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



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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



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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




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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.


Henslowe links


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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


Henslowe links



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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).

Henslowe links



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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.



    Henslowe links



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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!


    Henslowe links


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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


    Henslowe links



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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.



      Henslowe links




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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.


      Henslowe links



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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)

      Henslowe links



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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.


      Henslowe links



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      Thursday, 12 January 2017

      12 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 13 of Jenewary 1593 ... ixs

      In modern English: Received at Mandeville, 12th January, 1593 ... 9 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 the 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.

      The company last performed Sir John Mandeville only a week ago, when it had received a miserable box office of only 12 shillings. Today's returns were even worse though; indeed they're among the worst ever recorded at the Rose. It is hard to understand why the company revived this play so soon.



      Henslowe links




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      Wednesday, 11 January 2017

      11 January, 1593 - The Comedy of Cosmo

      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 cosmo the 12 of Jenewary 1593 ... xxxxvijs 

      In modern English: Received at The Comedy of Cosmo, 11th January, 1593 ... 47 shillings.


      Henslowe seems to have muddled his dates again, skipping the 11th. His dates make more sense if we assume that he's a day out of sync until the end of the week, so that's what I'll do.

      Cosimo de Medici. He had nothing to do
      with this play, but his name was 
      Cosimo, so he gets his picture here
      anyway!
      Anyway, today Lord Strange's Men performed a play that we haven't seen them perform before. The Comedy of Cosmo is now lost and we can't say much about it except that it was presumably Italian in style, since Cosmo sounds like a variant on the Italian name Cosimo.

      So, what was The Comedy of Cosmo? Well, most scholars think it was probably just an alternate title for The Jealous Comedy, which the company had premiered last week. The logic is that we've never heard of Cosmo before, and yet Henslowe doesn't describe it as "new". And just as The Jealous Comedy sounds like the title of an Italian-style comedy, so too does this one. So, either the company was reviving a long-unused play, or else the main character in The Jealous Comedy was called Cosimo, and Henslowe began thinking of the play via his name.

      If Cosmo was indeed the same play as The Jealous Comedy, that means it made a little more box office than it did last week; the play may not initially have done as well as other premieres, but its popularity was rising rather than falling.


      FURTHER READING


      Comedy of Cosmo information

      • Martin Wiggins, British Drama, 1533-1642: A Catalogue, vol. 3 (Oxford University Press, 2013), entries 945 and 946.


      Henslowe links



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      Tuesday, 10 January 2017

      10 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 fryer bacon the 10 of Jenewary 1593 ... xxiiijs

      In modern English: Received at Friar Bacon, 10th January, 1593 ... 24 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, for the first time since their return to the Rose playhouse, Lord Strange's Men revived 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 1592. Whichever of the two it was, the play would have been a spectacular one, full of magic, romance and special effects.

      Unfortunately, Londoners do not seem to have had fond memories of Friar Bacon. The play had never been at all popular in their previous season, and today's performance achieved an equally unimpressive audience. Few people seem to have been interested in the return of the wizard to the Rose.


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      Monday, 9 January 2017

      9 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 mvlo mulocko the 9 of Jenewary 1593 ... xxs
        
      In modern English: Received at Muly Molocco, 9th January, 1593 ... 20 shillings 


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

      As with yesterday's performance of The Spanish Tragedy, this second performance of Muly Molocco was a comedown after the huge audience the play had received when the company opened their new season with it last week. The company was now performing to a theatre that was more than half empty, suggesting once again that London may have been excited by the return of their plays, but not excited enough to see them so soon after.


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      Sunday, 8 January 2017

      8 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 8 of Jenewarye 1593 ... xxijs

      In modern English: Received at Hieronimo, 8th January, 1593 ... 22 shillings 

      Woodcut from the 1615 edition of The Spanish Tragedy.
      Today, the company hastily revived one of the biggest successes of last week. Hieronimo 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, 1592.

      The company would, however, have been disappointed by the response of Londoners to this performance, as the audience was much smaller than last week's. Clearly one performance of Hieronimo was enough to satisfy most theatre fans. And perhaps Londoners were focusing more on their daily lives after the excesses of the Christmas season.



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        Friday, 6 January 2017

        6 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 titvs the 6 of Jenewary 1592 ... lijs 

        In modern English: Received at Titus, 6th January, 1593 ... 52 shillings

        Today was Epiphany, a feast day marking the end of the Christmas season, and on this day Lord Strange's Men revived a play called Titus. This was presumably Titus and Vespasian, a play that the company had premiered earlier in the year, and which had become a popular fixture of their repertory. The play is now lost, but it 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 performance received box office far above the average, perhaps because of the holiday season, or perhaps indicating that Titus and Vespasian was another of the plays that audiences had been pining for during the closure of the theatres.


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

        What's next?


        There will be no entry tomorrow because the 7th of January was a Sunday in 1593. Henslowe's Diary ... as a Blog! will thus return on the 8th of January for a week that will feature an exciting new play ... or will it? It's complicated.


        FURTHER READING


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        Thursday, 5 January 2017

        5 January, 1593 - The Jealous Comedy

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

        Henslowe writes: ne ... R at the gelyous comodey the 5 of Jenewary 1592 ... xxxxiiijs 

        In modern English: New. Received at The Jealous Comedy, 5th January, 1593 ... 44 shillings

        Today was a big day for Lord Strange's Men, because they premiered their first new play of the season: The Jealous Comedy! Unfortunately, this play is now lost, but its title enables us to speculate as to its content.

        Woodcut illustrating cuckoldry.
        It's a fair guess that the jealousy of the title was sexual jealousy, an endlessly popular topic in the Renaissance. Possessive husbands, wayward wives, devious seducers and hapless cuckolds were stock figures in hundreds of comedies. They are all illustrated in the wonderful woodcut on the right, in which an overtly demonic seducer flirts with a wife at her door, while a giant alerts the husband at the window by blowing a horn to say 'Look out!' The house is decorated with antlers, the traditional mark of the cuckold, and the husband himself is growing little horns on his head.

        It's possible that the play was set in Italy, because Italian comedy was an especially popular source for such tales. Indeed, the Italians still do this stuff better than anyone else, as can be seen in this clip from Divorce, Italian Style (1961):

        But despite the popularity of its subject matter, two things indicate that The Jealous Comedy failed to delight the Rose audience. First, it received remarkably low box office for a new play. This is strange, because new plays almost always resulted in the Rose being packed with theatregoers; instead, today's play received only 44 shillings compared to the usual 60-70.

        Second, the company will never perform this play again. Was it received so badly that they abandoned it? Possibly not. Later this week we'll encounter a play called Cosmo, which may be an alternate title for The Jealous Comedy. Hold that thought.

        This weak debut is interesting because The Jealous Comedy does seem an outlier among the usual fare of the Rose. Most of the repertory consisted of violent dramas about war and horror, and even the comedies were of an old-fashioned English morality type. An Italian-style sex comedy may have felt out of place, since only Bindo and Ricciardo was similar. Conceivably, the company was trying to diversify their repertory by experimenting with something a little different. They may have regretted it, though.

        FURTHER READING


        Jealous Comedy information

        • Martin Wiggins, British Drama, 1533-1642: A Catalogue, vol. 3 (Oxford University Press, 2013), entry 945.


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        Wednesday, 4 January 2017

        4 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 4 of Jenewary 1592 ... xijs

        In modern English: Received at Mandeville, 4th January, 1593 ... 12 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.

        In their previous season at the Rose, the company had revived Sir John Mandeville only about once a month, and it rarely received much more than average box office. Today's box office was worse: a paltry 12 shillings, representing a largely empty theatre. Clearly this was not a play that the London audience had been pining for during the closure of the theatres.



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