portrait-painter, John Taylor, nephew of John Taylor (1580–1653) [q. v.], the water poet, who may possibly be the painter of the portrait.

[Collier's Memoirs of the Principal Actors in the Plays of Shakespeare (Shakespeare Soc.), pp. 249–61; Boswell and Malone's Variorum edition of Shakespeare, 1821, iii. 217–19, 512–13; Collier's History of Dramatic Poetry and the Stage, 1879; Warner's Cat. of MSS. at Dulwich College; Genealogist, new ser. vi. 233.]

E. I. C.