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Shakespeare's summons

Public Records Office surety case document
Public Records Office surety case document
William Waite petitioned for sureties of the peace against William Shakespeare and three others "ob metum mortis" - "for fear of death" (common legal terminology of the day).

Waite would have obtained the writ by swearing to the Judge of the Queen's Bench that he was in danger of death or bodily harm from the accused. The accused would, in turn, appear before the court where they would be ordered to pay a bond and be bound over to keep the peace; failure to keep the peace would result in the bond they had paid being forfeit, an Elizabethan form of preemptive fining.

It seems most likely that William Waite wasn't actually in danger of being beaten up by the Bard. Far more likely is the theory that Waite was looking to cause Shakespeare and the others an inconvenience (and loss of money) as a retaliation for the part they had played in bringing the theatre to Southwark (and the consequent drop in property value).

The Document

Public Records Office surety case document
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