Saturday, 31 December 2016

31 December, 1592 - Hampton Court Palace

Lord Strange's Men did not perform at the Rose playhouse today, because it was a Sunday. However, this apparently did not prevent them performing to Queen Elizabeth I and her court at Hampton Court Palace, just as they had done on the 27th.

This was presumably a play to celebrate New Year's Eve, but, as before, we do not know what play they chose. Maybe something with elements of birth and renewal and an upbeat ending, such as Jerusalem or Orlando Furioso? I'm just guessing.

A Panorama of Hampton Court Palace


  • John Astington, English Court Theatre, 1558-1642 (Cambridge University Press, 1999)

Friday, 30 December 2016

30 December, 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 30 of Decembȝ 1592 ... iijll viijs

In modern English: Received at Hieronimo, 30th December, 1592 ... £3 and 8 shillings 

Woodcut from the 1615 edition of The Spanish Tragedy.
Today was the company's second day back in the Rose playhouse, and their audience was still thrilled to have them back. They chose today to revive Hieronimowhich is almost certainly an alternate title for Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy. This play was already one of the classics of the Elizabethan stage and was famed for its quotable lines and for Edward Alleyn's memorable performances as the grief stricken father seeking revenge for the death of his son. You can read more about this play in the entry for 14th March

In its previous season, the company had often achieved impressive box office with The Spanish Tragedy, although their frequent performances of it gradually eroded its popularity through over-familiarity. Now, though, with London starved of the play for 6 months, it was back to its former glory. Alleyn must have enjoyed once again performing "Oh eyes, no eyes, but fountains filled with tears" to a packed theatre. I can't help thinking it must have been a bit like a Monkees revival tour.

Henslowe links


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

Thursday, 29 December 2016

29 December, 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 mvlomulloco the 29 of Decembȝ 1592 ... iijl xs
In modern English: Received at Muly Molocco, 29th December, 1592 ... £3 and 10 shillings 

After nearly six months of touring, Lord Strange's Men finally returned to London's Rose playhouse today! They were rewarded with 70 shillings at the box office, a huge amount that represents an almost packed theatre. Clearly the residents of London, having suffering through the outbreak of plague, were now piling into the Rose, having been starved of theatre for a long time. 

1629 Portuguese illustration of the Battle of Alcazar
Probably any play would have been popular today, but Lord Strange's Men chose Muly Molocco, one of the stalwarts of their previous seasonThis play may have been an alternate title for George Peele's The Battle of Alcazar, and if so it was a rousing, militaristic tale about Abd el-Malik's struggle for the throne of Morocco. It epitomised the kind of violent, battle-heavy plays that Lord Strange's Men specialised in, and would have featured their leading actor, Edward Alleyn, in one of his most famous roles as the cruel and bloodthirsty villain Muly Mahomet. You can read more about Muly Molocco in the blog entry for 21st February.

The big audience provided a thrilling start for the company's return to London. It probably wouldn't last - most performances at the Rose played to a half-empty theatre - but the company no doubt enjoyed themselves while they could.

In case you're wondering about the weird mark at the end of Henslowe's "Decembȝ", this is an attempt by the 1905 transcriber of the diary, W.W. Greg, to render in print the squiggle that Henslowe uses for 'er'. Greg used a 'yogh', an obscure Middle English letter that he chose it for its shape rather than its phonetic meaning. (My apologies for digressing from the subject of Renaissance drama, but it's not often that I get to use a yogh in my writing, so I'm in a state of considerable excitement.)

Henslowe links


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

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

27 December, 1592 - Hampton Court Palace

Welcome back to Henslowe's Diary ... as a Blog!  For the last few months our heroes, Lord Strange's Men, have been touring the country, hoping for the ban on theatre in London to be lifted so that they can return to the Rose playhouse. It seems that things are finally looking more optimistic.

Henslowe's list of performances at the Rose does not resume until 29th December, but the records of the court show that Lord Strange's Men were already back in London on the 27th, performing a play to Queen Elizabeth I. We do not know which play they performed, but we do know it took place at Hampton Court Palace, a great house on the Thames that still stands today.

Hampton Court

This was the season known as Christmastide, and plays were a normal part of the court's festive celebrations. 27th December was the Feast of St John, the third day of Christmas. In his intriguing book Renaissance Drama and the English Church Year, R. Chris Hassell, Jr. wonders whether the plays performed at court were chosen to fit the themes of the religious festivals that they celebrated, and he cautiously concludes that sometimes they may have been. He says the theme of prescribed readings from the Bible on this particular feast-day was the vanity of human wishes and the eschewing of worldly goods. Perhaps A Looking-Glass for London might have been a suitable choice, but I'm only guessing.

Incidentally, if you happen to be in London this Christmas, Hampton Court Palace is staging a site-specific play about behind-the-scenes activities during an Elizabethan court performance! It's "a heart-warming Christmas story for all the family set at the court of Queen Elizabeth I and performed around the Palace, from the Tudor Kitchens to the Great Hall". Click here for more details.

The hall

Regardless of which play they performed, the company no doubt were impressed by the space they performed it in - the beautiful hall at Hampton Court, which you can still visit today.

Great Hall - Hampton Court

If Lord Strange's Men were back in London, they probably already knew that the Rose playhouse would be re-opening in just two days time. Performing to the Queen herself in a spectacular venue must have felt like a wonderful welcome back to their city.

What's next?

There will be no blog post tomorrow because Lord Strange's Men are not known to have performed on the 28th. Most likely they were busy with the final preparations for their return to the Rose. Henslowe's Diary ... as a Blog! will thus return on 29th December. See you then!


  • R. Chris Hassell, Jr., Renaissance Drama and the English Church Year (University of Nebraska Press, 1979), 29-37.
  • John Astington, English Court Theatre, 1558-1642 (Cambridge University Press, 1999)

Monday, 26 December 2016

Welcome back!

Tomorrow will see the return of Henslowe's Diary ... as a Blog!

This blog is attempting to capture the day-by-day life of an Elizabethan theatre by recounting the performances at the Rose playhouse by Lord Strange's Men, as recorded in Philip Henslowe's diary.

Aldgate, one of the gateways
into London, from the Agas
Map (1561)
The blog fell silent on 23 June because on that day in 1592 the theatres of London were closed to prevent the spread of plague. Since then, in 2016, the summer has come and gone, an academic term has begun and ended, and a memorable U.S. election has occurred. Back in 1592,  Lord Strange's Men have been touring their plays around the towns of England, and have probably become increasingly grumpy as the cold weather set in. But on 27 December, the company will perform to Queen Elizabeth at Hampton Court Palace in London, and on the 29th, Henslowe's Diary will record their return to the Rose. Our day-by-day journey can thus continue!

This reappearance will, however, be a brief one: Lord Strange's Men will be at the Rose for little more than a month before the government will close the theatres again due to another outbreak of plague. After this, the Rose will remain closed for almost a year.

But at least from now until the beginning of February we can experience once more the daily life of an Elizabethan acting company. I cannot promise you a great deal of novelty; for the most part, the company will simply revive once again the same group of plays that it had been staging earlier in the year. However, two new plays will appear in the repertory and occasional shenanigans along the way will add some spice.

See you tomorrow for a trip to the court of Queen Elizabeth!