Friday, 31 May 2019

31 May, 1595 - The French Comedy

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

Henslowe writes: ye 31 of maye 1595 ... pd ....  R at the frenshe comodye ... xvs 

In modern English: 31st May, 1595 ... Received at The French Comedy ... 15 shillings.

French commedia dell'arte performers,
from a 17th-century engraving by Jacques Callot
Today, the Admiral's Men returned to The French Comedy, a lost play about which we know almost nothing. You can read more about it in the entry for February 11 

The company has not performed this play for three weeks, despite it being relatively new. They don't seem to be making a concerted effort to make it a major part of their repertory, and today's dismal box office suggests why.


What's next?


There will be no blog entries for the next two days: 1st June was a Sunday in 1595 so the players did not perform, and but for unknown reasons there is no entry for 2nd June either. Henslowe's Diary ... as a Blog! will thus return on the 3rd, for a week that will include a new play among the old favourites.

Henslowe links



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Thursday, 30 May 2019

30 May, 1595 - Warlamchester

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

Henslowe writes: ye 30 of maye 1595 ... R at warlamchester ... ixs 

In modern English: 30th May, 1595 ... Received at Warlamchester ... 9 shillings

The martyrdom of St Alban, from a 13th century
manuscript by Matthew Paris
Today, the Admiral's Men performed again their lost play Warlamchester, which was probably about the martyrdom of St Alban during the Roman persecutions of Christians in England.You can read more about this play in the entry for 28 November.

The company last performed Warlamchester three weeks ago. Previously, they had seemed to be trying to make it a frequently-performed play, but they are now easing up on it, and today's box office shows that they were right to do so: this is a catastrophically tiny audience.



Henslowe links



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Wednesday, 29 May 2019

29 May, 1595 - Seleo and Olympo

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

Henslowe writes: ye 29 of maye 1595 ... R at  olimpo ... xxixs 

In modern English: 29th May, 1595 ... Received at Olympo ... 29 shillings


Portrait of Two Friends by Pontormo (1524)
Today, the Admiral's Men revived Seleo and Olympo, a lost play about which we know nothing at all except that it must have been about two men.You can learn more in the entry for 5 March.

The company last performed Seleo and Olympo a week and a half ago. Today's box office is a bit better than last time, being about average for the Rose.

Henslowe links





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Tuesday, 28 May 2019

28 May, 1595 - The Second Part of Hercules

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

Henslowe writes: ye 28 of maye 1595 ... R at 2 pte of herculas ... iijll ijs

In modern English: 28th May, 1595 ... Received at Second Part of Hercules ... £3 and 2 shillings.

The Embarkation of the Argonauts by Lorenzo
Costa (16th century). Hercules is on the prow
of the Argo.
After a very popular revival of Hercules Part One yesterday, the company now follows it with the almost new Part Two, continuing the story of the Greek mythological strongman. This part may have included Hercules' contribution to the quest for the Golden Fleece. You can read more about The Second Part of Hercules in the entry for 23rd May.

The company is experimenting with performing the Hercules plays as a pair over two days, just as they have been doing with the older Tamburlaine plays. The experiment seems to have paid off: this was another very successful performance that filled the playhouse.



Henslowe links



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Monday, 27 May 2019

27 May. 1595 - The First Part of Hercules

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

Henslowe writes: ye 27 of maye 1595 ... R at j pte of herculos ... iill 

In modern English: 27th May, 1595 ... Received at First Part of Hercules ... £[3]

Today, the Admiral's Men revived The First Part of Hercules, which retold some of the legends of the Greek mythological strongman, perhaps focusing on his Twelve Labours. You can read more about this play in the entry for 7 May..


Hercules fighting the Nemean Lion by
Francisco de Zurbarán (1634)
This is the third performance of Hercules part one and it continues to almost fill the Rose playhouse.

Incidentally, the diary entry reproduced above includes a rare error by W.W. Greg, the scholar who transcribed Henslowe's Diary in 1906: he mistakenly printed the box office as £2 rather than £3. The error is corrected in the 1961 transcription by R.A. Foakes and R.T. Rickert.


Henslowe links



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Sunday, 26 May 2019

26 May, 1595 - The Wise Man of West Chester

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

Henslowe writes: ye 26 of maye 1595 ... R at weschester ... xxxjs 
In modern English: 26th May, 1595 ... Received at West Chester ... 31 shillings

A man, who might possibly be
wise, carved on the choir
stalls of Chester Cathedral
Today, the Admiral's Men returned to The Wise Man of West Chester, a lost play that appears to have been about a wizard in the English city of Chester; you can read more about it in the entry for 3 December, 1594.

The Wise Man of West Chester has, for several months, been the most popular play recorded in Henslowe's Diary so far. Today, however, we see its box office shrunken to the level of the merely average. It has been a long time coming, but perhaps the audience is finally beginning to weary of the Chester wizard.

Henslowe links



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Friday, 24 May 2019

24 May, 1595 - The French Doctor

Here's what the Admiral's Men performed at the Rose playhouse on this day, 424 years ago...
Henslowe writes: ye 234 maye 1595 ... R at the frenshe docter ... xxijs 

In modern English: 24th May, 1595 ... Received at The French Doctor ... 22 shillings

A French Physician, by Matthew Darly, 1771
Today, the Admiral's Men revived The French Doctor, a lost play that you can read more about in the entry for 19 October, 1594.

The French Doctor rarely attracts a large audience; today's crowd, though below average, is much bigger than it often gets.


What's next?


There will be no blog entry tomorrow because 25th May was a Sunday in 1595 and the players did not perform. Henslowe's Diary ... as a Blog! will thus return on the 26th. See you then!


Henslowe links


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Thursday, 23 May 2019

23 May, 1595 - The Second Part of Hercules

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

Henslowe writes: ye 23 of maye 1595 ... ne ... R at 2 p of hercolas ... iijll xs

In modern English: 23rd May, 1595 ... New ... Received at The Second Part of Hercules ... £3 and 10 shillings.

Today, the Admiral's Men introduced the second part of Hercules, having premiered the first part just over a fortnight ago. Like its predecessor, the second part is also lost, but it must have continued to retell the legends of the Greek mythological strongman. And the second part attracted an exceptionally large crowd to the Rose.

Exactly which tales were staged in the second part is uncertain. As we saw back on May 7, The First Part of Hercules probably dramatized some or all of the Twelve Labours of Hercules, perhaps using straw figures to represent some of the monsters that he defeated. Perhaps the second part simply continued that story.

The Embarkation of the Argonauts by Lorenzo
Costa (16th century). Hercules is on the prow
of the Argo.
However, as we saw, Henslowe's inventory of props also contained "one golden fleece", which suggests that the legend of Jason was staged at the Rose, and this is the only known play to which it could have belonged. In the legend of the Argonauts, Hercules is one of many mythological heroes who joins Jason on his quest for the Golden Fleece. In his catalogue of British drama, Martin Wiggins therefore speculates that Part One was about the Twelve Labours and Part Two dramatized the adventures of the Argonauts, including the capture of the Golden Fleece from its guardian dragon.

Building on this possibility, Wiggins points out that Henslowe's inventory also contained "one suit for Neptune" and "Neptune's fork and garland". Neptune is prominent in one of the myths involving Hercules, in which he visits Troy at a time when it is threatened by a sea-monster sent by Neptune. The Trojans are sacrificing a maiden named Hesione to the monster.

Hercules rescues Hesione from the sea-monster;
from an illustrated manuscript of
Raoul Lefèvre's Histories of Troy (15th century)
Hercules kills the sea-monster and rescues Hesione. The Trojans promise that he may have her hand in marriage when he returns. However, when Hercules does return, the Trojans have given away Hesione to someone else, so he sacks the city and kills its king.



The death of Hercules by Gabriel Salmon
(16th century)
Perhaps the play ended with the death of Hercules. According to legend, Hercules' wife Dejanira carried with her a centaur's blood, believing it to be a love charm that would prevent him from cheating on her. But the blood was poisonous and Hercules died.

Whichever of these stories was staged, it is clear that Hercules II must have been an action-packed adventure, and its very high box office suggests that it had successfully hit the jackpot.

FURTHER READING


The Second Part of Hercules information

  • Jenny March, Cassell Dictionary of Classical Mythology (Cassell, 1998).
  • Martin Wiggins, British Drama, 1533-1642: A Catalogue, vol. 3 (Oxford University Press, 2013), entry1001.


Henslowe links



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Wednesday, 22 May 2019

22 May, 1595 - The Second Part of Tamburlaine

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

Henslowe writes: ye 22 of maye 1595 ... R at 2 pt of tamberlen ... xxvs

In modern English: 22nd May, 1595 ... Received at Second Part of Tamburlaine ... 25 shillings

The mausoleum of Timur (or Tamburlaine)
in Samarkand
Today, the Admiral's Men performed the sequel to Tamburlaine, in which the conqueror of Asia meets his inevitable doom; you can read more about this play in the entry for 19th December, 1594.

As is their usual habit, the company is performing the two Tamburlaine plays as a pair on subsequent days. And as is almost always the case, the second part has received a slightly larger audience.

Henslowe links



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Tuesday, 21 May 2019

21 May, 1595 - Tamburlaine

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

Henslowe writes: ye 21 of maye 1595 ... R at j pt of tamberlen ... xxiijs 

In modern English: 21st May, 1595 ... Received at First Part of Tamburlaine ... 22 shillings.


Illustration of the historical Tamburlaine
from Richard Knolles' General History

of the Turks (1603).
Today, the players performed the first part of Tamburlaine, Christopher Marlowe's spectacular epic about the bloodthirsty conqueror of Asia. You can read more about this play in the entry for 30th August.

This is the first time the company has revived Tamburlaine since their lengthy break for Lent. It continues to disappoint though - for all its iconic status in Elizabethan England, not many people are still interested in seeing it by 1595.

Henslowe links



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Monday, 20 May 2019

20 May, 1595 - The First Part of Hercules

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

Henslowe writes: ye 20 of maye 1595 ... R at hercolas ... iijll ixs

In modern English: 20th May, 1595 ... Received at Hercules ... £3 and 9 shillings

Today, the Admiral's Men revived The First Part of Hercules, which retold some of the legends of the Greek mythological strongman. You can read more about this play in the entry for 7 May..


Hercules fighting the Nemean Lion by
Francisco de Zurbarán (1634)
The is the first revival of The First Part of Hercules after the company premiered it a week-and-a-half ago. And the company must be thrilled, because the revival has packed the Rose playhouse for a second time; it is very rare for a play to fill the theatre twice in a row.


Henslowe links



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Sunday, 19 May 2019

19 May, 1595 - Seleo and Olympo

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

Henslowe writes: ye 179 of maye 1595 ... R at  olimpo ... xxiijs 

In modern English: 19th May, 1595 ... Received at Olympo ... 23 shillings


Portrait of Two Friends by Pontormo (1524)
Today, the Admiral's Men revived Seleo and Olympo, a lost play about which we know nothing at all except that it must have been about two men.You can read more about it in the entry for 5 March.

The audiences for Seleo and Olympo continue to shrink - it does not seem that it will ever be a big hitter.

Henslowe links





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Saturday, 18 May 2019

18 May, 1595 - a hoax entry!

Here's what the Admiral's Men did not perform at the Rose playhouse on this day, 424 years ago...

"Henslowe" writes: ye 18 of Maye 1595 ... R at galfrido & Bernardo ... xxxjs 

In modern English: 18th May, 1595 ... Received at Galfrido and Bernardo ... 31 shillings


Today's post is a strange one, for Henslowe's supposed diary entry for 18 May is in fact a forgery inserted by the nineteeth-century scholar John Payne Collier. We have encountered many 'lost plays' before, but this is something quite different: the play of Galfrido and Bernardo never existed at all. How can something so outrageous have happened? Read on...

John Payne Collier, 1789-1883
Henslowe's Diary has been studied by many scholars since it was rediscovered by Edmund Malone in the 18th century. One of them was Collier, who borrowed the manuscript from Dulwich College in 1840 and kept it for years. The following description of what happened next is based on Arthur and Janet Freeman's 2004 bio-bibliography of him.

Collier spent five years creating an annotated transcript of Henslowe's Diary, eventually publishing it in 1845. He was a brilliant scholar and his work was an extremely important contribution to our understanding of the document. But Collier had a demon inside him: throughout his career he inserted fake information into the documents that he worked on. His alterations were often small and subtle, and not until 1876 did scholars comparing the Diary with earlier transcripts first notice the hoaxes that Collier had introduced.

Collier used his expert knowledge of Elizabethan handwriting to insert words into the Diary. His additions can be recognized now due to their different ink colour. Take a look at the facsimile of this page of the Diary. At the very bottom, you'll see the entry for Galfrido and Bernardo. The ink is more faded and if you look closely you can see that although the imitation of Henslowe's handwriting is impressive, it is not perfect. In his published edition of the Diary, Collier disguises his insertion by noting that it was "omitted to be noticed by Malone".

What was Collier's motivation? With most of his Henslowe hoaxes, he was trying to make more important his other scholarly endeavours. In 1844, he had published a reprint of a 1570 poem by John Drout, The Pitiful History of Two Loving Italians, Gaulfrido and Barnardo le Vayne. The false entry in the Diary makes the poem seem more significant by making it appear to have inspired a lost theatrical adaptation.  In his edition of the Diary, he proposes that the entry "relates to a play founded, doubtless, upon the recently-discovered poem by John Drout" and makes sure to mention his own publication of it, "limited to twenty-five copies".

Normal service will resume tomorrow!


FURTHER READING


Information on Collier and Galfrido and Bernardo


  • John Payne Collier, The Diary of Philip Henslowe from 1591 to 1609 (Shakespeare Society, 1845), 52.
  • Arthur Freeman and Janet Ing Freeman, John Payne Collier: Scholarship and Forgery in the Nineteenth Century (Yale University Press, 2004), 1:361-8. 


Henslowe links




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Friday, 17 May 2019

17 May, 1595 - Godfrey of Bouillon

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

Henslowe writes: ye 17 of maye 1595 ... R at godfrey of bullen ... xxijs 

In modern English: 17th May, 1595 ... Received at Godfrey of Bouillon ... 22 shillings

The death of Godfrey of Bouillon.
From a thirteenth century
manuscript of William of 
Tyre's Histoire d'Outremer
Today, the company revived the play that Henslowe calls Godfrey of Bouillon. This was probably The Second Part of Godfrey of Bouillon, a lost sequel that you can read more about it in the entry for 19th July. Alternatively, it might have been the equally lost original play, sometimes identified by scholars with the mysterious Jerusalem, which you can read about in the entry for 22 March, 1592. Either way, today's play would have dramatized some aspect of the eponymous medieval warrior's capture of the city of Jerusalem from the Turks.

The company last performed Godfrey of Bouillon three weeks ago. As so often, it continues to return below-average box office.



Henslowe links



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Thursday, 16 May 2019

16 May, 1595 - The Grecian Comedy

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

Henslowe writes: ye 16 of maye 1595 ... R at the greasyan comodey ... xxxiijs 

In modern English: 16th May, 1595 ... Received at The Grecian Comedy ... 33 shillings

The Love of Helen and Paris
by Jacques-Louis David (1789)
Today, the Admiral's Men revived The Grecian Comedy.  We know nothing about this play beyond its title, although Henslowe sometimes calls it The Grecian Lady, which adds a tiny bit more information; you can read more about it in the entry for 5 October, 1594.

The company last performed this play three weeks ago on St George's Day, when the public holiday brought a large crowd to the theatre. Today's crowd was smaller but still very respectable.



Henslowe links



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Wednesday, 15 May 2019

15 May, 1595 - The Wise Man of West Chester

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

Henslowe writes: ye 15 of maye 1595 ... R at the wisse man of weschester ... xxxvijs 
In modern English: 15th May, 1595 ... Received at The Wise Man of West Chester ... 37 shillings

A man, who might possibly be
wise, carved on the choir
stalls of Chester Cathedral
Today, the Admiral's Men returned to The Wise Man of West Chester, a lost play that appears to have been about a wizard in the English city of Chester; you can read more about it in the entry for 3 December, 1594.

The Wise Man of West Chester continues to be an incredibly reliable hit. Today's revival is only a few shillings above the average for the Rose, but it's still doing way better than most plays at this time of year.

Henslowe links



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Tuesday, 14 May 2019

14 May, 1595 - Tasso's Melancholy

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

Henslowe writes: ye 14 of maye 1595 ... R at tasso ... xxs 

In modern English: 14th May, 1595 ... Received at Tasso ... 20 shillings

Tasso in the Madhouse
by Eugene Delacroix (1839)
Today, for the very last time, the Admiral's Men returned to Tasso's Melancholy, a lost play that dramatized the lovesick insanity of the Italian poet Torquato Tasso; you can read more about it in the entry for 13th August.

Tasso's Melancholy has not been staged for over three months, but today the company has decided to bring it back. But they will decide that the effort was not worth it, for this is the last time the mad poet will appear at the Rose. Tasso was staged 12 times in total, and while its box office was never stunning, it was rarely catastrophic either.

Just for the sake of it, here's a graph comparing its fortunes with those of The Venetian Comedy, whose performances began and ended at around the same time.



Henslowe links



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Monday, 13 May 2019

13 May, 1595 - Long Meg of Westminster

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

Henslowe writes: ye 13 of maye 1595 ... R at longe mege ... xxviijs

In modern English: 13th May, 1595 ... Received at Long Meg ...  28 shillings

Long Meg, from
a 1750 edition
of the jest-book
Today, the Admiral's Men returned to Long Meg of Westminster, their play about the Amazonian warrior woman of London legend. You can read more about this play in the entry for 14 February.

The company has not performed Long Meg for a fortnight. Its last performance was very successful, due to the May Day holiday, whereas today's audience is merely average. 

.


Henslowe links



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Sunday, 12 May 2019

12 May, 1595 - The French Comedy

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

Henslowe writes: ye 12 of maye 1595 ... R at the frenshe comodey ... xxviijs 

In modern English: 12th May, 1595 ... Received at The French Comedy ... 27 shillings.

French commedia dell'arte performers,
from a 17th-century engraving by Jacques Callot
Today, the Admiral's Men returned to The French Comedy, a lost play about which we know almost nothing. You can read more about this play in the entry for February 11 

The company premiered The French Comedy back in January and it had been moderately succesful, but this is still only its third performance. They may be attempting to place it more firmly within their repertory, but its box office today is merely average, making it ambiguous whether the attempt is likely to succeed.


Henslowe links



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Friday, 10 May 2019

10 May, 1595 - Warlamchester

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

Henslowe writes: ye 10 of maye 1595 ... R at warlam chester ... xxixs 

In modern English: 10th May, 1595 ... Received at Warlamchester ... 29 shillings

The martyrdom of St Alban, from a 13th century
manuscript by Matthew Paris
Today, the Admiral's Men performed again their lost play Warlamchester, which was probably about the martyrdom of St Alban during the Roman persecutions of Christians.You can read more about this play in the entry for 28 November.

The company last performed Warlamchester a week and a half ago; they seem to be pushing to make it a regularly revived play, and it has held on to the same size of audience that it received last time.


What's next?


There will be no blog entry tomorrow because 11th May was a Sunday in 1595 and the players did not perform. Henslowe's Diary ... as a Blog! will thus return on the 12th for a week that will include a surprise at the end.

 

Henslowe links



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Thursday, 9 May 2019

9 May, 1595 - Seleo and Olympo

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

Henslowe writes: ye 9 of maye 1595 ... R at  selyo & olympo ... xxvjs 

In modern English: 9th May, 1595 ... Received at Seleo and Olympo ... 26 shillings


Portrait of Two Friends by Pontormo (1524)
Today, the Admiral's Men revived Seleo and Olympo, a lost play about which we know nothing at all except that it must have been about two men.You can read more about it in the entry for 5 March.

The play of Seleo and Olympo is only on its third outing, but audiences have already shrunk to below-average size. This is not a good sign for its fortunes.

Henslowe links





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Wednesday, 8 May 2019

8 May, 1595 - The Venetian Comedy

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

Henslowe writes: ye 8 of maye 1595 ... R at the venesyon comodye ... xxxs 

In modern English: 8th May, 1595 ... Received at The Venetian Comedy ... 30 shillings

The Quack Doctor by Pietro Longhi (late
18th century)
Today, for the last time, the Admiral's Men revived The Venetian Comedy, a play about which we know nothing beyond its title. You can read more about it in the entry for 27 August.

The Venetian Comedy was first performed back in August of last year. The company performed it eleven times in total, but it rarely attracted large audiences. They seem to have decided after today that it was time for retirement.

For the sake of interest, here's a graph charting the play's fortunes over time (excluding today).




Henslowe links



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Tuesday, 7 May 2019

7 May, 1595 - The First Part of Hercules

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

Henslowe writes: ye 7 of Maye 1595 ... ne ... R at the firste pte of herculous ... iijll xiijs

In modern English: 7th May, 1595 ... New ... Received at The First Part of Hercules ... £3 and 13 shillings.

Today, the Admiral's Men premiered a new play! The First Part of Hercules is lost, but it was clearly designed to be the first of a two-part drama retelling the legends of the Greek mythological strongman. Exactly which tales were dramatized is uncertain but there are strong clues that the Twelve Labours of Hercules were among them. Either way, the play attracted an exceptionally large crowd to the Rose, which was at almost full capacity.

The legends of Hercules


Hercules and Cerberus by
Rubens (1636)
There are many legends of Hercules, but the most famous are perhaps the Twelve Labours set him by King Eurystheus. Let's remind ourselves of what they are, following the traditional account in Apollodorus's Library:

  1. Slaying the Nemean lion
  2. Slaying the Lernean hydra
  3. Capturing the Cerynitian hind
  4. Capturing the Erymanthian boar
  5. Clearing the cattle dung from the stable of Augeus
  6. Chasing away the Stymphalian birds
  7. Capturing the Cretan bull
  8. Capturing the man-eating horses of Diomedes
  9. Capturing the belt of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons
  10. Capturing the cattle of Geryon the three-bodied giant
  11. Fetching the dragon-guarded golden apples of the Hesperides
  12. Capturing Cerberus, the three-headed guard dog of the Underworld

Hercules and the Hydra by
Antonio del Pollaiolo (1475)
This seems like enough work for one man, but there are many other legends of Hercules. He is among the team of Argonauts assembled by Jason on his quest for the Golden Fleece. He becomes the slave of Omphale and is forced to wear women's clothes. He rescues Alcestis from the land of the dead. And much more besides.

So, which of these stories were included in the Hercules plays? There are clues in the inventories of props and costumes that are among Henslowe's papers. A 1598 list of props vividly proves that several of the Labours of Hercules could have been staged: it includes "one boar's head and Cerberus's three heads", "one tree of golden apples", "one bull's head" and "one lion".

Further evidence suggests that all Twelve Labours may have appeared in the play. In 1612, the playwright Thomas Heywood wrote his Apology for Actors, an attempt at defending theatre from anti-theatrical campaigners. In it, Heywood celebrates the power of the actor to "move the spirits of the beholder to admiration". After describing many examples, he writes,
to see, as I have seen, Hercules in his own shape hunting the boar, knocking down the bull, taming the hart, fighting with Hydra, murdering Geryon, slaughtering Diomed, wounding the Stymphalides, killing the Centaurs, pashing the lion, squeezing the dragon, dragging Cerberus in chains, and, lastly, on his high pyramids writing "nil ultra", oh, these were sights to make an Alexander!
Hercules fighting the Nemean Lion by
Francisco de Zurbarán (1634)
Heywood claims to have seen all twelve labours performed, and the Hercules plays of the Rose may thus have done so.

But how on earth could such events be represented? One explanation is found in another possible eye-witness account: Augustine Vincent's Discovery of Errors in the First Edition of the Catalogue of Nobility (1622). In this book - a critique of a recent catalogue of heraldric information - Vincent accuses its author of using straw man arguments, and thus of being "like Hercules in a play, that made monsters of straw for himself to subdue". The image here describes the lead actor creating dummy creatures that he will then 'defeat' onstage. Perhaps this reflects stage practice, and perhaps Edward Alleyn did indeed "pash" a Nemean Lion made of straw to the delight of his fans.

Hercules Killing the Dragon
in the Garden of the Hesperides

by Lorenzo Vaiani (1568)
The Twelve Labours of Hercules seem like a lot of story for one play, and so, in his book on the Admiral's Men, Andrew Gurr assumes that Hercules was a two-parter because there were six labours in each play. But there is another relevant entry in Henslowe's inventory: "one golden fleece". This suggests that the legend of Jason and the Argonauts was staged at the Rose too. In his catalogue of British drama, Martin Wiggins thus speculates that Part One was about the Labours and Part Two dramatized other adventures. If so, Part One would have been a non-stop action-packed romp with little time for nuance or even dialogue.



FURTHER READING


The First Part of Hercules information

  • Apollodorus, The Library, trans. James George Frazer (1921), II.v.
  • Thomas Heywood, An Apology for Actors (1612), B3v-B4r.
  • Augustine Vincent, A Discovery of Errors in the First Edition of the Catalogue of Nobility Published by Raphe Brooke, York Herald, 1619 (1622), ¶3r
  • Andrew Gurr, Shakespeare's Opposites: The Admiral's Company, 1594-1625 (Cambridge University Press, 2009), 214.
  • Martin Wiggins, British Drama, 1533-1642: A Catalogue, vol. 3 (Oxford University Press, 2013), entry 999.


Henslowe links



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Monday, 6 May 2019

6 May, 1595 - The Wise Man of West Chester

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

Henslowe writes: ye 6 of maye 1595 ... R at the wiseman ... xxxxs 
In modern English: 6th May, 1595 ... Received at The Wise Man ... 40 shillings

A man, who might possibly be
wise, carved on the choir
stalls of Chester Cathedral
Today, the Admiral's Men returned to The Wise Man of West Chester, a lost play that appears to have been about a wizard in the English city of Chester; you can read more about it in the entry for 3 December, 1594.

The Wise Man of West Chester has been a remarkable success story and received a rare two performances in a row during Easter Week. Today's revival received a relatively slim 40 shillings, but this is still higher than the average for the Rose.  

Henslowe links



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Sunday, 5 May 2019

5 May, 1595 - A Knack to Know an Honest Man

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

Henslowe writes: ye 5 of maye 1595 ... R at the knacke ... xxiijs

In modern English: 5th May, 1595 ... Received at The Knack ... 23 shillings

Two  Young Venetian Men (anon., 1515)
Today, the Admiral's Men have revived A Knack to Know an Honest Man, their comical moral romance set in Venice. You can read more about this play in the entry for 23rd October, 1594.

The company last performed this play two weeks ago during Easter Week, when the holidays crowds produced a large audience. Today's is smaller, reflecting the relative lack of interest in this play during a normal week.
.

Henslowe links



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Friday, 3 May 2019

3 May, 1595 - The French Doctor

Here's what the Admiral's Men performed at the Rose playhouse on this day, 424 years ago...
Henslowe writes: ye 3 maye 1595 ... R at the frenshe docter ... xjs 

In modern English: 3rd May, 1595 ... Received at The French Doctor ... 11 shillings

A French Physician, byMatthew Darly, 1771
Today, the Admiral's Men revived The French Doctor, a lost play that you can read more about in the entry for 19 October.

At the beginning of the last week, the company opened their new season with The French Doctor, and the excitement combined with the Easter holidays drew a large crowd. Today's performance is much more typical of this play's fortunes, with only a tiny audience showing up to see whatever medical mirth it contained.


What's next?


There will be no blog entry tomorrow because 4th May was a Sunday in 1595 and the players did not perform. Henslowe's Diary ... as a Blog! will thus return on the 5th for a week that will include a new play and a farewell. See you then!


Henslowe links


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