Friday, 29 April 2016

29 April, 1592 - Harry of Cornwall

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

Henslowe writes: R at harey of cornwell the 29 of aprell 15912 ... xxvjs

In modern English: Received at Harry of Cornwall, 29th April, 1592 ... 26 shillings

Gustav Doré's 1875 illustration
of the murder of Henry
Today, Lord Strange's Men returned to Harry of Cornwall, a play that they have been performing only once a month. This lost play was about the revenge of the De Montfort brothers upon the eponymous Henry; you can read more about it in the entry for 25th February.

Harry of Cornwall had received disappointing audiences on its last outing, but that was most likely due to its being staged during Holy Week. This time, it was back to a similar level as its first outing, proving itself a reliably solid but unspectacular performer.


  • Friday, 25th February - 33 shillings
  • Thursday, 23rd March - 13 shillings and sixpence
  • Saturday, 29th April - 26 shillings

What's next?


There will be no blog entry tomorrow because 30 April was a Sunday in 1592. Henslowe's Diary ... as a Blog! will thus return on 1 May...

Henslowe links



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Thursday, 28 April 2016

28 April, 1592 - The Second Part of Tamar Cam

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

Henslowe writes: ne ... R at the seconde pte of tamber came the 28 aprell ... 3ll iiijs

In modern English: New. Received at The Second Part of Tamar Cam, 28th April ... £3 and 4 shillings


Today, Lord Strange's Men unveiled a brand new play: The Second Part of Tamar Cam. Just like the previous two premieres - those of Harry VI and Titus and Vespasianthis one resulted in excellent box office: 64 shillings, indicating (perhaps) an almost full theatre.

Unfortunately, The Second Part of Tamar Cam is yet another lost play that was never published. However, it is possible to reconstruct its likely subject matter. That's because The First Part of Tamar Cam partially survives in outline form, and indicates that the two plays were about the thirteenth century Mongol warlord Hulagu Khan and his conquest of the Middle East. Hulagu Khan may not be a familiar name today, but there were good reasons why a play about him could have enticed large numbers of Elizabethan Londoners to the theatre. Let's take a step-by-step look at the process of reconstructing this play...


1. The 'plot' of Tamar Cam 1


The Second Part of Tamar Cam is entirely lost, but its predecessor partially survives via a transcript of a rare surviving document from the Elizabethan theatre known as a 'plot'. 'Plots' were tables listing the entrances and exits for each scene of a play; these documents were apparently used backstage to assist in organising the productions. You can see a transcript of the 'plot' of The First Part of Tamar Cam here (thanks to the Lost Plays Database). The 'plot' does not tell us exactly what happened in The First Part, but it does tell us the names of its characters and shows us the various configurations in which they appeared during the play.

A glance at the 'plot' of The First Part reveals that it was a play about Mongol conquerors ('Cam' or 'Cham' is a common Elizabethan rendering of the title 'Khan'), and that it involved Persia, princesses, beheadings, and the summoning of magical spirits.


2. Channelling Tamburlaine


If you were an Elizabethan playgoer and you heard that the players at the Rose would be staging a play about a conquerer sweeping across Asia, you would immediately think of one thing: Tamburlaine! Christopher Marlowe's two-part Tamburlaine the Great had been one of the mega-hits of the late 1580s. Based on the life of the fourteenth century warlord Tamerlane, the plays tell the story of a humble shepherd who rises to become a terrifying, all-conquering scourge. Filled with grand speeches that evoke epic ambition, packed with exotic images of far-off lands and peoples, and featuring an  amoral but awe-inspiring protagonist, the plays dazzled their original audiences and had become iconic by the 1590s. You can get some sense of what the Tamburlaine plays are like from this trailer for a recent production by Theatre for a New Audience:



Illustration of the historical Tamburlaine
from Richard Knolles' General History of
the Turks (1603). 
So, by staging a play about another Central Asian conqueror, Lord Strange's Men were almost by definition imitating Tamburlaine. And they may have had a very good reason to do so, for the role of Tamburlaine had in fact been created by their own star actor, Edward Alleyn, back when he was acting with a different company, the Admiral's Men. It seems that when Alleyn moved to Strange's Men, he lost the right to perform Marlowe's plays. A likely scenario, then, is that Tamar Cam was created deliberately to emulate Tamburlaine, so that Alleyn could continue barnstorming around Asia in a thinly-disguised variation on his famous role. Indeed, Henslowe's spelling of the new play, Tamber Came, shows that the two plays were barely distinguishable in his mind. And decades later, Ben Jonson would sneeringly recall "the Tamerlanes and Tamer-Chams of the late age, which had nothing in them but the scenical strutting and furious vociferation to warrant them to the ignorant gapers".

We can't know exactly how similar the plays were. The 'plot' of The First Part of Tamar Cam shows that it contained black magic and magical spirits, which are absent from Marlowe's play. But it certainly attempted to mimic the exoticism of Tamburlaine: it climaxed with a parade of foreign peoples, including Tartars, Amazons, "olive coloured Moors", cannibals, hermaphrodites, "the people of Bohare", pygmies, Crimeans, and Bactrians. This must have been an incredible spectacle and seems to be echoing the epic, global panorama that Tamburlaine conjured so memorably.


3. Identifying Tamar Cam


So, who was 'Tamar Cam'? W.W. Greg proposed that the name likely referred to Temuchin, better known as Genghis Khan, since he was by far the most famous of the Mongol conquerors. However, Sally-Beth MacLean and Lawence Manley's detailed study of  the evidence demonstrates that the play was more likely about one of Genghis Khan's descendants.

The 'plot' of The First Part refers to one 'Mango Cam', who is presumably Möngke Khan, Genghis's grandson and fourth emperor of the Mongol Empire. If so, then the titular 'Tamar Cam' would be the approximately contemporary Temür Khan, who became the sixth emperor. However, Temür's career had nothing to do with Persia, which appears so prominently in the 'plot'. MacLean and Manley propose therefore that the playwright took Temür's name only, and in fact told the story of Möngke's brother, Hulagu Khan, who was sent west to conquer Persia. The reason they changed the names is, no doubt, simply because 'Tamar Cam' sounds similar to 'Tamburlaine'.

Persian illustration of Hulagu Khan (the likely inspiration for Tamar Cam) and his Christian wife
Hulagu Khan is not a well-known figure to western readers today, but there are very good reasons why his story could have been attractive to an Elizabethan audience. MacLean and Manley explain that although Englishmen of this time knew little about the realities of the far-off Mongols (whom they normally called 'Tartars'), they believed that Möngke Khan had been tolerant of other religions and open to Christianity; indeed Europeans perceived the Mongol Empire as a possible ally in their conflicts with Islamic nations. As for Hulagu Khan himself (often called 'Haalon' by the English), MacLean and Manley quote Richard Knolles' General History of the Turks (1603), which conveniently summarizes the Elizabethan understanding of his career:

Mango the great Khan of Tartary ... sent his brother Haalon with an exceeding great army against the Turks and Saracens in Syria and the land of Palestine. This Haalon, converted also unto the Christian faith by his wife, setting forward with a world of people following him, in the space of six months overran all Persia, with the countries adjoining.
So, the history of Hulagu/Haalon could be dramatized as a tale about a Christianized warrior defeating infidel enemies, a popular topic in the Elizabethan theatre, and indeed one that had been played out onstage only a few days ago when Lord Strange's Men performed Jerusalem. Perhaps it could be thought of as a tamer version of Tamburlaine: instead of glorifying Marlowe's atheistical, amoral protagonist, this play could enable Londoners to cheer on a Christian hero. (Yes, I know that cutting a bloody swathe across half of Asia by bringing death and destruction to all who defy you is slightly incongruous with the teachings of Christ, but such is the world.)


4. Triumph or tragedy?


So, how exactly did the dramatist tell the story of Hulagu Khan? As far as we can tell from the hard-to-decipher 'plot', The First Part appears to have mostly been about Tamar Cam choosing the Christian princess Palmida over a Persian princess; there were also battles, a conspiracy against Tamar, and helpful spirits on both sides of the conflict, as well as a clown. The story of The Second Part is less knowable, but after Persia, the historical Hulagu went on to conquer Baghdad and Aleppo, so perhaps the sequel concerned itself with that.

From a 15th century French edition of Marco Polo:
Hulagu (on the left) orders the
imprisonment of the Caliph of Baghdad in his own
treasure-vault to starve.
The Second Part could have ended on a note of Christian triumphalism, for, as Thomas Fuller later wrote in his History of of the Holy War (1639), during Haalon's (i.e. Hulagu's) conquest of Baghdad and Aleppo, "Everywhere mosques went down and churches up", and Haalon did many "good offices" to "the Christians in  Syria". So, Tamar Cam may well have been yet another opportunity for Londoners to side with a Christian hero against Islamic foes.

However, as we've seen in Muly Molocco and The Jew of Malta, the Middle Eastern plays of the Rose were not always straightforward 'us versus them' narratives, and Tamburlaine is a defiantly un-Christian play, in which the title character spurns all gods and ultimately dies after burning, not the Bible, but the Qu'ran. And Tamar Cam could have ended on a more challenging note too. MacLean and Manley note that the historical sources record a potential downbeat ending in which Tamar's achievements are undermined by Christian intolerance: as Knolles tells it, Hulagu's successor, angered by a quarrel with Dutch soldiers over captured booty, repudiated Christianity and "he and his Tartars became utter enemies unto the Christians, doing them all the harm they could devise", an outcome that Knolles blames on "the insolency of certain Christian soldiers". If The Second Part of Tamar Cam ended this way, it would have been somewhat more like Tamburlaine, which ends with the unravelling of the title character's empire.

Whatever the exact plot and tone of The Second Part of Tamar Cam, its debut performance was a great success, making just as much money as Titus and Vespasian's premiere, although still not achieving the heights of Harry VI's. Lord Strange's Men had another blockbuster on their hands, and once again they had done so by riffing on older plays.


Further reading


Tamar Cam information

  • Richard Knolles, The General History of the Turks (1603), 113-14.
  • Thomas Fuller, The History of the Holy War (1639), 208.
  • W.W. Greg, Dramatic Documents from the Elizabethan Playhouse (Clarendon Press, 1931)
  • Martin Wiggins, British Drama, 1533-1642: A Catalogue, vol. 3 (Oxford University Press, 2013), entries 906 and 925.
  • Sally-Beth MacLean and Lawrence Manley, Lord Strange's Men and their Plays (Yale University Press, 2014), 138-43.
  • David McInnis, "Tamar Cham, Parts 1 and 2", Lost Plays Database (2016). 


Henslowe links


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Wednesday, 27 April 2016

27 April, 1592 - Muly Molocco

Here's what Lord Strange's Men performed at the Rose playhouse on this day, 424 years ago...
Henslowe writes: R at mvlo mvloco the 27 of aprell 1592 ... xxvjs 

In modern English: Received at Muly Molocco, 27th April, 1592 ... 26 shillings 


1629 Portuguese illustration of the Battle of Alcazar
Today Lord Strange's Men returned again to their old standby Muly Molocco, which they had last staged ten days ago. The play was about Abd el-Malik's struggle for the throne of Morocco; you can read more about it in the blog entry for 21st February.

The company has settled into a pattern of performing Muly Molocco once every ten days or so. Today's box office was nothing to write home about, but was within the typical range for the play.

Monday, 21st February - 29 shillings
Tuesday, 29th February - 34 shillings
Friday, 17th March - 29 shillings
Wednesday, 29th March - 62 shillings
Saturday, 8th April - 23 shillings

Monday, 17th April - 30 shillings
Thursday, 27th April, 26 shillings


Henslowe links



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Tuesday, 26 April 2016

26 April, 1592 - Friar Bacon

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

Henslowe writes: R at fryer bacon the 26 of aprell 1592 ... xxiiijs

In modern English: Received at Friar Bacon, 26th April, 1592 ... 23 shillings

From the title page of a prose tale of Friar Bacon, 1629,
which was re-used for the 1630 edition of the play.

Today, Lord Strange's Men returned to their magical fantasy about the wizard Friar Bacon. The exact identity of this play is uncertain: it may have been Robert Greene's Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, or it may have been the anonymous John of Bordeaux; you can read more about it in the entry for 19th February.

Friar Bacon had returned unimpressive box office on its previous outings (15 and 17 shillings). This time it did slightly better, but it still remained on the lower rung of popularity. One can't help suspecting that it'll be dropped from the repertory pretty soon.


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Monday, 25 April 2016

25 April, 1592 - Jerusalem

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

Henslowe writes: R at Jerusalem the 25 aprell 1592 ... xxxxvjs 

In modern English: Received at Jerusalem, 25th April, 1592 ... 46 shillings

Today, Lord Strange's Men revived Jerusalem, which they had previously performed only once before, just over a month ago. This lost play was most likely about Godfrey of Bouillon's siege of Jerusalem during the eleventh century crusades. You can read more about it in the entry for 22 March.

Statue of Godfrey of Bouillon
in Innsbruck Cathedral
Back in March, Jerusalem had performed poorly at the box office, receiving only 18 shillings. But this time, it was very successful, receiving more than double that. What had changed? It's intriguing that between these two performances of Jerusalem, Lord Strange's Men had introduced a popular new play, Titus and Vespasian, about the other siege of Jerusalem, in the 1st century. Is it possible that the excitement over Titus and Vespasian had reinvigorated the audience's previously waning enthusiasm for Jerusalem's besieging?

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Sunday, 24 April 2016

24 April, 1592 - Hieronimo

Here's what Lord Strange's Men performed at the Rose playhouse on this day, 424 years ago...
Henslowe writes: R at Jeronymo the 24 aprelle 1592 ... xxviijs 

In modern English: Received at Hieronimo, 24th April, 1592 ... 28 shillings 


Woodcut from the 1615 edition of The Spanish Tragedy.
Today, Lord Strange's Men gave another performance of Hieronimo, which is almost certainly an alternate title for Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy, a play that they had previously performed a week and a half ago. You can read more about this play in the entry for the 14th of March. As was their occasional practice, they performed the play the day after its companion piece The Spanish Comedy, but in this particular instance a Sunday intervened between the two.

The company has settled into a groove of performing The Spanish Tragedy approximately once a week, but this has not produced the spectacular box office that the play was capable of. An interesting question is whether the play was more popular when performed the day after The Spanish Comedy. If you look at the list below you could argue that it was, up until today. But could today's weak showing be due to that Sunday break intervening between the plays and interrupting the flow? The question is still open, I think, so let's keep an eye on it...

  • Tuesday, 14th March - 71 shillings (performed the day after the Comedy)
  • Monday, 20th March - 38 shillings (performed as an individual play)
  • Friday, 31st March - 60 shillings (performed the day after the Comedy)
  • Friday, 7th April - 26 shillings (performed as an individual play)
  • Friday, 14th April - 33 shillings (performed as an individual play)
  • Monday, 24th April - 28 shillings (performed one working day after the Comedy, but with Sunday interrupting)



    Henslowe links



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    Friday, 22 April 2016

    22 April, 1592 - The Comedy of Hieronimo

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

    Henslowe writes: R at the comodey Jeronymo the 22 aprell 1591 ... xvijs 

    In modern English: Received at The Comedy of Hieronimo, 22nd April, 1592 ... 17 shillings

    Today, Lord Strange's Men gave another performance of The Comedy of Hieronimo, which they had last performed just under a fortnight ago. This lost play, also known as The Spanish Comedy of Don Horatio, was most likely about the events leading up to those in Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy (you can read more about it in the entry for 23rd February). Today's performance received poor box office, considerably less than that of the last three outings.

    On Monday, Lord Strange's Men will perform The Spanish Tragedy, thereby staging the two plays consecutively in order to emphasize their linked narratives as they have occasionally done in the past, but this time with an awkward break caused by the day off on Sunday. An interesting question is whether the Comedy was more popular when performed in tandem with the Tragedy. But looking at the data below, I cannot yet see any strong evidence for that; other factors must be affecting the box office instead.
    • Wednesday, 23rd February - 13 shillings and sixpence (performed as an individual play)
    • Monday, 13th March - 29 shillings (performed the day before The Spanish Tragedy)
    • Wednesday, 30th March - 39 shillings (performed the day before The Spanish Tragedy)
    • Monday, 10th April - 28 shillings (performed as an individual play)
    • Saturday, 22nd April - 17 shillings  (performed one working day before The Spanish Tragedy, but with a Sunday intervening)

    What's next?


    There will be no blog entry tomorrow because 23rd April was a Sunday in 1592. Henslowe's Diary ... as a Blog! will thus return on 24th April, for a week that will include a new play along with the usual suspects.


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    Thursday, 21 April 2016

    21 April, 1592 - Harry VI

    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 21 of aprell 1591 ... xxxiijs

    In modern English: Received at Harry VI, 21st April, 1592 ... 33 shillings

    1540s portrait of King
    Henry VI
    Today, Lord Strange's Men performed Harry VI again. This play was almost certainly Shakespeare's First Part of Henry VIyou can read more about it in the blog entry for 3rd March.

    Since the premiere of Harry VI in early March, the company has settled into a groove of performing it approximately once a week. But last week's outing was its weakest-ever showing at the box office, and today's was not much better. Harry VI is no longer a blockbuster, and can best be described as reliably solid.

    • Friday, 3rd March - 75 shillings
    • Tuesday, 7th March - 60 shillings
    • Saturday, 11th March - 47 shillings
    • Thursday, 16th March - 31 shillings
    • Tuesday, 28th March - 68 shillings
    • Wednesday, 5th April - 41 shillings
    • Thursday, 13th April - 26 shillings
    • Friday, 21st April - 33 shillings


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    Wednesday, 20 April 2016

    20 April, 1592 - Titus and Vespasian

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

    Henslowe writes: R at tittus & vespecia the 20 aprell 1591 ... lvjs 

    In modern English: Received at Titus and Vespasian, 20th April, 1592 ... 56 shillings


    Today, Lord Strange's Men revived Titus and Vespasian, the new play that they had premiered just over a week ago. This lost play was probably a gruesome tale about the Roman siege of Jerusalem in the 1st century; you can read more about it in the entry for 11th April.

    The play's debut performance had received a very impressive 64 shillings, and today's performance, though a little lower, was still comfortably successful. This pattern echoes what happened with the company's previous new play, Harry VI, although Titus and Vespasian has not quite matched the stunning box office receipts of that play.

    Nicholas Poussin, The Destruction and Sack of the Temple at Jerusalem (1637)

    Henslowe links



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    Tuesday, 19 April 2016

    19 April, 1592 - A Looking-Glass for London and England

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

    Henslowe writes: R at the lockingglasse the 19 aprell 1591 ... xxiiijs

    In modern English: Received at The Looking-Glass, 19th April, 1592 ... 24 shillings
    Jonah and the Whale by Pieter Lastman (1621)
    Today, Lord Strange's Men returned to A Looking-Glass for London and England, which they had last performed three weeks ago. This moralistic adaptation of the Book of Jonah features a vivid evocation of the sinful city of Nineveh and draws overt parallels with contemporary London; you can read more about it in the entry for 8th March.

    So far, Lord Strange's Men have been performing this play at three week intervals and it has received extremely divergent responses, from a dismal 7 shillings in early March to an impressive 55 shillings on Easter Monday. Today's performance fell between those extremes; without the backing of a religious holiday, the play's condemnations of London's sins do not seem to have been able to draw huge audiences.


    Henslowe links



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    Monday, 18 April 2016

    18 April, 1592 - The Jew of Malta

    Here's what Lord Strange's Men performed at the Rose playhouse on this day, 424 years ago...
    Henslowe writes: R at the Jewe of malta the 18 of aprell 1591 ... xxxxviijs vjd

    In modern English: Received at The Jew of Malta, 18th April, 1592 ... 48 shillings and sixpence 


    Caravaggio's portrait of the Grand
    Master of the Knights of Malta,
    1607-8.
    Today, Lord Strange's Men performed their satirical comic tragedy The Jew of Malta again. You can read more about this play in the blog entry for 26th February.

    The company had last performed this play two weeks ago, receiving relatively disappointing box office returns. On this outing, the play was a bit more successful, although still not as quite as much as it had been in the past. Still, its receipts are nothing to sneeze at: The Jew of Malta has consistently performed better than the average play in the repertory.

    • Saturday, 26th February - 50 shillings
    • Friday, 10th March - 56 shillings
    • Saturday, 18th March - 39 shillings
    • Tuesday, 4th April, 43 shillings
    • Tuesday,  18th April, 48 shillings and sixpence


      Henslowe links




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      Sunday, 17 April 2016

      17 April, 1592 - Muly Molocco

      Here's what Lord Strange's Men performed at the Rose playhouse on this day, 424 years ago...
      Henslowe writes: R at mvllo mvlluco the 17 of aprell 1591 ... xxxs 

      In modern English: Received at Muly Molocco, 17th April, 1592 ... 30 shillings 


      1629 Portuguese illustration of the Battle of Alcazar
      Today Lord Strange's Men returned to Muly Molocco again, a play that they frequently performed, and which they had last staged just over a week ago. The play was about Abd el-Malik's struggle for the throne of Morocco; you can read more about it in the blog entry for 21st February.

      After its surprise success during Easter Week, the box office returns for Muly Molocco have stabilized, and it is back to being a solid, mid-ranking play.

      Monday, 21st February - 29 shillings
      Tuesday, 29th February - 34 shillings
      Friday, 17th March - 29 shillings
      Wednesday, 29th March - 62 shillings
      Saturday, 8th April - 23 shillings

      Monday, 17th April - 30 shillings


      Henslowe links 






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      Friday, 15 April 2016

      15 April, 1592 - Sir John Mandeville

      Here's what Lord Strange's Men performed at the Rose playhouse on this day, 424 years ago...
      Henslowe writes: R at mandevell the 15 of aprell 1591 ... xxvjs

      In modern English: Received at Mandeville, 15th April, 1592 ... 26 shillings


      Mandevillian monster from
      the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493)
      Today, Lord Strange's Men performed again their lost play about Sir John Mandeville. Although Mandeville is today most famous for his fantastical travel narratives, the most plausible theory is that this play was a chivalric and comic romance, in which Sir John won the hand of a fair lady above his station. You can read more about the play in the entry for 24th February.

      The company had last performed this play just under two weeks ago, when it had received 30 shillings during Easter Week. It received 4 shillings less on this outing, which is not bad considering that it received a mere 12 back in February. This play may be best described as chugging along.



      What's next?



      There will be no blog entry tomorrow because 16th April was a Sunday in 1592. Henslowe's Diary ... as a Blog! will thus return on 17th April...

      Henslowe links 





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      Thursday, 14 April 2016

      14 April, 1592 - Hieronimo

      Here's what Lord Strange's Men performed at the Rose playhouse on this day, 424 years ago...
      Henslowe writes: R at Joronymo the 14 aprelle 1591 ... xxxiijs 

      In modern English: Received at Hieronimo, 14th April, 1592 ... 33 shillings 


      Woodcut from the 1615 edition of The Spanish Tragedy.
      Today, Lord Strange's Men gave another performance of Hieronimo, which is almost certainly an alternate title for Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy, a play that they had previously performed just over a week ago. You can read more about this play in the entry for the 14th of March. As with the previous performance, they performed it alone, rather than as a follow-up to The Spanish Comedy of Don Horatio.

      The Spanish Tragedy was capable of producing  spectacular box office, and had done so back on the 14th and 31st March. But, as with the performance on the 7th, today's was relatively unimpressive. The company's weekly performances of the play seem to be producing solid rather than exceptional results.

      14th March - 71 shillings
      20th March - 38 shillings
      31st March - 60 shillings
      7th April - 26 shillings 

      14th April - 33 shillings


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        Wednesday, 13 April 2016

        13 April, 1592 - Harry VI

        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 13 of aprell 1591 ... xxvjs

        In modern English: Received at Harry VI, 13th April, 1592 ... 26 shillings

        1540s portrait of King
        Henry VI
        Today, Lord Strange's Men performed Harry VI again. This play was almost certainly Shakespeare's First Part of Henry VIyou can read more about it in the blog entry for 3rd March.

        The company last performed Harry VI just over a week ago; since its premiere in early March, it has been their most frequently-performed play. However, today's performance was its weakest so far, faring not much better than that of Bindo and Ricciardo yesterday. Harry VI appears to have officially become just another play.

        • Friday, 3rd March - 75 shillings
        • Tuesday, 7th March - 60 shillings
        • Saturday, 11th March - 47 shillings
        • Thursday, 16th March - 31 shillings
        • Tuesday, 28th March - 68 shillings
        • Wednesday, 5th April - 41 shillings
        • Thursday, 13th April - 26 shillings

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        Tuesday, 12 April 2016

        12 April, 1592 - Bindo and Ricciardo

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

        Henslowe writes: R at byndo & Richardo the 12 of aprell 1591 ... xxiijs

        In modern English: Received at Bindo and Ricciardo, 12th April ... 23 shillings

        Today, Lord Strange's Men returned to their risque Italian comedy Bindo and Ricciardo. Although lost, the story on which it is based survives, revealing it to be a bizarre comedy about the cunning thief Ricciardo's escape from justice. You can read more about this play in the entry for 4th March.

        The company had last performed the play nearly five weeks ago. It made 7 shillings more this time around, but remained one of the less popular plays in the repertory.


        Doge's Palace 3

        Henslowe links



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        Monday, 11 April 2016

        11 April, 1592 - Titus and Vespasian

        Here's what Lord Strange's Men performed at the Rose playhouse on this day, 424 years ago...
        Henslowe writes: ne ... R at tittus & vespacia the 11 aprell 1591 ... iijll iiijs

        In modern English: New. Received at Titus and Vespasian, 11th April, 1592 ... £3 and 4 shillings.

        Today, Lord Strange's Men unveiled a brand new play: Titus and Vespasian. The play is lost, but its title suggests that it told the story of the siege of Jerusalem by Titus, son of the Roman Emperor Vespasian. It was extremely successful at the box office, just like the company's previous new play, Harry VI, which premiered over a month agoand it made almost as much money. Apparently, mass audiences could be attracted to the Rose by the promise of a new play.

        16th century illustration of Vespasian's
        forces sailing for Jerusalem
        The events of the 1st century Jewish rebellion against Rome, and Titus's subsequent siege and destruction of Jerusalem, were well-known and much retold in Elizabethan England. The basic outline of this story is simple: some of the Jewish inhabitants of Jerusalem revolt and overthrow the Romanized rulers; Titus and his Roman forces arrive and besiege the city until its people begin to die of starvation; and the Romans then invade and massacre the inhabitants.

        If this plot sounds familiar, it's because just over two weeks ago, Lord Strange's Men performed a lost play called Jerusalem, which was probably about the eleventh century siege of the city and the eventual expulsion of its Islamic rulers by Godfrey of Bouillon. Clearly, sieges of Jerusalem were popular in the theatre, and it's easy to see why. A play about the capture of Jerusalem would depict holy war in the starkest and most direct terms: in Jerusalem, the audience watched Christians purging non-Christians from the Holy City.

        But the story told in Titus and Vespasian - in which pagan Romans capture Jerusalem from Jewish rebels - might have seemed less straightforward in its moral framework to Elizabethan audiences, as it's not immediately obvious which side should receive the sympathy of a Christian audience.

        Nicholas Poussin, The Destruction and Sack of the Temple at Jerusalem (1637)
        It was certainly possible to defy history and turn the story into a symbol of Christian triumphalism. In one medieval tradition, the tale begins with Vespasian being miraculously cured of a disease; he is converted to Christianity as a result, and orders the taking of Jerusalem in order to revenge the death of Christ, thereby giving the war a religious motivation.

        But Sally-Beth MacLean and Lawrence Manley have shown that the lost play was more likely related in some way to Peter Morwen's History of the Latter Times of the Jews' Commonweal (1558) and other works deriving from it, including Richard Legge's Latin play Solymitana Clades (c.1590), Thomas Nashe's prose work Christ's Tears over Jerusalem (1594) and William Heminges' play The Jews' Tragedy, or their Fatal and Final Overthrow by Vespatian and his son Titus (c.1628-30). In these works, the villains are not the Jews as such, but rather the Zealots, a fanatical sect who rise up against the Romanized king Agrippa.

        In the various versions of this story, the Zealots occupy the Temple and start performing human sacrifices to God. In his retelling, Thomas Nashe revels in the disgusting imagery of mass sacrifice:

        The marble floor of [the Temple] they made so slippery, with their un-respited, and not so much as Sabbath-ceased, bloodshed and bowel-clinging fat of them that were slaine, that a man might better swim then walk on it.

        Sixteenth century illustration of
        the Romans destroying Jerusalem
        When the Romans arrive to recapture the city, the various Jewish factions try and fail to unite against the Romans. The siege results in famine, causing terrible suffering; as Nashe writes, "every corner of Jerusalem" was ringing with "the howling, wringing of hands, sobbing and yelling of men, women, and children". In one famed sequence, a high-born mother, Miriam, becomes so crazed with starvation that she cooks her own child; in his version, Nashe implores the reader to sympathize with and understand her actions:

        Mothers of London, each one of you to yourselves, do but imagine that you were Miriam; with what heart, suppose you, could you go about the cookery of your own children? Not hate but hunger, taught Miriam to forget motherhood.
        Titus then invades, executes the Zealot leaders, and marches in triumph through the ruined city. In one sequence that appears in a number of the retellings, Titus is horrified at the actions of the Zealots. In his version, Nashe addresses the city of Jerusalem and describes how:

        Titus (an infidel), understanding the multitude of thy profanations and contumacies, was afraid to stay in thee, saying, "Let us hence, lest their sins destroy us."

        The tale of the siege of Jerusalem is thus a grim one, with much opportunity for onstage violence and horror. The evidence seems to suggest that the lost play was at least partly sympathetic toward the Romans and the ordinary Jewish citizens, while condemning the religious extremism of the Zealots. Indeed, Manley and MacLean note that the image of the Zealots could have been used to satirize extremist Puritans in England.  This is all speculative, but the popularity of this subject in Elizabethan England, the range of works inspired by it, and the impressive box office of the play's debut at the Rose, suggest that there was something about this story captured the imagination of readers and audiences at the time.



        FURTHER READING

         

        Titus and Vespasian information

        • Martin Wiggins, British Drama, 1533-1642: A Catalogue, vol. 3 (Oxford University Press, 2013), entry 923.
        • Sally-Beth MacLean and Lawrence Manley, Lord Strange's Men and their Plays (Yale University Press, 2014), 128-33.
        • David McInnis, "Titus and Vespasian", Lost Plays Database (2015). 

         

        Henslowe links



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        Sunday, 10 April 2016

        10 April, 1592 - The Comedy of Hieronimo

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

        Henslowe writes: R at the comodey of Jeronymo the 10 aprell 1591 ... xxviijs 

        In modern English: Received at The Comedy of Hieronimo, 10th April, 1592 ... 28 shillings

        Today's entry is a bit of a puzzle. We have already seen Henslowe record The Spanish Comedy of Don Horatio, and we have seen him record its companion play, Hieronimo (which we know today as The Spanish Tragedy). So, what is The Comedy of Hieronimo? Most scholars think it is just an alternative name for The Spanish Comedy of Don Horatio, and I'm going to follow suit (you can read more about the complexities surrounding these plays in the entry for 23rd February). Today's entry is thus an interesting reminder of how fluid play-titles can be in this period; it looks almost as if Edward Alleyn's performance as Hieronimo in the play gradually caused Henslowe to start thinking of it as Hieronimo's comedy rather than Horatio's.

        So, today, Lord Strange's Men gave another performance of the play which I will now call The Comedy of Hieronimo. This lost play was most likely about the events leading up to those in Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy. On this outing, Don Horatio received solid box office, continuing this week's general trend in which audiences are smaller than they were during the highs of Easter Week, but not disastrously so.

        Wednesday, 23rd February - 13 shillings and sixpence
        Monday, 13th March - 29 shillings
        Wednesday, 30th March - 39 shillings
        Monday, 10th April - 28 shillings

        Henslowe links



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        Friday, 8 April 2016

        8 April, 1592 - Muly Molocco

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

        Henslowe writes: R at mvlo mvloco the 8 of aprell 1591 J.h.-01-10-00 ... xxiijs

        In modern English: Received at Muly Molocco, 8th April, 1592 ... 23 shillings

        1629 Portuguese illustration of the Battle of Alcazar
        Henslowe's entry for today includes an enigmatic scribbled reference to paying or receiving £1 and 10 shillings, but unfortunately I do not know what this means. 

        Anyway, today Lord Strange's Men returned again to Muly Molocco, a play that they frequently performed, and which they had last staged a week and a half ago. The play was about Abd el-Malik's struggle for the throne of Morocco; you can read more about it in the blog entry for 21st February.

        After its surprise success during Easter Week, the box office returns for Muly Molocco were now the weakest it had ever received, although they are better thought of as simply returning to a more normal level for this particular play.

        Monday, 21st February - 29 shillings
        Tuesday, 29th February - 34 shillings
        Friday, 17th March - 29 shillings
        Wednesday, 29th March - 62 shillings
        Saturday, 8th April - 23 shillings

        What's next?


        There will be no blog entry tomorrow because 9th April was a Sunday in 1592. Henslowe's Diary ... as a Blog! will thus return on 10th April for a week that will include old favourites along with a brand new play!


        Henslowe links




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        Thursday, 7 April 2016

        7 April, 1592 - Hieronimo

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

        Henslowe writes: R at Jeronymo the 7 aprell 1591 ... xxvjs

        In modern English: Received at Hieronimo, 7th April, 1592 ... 26 shillings

        Woodcut from the 1615 edition of The Spanish Tragedy.
        Today, Lord Strange's Men gave another performance of Hieronimo, which is almost certainly an alternate title for Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy, a play that they had previously performed just over a week ago. You can read more about this play in the entry for the 14th of March. This time, they performed it alone, rather than as a follow-up to The Spanish Comedy of Don Horatio.

        The Spanish Tragedy was a very popular play and had produced spectacular box office back on the 14th and 31st March. But today's performance was extremely unimpressive by comparison, suggesting that the company may have revived it too soon after it had drawn big crowds in Easter Week.

        14th March - 71 shillings
        20th March - 38 shillings
        31st March - 60 shillings
        7th April - 26 shillings

        Henslowe links



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        Wednesday, 6 April 2016

        6 April, 1592 - Brandimer

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

        Henslowe writes: R at brandymer the 6 of aprell 1591 ... xxijs

        In modern English: Received at Brandimer, 6th April, 1592 ... 22 shillings

        For the last two weeks, Lord Strange's Men have been cycling through their most popular plays. But today, they have decided to try something different: a play called Brandimer. Henslowe doesn't label it as "new", so the company was presumably blowing the dust off an old play from the archives. Unfortunately, Brandimer is lost and its subject matter is uncertain. However, two possible explanations for its title have been proposed, both of which could have produced thrilling stage material. So let's explore these two theories...

        Brandimart?


        Orlando's knights, from a 1584
        Venetian edition of Orlando
        Furioso at the Newberry
        Library
        In his 1904 study of Henslowe's Diary, W.W. Greg suggested that Brandimer was about  Brandimart (or Brandimarte), a character in Ludovico Ariosto's epic poem Orlando Furioso. The repertory of Lord Strange's Men already included Robert Greene's stage adaptation of that poem, which the company had performed back in February, so perhaps Brandimer was some kind of companion play?

        One complication is that the character of Brandimart is extremely different in the poem and the play. In Ariosto's poem, Brandimart is one of a team of heroes who aids Orlando in his adventures; he performs heroic actions at the siege of Biserta, and is later killed when Orlando and company fight North African warriors on the island of Lampedusa. By contrast, in Greene's extremely loose stage adaptation, Brandimart is a villain, a rival suitor to Angelica who is killed by the mad Orlando halfway through the play. If Brandimer was about Brandimart, which Brandimart was portrayed? Was the plot simply inconsistent with Greene's play, or did the playwright invent a largely non-Ariostoan prequel to Greene's?

        There are certainly lot of reasons to believe the play was about Brandimart. The existence of Greene's play in the company's repertory makes a connection with Orlando Furioso seem obvious. And even if the lost play was based more on Ariosto than Greene, the battles against Islamic foes in the poem would fit with common themes in the plays of Lord Strange's Men. The only snag is that Brandimart is not a particularly distinctive or important character in either the poem or in Greene's play, so that it is hard to imagine why an entire play might have been named after him.

        Brandimore?


        Guy of Warwick fighting the giant Colbrand,
        from The History of the Famous Exploits
        of Guy, Earl of Warwick
        (1680)
        A leftfield but equally convincing theory is proposed by Martin Wiggins, who points to the legend of Guy of Warwick, a folk hero whose adventures were retold many times in medieval and Renaissance England on the page, on stage, and in song. In the many tales associated with him, Guy battles enemies and vanquishes monsters in order to prove himself to the woman he loves. And in a 1612 ballad entitled Saint George's Commendation to all Soldiers, Guy kills a giant named Brandimore. Could Brandimer have been a play about Guy of Warwick, with a memorable scene of the slaying of Brandimore?

        The ballad in question is a yobbishly patriotic effort that probably sounds better after four pints of lager. Each verse describes the adventures of various warrior heroes from history and myth before concluding "St George for England, St Denis for France / Honi soit qui mal y pense!" One verse goes as follows:

        The noble Earl of Warwick, that was called Sir Guy,
        The infidels and pagans much did he defy,
        He slew the giant Brandimore, and after was the death
        Of that most ghastly dun-cow, the Devil of Dunsmore Heath,
        Besides his noble deeds done beyond the seas.
        St George, St George, the dragon did appease,
        St George for England, St Denis for France,
        Honi soit qui mal y pense!

        Wiggins points out that many of the other heroes mentioned in the ballad appear in plays performed at Henslowe's playhouses, including Orlando, Godfrey of Bouillon, Sir John Mandeville, and several others that we will meet later in the year. So, if you wanted to speculate wildly, you could propose that the ballad-maker was conjuring memories of plays performed back in the days of Good Queen Bess. If so, as Wiggins suggests, the ballad verse might record what happened in the play: the slaying of Brandimore, adventures beyond the seas during the Crusades, and Guy's most famous deed, the vanquishing of the monstrous Dun Cow (an escaped giant cow who caused mayhem on Dunsmore Heath, near Warwick).

        [Update, 19/4/16 - Reader Matthew Steggle helpfully comments that there's a more detailed description of Guy of Warwick fighting "the giant Brandamore" in the popular prose work The Famous History of the Seven Champions of Christendom by Richard Johnson, first published in 1616. In it, Guy is one of a team of knights attacked by three giants, including Brandamore, "a mishapen Fiend, whose bulk is a weight too heavy for the Earth to bear". Guy punches Brandamore so hard "that he tumbled backwards over the dead carcasses of two or three slaughtered soldiers", but eventually, it is another knight who kills Brandamore after the latter "through the weight of his armour, and the hotness of the weather, sweat so abundantly that it ran into his eyes and quite blinded him".  Incidentally, searching for 'Brandamore' in Early English Books Online also brings up a Dialogue between the Two Giants in Guildhall, Colebrond and Brandamore, Concerning the Late Election of Citizens to Serve in Parliament for the City of London (1661)! The Guildhall giants are normally associated with Gog and Magog, however. It's all rather intriguing, and an enthusiastic researcher could probably discover a lot more about the giant Brandamore in early modern English culture.]

        This theory is very tempting, but could a fight with a giant really be performed onstage? Yes it could. A 1590s play about Guy of Warwick does exist, and it does indeed include a sequence in which Guy fights a giant. The giant is called Colbron, so this play can't be the hypothetical Brandimore, but it does suggest that such a scene was not  impossible. As for the slaying of the Dun Cow, though, I'm not so sure... in the surviving play, a character merely reminisces about "the wild cow slaughtered / That kept such revels upon Dunsmore Heath".

        The Dun Cow

        Which was it?


        Both of these theories have their strong points. But I'm going to plump for Brandimore, for reasons that are entirely frivolous: for me, the possibility - however slight - that a play might have featured a warrior battling a giant cow onstage is so entertaining that I have resolved to believe in it, no matter what.


        FURTHER READING


        Brandimer information

        Henslowe links



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