Sunday, 18 July 2021

18 July, 1597 - The Wise Man of West Chester and a departure

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

Henslowe writes:  

marten slather went for the company of my lord admeralles men the 18 July 1597 

18 | tt at wisman  | 01 | 10 
In modern English:

Martin Slater went for the company of my Lord Admiral's Men, 18 July, 1597 

18th [July, 1597] ... total at Wise Man ... £1 and 10 shillings [i.e. 30 shillings]

A man, who might possibly be
wise, carved on the choir
stalls of Chester Cathedral
Today was an unusual day at the Rose, as we must say goodbye both to a play and to an actor.

On this day, the players performed 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. But this is its final appearance in Henslowe's Diary after an extraordinary journey. With 32 performances in two and a half years, it is now the second most performed play in the Diary, beaten only by The Jew of MaltaThe Wise Man of West Chester will probably return (the Diary will come to an end later this year, but the Rose performances will not), but for us, this is farewell to a lost icon of the stage. 

Curiously, Henslowe also notes that an actor has departed: Martin Slater "went for" the company, meaning that he left. We don't know much about Slater's role in the company up to this point, but he had belonged to it since at least 1594, and is mentioned in the surviving 'plot' of Frederick and Basilea

Slater appears to have taken with him some of the company's playbooks (that is, texts marked up for performance), because next year Henslowe will make notes in the Diary about trying to get them back. These playbooks include some retired plays - parts one and two of Hercules, Phocas, and Pythagoras - but also Alexander and Lodowick, which was on a stage only a few days ago.

It seems that Slater's departure absence is an unexpected problem, as there will soon be a hiatus in the company's output. Watch this space!


Martin Slater information

  • Carol Chillington Rutter, Documents of the Rose Playhouse (Manchester University Press, 1984), 89, 106, 111, 141-3.
  • Andrew Gurr, Shakespeare's Opposites (Cambridge University Press, 2009), 286

Henslowe links


Did I make a mistake? Do you have a question? Have you anything to add? Please post a comment below!

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