As previously mentioned here, Wiiliam Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon entered into a law case against John Addenbrooke on August 17, 1608. There are numerous surviving Stratford court documents for this case. Not much is known about Addenbrooke. Schoenbaum found a reference dated 1600 for an Addenbroke in Warwickshire who was selling starch licenses. [Which leads me to imagine the following interchange: ‘What are you doing there, ma’am?' – ‘Starching shirts, guvnah.’ – ‘Let me see your starch license!’]
In the June 7, 1609, final document of the case the name of the plaintiff is spelled, "Willielmus Shackspeare" and "Willielmo Shackspeare."
What happened is that Addenbrooke, a local tradesman, was sued by Shakespeare in the Stratford court of record to recover a debt of £6. It is not clear whether the six pounds was a straightforward loan or was tied to some prior business dealings.
On June 7, 1609, the case, now in its tenth month, reached a kind of conclusion. In earlier parts of the case, Addenbrooke was arrested and later released when the local blacksmithand alehouse-keeper, Thomas Hornby, stood “surety” (bondsman) for the defendant. Addenbrooke promptly disappeared from the face of the earth and now, on June 7, “Shackspeare” attempted to get Hornby to pay up. The court had found in favor of Shackspeare, awarding him the original £6, with 24 shillings added for damages. It is unknown whether Shackspeare ever collected from Hornby.
Of these proceedings Samuel Schoenbaum wrote (in A Documentary Life),
“His persistence may strike moderns as heartless, but the course Shakespeare followed was normal in an age without credit cards, overdrafts, or collection agencies.”
That’s true Sam, but was it normal for a man thought to be the nation’s leading playwright, who could have been making much more money in London, to spend ten months in the boondocks chasing £6 that turned out to be uncollectable?
Prinary Sources: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Records Office, Misc. Doc. V, 116; Misc Doc V, 139; Misc Doc V, 127a; Misc Doc V, 127b; Misc Doc V, 115; MS. ER 27/6; MS. ER 27/7).