Saturday, 3 February 2018

3rd February, 1594 - An important letter

The Privy Council in 1604. Detail
from The Somerset House Conference
On this day, 424 years ago, the Privy Council sent a letter to various London authorities informing them that the theatres were to be closed again.

Once again, the reason was plague, or at least the fear of it. The Council says it has learned that "very great multitudes of all sorts of people do daily frequent and resort to common plays lately again set up in and about London" and the fear has thus arisen that the plague "may again very dangerously increase and break forth to the great loss and prejudice of Her Majesty's subjects".

The letter even goes so far as to blame playgoers for the the high mortality rate of last year's plague outbreak: "by like occasions and resort to plays, it suddenly increased from a very little number to that greatness of mortality which ensued".

The Council concludes by ordering "that there be  no more public plays or interludes exercised by any company whatsoever within the compass of five miles distance from London till upon better likelihood and assurance of health further direction may be given from us to the contrary".

Despite the urgent tone of this letter, Sussex's Men will continue to perform for several more days. but their time at the Rose is coming to an end.

Further reading

  • Carol Chillington Rutter, Documents of the Rose Playhouse (Manchester University Press, 1984), 80.


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