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Shakespearean XI: Cricketers who share names with the Bard’s creations

William Shakespeare © Getty Images
William Shakespeare © Getty Images

William Shakespeare was born on April 26, 1564. Michael Jones looks at a list of cricketers who shares names with the Bard’s creations.

As well as The Bard himself, many of Shakespeare’s characters (or at least their namesakes) have been players on the stage of cricket. Here are XI of the King’s Men (and women):

Julius Caesar:  The best-known Shakespearean cricketer, Caesar played for Surrey in the 1850s and 60s, and undertook two foreign expeditions — not to Gaul, but the first to Canadia and Civitatum Foederatum Americae in 1859-60 (the first overseas tour by a cricket team from Britannia), the second to Terra Australis and Nova Zelandia in 1863-64, both under the command of Georgius Parr. He tasted of death but once — nine days before the Ides of March, in 1878.

Brutus:  Marlon Brutus played for St Maarten against the US Virgin Islands in the first match of the Stanford T20 tournament in 2006. When he bowled Terrance Webbe with the fourth ball of the tournament, his victim may have been heard to gasp “Et tu, Brute?” as he left the crease. There is, however, a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, led Brutus on to a golden duck and St Maarten to an early exit from the tournament.

Macbeth:  A player named Macbeth had appeared in one match for the Bombay Gymkhana against GF Vernon’s touring team in 1890. He bore a charmed life, which did not yield to one of woman born — remaining not out in both his team’s innings — but John Hornsby took thirteen wickets for the visitors, and as they edged closer to an innings victory, rumour has it that a nearby wood was seen moving towards the Gymkhana ground.

Macduff:  Perhaps a distant relation of the thane of Fife, Alex MacDuff played for Auckland in New Zealand’s national Under-19 tournament in 2008-09, and shook off this downy sleep well enough to take four for 39 against Central Districts and four for 25 against Wellington. His victims are not thought to have been taken in vengeance for the murders of his wife and children, nor did he present their severed heads to his captain after the match.

Hamlet:  East Molesey, a village team in Surrey, have included the lower order batsman Stuart Hamlett amongst their number for several seasons. Against North Middlesex in the Bertie Joel Cup in 2007, Hamlett suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune as he was bowled for a duck and his team lost by 15 runs — but in a Cockspur Cup tie against Windsor the following year, he and Paul Lawford took arms against a sea of troubles and, by an unbroken stand of 87* which gave their team victory by six wickets, ended them.

Claudius:  Eric Claudius played a first-class match for Rajputana and Central India against MCC on their 1926-27 tour, but there is no record of him having murdered the previous incumbent in order to take his place in the team. His plotting only accounted for one victim in the match — Guy Earle falling to a catch by Claudius off the bowling of Joshi, probably not “an offence so rank it smells to heaven”. Although he never played at first-class level again, Claudius managed to escape the wrath of any avenging nephews, and lived until 1979.

Juliet:  Juliet Windvogel represented KwaZulu-Natal Inland against KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa’s inter-provincial women’s one day tournament in 2013.She spent most of her team’s innings on the pavilion balcony, before going out to bat at number 10 — and committing cricketing suicide by running herself out without facing a ball.  No-one named Romeo has appeared in top level cricket, leaving Juliet forever wondering “Wherefore art thou, Romeo?”.

Troilus: The potential happy coincidence of two Shakespearean cricketers opposing each other was missed when Troilus Brunel, a Montreal club player at the time George Parr and his team toured North America, did not play for Lower Canada in their match against the tourists and thus missed his chance to face Julius Caesar. By not meeting the tourists, Troilus might also have missed his chance to fall in love with any unmarried nieces who happened to be travelling with the party.

Bottom:  Around the turn of the 20th century, a medium pacer by the name of Daniel Bottom played six first-class matches for Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. In 1899 he played “a part to tear a cat in”, taking five for 34 for his new county against his former; he appeared to have an exposition of sleep come upon him every time he went out to bat, though — with an average of 4.20, he could have done little worse with an ass’s knoll fixed on his head.

King John:  A slight cheat, this one, but it allows for the inclusion of the greatest cricketer to come from the United States — John Barton King, always known as ‘Bart’. Unlike his namesake, who was known for his disastrous overseas campaigns which led to him being dictated to by foreign rulers, this King did rather well when he ventured away from his own shores: he toured England three times with the Gentlemen of Philadelphia, taking a total of 223 wickets at an average of just 17. Highlights included five for 78 on first-class debut against an Australian touring team, with Alec Bannerman, George Giffen and Harry Trott amongst his victims; seven for 13 against Sussex in 1897, with Ranji bowled for a golden duck; and a peak of ten for 53 against the touring Gentlemen of Ireland in 1909 — with only one of his victims requiring the help of a fielder, he narrowly missed joining John Wisden (and later Eric Hollies) in taking all ten unassisted. Contemporary descriptions of King’s bowling suggest that he had mastered what would later become known as reverse swing, seventy years before Imran Khan and Sarfraz Nawaz got around to it — more than enough to suppress any upstart barons.

Bear:  Michael Bear was a regular player for Essex in the 1950s and 1960s, scoring more than 12,000 first-class runs, with nine centuries in his career. Fortunately he was not in the habit of pursuing opposing players from the field and mauling them to death.

(Michael Jones’s writing focuses on cricket history and statistics, with occasional forays into the contemporary game)

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