A ballad singer. The Roxburghe Ballads (1847).
University of Victoria Library.

The senior members of the company were called "fellows*" or "sharers" because they shared in the company's profits; they also shared in its expenses* and were legally responsible for the company. Sharers selected plays for the company's repertoire and performed the principal roles, while all other members were their employees. Most London companies had eight to twelve sharers.

Shakespeare remembered some of his "fellowes" in his will.

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Company expenses included rent, costumes and props, wages, and fees to the Office of the Revels.

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Some sharers, like Burbage and Kempe, were popular actors; others, like Shakespeare and Heminge, were better known for their other contributions. Membership carried a financial responsibility--sharers had to be able to purchase a share* and raise capital. They also had to be active members of the company--when a sharer left, his share was bought out; if he died, the company would reimburse his widow and resell the share to another member of the company.

Between 1597 and 1602, a share in the Admiral's Men, which had ten sharers, cost 70 pounds; in 1634, a share in the King's Men was worth 180 pounds.

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Footnotes

  1. Shakespeare and his fellows

    Shakespeare remembered some of his "fellowes" in his will.

  2. Company expenses

    Company expenses included rent, costumes and props, wages, and fees to the Office of the Revels.

  3. The value of a share

    Between 1597 and 1602, a share in the Admiral's Men, which had ten sharers, cost 70 pounds; in 1634, a share in the King's Men was worth 180 pounds.