THE SOCIAL STATUS OF PLAYERS
In an epigram to Robert Armin, a King's player, John Davies of Hereford wrote:
Wee all (that's Kings and all) but Players are
Upon this earthly Stage.The Scourge of Folly (1610), Q2v.
Kings might well be compared to players. Comparing players to kings, however, was a very different matter. The more usual attitude to players was that put by an anonymous author in the mouth of the highwayman Gamaliel Ratsey, whose execution in 1605 was the occasion for the publication of several pamphlets about his life and opinions. One anecdote involved how he exploited a company of travelling players (Ratsey's Ghost A3v–B1v). Ratsey, according to the pamphleteer, came to an inn where
that night there harbored a company of Players: and Ratsey framing himselfe to an humor of merriment, caused one or two of the chiefest of them to be sent for up into his chamber, where hee demanded whose men they were, and they answered they served such an honorable Personage. I pray you (quoth Ratsey) let me heare your musicke, for I have often gone to plaies more for musicke sake, then for action. For some of you not content to do well, but striving to over-doe and go beyond your selves, oftentimes (by S. George) mar all; yet your Poets take great paines to make your parts fit for your mouthes, though you gape never so wide. Othersome I must needs confesse, are very wel deserving both for true action and faire deliverie of speech, and yet I warrant you the very best have sometimes beene content to goe home at night with fifteene pence share apiece. […]