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“Exploring this unlighted lane in Shakespeare’s life means, first, looking at the crucial document. “Be it known,” the Latin text begins,
that William Wayte craves sureties [guarantees] of the peace against William Shakspere, Francis Langley, Dorothy Soer wife of John Soer, and Anne Lee, for fear of death, and so forth. Writ of attachment issued by the sheriff of Surrey, returnable on the eighteenth of St Martin [November 29, 1596].
A few pages away in the same collection of documents, there is a second writ, issued by Francis Langley and making similar charges against William Wayte.
Who are these people, each alleging the other was issuing death threats? The scholar who unearthed the document—an indefatigable Canadian by the name of Leslie Hotson, best remembered today as the man who first stumbled across the records of the inquest into the highly mysterious murder of Shakespeare’s fellow playwright, Christopher Marlowe—uncovered a squalid tale of gangland rivalries in the theatrical underworld of Queen Elizabeth’s day.
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