Friday, 17 August 2018

17 August, 1594 - Philippo and Hippolito

Here's what the Admiral's Men performed at the Rose playhouse on this day, 424 years ago...

Henslowe writes: ye 15 of aguste 1594 ... R at phillipo & hewpolyto ... xxjs

In modern English: [17th] August, 1594 ... Received at Philippo and Hippolito ... 21 shillings

wo Young Men by Crispin van den Broeck, c.1590
Today, the company returned to Philippo and Hippolito, their enigmatic lost play about two men of that name. You can read more about this play in the entry for 9 July.

Philippo and Hippolito is one of the few plays that the Admiral's Men have been performing with unusual frequency, but this time they have waited a week and a half since its last performance. After an excellent start, the play has been gradually sliding in popularity, and is now very clearly on its way out.

What's next?


There will be no performance tomorrow because 18th August was a Sunday in 1594 and the players did not perform. Henslowe's Diary ... as a Blog! will thus return on the 19th, for a week of the old favourites.

Henslowe links



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Thursday, 16 August 2018

16 August, 1594 - Mahamet

Here's what the Admiral's Men performed at the Rose playhouse on this day, 424 years ago...

Henslowe writes: ye 14 of aguste 1594 ... R at mahomett ... iijll vs

In modern English: [16th] August, 1594 ... Received at Mahamet ... £3 and 5 shillings

Today, the Admiral's Men performed a play that Henslowe called Mahamet (an Elizabethan variant on the name Muhammad). This is its first appearance in the Diary, and Henslowe records a very high box office, the kind normally seen only at premieres. And yet he does not mark the play as "ne" (new), which indicates that the players were instead bringing back a old play that was received very well by the audience.

No play called Mahamet survives today, but most scholars suspect it was connected to a surviving play called The Battle of Alcazar by George Peele. This features an enjoyably evil villain named Muly Mahamet, who was one of the most famous roles of Edward Alleyn, star of the Admiral's Men.

If all this sounds familiar, it's because two years ago, one of the most popular plays at the Rose was Muly Molocco, a play about which one could say exactly the same thing: it too might have been The Battle of Alcazar, or else a prequel or an imitation of it. For the sake of convenience, then, here is the description of The Battle of Alcazar that I originally posted for Muly Molocco; apologies for the repetition.

If the play was The Battle of Alcazar...


1629 Portuguese illustration of the Battle of Alcazar
The title page of George Peele's play advertises it as The Battle of Alcazar, fought in Barbary between Sebastian King of Portugal and Abdelmelec King of Morocco; with the death of Captain Stukeley. It begins with Abd el-Malik (called Abdelmelec or Muly Molocco in the play) reclaiming his rightful throne by deposing the vicious usurper Muly Mahamet. Muly Mahamet escapes into the wilderness but survives to raise an army with the aid of King Sebastian of Portugal and the English Catholic adventurer Captain Thomas Stukeley. A great battle takes place at Alcazar (modern El-Ksar el-Kebir) in 1578. During the battle, Abdelmelec dies but his younger brother Seth props up his dead body as if alive, and this encourages the troops; the fleeing Muly Mahamet is then killed when his horse throws him in a river. The play ends with Muly Mahamet, King Sebastian and Stukeley all dead, Seth as King of Barbary, and Muly Mahamet's body stuffed as a warning to future usurpers.

In the play's final lines, Seth honours the dead King Sebastian:
And now my lords for this Christian king:
My lord Zareo, let it be your charge
To see the soldiers tread a solemn march,
Trailing their pikes and ensigns on the ground,
So to perform the princes' funerals.
Just for curiosity value, here's a clip from Battle of the Three Kings, a very obscure 1990 film about the Battle of Alcazar. It's apparently an Italian-Moroccan-Soviet-Spanish co-production. The clip is worth watching for a glimpse of F. Murray Abraham and Harvey Keitel looking rather surprised to be there.


 

If you would like to read The Battle of Alcazar, the most readable text is Charles Edelman's modern-spelling edition, which can be found in his anthology The Stukeley Plays (2005).

 

If the play was a lost one named Mahamet...


If Mahamet was not The Battle of Alcazar itself, it might have been a different play about the same characters - perhaps a prequel or imitation focused more closely on the character of Muly Mahamet.

Alternatively, the play might have had nothing to do with any of this, and could have been about some other Mahamet.  Intriguingly enough, Henslowe's inventory of props includes an enigmatic reference to "old Mahamet's head", which implies the existence of an entirely unknown play in which an aged Mahamet comes to a sticky end.



FURTHER READING

 

Mahamet information

  • Roslyn L. Knutson and David McInnis, "Mahomet", Lost Plays Database (2014). 
  • Martin Wiggins, British Drama, 1533-1642: A Catalogue, vol. 2 (Oxford University Press, 2012), entry 812.


Henslowe links



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Wednesday, 15 August 2018

15 August, 1594 - Godfrey of Bouillon

Here's what the Admiral's Men performed at the Rose playhouse on this day, 424 years ago...

Henslowe writes: ye 13 of aguste 1594 ... R at godfrey of bullen ... xxixs

In modern English: [15]th August, 1594 ... Received at Godfrey of Bouillon ... 29 shillings

The death of Godfrey of Bouillon.
From a thirteenth century
manuscript of William of 
Tyre's Histoire d'Outremer
Today, the company revived a play that Henslowe calls Godfrey of Bouillon. This was probably The Second Part of Godfrey of Bouillon, a lost sequel premiered about a month ago; you can read more about it in the entry for 19th July. Alternatively, it might have been the equally lost original play, sometimes identified by scholars with the mysterious Jerusalem, which you can read about in the entry for 22 March, 1592.

Either way, today's play would have dramatized some aspect of the eponymous medieval warrior's capture of the city of Jerusalem from the Turks. The Godfrey play(s) have been doing solid box office of late, and this is the first performance to be slightly below average.


FURTHER READING


Henslowe links



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Tuesday, 14 August 2018

14 August, 1594 - Galiaso

Here's what the Admiral's Men performed at the Rose playhouse on this day, 424 years ago...

Henslowe writes: ye 12 of aguste 1594 ... R at galliaso ... xviijs 

In modern English: [14th] August, 1594 ... Received at Galiaso ... 18 shillings


A Spanish galleass, one possible subject of this
play. From Ships Through the Ages by Frederick
Leonard King (1934)
Today, the Admiral's Men revived their lost play Galiaso. We do not know what this play was about, as its title could refer to many historical and fictional figures, or even to a kind of ship. You can read more about it in the entry for 28 June.

The players are continuing with their pattern of performing Galiaso once every week and a half. But despite being a fairly new play, its box office has now plummeted into the doldrums. The players must be very disappointed with it.


Henslowe links



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Monday, 13 August 2018

13 August, 1594 - Tasso's Melancholy

Here's what the Admiral's Men performed at the Rose playhouse on this day, 424 years ago...

Henslowe writes: ye 11 of aguste 1594 ... ne ... R at tassoes mellencoley ... iijll iiijs 

In modern English: 13th August, 1594 ... New ... Received at Tasso's Melancholy ... £3 and 4 shillings

Today, the Admiral's Men premiered a brand new play: Tasso's Melancholy. As is so often the case, this play is lost, but it must have depicted the mental torments of the Italian poet Torquato Tasso. There was quite a fashion in 1590s drama for protagonists who were mad (or at least pretending to be mad), so Tasso's Melancholy may have been an attempt at replicating the success of plays like The Spanish Tragedy, Orlando Furioso, the ur-Hamlet and Titus Andronicus. But what distinctive qualities might it have had?


Portrait of Tasso
by Jacopo Bassano (1566)
Tasso was still alive at this time; he would die in 1595. He was one of the most famous poets of his age, best known for his epic poem Jerusalem Delivered, about Godfrey of Bouillon's activities during the Crusades (this poem may have inspired elements of two Rose plays that we have already encountered, Jerusalem and Godfrey of Bouillon). The first English translation of Jerusalem Delivered appeared in this very year, so Tasso may have been of especial interest to playgoers in 1594.

And Tasso was indeed melancholic. The stories about him are a tangle of fact and fiction, but according to legend, he was driven mad for love of a noblewoman named Leonora, and his need to conceal his passions drove him to paranoia and violence. After attacking with a knife a servant he believed to have been spying on him, Tasso was kept in confinement by the Duke of Ferrara, but he escaped to his home town of Sorrento. Later, he returned to Ferrara, but his wild behaviour continued and he was locked in a cell in the Hospital of Santa Anna for years, where he continued to write poetry.

Tasso in the Madhouse by Eugene Delacroix (1839) 
In the succeeding centuries, Tasso's torments would be seen as a Romantic embodiment of the poetic spirit raging against restriction, and writers such as Lord Byron would make pilgrimages to his purported cell at Santa Anna. But back in 1594, many of the legends about Tasso's madness had not yet made it into print, so it's not clear what kind of story an English dramatist might have told about him.

The only clues are a couple of passages from contemporary poems. In an epigram that may date approximately to this period, the poet Sir John Harington describes Tasso making "one little fault" and being punished for it by a "most ungrateful Duke". Tasso is "shut up close prisoner in a loathsome vault" and the Duke orders his pen and ink taken away, but Tasso continues to write "excellent verse" using his own "piss and ordure".

In his catalogue of British Drama, Martin Wiggins draws attention to a passage in Daiphantus (1604), a poem by Anthony Scoloker, in which the love-crazed protagonist is compared with both Tasso and Hamlet; Wiggins wonders whether the passage might thus incorporate memories of seeing Tasso's Melancholy in performance. The madman is very wild indeed:
Now with his fingers, like a barber, snaps;
Plays with the fire-pan, as it were a lute;
Unties his shoe-strings, then his lips he laps;
Whistles awhile and thinks it is a flute;
At length, a glass presents it to his sight,
Where well he acts fond love in passions right.
A true mad poet, he even drinks his own ink:
Runs to his inkpot, drinks, then stops the hole,
And thus grows madder than he was at first.
Tasso, he finds, by that of Hamlet thinks:
Terms him a madman, then of his inkhorn drinks.
And he runs around in only his shirt:
Puts off his clothes, his shirt he only wears;
Much like mad Hamlet, thus a passion tears.
Perhaps in these fragments we can glimpse Edward Alleyn's performance as Tasso (along with Richard Burbage's as Hamlet).

Whatever the exact content of Tasso's Melancholy, we do know that today's premiere was a great success, performed to an almost full theatre.  

FURTHER READING


Tasso's Melancholy information

  • Sir John Harington, The Letters and Epigrams of Sir John Harington, ed. Norman Egbert McClure (University of Philadelphia Press, 1930), 201-2.
  • C.P. Brand, Torquato Tasso: A Study of the Poet and of his Contribution to English Literature (Cambridge University Press, 1965).
  • Kathleen M. Lea and T.M. Gang, eds., Godfrey of Bulloigne: A Critical Edition of Edward Fairfax's Translation of Tasso's Gerusalemme Liberata Together with Fairfax's Original Poems (Clarendon Press, 1981).
  • Martin Wiggins, British Drama, 1533-1642: A Catalogue, vol. 3 (Oxford University Press, 2013), entry 963.
  • David Nicol, "Tasso's Melancholy", Lost Plays Database (2018). 


Henslowe links



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Sunday, 12 August 2018

12 August, 1594 - Belin Dun

Here's what the Admiral's Men performed at the Rose playhouse on this day, 424 years ago...

Henslowe writes: ye 10 of aguste 1594 ... R at bellendon ...  xxxiij

In modern English: 12th August, 1594 ... Received at Belin Dun ... 33 shillings

A highwayman portrayed in Richard
Head's The English Rogue (1666)

Today, the Admiral's Men once again performed Belin Dun, their lost play about the notorious robber who terrorized the highways around Dunstable during the reign of King Henry I; you can read more about this play in the entry for 10 June.

The company has left Belin Dun rest for a week and a half before restaging it, and it is continuing to produce comfortably average box office. The play is becoming one of the reliable workhorses of the company, which must be a relief for the company after the disappointments of the normally reliable Marlowe plays last week.


Henslowe links



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Friday, 10 August 2018

10 August, 1594 - Cutlack

Here's what the Admiral's Men performed at the Rose playhouse on this day, 424 years ago...

Henslowe writes: ye 8 of aguste 1594 ... R at cvttlacke ... xiijvjd

In modern English: 10th August, 1594 ... Received at Cutlack ... 13 shillings and sixpence

Illustration of Belinus (or Brennius, it's not clear)
from Holinshed's Chronicles (1577)
Today, the the Admiral's Men revived Cutlack, their play about the eponymous Danish king and his violent intervention into a civil war in ancient Britain. You can read more about this play in the entry for 16 May, 1594.

Interest in Cutlack has been fading for a while. The players last performed it a week and a half ago, but today's box office is truly awful, just like that of The Jew of Malta yesterday. The coincidence of two thinly-attended performances in a row, however, makes me wonder whether the culprit is actually a patch of bad weather rather than the plays being staged.


What's next?


There will be no blog entry tomorrow because 11th August was a Sunday in 1594 and the players did not perform. Henslowe's Diary ... as a Blog! will thus return on 12th August for a week that will include two new plays!

Henslowe links



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