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HUGH ATWELL

This biography was originally published in A New General Biographical Dictionary. Hugh James Rose. London, 1857. p. 313.

HUGH ATWELL was a player of considerable eminence, contemporary with Shakespeare, though it does not appear that he performed in any of the productions of our great dramatist. In fact, as far as we can now learn, he never belonged to the company or companies by which Shakespeare's plays were presented. We find that a person of the name of George Atwell (Or Attewell, as his name is spelt by Philip Henslowe, in his Diary) was a player in 1595, and there is reason to believe that he had then been for some years in the profession. Hugh Atwell was probably his son, and the earliest notice of him is as one of the performers in Ben Jonson's Epicoene when it was brought out, in 1609, by the theatrical association called "The Children of the Queen's Revels." The author inserts the name of Hugh Atwell third in the list of "comedians," at the end of the edition of 1616; so that it is likely he supported a prominent character. He was not one of the actors in Ben Jonson's Poetaster, when it was originally performed in 1601, and we may infer that he had grown into reputation between 1601 and 1609. He died, as would seem, of consumption, on 25th September, 1621, when his fellow player, William Rowley (who was also a dramatic poet of some celebrity) published a "funeral elegy" upon him. Hence we learn that he was a man of small stature, that he had often played at court, that his tongue was like a "silver bell," and that he struggled against death for a period of six years.

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