Sunday, 28 February 2016

28 February, 1592 - Cloris and Ergasto

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

Henslowe writes: R at clorys & orgasto the 28 febreary 1591 ... xviijs

In modern English: Received at Cloris and Ergasto, 28th February, 1592 ... 18 shillings.

Cloris and Ergasto is another lost play. And it is the first play in Henslowe's list of performances about which we know almost nothing.

Pastoral Concert by Titian or Giorgione, 1509
In his catalogue of British drama, Martin Wiggins observes that the names Cloris and Ergasto both appear in pastoral literature (a genre set in a utopian vision of the countryside), but never appear together. We can speculate, therefore, that this play was some kind of romantic tale involving shepherds. But beyond that, Cloris and Ergasto is a complete mystery.

The genre of pastoral is quite different from the other plays we've seen Lord Strange's Men perform, which have tended to revolve around violent adventures and tragedy. Perhaps Cloris and Ergasto is a sign that the company had a wider range.

I'm sorry that I can't say any more than this. To make up for it, here is a happy video of a shepherd and his sheep:


Cloris and Ergasto information

  • Martin Wiggins, British Drama, 1533-1642: A Catalogue, vol. 3 (Oxford University Press, 2013), entry 878.

Henslowe links


Did I make a mistake? Do you have a question? Have you anything to add? Please post a comment below!


  1. Immediate, likely unrelated thoughts:
    Cloris as in Chloris the Greek nymph later associated with the Roman goddess of plant life Flora?
    Ergastolo as in a play on Ergastiri, the former name of the island Larium in Greece?
    Another Mediterranean adventure/pastoral romance?


  2. Flowers and islands? Cool. I'm not seeing a story yet, but keep working on it!

  3. The comment about pastoral is interesting - yes, the other plays have mostly focused on battle and violence, but quite a lot of 'Friar Bacon' takes place in a pre-As You Like It magical woodland, doesn't it? Which might suggest comic actors who excel in this setting playing the love plot there, and taking centre stage here... perhaps the exoticism/exoticisation of the Middle Eastern plays also places them on a continuum with pastoral in terms of fantastical distancing?

    1. One of the things I believe we don't know much about (though I could be wrong) is whether the same team of actors performs every day, or whether individual actors sometimes get a day off. I wonder whether the pastoral comedy, for example, is staged not because it's especially popular but because there's no ranting-roaring role for Edward Alleyn so it gives him a breather. This is total speculation on my part.

    2. Also, good point about exoticism blurring with pastoral. Orlando Furioso is a perfect example of an exotic, violent play with pastoral elements.

  4. I suppose one thing that might work against that is the existence of clown parts in tragedies - the sense that, oh shit, we'd better give Will Kemp *something* to do, which would employ everyone's always there and needs some kind of employment. But I'm sure this is the kind of thing Martin Wiggins would sort me right out about.