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Henry Condell and His London Relatives


Henry Condell is well known to theater historians as a longtime acting colleague of William Shakespeare and coeditor (with John Heminges) of the 1623 First Folio, but nothing certain has been known about his origins or early life. In 1985, David Honneyman identified the actor with a Henry Condell baptized in Norwich on 5 September 1576, but this identification, while supported by circumstantial evidence, still left some room for doubt. In this essay, Kathman describes several previously unknown documents that show beyond a reasonable doubt that the Henry Condell born in 1576 was indeed the actor, and he provides much useful information about his family. These documents show that Condell had maternal uncles named William and Humphrey Yeomans, both of whom lived in St. Bride’s Fleet Street in London, and who died in 1589 and 1594 respectively. When Humphrey Yeomans’s son, Humphrey junior, died at age 13 in 1603, Henry Condell was granted letters of administration for his young cousin’s estate. When Condell’s mother died later that same year, he inherited a one-third share of a house in St. Bride’s that had belonged to his uncle Humphrey, and subsequently bought the shares of four of his cousins. This information about Condell’s family tree suggests a plausible scenario in which he came to London after his father’s death to live with his uncle and was exposed to professional theater at the nearby Bell Savage inn and the Middle and Inner Temples.

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