Will Kempe was the principal clown of Shakespeare's company during the 1590s. He would have played major comic roles and was well known for his ability to 'ad lib', amusing audiences with tumbling and physical comedy.
Kempe was not only an actor. Before and after his time in the theatre he travelled around Europe as a clown and musician. When he left Shakespeare's company in 1600, he danced from London to Norwich, with spectators betting on his progress. He wrote a book entitled 'Nine Days Wonder' about his adventures. This picture, which was an illustration to the book, shows Kempe dancing on his journey with morris bells tied to his legs.