Queen's Men Biographies - Actors in the 1583 Company

John Dutton (d. 1614)

• A member of the new Queen’s company of 1583 and still there in 1591; earlier connected to Warwick’s Men (which he led with brother, Lawrence) and also Oxford’s Men.

• Reportedly 60 years of age in 1608, meaning he was 35 at the company’s inception, a performer of older roles and likely a company leader.

• Died in 1614 in St. Botolph Bishopsgate (Playhouse Wills 230).

• His brother Lawrence Dutton was also recorded as a member by 1589 in Nottingham; he had formerly been connected to Lane’s, Lincoln’s, Warwick’s and Oxford’s companies. A rare description of Lawrence’s appearance comes from a deponent’s description of him in a lawsuit of 1595/96: “a good handsome man in a faire cloake not altogether blacke but somewhat greene and a strawe coloured doublett with a little beard.” Another testified that he had “somewhat a redd beard.” (Eccles “Elizabethan Actors I: A-D,” 49.)

• The Dutton brothers’ traffic between companies before their term with the Queen’s Men, together with a recorded quarrel with Inns of Court students in the late 1570s, led Nungezar to suspect an “unstable temperament” on the part of both brothers (Dictionary of Actors 124). There may be some confirmation of this in resentful contemporary verses that describe the Duttons in the following terms:

The Duttons and theyr fellow-players forsakyng the Erle of Warwycke theyr mayster, became followers of the Erle of Oxford, and wrot themselves his COMOEDIANS, which certayne Gentlemen altered and made CAMOELIANS. The Duttons, angry with that, compared themselves to any gentlemen; therefore these armes were devysed for them:

The fyeld, a fart durty, a gybbet crosse-corded,
A dauncing Dame Flurty of all men abhorred
A lyther lad scampant, a roge in his ragges,
A whore that is rampant, astryde wyth her legges,
A woodcocke displayed, a calfe and a shepe,
A bitch that is splayed, a domouse asleepe;
A vyper in stynch, la part de la drut,
Spell backwarde this Frenche and cracke me that nut.

Parcy per pillery, perced with a rope,
To slythe the more lytherly anoynted with sope;
A coxcombe crospate in token of witte,
Two eares perforate, a nose wythe slytte.
Three nettles resplendent, three owles, three swallowes,
Three mynstrellmen pendent on three payre of gallowes,
Further sufficiently placed in them
A knaves head, for a difference from all honestmen.

The wreate is a chayne of chaungeable red,
To show they ar vayne and fickle of head;
The creste is a lastrylle whose fethers ar blew,
In sign that these fydlers will never be trew;
Whereon is placed the horme of a gote,
Because they ar chast, to this is theyr lotte,
For their bravery, indented and parted,
And for their knavery innebulated.

Mantled lowsy, with doubled drynke,
Their ancient house is called the Clyncke;
Thys Posy they beare over the whole earthe,
Wylt please you to have a fyt of our mirthe?
But reason it is, and heraultes allowe welle,
That fidlers should beare their armes in a towelle.

(qtd Elizabethan Stage, 2:98)