Wednesday, 30 June 2021

30 June, 1597 - The Life and Death of Martin Schwartz

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

Henslowe writes: 30 | ne | tt at liffe & death of martin swarte ... | 02 | 08

In modern English: 30th [June, 1597] ... new ... total at Life and Death of Martin Schwartz ... £2 and 8 shillings [i.e. 48 shillings]

Today, the Admiral's Men performed a new play! The Life and Death of Martin Schwartz is now lost, but its title tells us that it was an historical tragedy about a German mercenary who fought for Lambert Simnel, a pretender to the English crown. From the information available to us, it is possible to speculate that this was yet another charismatic warrior role for Edward Alleyn. 

The life


The Siege of Neuss, where Martin
Schwartz made his name
In his entry on Martin Schwartz in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Ian Arthurson quotes Swiss sources on his early life. Schwartz was a shoemaker's son who became a soldier, distinguishing himself at the Siege of Neuss in 1475. He became an officer under King Maximilian I and was known to be bold, pitiless, a great drinker, and fond of flashy jewelry, for which he was mocked by the king's jester.

Meanwhile, in England, the seemingly endless Wars of the Roses were grinding to their conclusion. At the Battle of Bosworth Field, the Yorkist King Richard III was  killed, and the victorious Henry Tudor was crowned King Henry VII. 

But there was in one final twist before the wars could end. A priest had spotted a boy named Lambert Simnel who bore a passing resemblance to young Edward, Duke of Warwick, who had a better claim to the throne than Henry but was imprisoned in the Tower of London. The Yorkists trained Simnel in courtly manners and promoted him as the rightful king of England. The Earl of Lincoln raised an army to overthrow Henry and install young 'Edward VI' on the throne; he was probably using the 10-year old Simnel as a stepping stone to taking the crown for himself. 

Margaret, the future
Duchess of Burgundy:
a 1468 portrait
The Yorkist army was aided financially by Richard III's sister, Margaret of Burgundy, who recruited German and Swiss mercenaries. Among them was a troop of Swiss pikemen led by Martin Schwartz.  The rebels mustered in Ireland and then crossed the sea to land in Lancashire and march on London.

Things came to a head in Nottinghamshire at the Battle of Stoke Field. Schwartz's role in the battle is briefly mentioned in Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles (1587) which tells us that there were "two thousand Almains [i.e. Germans], with one Martine Sward, a valiant and noble captain to lead them".  Holinshed writes that "both the armies joined and fought very earnestly" and the Germans, "being tried and expert men of war, were in all things, as well in strength as policy, equals and matches to the Englishmen". And he praises Schwartz: "few of the Englishmen, either in valiant courage, or strength, and nimbleness of body was to him comparable".

Despite this, Henry's forces prevailed. Arthurson cites English and Swiss accounts which record that Schwartz felt betrayed, having been misled about the degree of support in England for the Yorkist rebellion. But he fought on to the death. Holinshed praises the spirit of the defeated army:
When this battle was ended, and fought out to the extremity, then it well appeared, what high prowess, what manful stomachs, what hardy and courageous hearts rested in the King's adversaries. For there the chief captains, the Earl of Lincoln, and the lord Lovell, Sir Thomas Broughton, Martine Sward, and the lord Gerardine, captain of the Irishmen, were slain, and found dead in the very places which they had chosen alive to fight in, not giving one foot of ground to their adversaries.  
A modern memorial to the
dead of the battle in East
Stoke, Nottinghamshire.
© WMR-35
The ultimate outcome was that the Yorkists lost, Henry VII remained king, and young Lambert Simnel was forgiven and became a kitchen boy at the royal court. There is a modern memorial to the dead, including Schwartz, in the graveyard of St Oswald's Church in East Stoke.


 The legend


It seems that Schwartz was more famous in Elizabethan England than he is today; indeed, there appears to have been a song about him. John Skelton's poem "Against a Comely Custron" (1527) mocks a kitchen-boy by comparing him to Lambert Simnel; it includes the lines:
With, hey, trolly, lolly, lo, whip here, Jack,
Alumbek sodildim sillorim ben!
Curiously he can both counter and knack
Of Martin Swart and all his merry men.

And in William Wager's 1560s play The Longer Thou Livest the More Fool Thou Art, the fool Moros sings the lines,

Martin Swart and his man, sodledum, sodledum,
Martin Swart and his man, sodledum, soledum bell.

Schwartz was still remembered in the 1630s. In John Ford's play Perkin Warbeck, about another pretender to the throne, the rebels recall the fates of Simnel's supporters, and they list the commanders who died for him, including "Bold Martin Swart".

A glimpse of Martin Schwartz in the TV series
The Shadow of the Tower (1972)
Schwartz has since been forgotten, though; you can glimpse an actor playing him in the 1972 BBC TV series The Shadow of the Tower, but he only gets one line (it is "Ha!").  

The play

From the fragments of information about Schwartz, it is possible to speculate on what an Elizabethan play about him might have been like.

We can imagine a play about a bold and glamorous warrior who rises from humble origins to become a respected warrior on the continent before getting mixed up in the Simnel rebellion. If so, this might have been an interesting take on the English history play, presenting it from the point of view of an outsider. 

The play must surely have been negative toward the Yorkist cause (since Henry VII was the ancestor of Queen Elizabeth), but perhaps it was Lincoln who was portrayed as the villain, while Schwartz came across as a brave but doomed soldier on the wrong side of history. 

We don't know if the play was really like that. But we do know that it made 48 shillings, an unimpressive debut for a new play. Even if Londoners could hum the Martin Schwartz song, they may not have been sufficiently interested to see a play about him.


FURTHER READING


The Life and Death of Martin Schwartz information


  • Raphael Holinshed, Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland (1587), vol. 
  • Ian Arthurson, "Schwartz, Martin (d. 1487)," in The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004).
  • Martin Wiggins, British Drama, 1533-1642: A Catalogue, vol. 3 (Oxford University Press, 2013), entry 953.
  • Mark Hutchings, "Martin Swarte, His Life and Death", Lost Plays Database (2016), accessed June 2021.

Henslowe links


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Tuesday, 29 June 2021

29 June, 1597 - Alexander and Lodowick

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

Henslowe writes: S petters daye | 29 | tt at elexsander & lodwick ... | 01 | 02

In modern English: St Peter's Day ... 29th [June, 1597] ... received at Alexander and Lodowick ... £1 and 2 shillings [i.e. 22 shillings]

A very generic illustration accompanying the
printed text of the ballad of The Two Faithful
Friends: The Pleasant History of Alexander
and Lodowick
Today is St Peter's Day, a holy festival. On this special day, the Admiral's Men have chosen to revive Alexander and Lodowick, a lost play about two friends who swap places. You can read more about this play in the entry for 14 January

This is the first time the company has performed Alexander and Lodowick in over a month. The box office is somewhat improved, perhaps owing to the festive occasion. 


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Monday, 28 June 2021

28 June, 1597 - Five Plays in One

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

Henslowe writes: 28 | tt at v playes in one | 01 | 00
In modern English: 28th [June, 1597] ... total at Five Plays in One ... £1 [i.e. 20 shillings]

The number 5 in a
column of figures
in Henslowe's Diary
Today is St Peter's Eve, a day on which the Midsummer's Eve bonfires and festivities were traditionally repeated. On this day, the Admiral's Men have revived their lost piece Five Plays in One, which was probably a collection of one-act plays, perhaps linked by a narrative device; you can read more about it in the entry for 7 April

The company has again waited two and a half weeks to return the five plays to the stage. Perhaps owing to the festive summer atmosphere, the box office is somewhat improved.



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Sunday, 27 June 2021

27 June, 1597 - Captain Thomas Stukeley

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

Henslowe writes: 27 | mr pd | tt at stewtley ... | 00 | 14
In modern English: 27th [June, 1597] ... Master paid ... total at Stukeley ... 14 shillings

1629 Portuguese illustration of the Battle of Alcazar
Today, the Admiral's Men revived Captain Thomas Stukeley, their tale about the titular English mercenary's adventures in Ireland, Spain and Morocco, and his death at the Battle of Alcazar. You can read more about this play in the entry for 10 December, 1596.

The company is continuing with its rule of  performing Stukeley only once a month. After a relatively successful Whitsuntide performance in May, today's is back in the doldrums. 

Today's entry includes a note that Henslowe paid the license for the Rose to the Master of the Revels; you can read more about this in the entry for 8 November, 1595.

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    Friday, 25 June 2021

    25 June, 1597 - Belin Dun

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

    Henslowe writes: 25 | tt at bellendon | 00 | 07

    In modern English: 25th [June, 1597] ... total at Belin Dun ... 7 shillings

    A highwayman portrayed in Richard
    Head's The English Rogue (1666)
    Today, the Admiral's Men performed Belin Dun, their lost play about the notorious robber who terrorized the highways around Dunstable during the reign of King Henry I; you can read more about this play in the entry for 10 June, 1594.

    The company has brought back Belin Dun more quickly than usual, waiting only a week and a half to return this venerable play to the stage. The box office is wretched, though.

    What's next?


    There will be no blog entry tomorrow because 26 June was a Sunday in 1597 and the players did not perform. Henslowe's Diary ... as a Blog! will thus return on the 27th, for a week that will include a new play. See you then!

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    Thursday, 24 June 2021

    24 June, 1597 - The Life and Death of Harry I

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

    Henslowe writes: 24 | tt at harey the firste ... 00 | 14

    In modern English: 24th [June, 1597] ... total at Harry I ... 14 shillings
     
    King Henry I depicted in The Book
    of the Laws of Ancient Kings (1321)
    Today is Midsummer Day, a public holiday and a time to celebrate the summer. On this special day, the company has chosen to revive their lost history play, The Life and Death of Harry I, which told the story of King Henry I, the twelfth century king of England. You can read more about this play in the entry for 26 May.

    Despite the festive occasion, the box office for Harry I is exactly the same as last week's. It seems hard to predict what people will do on Midsummer's Day: last year it drew a huge audience to see Phocas, but the year before it had little effect on The French Comedy. Clearly, there are variables that we do not understand. 


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    Wednesday, 23 June 2021

    23 June, 1597 - A French Comedy

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

    Henslowe writes: 23 | tt at frenshe comodey ...  | 00 | 07

    In modern English: 23rd [June, 1597] ... total at French Comedy ... 7 shillings

    Antoine Watteau, Actors of the
    Comédie-Française
    (1710s)
    It's Midsummer's Eve, a time for staying up late and lighting bonfires! On this special day, the Admiral's Men have chosen to perform A French Comedy, a lost play. You can read more about this play in the entry for 18 April.

    The festive occasion has had no impact at all upon the Rose, either for better or for worse. A French Comedy continues to be performed regularly, and continues to receive atrocious box office. 

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    v

    Tuesday, 22 June 2021

    22 June, 1597 - Hengist

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

    Henslowe writes: 22 | tt at henges ... | 00 | 06

    In modern English: 22nd [June, 1597] ... total at Hengist ... 6 shillings

    Hengist and Horsa arriving in 
    Britain. From Richard Verstegan's
    A Resitution of Decayed
    Intelligence
    (1605)
    Today is one of those strange moments in the Diary when an unknown play appears, attracts a tiny audience, and is never seen again. The title is almost certainly a rendering of Hengist, the Saxon warlord who, in legend, began the Anglo-Saxon settlement of England. However, it may in fact be an alternative name for an existing play. 

    Henslowe does not mark the play as new, and this is its only appearance in the Diary. Perhaps it is an old one from the archives, but if so, its revival is a complete disaster, attracting only a tiny audience. Most scholars thus assume that it is simply another name for Vortigern, the play about the clashes between Hengist and the native Britons that the company has performed several times this year. The company last performed Vortigern back on April 2; perhaps Henslowe has forgotten the title following its break and the character of Hengist was more memorable than that of Vortigern. 

    Whatever the truth of the matter, neither Vortigern nor Hengist will appear in the Diary again. Ancient Britain seems not to be a draw for London's audience these days. 


    FURTHER READING


    Hengist information

    • Andrew Gurr, Shakespeare's Opposites: The Admiral's Company, 1594-1625 (Cambridge University Press, 2009), 223.
    • Roslyn L. Knutson, "Vortigern", Lost Plays Database (2019), accessed June 2021. 
    • Martin Wiggins, British Drama, 1533-1642: A Catalogue, vol. 3 (Oxford University Press, 2013), entry 1048.

    Henslowe links


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    Monday, 21 June 2021

    21 June, 1597 - A Humorous Day's Mirth

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

    Henslowe writes: 21 | tt at the comodey of vmers... | 03 | 00

    In modern English: 21st [June, 1597] ... total at The Comedy of Humours ... £3 [i.e. 60 shillings]

    Today, the Admiral's Men revived their 
    A classic image of a
    melancholic, from
    Robert Burton's Anatomy
    of Melancholy (1622)
    Comedy of Humours
    , which is almost certainly another name for George Chapman's A Humorous Day's Mirth. You can read more about this eccentric comedy in the entry for 11 May

    This is extraordinary! After a minor dip on its last performances, A Humorous Day's Mirth has surged back and once again has drawn an enormous crowd. This play is becoming the most popular ever recorded in the Diary.



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    Sunday, 20 June 2021

    20 June, 1597 - Hieronimo

    Here's what Lord Strange's Men performed at the Rose playhouse on this day, 424 years ago...
    Henslowe writes: midsomer daye | 20 | tt at Joronemo ... | 00 | 14

    In modern English: 20th [June, 1597] ... total at Hieronimo ... 14 
    shillings 

    Woodcut from the 1615 edition of The Spanish Tragedy.
    Today, the Admiral's Men revived Hieronimo, which is almost certainly an alternate title for Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy, a famous and much-loved old 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.

    For some reason, Henslowe writes "Midsummer Day" next to today's entry, but this is a mistake; the holiday is on the 24th.

    The company has again waited about three weeks to return this classic to the stage. The box office is nothing to write home about. 


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      Friday, 18 June 2021

      18 June, 1597 - Frederick and Basilea

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

      Henslowe writes:  18 | tt at fredericke & basilia ... | 00 | 11

      In modern English: 18th [June, 1597] ... total at Frederick and Basilea ... 11 shillings

      Detail from The Reception of the Ambassadors
      in Damascus (anonymous, 1511)
      Today, the Admiral's Men revived Frederick and Basilea, a lost play that survives only as a 'plot': a list of entrances used to help the actors keep on track. You can read more about this play in the entry for 3 June.

      The company has not exactly rushed this play back for its third performance and the box office is dismal. They must already have little confidence in it by this point.


      What's next?


      There will be no blog entry tomorrow because 19 June was a Sunday in 1597 and the players did not perform. Henslowe's Diary ... as a Blog! will thus return on the 20th - see you then!

       

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      Thursday, 17 June 2021

      17 June, 1597 - A Humorous Day's Mirth

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

      Henslowe writes: 17 | tt at the comedy of vmers... | 02 | 10

      In modern English: 17th [June, 1597] ... total at The Comedy of Humours ... £2 and 10 shillings [i.e. 50 shillings]

      Today, the Admiral's Men revived their 
      A classic image of a
      melancholic, from
      Robert Burton's Anatomy
      of Melancholy (1622)
      Comedy of Humours
      , which is almost certainly another name for George Chapman's A Humorous Day's Mirth. You can read more about this eccentric comedy in the entry for 11 May

      The company continues to perform this incredibly successful play every few days, and the box office, though slightly down, is still remarkable. 



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      Wednesday, 16 June 2021

      16 June, 1597 - A French Comedy

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

      Henslowe writes: 16 | tt at frenshe comodey ...  | 00 | 07

      In modern English: 16th June, 1597 ... total at French Comedy ... 7 shillings

      Antoine Watteau, Actors of the
      Comédie-Française
      (1710s)
      Today, the Admiral's Men performed A French Comedy, a lost play. You can read more about this play in the entry for 18 April.

      The company has waited just over two weeks to return A French Comedy to the stage, and the box office has sunk to a dismal level. At the moment it seems that if a play is not A Humorous Day's Mirth, it's not going to draw a crowd.

      Henslowe links


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      Tuesday, 15 June 2021

      15 June, 1597 - Belin Dun

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

      Henslowe writes: 15 | tt at bellendon | 00 | 13

      In modern English: 15th [June, 1597] ... total at Belin Dun ... 13 shillings

      A highwayman portrayed in Richard
      Head's The English Rogue (1666)
      Today, the Admiral's Men performed Belin Dun, their lost play about the notorious robber who terrorized the highways around Dunstable during the reign of King Henry I; you can read more about this play in the entry for 10 June, 1594.

      The company has again waited three weeks to return this venerable play to the stage. The box office is only slightly higher, remaining unimpressive.

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      Monday, 14 June 2021

      14 June, 1597 - The Life and Death of Harry I

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

      Henslowe writes: 13 | tt at harey the fyrste life & death ... 00 | 14

      In modern English: 13th [June, 1597] ... total at Harry I, Life and Death ... 14 shillings

       
      King Henry I depicted in The Book
      of the Laws of Ancient Kings (1321)
      Today, the Admiral's Men revived their lost history play, The Life and Death of Harry I, which told the story of King Henry I, the twelfth century king of England. You can read more about this play in the entry for 26 May.

      The company has waited a week to return Harry I to the stage. It continues to chug along with disappointing box office. 


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      Sunday, 13 June 2021

      13 June, 1597 - Uther Pendragon

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

      Henslowe writes: 13 | tt at pendragon ... | 01 | 00

      In modern English: 13th [June, 1597] ... total at Pendragon ... £1 [i.e. 20 shillings]

      Uther Pendragon and Merlin, from British
      Library manuscript Royal 20 A II
      (early 14th century)
      Today, the Admiral's Men revived Uther Pendragon, their lost play about the father of King Arthur. You can read more about this play in the entry for 29 April.

      This is the last appearance of Uther Pendragon in Henslowe's Diary. That doesn't necessarily mean they will never perform it again (the Diary will come to an end later this year), but the play's box office has never lived up to its exciting premise, so it may be time to say goodbye forever.


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      Friday, 11 June 2021

      11 June, 1597 - A Humorous Day's Mirth

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

      Henslowe writes: 11 | tt at the vmers... | 02 | 18

      In modern English: 11th [June, 1597] ... total at The Humours ... £2 and 18 shillings [i.e. 58 shillings]

      Today, the Admiral's Men revived their 
      A classic image of a
      melancholic, from
      Robert Burton's Anatomy
      of Melancholy (1622)
      Comedy of Humours
      , which is almost certainly another name for George Chapman's A Humorous Day's Mirth. You can read more about this eccentric comedy in the entry for 11 May

      After seven incredibly successful performances, the box office for A Humorous Day's Mirth has finally taken a downturn. But this would still be a very impressive turnout for any other play.

      What's next?


      There will be no blog entry tomorrow because 12 June was a Sunday in 1597 and the players did not perform. Henslowe's Diary ... as a Blog! will thus return on the 13th - see you then!



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      Thursday, 10 June 2021

      10 June, 1597 - Five Plays in One

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

      Henslowe writes: 10 | tt at v playes in one | 00 | 11
      In modern English: 10th [June, 1597] ... total at Five Plays in One ... 11 shillings

      The number 5 in a
      column of figures
      in Henslowe's Diary
      Today, the Admiral's Men revived their lost piece Five Plays in One, which was probably a collection of one-act plays, perhaps linked by a narrative device; you can read more about it in the entry for 7 April

      After following a rule of performing Five Plays in One every ten days or so, the company has now waited two and a half weeks. But the box office has plummeted again.  



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      Wednesday, 9 June 2021

      9 June, 1597 - Frederick and Basilea

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

      Henslowe writes: 9 | tt at fredericke & baselia ... | 01 | 00

      In modern English: 9th [June, 1597] ... total at Frederick and Basilea ... £1  [i.e. 20 shillings]

      Today, the Admiral's Men revived
      Detail from The Reception of the Ambassadors
      in Damascus (anonymous, 1511)
      Frederick and Basilea
      , a lost play that survives only as a 'plot': a list of entrances used to help the actors keep on track. You can read more about this play in the entry for 3 June.

       This is the play's second performance, but after a tepid premiere the box office has halved. Frederick and Basilea does not look likely to be a hit. 
       

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      Tuesday, 8 June 2021

      June 8, 1597 - The Life and Death of Harry I

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

      Henslowe writes: 8 | tt at harey the firste liffe & death ... 00 | 12

      In modern English: 8th [June, 1597] ... total at Harry I, Life and Death ... 12 shillings

       
      King Henry I depicted in The Book
      of the Laws of Ancient Kings (1321)
      Today, the Admiral's Men revived their lost history play, The Life and Death of Harry I, which told the story of King Henry I, the twelfth century king of England. You can read more about this play in the entry for 26 May.

      The company has waited more than a week to return Harry I for its third performance. But the play's box office has already sunk to dismal levels. 


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      Monday, 7 June 2021

      7 June, 1597 - A Humorous Day's Mirth

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

      Henslowe writes: 7 | tt at the comodey of vmers... | 03 | 10

      In modern English: 7th [June, 1597] ... total at The Comedy of Humours ... £3 and 10 shillings [i.e. 70 shillings]

      Today, the Admiral's Men revived their 
      A classic image of a
      melancholic, from
      Robert Burton's Anatomy
      of Melancholy (1622)
      Comedy of Humours
      , which is almost certainly another name for George Chapman's A Humorous Day's Mirth. You can read more about this eccentric comedy in the entry for 11 May

      Inconceivable! A Humorous Day's Mirth is still rising in popularity after 6 performances! No play has broken the 70 shilling barrier for a very long time; this is like the good times of 1592! 



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      Sunday, 6 June 2021

      6 June, 1597 - That Will Be Shall Be

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

      Henslowe writes:  6 |  tt at what wilbe shalbe ... | 00 | 10
      In modern English: 6th [June, 1597]  ... total at What Will Be Shall Be ... 10 shillings 

      Today, the Admiral's Men staged That Will Be Shall Be, an enigmatic lost play about which you can read more in the entry for 30 December, 1596.

      The company is continuing with its routine of performing That Will Be Shall Be only about once a month. The box office has declined further. 


      A female archer tries to take down a war elephant. The man on the
      right appears to share the sentiments of this play's title.
      From the Smithfield Decretals (c.1340)




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      Friday, 4 June 2021

      4 June, 1597 - A Humorous Day's Mirth

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

      Henslowe writes: 4 | tt at the comodey of vmers... 03 | 06

      In modern English: 4th [June, 1597] ... total at The Comedy of Humours ... £3 and 6 shillings [i.e. 66 shillings]

      Today, the Admiral's Men revived their 
      A classic image of a
      melancholic, from
      Robert Burton's Anatomy
      of Melancholy (1622)
      Comedy of Humours
      , which is almost certainly another name for George Chapman's A Humorous Day's Mirth. You can read more about this eccentric comedy in the entry for 11 May

      A Humorous Day's Mirth is unstoppable! Against all precedent, the box office continues to rise and rise, for the fifth show in a row. The Rose is packed again, and Henslowe must be wondering whether to chuck out all the other plays and just stage this one every day.  


      What's next?


      There will be no blog entry tomorrow because 5 June was a Sunday in 1597 and the players did not perform. Henslowe's Diary ... as a Blog! will thus return on the 6th - see you then!


      Henslowe links



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      Thursday, 3 June 2021

      3 June, 1597 - Frederick and Basilea

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

      Henslowe writes: 3 | ne | tt at frederycke & basellia ... | 02 | 02

      In modern English: 3rd [June, 1597] ... new ... total at Frederick and Basilea ... £2 and 2 shillings [i.e. 42 shillings]


      Today, the Admiral's Men performed a new play! Frederick and Basilea is another lost play ... except not quite.

      The title of Frederick and Basilea tells us nothing about the play, because there is no known story with characters of those names. But one element of the play survives in the form of a theatrical document known as a 'plot': that is, a list of entrances. The 'plot' doesn't tell us a great deal about the play itself, but it does tell us something about the inner workings of the Rose playhouse.

      Only a few of the mysterious documents known as 'plots' survive, but it seems likely that every play performed in an English Renaissance playhouse would have had one created for use during performance. You can look at a facsimile of the 'plot' here. It is essentially a list of every entrance made by the characters during the play. Here is a short section of it, very heavily modernized and reformatted for readability:

      Enter Frederick, Basilea (Richard Allen, Dick). To them, King (Mr Juby). To them, Messenger (Black Dick). To them, Sebastian, Heraclius, Theodore, Pedro, Philippo, Andreo, Thamar (Mr Allen, Sam, Mr Martyn, Leadbetter, Dutton, Pigg). To them, Leonora (Pigg). 

      Enter Frederick, Basilea (Richard Allen, Dick). To them Philippo (Dutton). To her, King, Frederick (Mr Juby, Richard Allen). 

      Enter Myrton-Hamec, Sebastian, Pedro, Lords (Thomas Towne, Mr Alleyn, Ledbetter), Attendants. 

      Enter King, Theodore, Frederick (Mr Juby, Mr Martyn, Richard Allen). To them, Philippo, Basilea (Edward Dutton, his boy), Guard (Thomas Hunt, gatherers). To them, Messenger (Black Dick). To them, Sebastian, Myron-Hamec, Leonora, Pedro, Andreo (Mr Alleyn, Thomas Towne, Will, Ledbetter, Pigg), Guard (gatherers). 
      And so on.  What is the purpose of such a document? In Documents of Performance in Early Modern England, Tiffany Stern reconstructs how performances were facilitated by 'plots'. Each actor memorized his 'part', that is, his characters lines and their cues which needed to be memorized. There was a prompter standing close to the doors, following the script, ready to help out anyone who dropped a line. And the 'plot' was there to help actors remember which scenes they were in and when they needed to get ready. Each of the surviving 'plots' has a hole in the top indicating that it was hung up on a hook backstage during performances. 

      Detail from The Reception of the Ambassadors
      in Damascus (anonymous, 1511)
      Unfortunately, the 'plot' tells us little about the story. All we can say is that there were Europeans and Moors in it, some of royal status. A character called Theodore acts as some kind of emissary between Leonora and the Moors. Nothing else is clear.

      But the 'plot' does give us a glimpse of the actors who performed the plays in Henslowe's Diary. 'Mr Alleyn' is Edward Alleyn, the leading actor of the company; he is playing a character called Sebastian. Richard Allen was no relation. 'Mr Martyn' may be Martin Slater, of whom we will hear more in a few weeks: remember his name! Edward Juby was an important figure in the company and is mentioned in many Henslowe documents. 'Sam' is Samuel Rowley, a playwright as well as an actor. Various boys  play the female roles, including Dick and 'Pigg' (John Pigge). And there are adult actors who aren't dignified with first names and may have been 'hired men' (who were not sharers in the company's profits): Leadbetter, Dutton, and 'Black Dick', who may have been the young Richard Perkins, who went on to be a popular leading actor. 

      This play stretched the company's limitations. There is a lot of doubling, with several actors playing multiples characters. And the 'plot' also reveals what the company did when a play required a lot of non-speaking characters onstage: they dragged on the 'gatherers', that is, the people responsible for collecting the money.

      So, although its 'plot' teaches us very little about the play of Frederick and Basilea, we do learn a lot about the backstage personalities and activities in the Rose. Meanwhile, in the counting room, Henslowe can see that today was not a very successful premiere, with the playhouse just over half full. 
       

      FURTHER READING


      Frederick and Basilea information



      • Carol Chillington Rutter, Documents of the Rose Playhouse (Manchester University Press, 1984), 111-13.
      • David Mateer, "Edward Alleyn, Richard Perkins and the Rivalry Between the Swan and the Rose playhouses". Review of English Studies 243 (2009): 61-77.
      • Martin Wiggins, British Drama, 1533-1642: A Catalogue, vol. 3 (Oxford University Press, 2013), entry 1078.
      • David McInnis, "Frederick and Basilea", Lost Plays Database (2015), accessed June 2021.

      Information on 'plots'

      • Tiffany Stern, Documents of Performance in Early Modern England (Cambridge University Press, 2009), 201-31


      Henslowe links



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      Wednesday, 2 June 2021

      2 June, 1597 - Uther Pendragon

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

      Henslowe writes: 2 | tt at pendragon ... | 00 | 16

      In modern English: 2nd [June, 1597] ... total at Pendragon ... 16 shillings

      Uther Pendragon and Merlin, from British
      Library manuscript Royal 20 A II
      (early 14th century)
      Today, the Admiral's Men revived Uther Pendragon, their lost play about the father of King Arthur. You can read more about this play in the entry for 29 April.

      After the tremendous success of the Whit Monday performance, the company has waited two and a half weeks to return to Uther Pendragon. Unfortunately, the holiday boost has now gone, and the play has returned to its usual disappointing box office. 

      Henslowe links


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      Tuesday, 1 June 2021

      Replacement of email subscription system

      Dear readers, a quick spot of housekeeping. Some of you read this blog via email subscription. Unfortunately, the system I was using to do this, Feedburner, is discontinuing the service in July. I have therefore replaced it with a system called 'Follow.It'. I believe I have automatically transferred all subscribers into the new system, but if you get a request from Follow.It to confirm your subscription, that's what's going on. 

      If you would like to receive new posts via email, just enter your address into the black-and-white box on the right (scroll down if you can't see it). 

      Please post a comment below if you encounter any problems with the new system. 

      1 June, 1597 - A French Comedy

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

      Henslowe writes: June 15 | 97 | 1 | tt at frenshe comodey ...  | 00 | 13

      In modern English: 1st June, 1597 ... total at French Comedy ... 13 shillings

      Antoine Watteau, Actors of the
      Comédie-Française
      (1710s)
      Today, the Admiral's Men performed A French Comedy, a lost play. You can read more about this play in the entry for 18 April.

      The company has waited a week and a half to return A French Comedy to the stage, and the box office remains almost unchanged at a not very impressive level. 



      Henslowe links


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