Shakespeare in Stratford and London: Ten Eyewitnesses Who Saw Nothing - Part 8
by Ramon L. Jiménez
Another eyewitness who must have known William Shakespeare of Stratford was an obscure theatergoer named Edward Pudsey who was perhaps only the second individual we know of to write out passages from a Shakespeare play. Very little is known about Edward Pudsey, except that he was born in Derbyshire in 1573 and died in 1613 at Tewkesbury, about 25 miles from Stratford (ODNB). There is a 1591 record of a Pudsey family living at Langley, about five miles from Stratford, and only three miles from Park Hall, the home of the Ardens, parents of Shakespeare’s mother Mary (Savage vi) .
In 1888 scholars were fortunate to discover a ninety-page manuscript that was inscribed “Edward Pudsey’s Book.” In it Pudsey had copied passages from several literary works in the fields of history, philosophy and current events—as well as from contemporary plays. The dates entered in the manuscript range from 1600 to 1612, the year before Pudsey died. Besides passages from Machiavelli, Thomas More, Francis Bacon, and others, Pudsey carefully transcribed selections from twenty-two contemporary plays—four by Ben Jonson, three by Marston, seven by Dekker, Lyly, Nashe, Chapman, and Heywood. And eight by William Shakespeare.
The extracts from Hamlet and Othello are especially interesting because of their variations from the printed versions. The quotation from Hamlet is slightly different from the 1604 Quarto and the 1623 Folio. The quotation from Othello contains lines that do not appear in the Quarto, which was not published until 1622. After the Othello quotation, Pudsey wrote the letters “sh,” a reasonably clear indication that he knew that the play was by William Shakespeare. The English scholar who examined the manuscript asserted that the quotations from Othello and Hamlet were written in a section that she dated no later than 1600 (Rees 331). Thus, it is probable that Edward Pudsey had access to now-lost quartos of Othello and Hamlet, or had seen the plays and written down the dialogue in 1600 or earlier.
But nowhere in the hundreds of entries in Edward Pudsey’s Book is there any indication that he was aware that the playwright whose words he copied so carefully lived in nearby Stratford-upon-Avon.
Savage, Richard, ed. Shakespearean extracts from "Edward Pudsey’s booke” temp. Q.Elizabeth & K. James I. London: Simpkin and Marshall, 1888.
Rees, J. “Shakespeare and ‘Edward Pudsey’s Booke’: 1600.” Notes & Queries 237 (1992) 330-1.