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

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