Will Shaksper is forced to leave Stratford and live with the dregs of London.
When Will Shaksper took stock of his situation the next morning, he realised that he had got off lightly. He had gambled and lost. Now he would have to leave Stratford, but it would not be with the family, which had grown to three children already. He would have to try to make it alone, and let the others manage as best they could, at least for the time being. He explained the situation to Mary, packed what he could carry with him, and set off on foot in the direction of London without any real plan.
It took almost a month to get to London, even with a number of wagon rides along the way. He had but a few pounds in his pocket when he arrived and was forced to seek company among the dregs of the city who slept in the open and frequented the pubs in the more run down quarters of town. In this way he became drinking buddies with a group of actors, who were also having a hard time making ends meet, as jobs were scarce and the pay was minimal. He would follow them around, watch them perform in the open theatres, and drink with them afterwards.
Being desperate for money, he began approaching some of the more well-to-do patrons of the theatres and offering to take care of their horses for a small fee while they watched the entertainment. It was not a lucrative occupation, but gradually it gave him a regular if small source of income, enough to keep him off the streets, and soon he could afford to rent a modest room. He could even afford to pay for the drinks once in a while and became accepted by his actor buddies as part of their scene, though he was constantly teased about his heavy Stratford dialect, which was almost incomprehensible to Londoners.
After several months in the city, a number of Will Shaksper’s buddies were acting in a play organised by the popular Richard Burbage, one of the leading young actors of the city, and son of the theatre manager and owner James Burbage, who had worked with Leicester and Francis on the Kenilworth Revels. Burbage wanted some additional bodies for the background of a scene, and they suggested he use Will, who took on a minor walk-on role. Afterwards, having a drink with the fellows at the nearby pub, Burbage had his first contact with Shaksper.
“That is a strange name,” said Burbage, “Shaksper. Where does it come from?”
“I am told it comes from me great grandfather who immigrated from France, and was called Jacques Pierre,” said Shaksper, slurring the two words together and voicing the normally silent French ‘s’ in ‘Jacques’ so it sounded like ‘Shakspierre’.
Burbage did not quite get it. “He means ‘Jacques Pierre’,” said one of the actors, pronouncing the French name properly.
“Ahhhhh,” laughed Burbage, as he made the connection. “Jacques Pierre! Of course! I love it! I love it! Well, welcome to the world of acting, Jacques Pierre. Perhaps we can use you another time. But you will have to work on that dialect before we will let you speak.” They all chuckled, and from that day onward, Burbage consistently called Will ‘Jacques Pierre’.