Will Kemp
Historical Figure
Nationality: England
Date of Birth: 16th century
Date of Death: 1603(?)
Cause of Death: Unknown
Occupation: Actor, Author of Non-Fiction, Comedian
Professional Affiliations: Lord Chamberlain's Men
Fictional Appearances:
"We Haven't Got There Yet"
Set in OTL (?)
Type of Appearance: Contemporary(?) reference
Ruled Britannia
POD: July-August, 1588
Type of Appearance: Direct
Occupation: Actor, comic, co-conspirator
Professional Affiliations: Lord Westmorland's Men (later known as The Queen's Men)

William Kempe (died 1603?), also spelled Kemp, was an English actor and dancer best known for being one of the original actors in William Shakespeare's plays. Nothing is known of his early life. After his rise to fame as part of Lord Chamberlain's Men, Kempe returned to solo work in 1599. In 1600, he undertook what he would later call his "Nine Days Wonder", in which he morris danced from London to Norwich (a distance of over a hundred miles) in a journey which took him nine days spread over several weeks, often amid cheering crowds.

The circumstances of Kempe's death are unclear. Several mentions are made him until 1602, and the death of a man named Kempe is recorded in 1603, after which there are no records of Will Kempe's doings.

Will Kemp in "We Haven't Got There Yet"[]

While watching Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead in 1606, William Shakespeare reflected that Will Kempe would have appreciated the buffoonery of the pirate attack scene. Kempe had fallen on hard times, and was at that point "nothing".[1]

Will Kemp in Ruled Britannia[]

Will Kemp[2] was a full member of the acting troupe Lord Westmorland's Men (later The Queen's Men). Kemp played the comic roles in most of William Shakespeare's plays, including the Gravedigger in Prince of Denmark, Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor, and a Roman soldier named Marcus in Boudicca. Following the 1598 debut of Boudicca, Kemp took part in the popular uprising against Spanish forces, which stormed the Tower of London and liberated Queen Elizabeth.

He was generally an agreeable character and was counted as a friend by Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, and Lope de Vega. However, his fondness for unsavoury humour and practical jokes led to periodic quarrels with Richard Burbage, and on one occasion Kemp got perilously close to provoking George Rowley to violence.


  1. See Inconsistencies (We Haven't Got There Yet)
  2. The spelling used throughout this novel.