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A Marriage Settlement

Some law cases are definitely more interesting than others. In 1604 Mr. Belott married Ms. Mountjoy. Her dad promised Mr. Belott a payment in return for the marriage.

That payment, it appears, was not made.

In 1612 the case of Belott v Mountjoy came before the court. Mr. Belott felt that Mr. Mountjoy had shortchanged him.

Interestingly, a witness in the case had acted as matchmaker and, presumably, knew the details of the terms of the settlement.

That witness was William Shakespeare, (“Wilm. Shaksp.”) (Shakspear?). Unfortunately, he could not remember the details of the settlement or dowry. Crucially, he did confirm there had been agreement on a settlement.

Shakespeare had been a lodger in the Mountjoy household in 1604. Belott was the Mountjoy apprentice. How he found time to act as matchmaker is a mystery; perhaps his role extended to a conversation over an evening meal after his return from the theatre. Shakespeare’s life involved acting (the ghost of Hamlet’s father, in Hamlet, for instance), playwriting and, it is believed, directing. The theatres of the time presented five or six plays a week; so Shakespeare was working, probably, six days a week as an actor, writing plays and learning his lines for the forthcoming productions.

When the Belott v Mountjoy case came on for hearing, Shakespeare was in retirement in Stratford on Avon. The court was in London. One wonders about the difficulties confronting Belott in the serving of the subpoena on Shakespeare and what playwriting these events might have produced, but for the retirement of the witness!