Queen's Men Biographies - Actors in the 1583 Company

Robert Wilson (d. 1600)

• Joined the new Queen’s Men in 1583, earlier serving in Leicester’s company, as early as 1572.

• A rhetorical gesture in Gabriel Harvey’s Letter-Book (c.1579) refers to Wilson’s tendency to improvise: “how peremptorily ye have preiudiced my good name for ever in thrustinge me thus on the stage to make a tryall of my extemporall faculty, and to play Wylsons or Tarletons parte” (qtd Dictionary of Actors, 394)

• Stow & Howes's Annales characterises Wilson as “a quicke delicate refined extemporall wit” (697).

• Francis Meres’ Palladis tamia (1598) refers to him in familiar terms: “And so is now our wittie Wilson, who for learning and extemporall witte in this facultie is without compare or compeer, as to his great and eternal commendations he manifested in his chalenge at the Swanne on the Bancke side” (qtd Dictionary of Actors 395)

• In addition to performing, Wilson was a playwright, and evidently a well-educated one. His lost play Shorte and Sweete (1570s) was praised as “a peece surely worthy prayse, the practice of a good scholler” by Thomas Lodge in his Defence of Poetry, Musick and Stage Plays (1580). He is generally the accepted author of The Three Ladies of London (1584), The Three Lords and Three Ladies of London (1590), The Cobler’s Prophecy (1594) and many lost collaborative works (Dictionary of Actors 395-396).