William Kempe, Shakespeare’s clown
William Kempe was one of the main actors of Shakespeare’s early plays, and one of the original shareholders in the Globe theatre. A friend and student of Richard Tarleton, his predecessor in Shakespeare’s company as clown, Kemp’s parts likely included Peter in “Romeo and Juliet” and Dogberry in “Much Ado About Nothing”. William Kempe left the company in 1599, possibly because of a dispute with Shakespeare.
During his lifetime, William Kempe was as well known for his dancing as for his clowning, and between February 11 and March 11, 1600 he danced a jig from London to Norwich, a feat known as “the nine days’ wonder.”