Monday, 25 December 2017

25 December, 1593 - a new era at the Rose playhouse

Welcome back, and a very merry Christmas to all readers!

This blog is reawakening tomorrow, following an intermittent hiatus of nearly a year, in order to bring you a new set of entries from Henslowe's Diary. The plague that decimated London and forced the actors to take their plays on tour around England is now over. Tomorrow, the Rose playhouse will re-open to host plays once again, and Philip Henslowe will record their takings in his diary!

But things will be different. So far, we have been learning about the plays performed by Lord Strange's Men, a company that has occupied the Rose since February 1592. But the plague and the lengthy enforced tour has decimated London's playing companies, and Lord Strange's Men have broken up. Instead, a new company, the Earl of Sussex's Men, will be on the Rose stage performing their own collection of plays. This means that over the next few weeks we'll get to know ten plays that appear to have been Sussex's Men's stock repertory. Later on, a couple of familiar plays will show up - but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Despite the change of faces, there may be some continuity. One theory about the fragmentary historical evidence holds that Edward Alleyn, the popular star of Lord Strange's Men, may have become a member of Sussex's Men, and may thus be appearing on the stage tomorrow (or may join the company a couple of weeks later). The reasons are complicated (and are fully explained here), but if this theory is correct, the personnel at the Rose may not have been quite so different as Henslowe's records suggest.

Anyway, for the next few months, on and off, this blog will describe Henslowe's records of the daily performances by Sussex's Men at the Rose. For the last few days, the actors have no doubt been running their lines and Henslowe's team have been freshening up the Rose after its long closure. But today, I want to believe that everyone took the day off for the traditional Elizabethan Christmas feast.

Tune in tomorrow for the first performance!


Further reading

  • Scott McMillin, "Sussex's Men in 1594: The Evidence of Titus Andronicus and The Jew of Malta", in Theatre Survey 32.2 (1991): 214-23
  • Ronald Hutton, The Rise and Fall of Merry England (Oxford University Press, 1994), 6-7
  • Lawrence Manley and Sally-Beth MacLean, Lord Strange's Men and their Plays (Yale University Press, 2014), 322-5

No comments:

Post a Comment