As the World descends on Stratford-upon-Avon for the Shakespeare 400 celebrations spare a thought for lesser known Thame. This small Oxfordshire market town, and home of The Word’s Shortlist, was the setting of an intriguing murder in 1587 that proved to be a shot in the arm for Shakespeare’s career as an actor.
In the summer of 1587 popular performing troupe The Queen’s Men were touring the Provinces with their pop up theatre. One night in June they found themselves in Thame performing to crowds at White Hound Close; a park of sorts that hosted street entertainment. Shortly after the performance a heated argument broke out between two of the lead actors William Knell and John Towne.
Quite how the argument turned into a brutal brawl we’ll never know but what is evident is that the loser, Knell, paid the ultimate price and was murdered there in White Hound Close.
But with every ending there is a new beginning.......The Queen’s Men suddenly had an opening. With the rest of the tour ahead of them a young actor called William Shakespeare was recruited to fill William Knell’s shoes.