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Bellott v Mountjoy

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

William Shakespeare - Noble Street EC2.jpg

Bellott v Mountjoy was a lawsuit heard at the Court of Requests in Westminster on 11 May 1612 that involved William Shakespeare in a minor role.

Case details

Stephen Bellott, a Huguenot, sued his father-in-law Christopher Mountjoy, a tyrer (a manufacturer of ladies' ornamental headpieces and wigs) for the financial settlement that had been promised at the time of his marriage with Mary Mountjoy in 1604: a dowry of £50, which had been promised but never paid, and an additional £200, to be bestowed upon Bellott in Mountjoy's will.

The records of the case were discovered in the Public Record Office (then in Chancery Lane, now part of the National Archives) in 1909 by the Shakespeare scholar Charles William Wallace and published by him in the October 1910 issue of Nebraska University Studies. The importance of this minor case is that Shakespeare was a material witness in it; his signed deposition of evidence was among the papers. Several of the other witnesses referred to Shakespeare’s role in arranging the betrothal and in the negotiations about the dowry. He had been requested to take on the duties by Mountjoy's wife, Marie (who was also known as Mary, see note1). The papers supply a roster of persons with whom Shakespeare was personally acquainted: the Mountjoys and their household and neighbours, including George Wilkins, the playwright and brothel-keeper who may have been Shakespeare's collaborator on Pericles, Prince of Tyre. The papers show that in 1604, Shakespeare was a lodger in the Mountjoys' house, at the corner of Silver and Monkwell Streets in Cripplegate, London. It is the only evidence yet found of a particular London address at which Shakespeare lived.

In his deposition, Shakespeare admitted that he had played the role as go-between in the courtship of Stephen Bellott and Mary Mountjoy that other witnesses described. However, he said that he could not remember the crucial financial arrangements of the Bellott/Mountjoy marriage settlement.[1] Without that key testimony, the Court of Requests remanded the case to the overseers of the London Huguenot church, which awarded Bellott 20 nobles (or £6 13s. 4d.). A year later, though, Mountjoy still had not paid.[2]

Marie Mountjoy and masque costume

Charles Nicholl and others have identified Marie Mountjoy with the Mary Mountjoy,1 born circa 1568, who was a client of the astrologer Simon Forman in 1597 (for example, after losing a ring).[3][4]

The Mountjoys and Shakespeare may have met in the world of theatrical costuming. At the beginning of 1604, the year of her daughter's marriage, Mrs Mountjoy is known to have been working at court, where she provided a headpiece and trimmings for the queen, Anne of Denmark. The queen was taking the role of Pallas Athena in Samuel Daniel's masque The Vision of the Twelve Goddesses.[5] Mrs Mountjoy died in 1606.[6]


1.^ Scholars have tended to use Marie for the mother and Mary for the daughter to better distinguish them.


  1. ^ Halliday, pp. 59-60.
  2. ^ Kornstein, pp. 18-19.
  3. ^ Lauren Kassell, Michael Hawkins, Robert Ralley, John Young, Joanne Edge, Janet Yvonne Martin-Portugues, and Natalie Kaoukji (eds.).‘CASE2835’, The casebooks of Simon Forman and Richard Napier, 1596–1634: a digital edition,, accessed 5 August 2019.
  4. ^ Nicholl, Charles. The Lodger Shakespeare: His Life on Silver Street. New York: Viking, 2007. (UK title The Lodger: Shakespeare on Silver Street)
  5. ^ John Pitcher, 'Samuel Daniel's Masque "The Vision of the Twelve Goddesses": Texts and Payments', Medieval & Renaissance Drama in England, vol. 26 (2013), pp. 17-42, pp. 33, 38 citing TNA LR6/154/9.
  6. ^ Nicholl, Charles (2010). "'A Naughty House' Charles Nicholl discovers new evidence about Christopher Mountjoy". London Review of Books. 32.
  • Halliday, F. E. A Shakespeare Companion 1564–1964. Baltimore, Penguin, 1964.
  • Kornstein, Daniel. Kill All the Lawyers? Shakespeare's Legal Appeal. Lincoln, NE, University of Nebraska Press, 2005.
  • Nicholl, Charles. "The gent upstairs." The Guardian, October 10, 2007.

External links

This page was last edited on 14 March 2021, at 17:55
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