RICHARD TARLTON (d. 1588), English actor, was probably at one time an inn-keeper, but in 1583, when he is mentioned as one of the original company of queen's players, was already an experienced actor. He was Elizabeth's favourite clown, and his talent for impromptu doggerel on subjects suggested by his audience has given his name to that form of verse. To obtain the advantage of his popularity a great number of songs and witticisms of the day were attributed to him, and after his death Tarlton's Jests, many of them older than he, made several volumes. Other books, and several ballads, coupled his name with their titles. He is said to have been the Yorick of Hamlet's soliloquy.
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