Monday, 14 August 2017

14 August, 1593 - a letter from Henslowe to Alleyn

Welcome back once again! For the last two weeks, we have been looking at a series of letters exchanged between Edward Alleyn and Philip Henslowe. Today, we are looking at a third letter, written on this day 424 years ago. As you no doubt remember, Henslowe is writing from plague-ridden London to Alleyn, who is touring plays in southwestern England with Lord Strange's Men.

The city of Bath, from a 1610 map by John Speed
Henslowe begins by informing Alleyn that "we heard you were very sick at Bath, and that one of your fellows were fain to play your part for you". You might think this news would have worried Alleyn's wife, Joan, but in fact she was relieved: Henslowe explains, "we had no letter from you when the other wives had letters", and this had made Joan "not to weep a little but took it very greviously, thinking you had conceived some unkindness of her". Henslowe implores Alleyn to write more often in future.

Joan's anxiety was no doubt the result of living amid a near-apocalyptic plague while her husband was far away. Henslowe relates that Joan "prayeth day and night to the lord to cease his hand from punishing us with his cross" and hopes that her husband will soon be "eased of this heavy labour and toil". He then thanks Alleyn for the advice he gave a while back on keeping the house clean to prevent plague, and adds that "we strew it with hearty prayers unto the Lord".

But Henslowe also records more mundane matters. He refers back to an earlier letter of Alleyn's (now lost) "wherein makes mention of your white waistcoat and your lute-box". He refers to yet another letter, brought by one Peter, who had also brought Alleyn's horse for Henslowe to look after. And he reports that while Alleyn's bean-patch is thriving, his tenants "wax very poor" and cannot pay the rent.

Henslowe also reports on the renovations to Alleyn's home. The joiner insists "he will make you such good stuff and such good penniworths as he hopeth shall well like you and content you", and that he will "prove himself an honest man". These words sound deeply suspicious to me, but perhaps I'm jaded by bad reno experiences...

At the end of the letter, Henslowe gives his regards to the rest of Lord Strange's Men while alluding to his financial worries in these uncertain times: "commend me heartily to all the rest of your fellows in general, for I grow poor for lack of them; therefore have no gifts to send but as good and faithful a heart as they shall desire to have come amongst them".

He concludes with a plague update: 1,700-1,800 people have died this week alone.

What's next?


The next letter in this sequence is dated 28 September, so that's when Henslowe's Diary ... as a Blog! will return. See you then!


Further reading

Monday, 7 August 2017

Early August, 1593 - a letter from Henslowe to Alleyn

Welcome back again! Last week, we looked at a letter from Bristol, written by Edward Alleyn to Philip Henslowe. Today, we are reading Henslowe's reply, which is undated but appears to have been written around this date, 424 years ago. If you recall, Henslowe is writing from plague-stricken London to Alleyn, who is touring plays in southwestern England with Lord Strange's Men. Henslowe's letter is co-signed by Alleyn's wife Joan.

After passing on greetings to Alleyn from his family, Henslowe provides mixed news about the plague: "we are all at this time in good health in our house, but round about it hath been almost in every house about us and whole households died, and yet my friend the bailiff doth 'scape but he smells monstrously for fear and dares stay nowhere, for there hath died of the of the plague 113".

Henslowe adds a detail that Alleyn would have found very disturbing: "Robert Browne's wife in Shoreditch and all her children and household be dead and her doors shut up". Browne was an actor in another playing company and was currently touring in Germany. His fate was no doubt what Alleyn feared the most: that of returning home from his travels to find his entire family dead.

Smithfield Market, from the Agas Map (1561)
After passing on this worrying news, Henslowe moves on to more mundane matters. The renovations to Alleyn's house are proceeding well. Following up on Alleyn's requests in the previous letter, Henslowe assures him that all is under control: "your spinach bed not forgotten, your orange-coloured stockings dyed". He does, however, report that there is "no market at Smithfield neither to buy your cloth nor yet to sell your horse, for no man would offer me above £4 for him, therefore I would not sell him but have sent him into the country till you return back again".

Henslowe signs off "praying to God to send you all good health", and hoping that "we may all merrily meet". Perhaps feeling guilty about the doom and gloom he's been reporting, he ends on a positive note: "your poor mouse", he writes, using Alleyn's pet name for Joan, "hath not been sick since you went".

What's next?


A second letter from Henslowe will be described on August 14.


Further reading



Comments?



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

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

1 August, 1593 - a letter from Alleyn in Bristol

Welcome back! After yet another lengthy hiatus, this blog is now reawakening a little more enthusiastically for the next couple of weeks. That's because a series of letters survives that were exchanged in the first half of August 1593 between Edward Alleyn, the leading actor of Lord Strange's Men, his wife Joan, and Philip Henslowe, owner of the Rose playhouse. As you may recall, Henslowe and Joan were still living in plague-stricken London, while Lord Strange's Men were engaged in a long enforced tour of England because London's theatres were closed.

So, on this day, 424 years ago, Alleyn wrote to Joan from Bristol, a large port city in southwestern England.The letter was carried to London by a relative of one of the actors in the company, and along with it, Alleyn sent his white waistcoat, explaining, "it is a trouble to me to carry it", and asking Joan to "lay it up for me till I come". As in his previous letter to her, Alleyn calls Joan his "good sweet mouse".

Bristol

Fears of the plague


When writing to Joan back in May, shortly after the tour had begun, Alleyn had made light of his absence, but this time he expresses directly his fears about the plague that was gripping London. He tells Joan he hopes that although "the sickness be round about you yet by [God's] mercy it may escape your house". He advises her to "keep your house fair and clean, which I know you will and every evening throw water before your door and in your backside [I assume he means back yard...] and have in your windows good store of rue and herb of grace"; he feels that this, along with praying, will protect her. As Carol Chillington Rutter observes, these preventative methods may seem unconvincing today, but Alleyn is at least recommending cleanliness, which was the best solution available in an age when the causes of the plague were unknown.

Touring


Alleyn gives us a glimpse of the company's future touring plans when he tells Joan "if you send any more letters, send to me by the carriers of Shrewsbury or to Westchester [an old name for Chester] or to York, to be kept till my Lord Strange's Players come". It looks as though they were planning a great sweep through the North of England, but although there is indeed a record of them reaching Shrewsbury, we do not know if they continued with their plan.



Alleyn signs off by saying that he is in "Bristol, this Wednesday after St James's Day, being ready to begin the play of Harry of Cornwall". In their book on Lord Strange's Men, Lawrence Manley and Sally-Beth Maclean observe that St James's Day was 25 July and that Bristol held an annual 9-day St James's Fair around that date; the company was presumably there in the hopes of large audiences. Since Bristol is in the west country, perhaps Harry of Cornwall was chosen for its local colour?

Homesickness and thoughts of return


Alleyn then adds a rather sad postscript, which suggests intense homesickness (understandable after months of touring): "Mouse, you send me no news of anything. You should send of your domestical matters: such things as happens at home, as how your distilled water proves, or this or that, or anything. What you will."

But Alleyn hasn't finished. Running out of space, he writes in the left-hand margin,
And Jug, I pray you, let my orange-tawny stockings of woolen be dyed a very good black against I come home to wear in the winter. You sent me not word of my garden, but next time you will, but remember this in any case: that all that bed which was parsley in the month of September you sow it with spinach, for then is the time. I would do it myself, but we shall not come home till Allhallowtide. And so, sweet mouse, farewell, and brook our long journey with patience.
Allhallowtide was the 3-day holiday period that began on October 31 (now Hallowe'en). Alleyn was thus expecting to remain on the road at least another two months.

Špenát / spinach


What's next?


A follow-up letter from Henslowe will be described in a post to appear next week.

Further reading


  • Facsimile of the letter, from the Henslowe-Alleyn Digitisation Project. (Unless I'm missing something, they're in error when they date it 24th July).
  • Carol Chillington Rutter, Documents of the Rose Playhouse (Manchester University Press, 1984), 73-5.
  • Lawrence Manley and Sally-Beth MacLean, Lord Strange's Men and their Plays (Yale University Press, 2014)

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

5 July - a letter from Henslowe to Alleyn

Welcome back! After two months of silence, this blog is briefly re-awakening to update you on the progress of Lord Strange's Men. As I'm sure you remember, the company of actors is currently enduring a long tour of England while London's theatres were closed. On this day, 424 years ago, Philip Henslowe, owner of the Rose playhouse, wrote a letter to his son-in-law, Edward Alleyn, the leading actor of Strange's Men. There's some evidence that actors may have been in the vicinity of Southampton at this time.

The letter itself is not very exciting, but it does set up some backstory for the more entertaining letters that we'll encounter next month. Henslowe passes on good wishes from Alleyn's wife Joan (calling her "your mouse"), and tells him she is praying "night and day for your good health and quick return". He has little to report about the plague, merely wishing Alleyn the "good health that we have as yet at London, which I hope in God that will continue".

The main reason for Henslowe's letter is to report than a carpenter, John Grigg, is beginning a renovation project on Alleyn's house. Grigg had previously been involved in building the Rose theatre itself.

The letter is signed, "your poor mouse forever; and your assured friends till death, Philip Henslowe and Ag"; the latter refers to Henslowe's wife Agnes. "Friends till death" was a common enough phrase at the time, but it may have had more emotional weight in a summer when thousands of Londoners would die from the plague.

globe theater


What's next?


The next installment of Henslowe's Diary ... as a Blog! will be a far more interesting letter from Alleyn on August 1. See you then!


Further reading



Tuesday, 2 May 2017

2 May, 1593 - A letter from Alleyn in Chelmsford

Welcome back! After several months of silence, this blog is briefly reawakening to update you on the adventures of Lord Strange's Men. As you may recall, it is 1593 and our team of actors is no longer performing in London, the theatres having been closed due to an outbreak of plague. Instead, after sitting out the winter, the company is now beginning a long tour of the towns and cities of England.

Edward Alleyn (unknown date)
We know very little about what happened during this tour. But one extraordinary source has survived. Among the Henslowe-Alleyn papers preserved at Dulwich College is a small collection of letters that were exchanged during the tour between Edward Alleyn, the leading actor of Strange's Men, and, back in London, his wife Joan, and the Rose theatre's owner, Philip Henslowe. These letters offer fascinating glimpses of what was going through the minds of three people during an anxious and unsettling time.

In a letter written on this day, 424 years ago, Alleyn addresses Joan as his "good sweetheart and loving mouse". The company was probably just a few days into their tour. They were currently in the Essex town of Chelmsford, perhaps to perform at its annual fair, which began on May Day.

Alleyn reports that he and his fellows are all well and that he's glad to have heard from Joan that she is well too. These comments are not mere pleasantries, of course: the plague was still gripping London, so receiving a letter from Joan must have brought Alleyn great relief.

Alleyn then jokes about what is going on at home during his absence. He writes that he is surprised to hear from Joan because "it is well known they say that you were by my Lord Mayor's officers made to ride in a cart, you and all your fellows, which I am sorry to hear". Being ridden in a cart through the streets was a punishment for prostitution, so Alleyn is implying that she and the other actors' wives have been accused of sexual misconduct while their husbands are away. Presumably this is a joke, as he goes on to claim that "you may thank your two supporters - your strong legs I mean - that would not carry you away but let you fall into the hands of such termagents." Alleyn is perhaps venting his own anxieties, since he becomes comically Tamburlaine-like at the end, swearing that "when I come home I'll be revenged on them".

Clearly, Alleyn is already missing his wife and the comfortable lifestyle of performing at a permanent London theatre. But he will not return home for many months yet...

Chelmsford Wanderings

What's next?


The next installment of Henslowe's Diary ... as a Blog! will be a letter from Henslowe on 5 July. See you then!


Further reading


Thursday, 2 February 2017

2 February, 1593 - The closure of the Rose and another tour

On this day in 1593, performances ceased at the Rose playhouse. This was due to the Privy Council, who had ordered London's theatres to be closed in an effort to prevent plague. So, once again, Lord Strange's Men were forced to take their plays on the road and tour the country (you can read more about touring in this post about last year's tour).

This extended absence from London will prove fatal to Lord Strange's Men. The company will spend almost a year touring the towns of England, and during this time it will ultimately break up. By the time the theatres re-open in December, the company's two best-known actors, Edward Alleyn and Will Kemp, will belong to a troupe known as the Earl of Sussex's Men, and it is under this name that they will return to the Rose.


The plague


London hit by plague, from John Taylor's The
Fearful Summer (1636)
According to the Encyclopedia of Plague and Pestilence (yes, there is such a thing!), the first signs of the plague's return to London had been observed as early as September 1592. Things had calmed down during the winter months (because the fleas that, unbeknownst to people of the time, carried the disease, were in hibernation). But at the end of January, the Privy Council learned that "it appeareath the infection doth increase". It was a mild winter, and the plague began to bite more seriously in April 1593, much earlier than normal. The death rate rose during the summer, peaking in August and September before declining again as the winter set in. In total about 17,000 people died in London and its suburbs.


The tour


Strange's Men appear to have begun their tour in May, and fragments of documentary evidence enable us to glimpse some parts of it. In early May, they were in Chelmsford, Essex. Later in the summer they visited Sudbury and Faversham. In July, they were in Southampton. In July and August, they headed west to Bath and Bristol. They then turned north and visited Shrewsbury, from where they may have gone on to Chester and York. In December, they were in Leicester and Coventry before they returned to London.



What's next?


This blog will be on partial hiatus until 27 December when the theatres re-open. However, it will return intermittently during the summer. That's because the Henslowe-Alleyn papers contain some remarkable letters between Edward Alleyn, his wife, and Philip Henslowe, exchanged during the tour. These letters give wonderfully vivid glimpses of the personalities of the people this blog is studying, and so I'll post excerpts on the relevant days in May, July, August and September.

When we fully return, we will see Sussex's Men installed at the Rose, where they will perform an array of new plays, along with a few of the old favourites from Strange's Men!


Further reading

  • George Childs Kohn, ed. Encyclopedia of Plague and Pestilence from Ancient Times to the Present, 3rd edtn. (Facts on File, 2008), 230-1.
  • Sally-Beth MacLean and Lawrence Manley, Lord Strange's Men and their Plays (Yale University Press, 2014), 258-71.

Comments?


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




Wednesday, 1 February 2017

1 February, 1593 - 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 j of Febreary 1593 ... xxxvs

In modern English: Received at The Jew of Malta, 1st February, 1593 ... 35 shillings


Caravaggio's portrait of the Grand
Master of the Knights of Malta,
1607-8.
Today, Lord Strange's Men revived again their satirical comic tragedy The Jew of Malta by Christopher Marlowe; you can read more about this play in the blog entry for 26th February 1592.

After several days of disappointing box office following the smash premiere of Christopher Marlowe's Massacre at Paris, the company has revived Marlowe's reliable favourite, which they had last performed just over a fortnight ago. Even The Jew of Malta is not pulling in the crowds though, producing only a half-full theatre. 



What's next?


Whether or not they knew it, Lord Strange's Men's time at the Rose was about to come to a sudden end. Tune in tomorrow to find out why!


    Henslowe links




    Comments?



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

    Tuesday, 31 January 2017

    31 January, 1593 - 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 6 the 31 of Jenewarye 1593 ... xxxvs

    In modern English: Received at Harry VI, 31st January, 1593 ... 35 shillings

    1540s portrait of King
    Henry VI
    Today, Lord Strange's Men revived their history play Harry VI, which was almost certainly Shakespeare's First Part of Henry VIyou can read more about it in the blog entry for 3rd March 1592.

    Last season, the company had performed Harry VI almost weekly. This season, they have waited two weeks to revive it. The result has been a theatre only half full, but even this must have been something of a relief for the company after two days of atrocious box office.


    Henslowe links



    Comments?


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





    Monday, 30 January 2017

    30 January, 1593 - Friar Bacon

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

    Henslowe writes: R at frier bacon the 30 of July Jenewaye 1593 ... xijs

    In modern English: Received at Friar Bacon, 30th January, 1593 ... 12 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 revived their magical fantasy about the wizard Friar Bacon. This play 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, 1592.

    As with Sir John Mandeville, which they staged a couple of day ago, the company is continuing to perform old plays like Friar Bacon that result in a largely empty Rose theatre. One theory I've already mentioned is that they're performing the plays that had proved popular on tour, and hadn't had time to prepare alternatives for the more sophisticated (or jaded) London audience. Given that the company may have already known that they would be returning to touring soon, perhaps they had been deliberately keeping these old plays fresh in their minds, preparing for a return to the road,


    Henslowe links



    Comments?


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

    Saturday, 28 January 2017

    28 January, 1593 - An important letter

    Today was a Sunday and so there were no performances at the Rose. But something else happened that would prove important to the theatres of London.

    The Privy Council in 1604. Detail
    from The Somerset House Conference
    On this day, the Privy Council sent a letter to the London authorities informing them of an increase in deaths from plague, and ordering them to close all London's theatres again.

    The Council explained that "we think it fit that all manner of concourse and public meetings of the people at plays, bear-baitings, bowlings and other like assemblies for sports be forbidden" and instructed the authorities to effect this "both by proclamation to be published to that end, and by special watch and observation to be had at the places where the plays, bear-baitings, bowlings and like pastimes are usually frequented". Anyone found disobeying would be "apprehended and committed to prison".

    Despite the urgent tone of the letter, Lord Strange's Men will continue to perform for several more days, but their time in London is coming to an end.


    What's next?


    There will be no blog entry tomorrow, because no performance is recorded for 29th January, even though it was a Monday. The simplest way of explaining the muddled dates in Henslowe's diary is to take note of the damaged bottom of the diary page that we are currently on and assume that Monday's performance got torn off or mouldered away. Henslowe's Diary ... as a Blog! will thus return on 30th January for a few more performances before the theatres close....

    Further reading


    • Carol Chillington Rutter, Documents of the Rose Playhouse (Manchester University Press, 1984), 69-70.
    • Lawrence Manley and Sally-Beth MacLean, Lord Strange's Men and their Plays (Yale University Press, 2014), 258.

    Friday, 27 January 2017

    27 January, 1593 - 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 31 of Jenewary 1593 ... xiijs

    In modern English: Received at Mandeville, 27th January, 1593 ... 13 shillings


    Mandevillian monster from
    the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493)
    Today, Lord Strange's Men revived Sir John Mandeville, a play that is now lost. Although Mandeville is today most famous for his fantastical travel narratives, scholars think this play was most likely a chivalric and comic romance, in which Sir John won the hand of a fair lady above his station. You can read more about it in the entry for 24th February, 1592.

    Mandeville is simply not hitting the spot for the Rose audience and it continues to earn dismal box office. The company appear to have experimented with leaving it unperformed for a couple of weeks to drum up enthusiasm, but has had almost no effect on the box office, which remains in the doldrums. I remain baffled as to why the company keeps on performing this play.




    Henslowe links




    Comments?


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

    Thursday, 26 January 2017

    26 January, 1593 - The Tragedy of the Guise

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

    Henslowe writes: ne ... R at the tragedy of the gvyes 30 ... iijll xiiijs

    In modern English: New. Received at The Tragedy of the Guise, 26th ... £3 and 14 shillings

    Boring stuff first: Henslowe's dates have become garbled again. They make the most sense if we assume that he has somehow gotten four days out of sync, so that's what I'll do.

    But on a more exciting note, today Lord Strange's Men premiered a new play! Even more excitingly, this is a play that actually survives to the present day (although under a different name, The Massacre at Paris). And not only that, it's by Christopher Marlowe, the most brilliant of the early Elizabethan playwrights. Marlowe's Jew of Malta was one of the company's most popular plays, and the box office return for this premiere of his latest work represents an almost full theatre.


    The subject


    Marlowe's play retells the story of the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre, a bloody event of 1572, in which members of a Protestant minority known as the Huguenots were attacked by Catholics in a series of bloody events that began in Paris and spread out into other French cities. Marlowe depicts the Duke of Guise as the instigator of the massacre. The play then goes on to dramatize the reign of King Henry III, who assumes the rule of France and gets into a power struggle with the ambitious Guise. It ends with the assassinations of both the Guise and Henry.

    These events are full of colourful characters - the devious, power-mad Guise, the two embattled kings, and the powerful women of the court - and they have been retold by storytellers many times since. On film, you can see them in D.W. Griffith's Intolerance (1916):



    Or, for a more modern version, you could look at Patrice Chereau's 1994 adaptation of Alexandre Dumas' La Reine Margot:




    The Massacre on page and stage


    Despite the different title, no-one doubts that Henslowe's Tragedy of the Guise is the same tragedy of the Guise that now survives in print as The Massacre at Paris: in later documents, the titles Guise and Massacre seem to be used interchangeably for the same play.

    Lord Strange's Men must have been excited to present a new Marlowe play to their audience, and the impressive box office shows that it had the desired effect. For the modern reader, however, the play is less rewarding; Massacre is rarely spoken of in the same breath as classics such as Dr Faustus, Tamburlaine or The Jew of Malta. The reason is that - as with one of the company's other plays, A Knack to Know a Knave - the printed text does not appear to be based on a complete manuscript, but rather to have been put together by actors remembering (or half-remembering) their lines. As a result, the play is unusually short and filled with awkward grammar, muddled verse, and lines borrowed from other plays. It is not as rich or as pleasurable to read as Marlowe's other works.

    Still, despite its messy surviving text, the play is still occasionally performed today and it often proves itself stageworthy. For readers of this blog, the most interesting recent production was staged by The Dolphin's Back in 2014 amid the foundations of the Rose Playhouse itself; you can read Steve Orman's review here.


    The play


    Henri, Duke of Guise. Has anyone in history
    ever looked a more obvious Machiavel? 
    The Massacre at Paris opens with King Charles of France arranging for his sister Margaret to marry the Protestant King of Navarre. But amid this peace-making union, there is a fly in the ointment: the Duke of Guise, who, aided by his two brothers, is plotting to take the crown for himself. Early in the play, Guise has a long soliloquy in which he unveils his Machiavellian nature: he is so ambitious that for him, "peril is the chiefest way to happiness", and, he adds, "that like I best that flies beyond my reach". His plan is to set off religious conflicts by assassinating prominent people.

    Guise has the Queen Mother of Navarre assassinated with poisoned gloves and the Admiral of France shot. The blame falls on the Huguenots, and despite the King's disquiet, Guise and the Queen Mother of France plot their massacre. They are aided in this by Henry of Anjou, the heir to the throne.

    The massacre itself is staged very powerfully. As Lawrence Manley and Sally-Beth Maclean note, it uses the resources of the Rose playhouse to the full: assassins bang on doors and murder innocent householders in a fast-paced series of brutal acts. There is horror in the dialogue too. "There are a hundred Protestants," complains the Guise toward the end, "which we have chased into the River Seine, / That swim about and so preserve their lives". His brother Dumaine replies, "Go place some men upon the bridge / With bows and darts to shoot at them they see / And sink them in the river as they swim."

    Francois Dubois, The St Bartholomew's Day Massacre
    Shortly after the massacre, the distraught King Charles dies, and Henry of Anjou becomes King Henry III. Henry proves a weak king, however, overly fond of frolicking with his minions (as Marlowe put it in Edward II, another play about a king devoted to his favourites). While he does so, the Queen Mother and Guise plot to be the powers behind the throne and to ensure that Catholicism will dominate.

    King Henry III
    Meanwhile, Navarre, who believes himself the heir to the throne but knows that the Guise will never allow him to be king, leaves to muster an army and form a Protestant alliance with England.

    The Guise's plan to manipulate Henry is undone when he learns that his own wife is having an affair with one of Henry's minions. After the King mocks him in public, the humiliated Guise has the offending minion murdered. He then gathers an army to take control of Paris while pretending to Henry that he's only doing so to cleanse the city of Puritans. Henry affects submission to Guise, but he has seen through the Machiavel's scheming and sends assassins who stab him to death. "To die by peasants, what a grief is this?" cries Guise as he expires, but he remains proud to the end, comparing his fall to that of Julius Caesar.

    Henry and Navarre join forces to lift the occupation of Paris by Guise's forces. But Guise's brother Dumaine hires a friar to assassinate the king. The friar approaches Henry with a letter but then stabs him with a poisoned knife.

    The assassination of Henri III in a Dutch engraving by Frans Hogenberg
    Henry dies cursing the Catholic church:
    Navarre, give me your hand, I here do swear
    To ruinate that wicked Church of Rome
    That hatcheth up such bloody practices,
    And here protest eternal love to thee
    And to the Queen of England specially.
    So, Navarre is now King Henry IV of France. He listens to his predecessor's dying words, and then tells the French court,
         I vow for to revenge his death,
    As Rome and all those Popish prelates there
    Shall curse the time that e'er Navarre was king
    And ruled in France by Henry's fatal death. 


    What we learn from this


    At first glance. Marlowe's play appears to teach us that anti-Catholicism was a popular topic on the Rose stage. Certainly, Guise's sectarian plotting against the Protestant minority and the ultimate ascension of Henry IV would have seemed very topical to the January 1593 audience: English forces were at that moment currently aiding Henry in his struggle for control of his kingdom, while Huguenot refugees were a visible presence in London.

    However, this kind of simplistic jingoism is alien to Marlowe's other drama and some scholars today perceive the play as a more sceptical work.  For example, in their book on Lord Strange's Men, Lawrence Manley and Sally-Beth Maclean note that the murders committed by Protestants and Catholics echo each other; similarly, Navarre's Machiavellian tactics parallel Guise's and he appears just as fanatical as the Catholics. Perhaps then, this lively play could have been performed more in the style of the comical satire in The Jew of Malta. Had he lived to see it, Marlowe would certainly have been amused when, in 1594, Henry IV decided to convert to Catholicism to settle the dispute over his crown.


    FURTHER READING


    Massacre at Paris information

    • Edward J. Esche, "The Massacre at Paris, with the Death of the Duke of Guise", in The Complete Works of Christopher Marlowe, vol. 5 (Clarendon Press, 1998)
    • Martin Wiggins, British Drama, 1533-1642: A Catalogue, vol. 3 (Oxford University Press, 2013), entry 947.
    • Sally-Beth MacLean and Lawrence Manley, Lord Strange's Men and their Plays (Yale University Press, 2014), 88-90.


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    Wednesday, 25 January 2017

    25 January, 1593 - 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 titus the 25 of Jenewarye 1593 ... xxxs 

    In modern English: Received at Titus, 25th January, 1593 ... 30 shillings

    Today, Lord Strange's Men returned to Titus, which was presumably Titus and Vespasian, a popular fixture of their repertory. This lost play was mostly likely a gruesome and violent tale about the Roman siege of Jerusalem during the Jewish rebellion of the 1st Century; you can read more about it in the entry for 11th April.

    The company has settled into a routine of performing Titus and Vespasian once every ten days or so. Today's performance was, like the last one, slightly under the average for the Rose. In other words, Titus has followed the same pattern as many of the others in this season: a strong first performance followed by a collapse into mediocrity.


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

    FURTHER READING


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    Tuesday, 24 January 2017

    24 January, 1593 - A Knack to Know a Knave

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

    Henslowe writes: R at the knacke the 24 of Jenewarye 1593 ... xxxiiijs

    In modern English: Received at The Knack, 24th January, 1593 ... 34 shillings


    The knaves from an Italian
    pack of cards, c.1490
    Today, Lord Strange's Men revived A Knack to Know a Knave, their comical morality play; you can read more about it in the entry for 10th June.

    A Knack to Know a Knave has not been very popular so far with London's crowds. Today's performance was a bit more successful, rising to the level of merely average and indicating a half-full theatre (or perhaps a half-empty one, if you're that kind of person).

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    Monday, 23 January 2017

    23 January, 1593 - Cosmo

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

    Henslowe writes: R at cossmo the 23 of Jenewarye 1593 ... xxxs 

    In modern English: Received at Cosmo, 23rd January, 1593 ... 30 shillings

    Woodcut illustrating cuckoldry.
    Today, Lord Strange's Men revived again their lost play The Comedy of Cosmo This is probably an alternative title for The Jealous Comedy which had premiered recently. If so, it was likely an Italian-style comedy about the perennially popular subject of cuckolds. You can learn more about The Jealous Comedy in the entry for 5th January, and about Cosmo in the entry for 11th January.

    Cosmo (and The Jealous Comedy) has until now received above average box office, but today's results shows it descending into the realms of the average.

    Henslowe links



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    Sunday, 22 January 2017

    22 January, 1593 - 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 22 of Jenewary 1593 ... xxs


    In modern English: Received at Hieronimo, 22nd January, 1593 ... 20
     shillings 

    Woodcut from the 1615 edition of The Spanish Tragedy.
    Today, Lord Strange's Men revived Hieronimowhich is almost certainly an alternate title for Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy, a famous and much-loved play about the revenge of a grieving father for his son's death. You can read more about this play in the entry for 14th March.

    The fate of Hieronimo this season is very similar to that of Muly Molocco's - after drawing huge crowds upon its first performance after the company's return to the Rose, the play has rapidly plummeted in popularity, playing to a theatre less than half full. It is hard not to conclude that the company's repertory had become stale and needed some fresh blood rather than relying on the stalwarts.



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      Friday, 20 January 2017

      20 January, 1593 - Muly Molocco

      Here's what Lord Strange's Men performed at the Rose playhouse on this day, 424 years ago...
      Henslowe writes: R at mvlomvlco the 20 of Jenewarye 1593 ... xxs
        
      In modern English: Received at Muly Molocco, 20th January, 1593 ... 20 shillings 


      1629 Portuguese illustration of the Battle of Alcazar
      Today, Lord Strange's Men revived again their frequently-performed play Muly Molocco. This 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 1592.

      So far, the company has revived Muly Molocco three times this season, more than any other play. But although its initial performance on the company's first day at the theatre had drawn a huge audience, the subsequent performances have been disappointing, both of them earning only 20 shillings. Muly Molocco is becoming a reliably underachieving play.


      What's next?


      There will be no blog entry tomorrow, because 21st January was a Sunday in 1593 and the players did not perform. Henslowe's Diary ... as a Blog! will thus return on 23rd January for a week that will include a new play that has actually survived to the present day!


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      Thursday, 19 January 2017

      19 January, 1593 - Tamar Cam

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

      Henslowe writes: R at tambercam the 19 of Jenewarye 1593 ... xxxvjs

      In modern English: Received at Tamar Cam, 19th January, 1593 ... 36 shillings

      Today, for the first time after their return to the Rose, Lord Strange's Men revived one of their Tamar Cam plays. These paired plays, now lost, dramatized the exploits of the Mongol conqueror Hulagu Khan and were full of war and wizardry; you can read more about them in the entry for 28th April 1592. We do not know whether this was a performance of the first or second part of Tamar Cam; you can read more about that puzzle in the entry for 30th May.

      Tamar Cam seems to have been designed to imitate Christopher Marlowe's much-loved Tamburlaine but it never achieved the popularity of its predecessor. Today's performance underlines that fact; despite having been absent from the stage for many months, it drew only an average-sized audience.

      Persian illustration of Hulagu Khan (the likely inspiration for Tamar Cam) and his Christian wife


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      Wednesday, 18 January 2017

      18 January, 1593 - 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 Jew the 18 of Jenewary 1593 ... iijll

      In modern English: Received at The Jew, 18th January, 1593 ... 
      £3


      Caravaggio's portrait of the Grand
      Master of the Knights of Malta,
      1607-8.
      Today, Lord Strange's Men revived again their satirical comic tragedy, The Jew of Malta by Christopher Marlowe; you can read more about this play in the blog entry for 26th February 1592.

      The Jew of Malta is the company's most consistently popular play, frequently pulling in huge crowds, and today's box office of 60 shillings is astonishing for an old play. The company last performed The Jew of Malta over a fortnight ago, and unlike the other plays in their repertory, it has not declined in popularity, but rather has risen a little. Lord Strange's Men must have loved this play, as it rarely let them down.



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        Tuesday, 17 January 2017

        17 January, 1593 - Friar Bacon

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

        Henslowe writes: R at frer bacon the 17 of Jenewary 1593 ... xxs

        In modern English: Received at Friar Bacon, 17th January, 1593 ... 20 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 revived their magical fantasy about the wizard Friar Bacon. This play 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, 1592.

        The company had previously performed Friar Bacon only a week ago, had it had underachieved at the box office. Today, it was even less popular. The play had never been successful even in the previous season, and it's still hard to understand why the company keeps reviving it.


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        Monday, 16 January 2017

        16 January, 1593 - 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 6 the 16 of Jenewary 1593 ... xxxxvjs

        In modern English: Received at Harry VI, 16th January, 1593 ... 46 shillings

        1540s portrait of King
        Henry VI
        Today, for the first time in their new season at the Rose, Lord Strange's Men revived their popular history play Harry 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 1592.

        It is surprising that the company waited nearly 3 weeks to mount Harry VI at the Rose. After allit had been the most frequently performed play of their previous season. In their book on Lord Strange's Men, Lawrence Manley and Sally-Beth Maclean suggest a possible reason. They propose that the company had not been performing Harry VI during their long tour of England because it required too many actors and other resources; as a result, they were out of practice at performing it when they returned to London, and needed a few weeks to re-learn their lines and prepare to stage it again.

        This theory is interesting because it suggests that the plays we've seen the company perform so far may be the ones they had been performing on tour. It may explain why they have staged the catastrophically unpopular Sir John Mandeville more than once - perhaps it had been popular in the provinces and the players were now slowly re-aligning themselves back to London's tastes?


        Further reading

        • Lawrence Manley and Sally-Beth Maclean, Lord Strange's Men and their Plays (Yale University Press, 2014), 274-5.

        Henslowe links



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        Sunday, 15 January 2017

        15 January, 1593 - 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 the 15 of Jenewary 1593 ... xxxs 

        In modern English: Received at Titus, 15th January, 1593 ... 30 shillings

        Today, Lord Strange's Men revived Titus, which was presumably Titus and Vespasian, a popular fixture of their repertory. This lost play was mostly likely a gruesome and violent tale about the Roman siege of Jerusalem during the Jewish rebellion of the 1st Century; you can read more about it in the entry for 11th April.

        The company had last performed Titus and Vespasian a week and a half ago, and it had received very strong box office. Today's performance was less spectacular, being slightly under the average for the Rose, and continuing the disappointing run of plays in this post-Christmas period.


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

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        Friday, 13 January 2017

        13 January, 1593 - A Knack to Know a Knave

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

        Henslowe writes: R at the cnacke the 14 of Jenewary 1593 ... xxiiijs

        In modern English: Received at The Knack, 13th January, 1593 ... 24 shillings


        The knaves from an Italian
        pack of cards, c.1490
        Today, Lord Strange's Men revived A Knack to Know a Knave, their comical morality play; you can read more about it in the entry for 10th June.

        The company last performed The Knack a week and a half ago, when they had taken the unusual step of playing it twice in one week. It had not proved very popular then, and its below-average box office now continues, sinking even lower than last time. The Knack has so far not impressed the London crowds.

        What's next?


        There will be no blog entry tomorrow, because 14th January was a Sunday in 1593 and the players did not perform. Henslowe's Diary ... as a Blog! will thus return on 15th January.


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