Saturday, 25 July 2020

25 July, 1596 - closed until October 27


The Privy Council in 1604. Detail
from The Somerset House Conference
On this day, 424 years ago, the Rose playhouse was forced to close for several months. The Privy Council of England was concerned about the return of the plague that had devastated London a couple of years previously. On 22nd July, they ordered an end to the performing of plays, as a way of preventing large gatherings of people.

As I write today in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic that has forced theatres to close around the world, the words of the Privy Council in 1596 sound as though they could have been written yesterday:

Letters to the justices of Middlesex and Surrey to restrain the players from showing or using any plays or interludes in the places usual about the City of London, for that by drawing of much people together increase of sickness is feared.

As they had so often done before, the Admiral's Men stayed in business by laving London and undergoing an epic tour of England; places they may have visited during this period include Coventry, Ipswich, Oxford, Bath, and Dunwich. They returned to the Rose in October. 

This blog will thus be on hiatus until 27 October. When we return, look forward to a new season featuring many new plays! See you then!


FURTHER READING


Theatre closure information

  • Carol Chillington Rutter, Documents of the Rose Playhouse (Manchester University Press, 1984), 104.

Touring information

    • Andrew Gurr, Shakespeare's Opposites (Cambridge University Press, 2009), 290.


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    Friday, 24 July 2020

    24 July, 1596 - The Tinker of Totnes

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

    Henslowe writes: ye 18 of July 1596 ... ne ... R at the tyncker of totnes ... iijll 

    In modern English: [24th] July, 1596 ... New ... Received at The Tinker of Totnes ... £3.

    Today, the Admiral's Men premiered a new play! The Tinker of Totnes received a large audience but, strangely enough, it will never be performed again. The text is lost, and we do not know what the eponymous tinker got up to in the town of Totnes.

    The Tinker by Alphonse Legros (1874)
    A tinker was an itinerant artisan who specialized in mending objects made from light metals such as tin. 

    The Lost Plays Database article on this play suggests that tinkers in Elizabethan literature had a reputation for being rascally thieves, although it also quotes a passage from a tale about a virtuous tinker who plays music.

    The 'Brutus Stone' in
    Totnes marks the spot where
    the mythical founder of
    Britain landed.
    As for Totnes, it is a small town on an estuary in Devon. In Elizabethan times it was known as a place where people might arrive when travelling to England.

    In the fanciful history of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth, Totnes is the landing place of Brutus, the mythical Trojan who supposedly founded London. In the town today is a stone known as the "Brutus Stone" which purports to be the spot upon which Brutus first stepped. 

    Geoffrey also reports that Totnes was where Uther Pendragon, the father of King Arthur, landed when preparing to confront Vortiger, who had usurped the British throne. 

    It's possible, then, to speculate that The Tinker of Totnes was a tale of legendary Britain, perhaps with a comic subplot about a wily tinker. But that's just a guess.

    Today's premiere of The Tinker of Totnes was very successful, bringing a huge crowd to the Rose. But it is all for naught. Tomorrow, the Rose will be closed (watch this space) and the company will never revive this play, leaving today's performance as its only known appearance on the stage.


    FURTHER READING


    Tinker of Totnes information


    • Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britain, Books 1 and 8
    • Martin Wiggins, British Drama, 1533-1642: A Catalogue, vol. 3 (Oxford University Press, 2013), entry 1039.
    • "Tinker of Totnes, The", Lost Plays Database (2019), accessed July 2020. 

    Henslowe links



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    Thursday, 23 July 2020

    23 July, 1596 - Phocas

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

    Henslowe writes: ye 17 of July 1596 ... R at focas ... xxixs

    In modern English: [23rd] July, 1596 ... Received at Phocas ... 29 shillings

    Phocas depicted in Richard
    Rainoldes' Chronicle of all the
    Noble Emperors of the Romans (1571)
    Today, for the last time, the Admiral's Men returned to Phocas, their tragedy about an army officer who became Byzantine emperor and ruled as a tyrant. You can read more about this play in the entry for 20 May.

    Phocas is yet another casualty of a week that has seen the last recorded performances of several plays. It premiered only a month ago, and has received seven performances since then, none of which were notably unsuccessful. But for whatever reason, the company will decide not to revive it when they return after the impending closure of the Rose. 

    Five plays have existed the repertory in the past fortnight. Just for fun, here's a graph illustrating their respective journeys; you can see their popularity rise and fall.  










    Henslowe links



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    Wednesday, 22 July 2020

    22 July, 1596 - Troy

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

    Henslowe writes: ye 16 of July 1596 ... R at troye ... xxis 

    In modern English: [22nd] July, 1596 ... Received at Troy ... 21 shillings


    The sacking of Troy, from the title page of Thomas
    Heywood's The Second Part of the Iron Age (c.1613)
    Today, for the last time, the Admiral's Men performed Troy, their play about the Trojan War. You can read more about this play in the entry for 25 June.

    Surprisingly enough, this is the last recorded performance of Troy in Henslowe's Diary. The play premiered only a month ago, and has received only four performances, but despite adequate box office the company seems to have decided to let it go.

    You may have noticed an apparent purge of plays in recent days, with Longshanks and Harry V also biting the dust, as if the company has decided to jettison some dead weight. This is a little misleading. What's actually happening is that in a few days time, the Rose will close for a long time. So, the players aren't deciding right now that they will never perform these plays again. Rather, once they return after their long break, they will opt not to revive them. Expect some more farewells very soon!

    Henslowe links



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    Tuesday, 21 July 2020

    21 July, 1596 - Harry V

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

    Henslowe writes: ye 15 of July 1596 ... R at hary the v ... xxijs 

    In modern English: [21st] July, 1596 ... Received at Harry V ... 22 shillings

    King Henry V, posthumous portrait
    (late 16th or early 17th century)
    Today, for the last time, the Admiral's Men performed Harry V, their play about King Henry V of England, who, according to legend, gave up a dissolute lifestyle and led his country to victory against the French at the Battle of Agincourt before his untimely death. You can read more about this play in the entry for 28 November.

    Harry V is back after less than a week, but this is its final appearance in Henslowe's Diary. The play debuted back in November and has been staged thirteen times in total. For the first half of its run, it was a solidly reliable performer, but in recent months it has been less successful, and the company must have decided to put it to rest. Farewell, madcap prince!


    Henslowe links



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    Monday, 20 July 2020

    20 July, 1596 - Pythagoras

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

    Henslowe writes: ye 14 of July 1596 ... R at pethagores ... xxijs 

    In modern English: [20th] July, 1596 ... Received at Pythagoras ... 22 shillings

    Pythagoras as portrayed in Raphael's
    The School of Athens (1509-11)
    Today, for the last time, the Admiral's Men staged Pythagoras, their lost play about the Greek philosopher. You can read more about this play in the entry for 16 January

    The company has waited over a month to return Pythagoras to the stage. The box office is holding steady, but this is the play's final record in Henslowe's Diary; it would seem that they have decided to call it a day.

    Pythagoras was introduced back in January and has received twelve performances since then. It has been one of the more solid performers at the Rose, never receiving spectacular box office but never doing very poorly either; it is thus surprising to see it go.

    Henslowe links



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    Sunday, 19 July 2020

    19 July, 1596 - A Toy to Please Chaste Ladies

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

    Henslowe writes: ye 12 of July 1596 ... mr pd ... R at the toye ... xs 

    In modern English: [19th] July, 1596 ... Received at The Toy ... 10 shillings

    Two Women at a Window by Murillo (1655-60)
    Today, the Admiral's Men returned to A Toy to Please Chaste Ladies, an enigmatic lost play; you can read more about it in the entry for 14 November, 1595.

    The company has waited over a month to return this play to the stage. It is normally unpopular and today it has excelled itself, drawing one of this season's smallest audiences.

    Today's entry also includes a note that Henslowe paid the license for the Rose to the Master of the Revels; you can read more about this in the entry for 8 November, 1595.


    Henslowe links



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