Sunday, 12 June 2016

12 June 1592 - Harry VI (and a riot)

A great disorder and tumult

Making a felt hat, 1568.
Before looking at today's performance at the Rose, it's worth mentioning an event that is not recorded in Henslowe's Diary but which the players must have noticed. Last night, a crowd of apprentice feltmakers swarmed over London Bridge and into Southwark, the suburb that was home to the Rose playhouse. The apprentices claimed they were going to see a play, but instead they caused some kind of public disorder in the streets. William Webbe, Mayor of London, wrote to Lord Burghley that
being informed of a great disorder and tumult like to grow yesternight about 8 of the clock within the borough of Southwark, I went thither with all speed I could, taking with me one of the sherriffs, where I found great multitudes of people assembled together and the principal actors to be certain apprentices of the feltmakers gathered together out of Barmsey Street and the Blackfriars with a great number of loose and masterless men apt for such purposes. 

Webbe learned that the apprentices were rioting because a feltmonger's servant had been wrongly imprisoned. He arrested the "doers and authors of the disorder" and asked Burghley if there was anything more that he could do.

You may be wondering what this has to do with the Rose playhouse, but because the apprentices had made "pretense of their meeting at a play" (apparently on a Sunday, although this was against the law), Webbe grumbled in his letter that plays "giveth opportunity of committing these and suchlike disorders". It will take a couple of weeks for the authorities to respond, but when they do it will be with draconian measures that will not only crack down on public disorder but will also be catastrophic for the Rose and the other theatres. More on that later...

The play

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

Henslowe writes: R at harey the vj the 12 of June 1592 ... xxxijs

In modern English: Received at Harry VI, 12th June, 1592 ... 32 shillings

1540s portrait of King
Henry VI
This play was almost certainly Shakespeare's First Part of Henry VIyou can read more about it in the blog entry for 3rd March. Lord Strange's Men normally perform this play weekly, but this time they have left it alone for two weeks. When they have tried this in the past it has sometimes resulted in a boost to the box office, but that has not happened this time, and the play continues to be a merely average performer.

  • Friday, 3rd March - 75 shillings (premiere)
  • Tuesday, 7th March - 60 shillings
  • Saturday, 11th March - 47 shillings
  • Thursday, 16th March - 31 shillings
  • Tuesday, 28th March - 68 shillings (Easter Week)
  • Wednesday, 5th April - 41 shillings
  • Thursday, 13th April - 26 shillings
  • Friday, 21st April - 33 shillings
  • Thursday, 4th May - 56 shillings
  • Tuesday, 9th May - 22 shillings
  • Tuesday, 16th May - 50 shillings (Whitsuntide)
  • Monday, 22nd May - 30 shillings
  • Monday, 29th May - 24 shillings
  • Monday, 12th June - 32 shillings


The riot

  • Carol Chillington Rutter, Documents of the Rose Playhouse (Manchester University Press, 1984), 61-2

Henslowe links


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

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