Sunday, 4 February 2018

4 February, 1594 - The Jew of Malta

Here's what the Earl of Sussex's Men performed at the Rose playhouse on this day, 424 years ago...
Henslowe writes: R at the Jewe of malta the 4 of febery 1593 ... ls

In modern English: Received at The Jew of Malta, 4th February, 1594 ... 50 shillings

Caravaggio's portrait of the Grand
Master of the Knights of Malta,
Well, here's a surprise! Today, Sussex's Men revived the 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 had been one of the most popular plays at the Rose last year, but it belonged to the previous occupants, Lord Strange's Men; it's therefore puzzling to see it suddenly appear in the repertory of Sussex's Men.

But as we've already seen, one theory about the goings-on at the Rose this year is that members of the now-dissolved Strange's Men joined Sussex's Men. The originator of this theory, theatre historian Scott McMillin, proposed that Edward Alleyn himself (the great star of Strange's Men and son-in-law of Philip Henslowe) was one of those who joined. Today's performance of The Jew of Malta is the key evidence for Alleyn's presence: McMillin envisages him joining the company late into its season at the Rose, and this production being his triumphant return to the stage in one of his best-loved roles. 

For me, the only thing that casts doubt on this theory is the box office return - it's much better than most plays at the Rose this season, but it doesn't suggest the thrilling return of a star actor not seen for a year. And if Alleyn did return today, his timing was awful because the theatres would close in three days' time.

What's next?

For some reason, no performance is listed for 5th February, so Henslowe's Diary ... as a Blog! will return on the 6th for one last performance before the theatres close.


  • 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

    Henslowe links


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