Shakespeare’s Fool: William Kempe


Patrick Barlow as Will Kempe in Shakespeare in Love

William Kempe was a respected comedian in theatre, and this earned him a spot on The Chamberlain’s Men with Shakespeare. Although Kempe was talented, he seemed to annoy Shakespeare by improvising lines during performances, which led to Kempe being kicked out of the company. Shakespeare might have seen Kempe’s improvising as disrespectful towards Shakespeare because it shows that Kempe does not take his parts very seriously, or it might have confused other actors because the improvised lines hindered an actor’s abilities to pick up on queue’s as to when they are supposed to start speaking. Shakespeare also disliked writing comedies. Comedies were the mainstream styles of plays during Shakespeare’s time, so he preferred writing tragedies and other types of plays over comedies; therefore, Will Kempe was probably not needed as an actor in Shakespeare’s plays.


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