The property known as the Rose was situated on the south bank of the Thames in the liberty of the Clink, located to the west of London Bridge in Southwark and to the east of Paris Garden manor. The bridge was the only crossing of the river to link the city of London and lands south and southeast of the river from Roman times until the eighteenth century, so its presence there was key to the development of Southwark as a zone of hospitality for travellers, notably Chaucer's pilgrims to Canterbury. The lordship of the manor was acquired by Henry of Blois, bishop of Winchester, from the priory of St Saviour, Bermondsey, in the twelfth century and the area continued to lie outside the jurisdiction of the London city authorities until the nineteenth century. At the outset the greater part of the bishop's manor comprised marshy fields, meadows, and pastures. At the northeast corner of the estate, the bishop and his successors built a palace to serve as their London area residence: the great hall's west end wall with the stone tracery of its fine rose window remains standing on the south side of modern Clink Street as a silent witness to the former grandeur of the episcopal palace. Development of the rest of the estate for urban uses followed gradually, with smaller houses and inns built first along the riverside by the road that became known as Bankside by the sixteenth century. The brothels or 'stews' of Bankside were a notorious attraction there and remained a feature on Bankside through the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods despite earlier attempts at suppression. Maiden or Maid Lane, running parallel to the river and south of Bankside, was named and known as early as the mid-thirteenth century and may indicate that prostitution was already flourishing by then.
The property called the Rose stretched from Bankside to Maid Lane and was owned by William Spence, a fishmonger of London, in the early years of the sixteenth century. By this time the Little Rose had been segregated from the 'Great Rose,' so its subsequent history evolves under different ownership. However, the deed drawn up for Spence's sale of the Great Rose names a Ralph Symonds as owner of the property just east of the Great Rose. This refers to the smaller section of the Little Rose which fronted on the Thames; the larger section of the property extended from behind the Hartshorn Inn to Maid Lane. An alley that became known as Rose Alley ran between these two sections of the Little Rose property but not all the way to Maid Lane until later in the seventeenth century. Near the northwest edge of the Little Rose boundary lay two properties owned by the bishops of Winchester called the Barge (on the east) and the Bell and Cock (on the west). The Bell and Cock in particular was destined to feature in the history of bearbaiting on Bankside by the mid-sixteenth century.
After Ralph Symonds' death in 1541, his widow, Thomasyn, inherited the Little Rose. By 1552 she determined to make a charitable bequest of the Little Rose property in perpetuity following her death. Income from its rents would contribute to support of the poor from her parish, St Mildred’s Bread Street London, and from Christ's Hospital, as well as needy fishermen in Old Fish Street. The deed, dated 3 December 1552, names as trustees or feoffees two gentlemen from Kent as well as sixteen others, very likely from St Mildred's parish. From Thomasyn's death in 1555 onward, the trust seems to have been managed by representatives from the parish. The description of the estate in the deed indicates that some urban development had occurred: 'all that my mesuage or tenement called the little Roose with two gardeyns to the same adioyning sett lying & being in the parish late called seynt margarettes in Southwark in the County of Surrey & now being the parish of seynt Savyour in Southwarke aforesaid And also all my houses shoppes cellers Sollers Chambers entries gardeyns pondes easiamentes land soile & hereditamentes whatsoeuer with their appurtenances in the parish of seynt Savyour in Southwarke....' The mention of 'pondes' suggests that, like the neighbouring pike gardens to the west, the Little Rose still had some fishponds at the time. The marshy land along Bankside had been used in recent centuries for breeding freshwater fish, especially pike, in ponds maintained by London fishmongers like Ralph Symonds.
On 20 November 1574 six of eight named parishioners of St Mildred's Bread Street signed a thirty-one year lease for the Little Rose 'messuage or Tenement' with William Griffen , a vintner of London. An annual rent of £7 would be due in quarterly instalments, with Griffen (or his sub-tenants) responsible for repairs and maintenance of the property. Five years later, on 11 December 1579, Griffen assigned the lease to a fellow London vintner, Robert Withens, for a total of £105, transferring the right to collect rents from the sub-tenants for the remaining twenty-six years of the property lease.
By this time there were several pictorial representations of Bankside and its terrain. The earliest plan of Southwark, drawn in c 1542, focused on the Borough High Street rather than the area running west from London Bridge. However, there is a view of the south bank of the Thames from the city of London's perspective in a mid-eighteenth century copy made of a mural, subsequently lost, of the 1547 coronation progress of Edward VI through the city. Looking across the river, the church of St Saviour can be seen to the right of the bridge and then a shallow line of small houses along Bankside, with a dense avenue of trees and the foothills of the North Downs beyond.
Early modern mapping of London was sporadic, mostly derivative, and pictorial – not true cartography until 1676. One of the most often used views is the so-called Agas woodcut map published in 1633 but really based on a finer copperplate map produced c 1560, of which only three sections remain extant for comparison. Sadly, none show Southwark. The Agas version of the south bank to the east of Lambeth Marsh depicts the string of houses along the edge of the river, labelled ‘The Banck,’ with gardens stretching behind.
1633, Traditionally attributed to Ralph Agas, based on a c 1560 original copperplate view of London (most sections now lost). COLLAGE image database, http://collage.cityoflondon.gov.uk. By kind permission of London Metropolitan Archives, City of London.
Just a sampling of the more extensive fish ponds, or 'pike gardens,' south of the bank is represented and there are no theatres in view, a sure clue that the Agas map was based on an earlier, pre-1576 version of London. By the mid-sixteenth century, however, there is documentary evidence to support the existence of bearbaiting arenas in Southwark and these are suggested in the two circular arenas just south of the bank, one titled 'The bolle bayting' and the other, to the east, 'The Bearebayting.' We should assume considerable artistic licence here. The precise locations of the arenas remain in question, but the views available suggest that when Withens took over the lease, the Little Rose estate consisted of very few buildings along the river with two as yet undeveloped 'gardens' stretching behind.
Just over six years later Robert Withens sold the remainder of the Little Rose lease to Philip Henslowe, by then a resident of Bankside. The terms of the lease, signed by both parties on 24 March 1584/5, retained the annual rental rate of £7, with no indication of the sale price.
The next document of interest relating to the Little Rose has deeper significance for the history of London theatre. On 10 January 1586/7 Henslowe signed a deed of partnership with a London grocer, John Cholmley. Their joint venture was, in fact, the first playhouse to be built in Southwark, on the Little Rose property recently leased by Henslowe. The basic dimensions of the property are described as approximately ninety-four feet square. By the time the deed was being drawn up, the playhouse was 'now in framinge and shortly to be ereckted.' It seems likely that Henslowe, an entrepreneur just beginning to make his mark in Southwark, conceived of the plan and made a start to raise a playhouse, with the help of John Griggs the carpenter, in an area more readily accessible to London audiences than the earlier playhouse at Newington, about a mile from the river, south of Southwark. However, there was a small house or tenement at the southwest end of the property by Maid Lane that already had a tenant, whether resident or not. Although the terms of the sub-lease for this tenement have not been discovered, the deed of partnership makes clear that John Cholmley was the tenant and therefore an agreement of some sort with him would probably have been required in order to build the playhouse adjacent on the garden plot.
The partnership agreed to between Henslowe and his tenant Cholmley was potentially profitable for both. As Bowsher and Cerasano summarize the terms, 'Cholmley was to pay Henslowe £816 in instalments over the course of eight and a quarter years but not starting until 25 June [sic, for 24 June], the feast day of St John the Baptist. This clearly shows that Henslowe had enough ready money to finance the bulk of construction costs himself. In return, Cholmley would receive a half-share in the profits of the plays, and have exclusive right to the catering and victualling of the enterprise run from his house. Moreover, both men would be allowed to admit their friends to performances without charging admission fees. Henslowe would finance the construction of the playhouse and pay all rents as of 29 September 1587, suggesting that this was the target date for the Rose’s opening. According to the deed, although Cholmley and Henslowe would share maintenance expenses of the playhouse thereafter, and throughout the period covered by the agreement, Henslowe appears to have financed all of the major expenses before the playhouse was operable.'
The partnership would expire on Lady Day, 25 March 1595, but after the agreement early in 1587 Cholmley virtually disappears from the record. The only other mentions of Cholmley amongst the Henslowe-Alleyn papers after 1587 are a couple of scribbles, perhaps pen trials, on folio 1 of Henslowe’s diary. William Ingram has persuasively identified this shadowy character as John Cholmley, originally from Bletchingley, Surrey, where he began his career as a tanner, following his father's trade, before achieving the freedom of the city as a member of the Grocers' company. This Cholmley died a mere two years into the contract, in April 1589, so Henslowe would have assumed the profits from the joint enterprise thenceforth, according to the terms of the partnership agreement.
John Norden’s map of 1593 is the first to show the Rose playhouse, labelled 'The play howse,' and Cholmley's small victualling house in the southwest corner of the Little Rose site.
John Norden (1548–1625?). Speculum Britanniae (London, 1593), plate facing leaf E2 verso: map of London. Call #: STC 18635. Used by permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Norden also depicts the sewer lines along the edges of the property, for which the owners were responsible, including any cleaning to enable the flow of water and regular repairs to the access bridges across the sewers. The marshy land along the river had required such drainage ditches since the thirteenth century at least and their maintenance was a particular concern of the commissioners appointed to ensure that owners carried out their responsibilities or paid fines until they did so. Henslowe's name begins to appear (initially as 'ffinchley,' mistaken for Hinchley) in the court minutes of the Commissioners of Sewers for Surrey and Kent in April 1588 and continues, not always as a co-operative owner, until 1605 when his lease on the Little Rose ran out.
Henslowe would continue to pay his annual rent of £7 to the feoffees of the Thomasyn Symonds trust until the end of the thirty-one-year term. His playhouse had flourished for more than a decade but by 1600 the resident Lord Admiral's Men would relocate to the new Fortune playhouse built by Henslowe with his partner and son-in-law Edward Alleyn north of the city wall in Finsbury. Further, both men desired royal appointment as Masters of the Bears, Bulls, and Mastiff Dogs to complement the acquisition of the Bear Garden at the nearby Bell and Cock site in 1594. The following note in Henslowe's diary jotted down in 1603 forecasts the end of the Rose playhouse:
'Memorandom that the 25 of Iune 1603 I talked with mr Pope at the scryveners
shope wher he lisse consernynge the
tackynge of the leace a new of the Littell Roosse & he showed me a wrytynge
betwext the pareshe & hime seallfe which was to paye twenty pownd a yeare
Rent & to bestowe a hunderd marckes vpon billdinge which I sayd I wold
Rather pulledowne the playehowse then I wold do so & <.> he beade me do & sayd he gaue me leaue & wold
beare me owt for yt wasse <.> in
hime to do yt.'
The lease of the Little Rose was soon to come due for renewal in 1605 but the new terms increasing the annual rent to £20 with a further 100 marks (equivalent to almost £66) required for building repairs were obviously unappealing. It seems most likely that Henslowe followed through on his threat to abandon the playhouse. Closure of the theatres during the plague year of 1603 and subsequently for periods during 1604 and 1605 may have further contributed to his decision. The court minutes taken for the Commissioners of Sewers in 1605 witness to his steadfast refusal to pay for repairs and removal of two posts standing in the sewer under his bridge by the playhouse. On 14 December 1604 he had claimed that he 'hath not any lands against the sewar in Roase aley' – not true at the time of course, but within the year, on 29 September 1605, his lease of the Little Rose estate expired. The next entry relating to the Rose in the Commissioners of the Sewers' minutes, on 30 January 1605/6, names 'Box of Bredstreete in London,' perhaps one of the feoffees of the Thomasyn Symonds Charity, St Mildred's Bread Street, as the person responsible for related property maintenance costs. By 25 April Edward Box appears again in the sewer records but this time the reference is to 'the Late Playhouse in Maidelane called the Rose.' The ‘Late Playhouse’ may or may not have been demolished by this time but late twentieth-century archaeological evidence suggests that demolition had likely happened by 1606.
With the demolition or dismantling of the Rose playhouse, the later history of the Little Rose estate merges with the gradual development of Bankside as an industrial area. However, a lease signed in 1650 between the feoffees of the Thomasyn Symonds Charity and John Wallington, turner of London, provides more details of the measurements of the property than previously given: see the full text in Appendix 2. A century later in 1754, a plan attached to a property indenture 'provides the first known detailed and measured survey of the Little Rose Estate' showing it as '115'0" wide at its southern end, 92'6" wide midway along its length and 97' wide at its northern end.'
Philip Henslowe, who purchased the lease of the Little Rose property from Robert Withens in 1584/5, was one of the more remarkable individuals active in the entertainment business during the Elizabethan and early Jacobean era. Despite his innovative role in developing not only the Rose, but also the later Fortune playhouse in Finsbury north of the river and the Hope on Bankside, his reputation suffered many slights and misrepresentations from Victorian and twentieth-century commentators. A recent and influential example refers to him as ‘an unscrupulous mismanager’; a much older one depicts him as ‘an illiterate moneyed man … who regarded art as a subject for exploitation.' Fortunately it is no longer necessary to rehabilitate Henslowe's character and substantial contribution to the business of playing in early modern London. R.A. Foakes, in the most recent edition of Henslowe's Diary, shed a clarifying light on Henslowe's character as revealed in that most famous record of his numerous and varied activities. Susan Cerasano has continued the process of redemption, issuing a number of important essays on various aspects of his career.
What has been best known about Henslowe is thanks to the remarkable survival of the commonly termed 'diary' – really a memorandum book in which he made rough jottings about the theatre business (mainly 1591/2–1604), including playhouse repairs, income from play performances, loans to actors and playwrights; his pawn business (1593–6); and other miscellaneous entries relating, for example, to property purchases in Sussex, home remedies, and aphorisms. But Henslowe’s name surfaces in many other kinds of documents from the period – personal letters, property leases, court cases, contracts, royal appointments, even parish vestry minute books – because he became notably active in parish affairs at the church of St Saviour, now Southwark Cathedral, by 1608.
The treasure trove of personal papers belonging to Edward Alleyn, actor and founder of Dulwich College, includes important documents relating to Henslowe, his father-in-law, that remain preserved in the college archives. Many of these have been professionally photographed and made available through Grace Ioppolo's open access Henslowe-Alleyn Digitisation Project website, to which this collection is much indebted and linked wherever relevant. The evolution of Henslowe as an entrepreneur – really the dominant entrepreneur – in the development of substantial landholdings along the south bank of the Thames can therefore be traced through the archives at Dulwich College and The National Archives in Kew. There, many court records of the Chancery and Exchequer reveal more about his lucrative Bankside estates, which became the focus of lengthy acrimonious disputes following his death in 1616.
Philip Henslowe came from a prosperous gentry family with some social status in the county of Sussex. He was the fourth of seven children born to Edmond Henslowe (or Hensley) and Margaret Ridge, who resided near Lindfield, Sussex. His father held a royal appointment as master of the game in neighbouring Ashdown Forest and Broil Park, so from the start, Philip had solid local foundations and a family court connection to build upon. Henslowe's exact birth date has not yet been confirmed but has been tentatively placed c 1555. He seems likely to have moved to the London area in the 1570s, where he surfaces as an apprentice to Harry Woodward, a member of the Dyers' Company. It is possible that this was the Henry Woodward recorded in 1572 as resident of the Clink in the St Saviour's Token Books but where Henslowe lived in the 1570s remains unconfirmed. Certainly Harry Woodward's burial was entered in St Saviour's parish register on 8 December 1578, and not long after, his widow 'Annys Woodward' married Henslowe on 14 February 1578/9. Agnes' two daughters, Joan and Elizabeth, thereby became Henslowe's step-daughters but the couple did not have any children of their own. Joan's eventual marriage to Edward Alleyn, the star of the lord admiral's men, in 1592 would bring a deep and lasting personal and professional relationship for both men that would impact the Elizabethan theatre industry profoundly.
Although Henslowe retained his identity as a member of the Dyers’ Company, his business interests ranged much more widely than the textile industry. Records are scanty for his activities until he commenced his acquisition of property on Bankside with the purchase of the lease for the Little Rose in 1584/5. From that purchase onward, Henslowe's strategic path to success in business, property development, and court appointments, as well as his rising social status in the parish of St Saviour's Southwark, is fascinating to trace.
The purchase of the Little Rose lease was surely not a random choice. As the map of Southwark shows at a glance, the Little Rose property, adjacent on its west side to the Great Rose, was also only a few steps from the Bear Garden flourishing then at the Bell and Cock site, a little further west of the Great Rose. Documentary evidence from the mid-sixteenth century confirms that bearbaiting was likely the earliest form of popular entertainment on Bankside, apart from the notorious brothels that had lined the south bank of the river since at least the fourteenth century. In fact, a seventy-seven-year-old witness named John Taylor in a 1620 court case recalled that there had been four bearbaiting arenas at various locations in Southwark over the course of decades.
Some may have railed against bearbaitings at the time but, in the early 1580s, that was the main game on the south bank and likely a lucrative one too. Much of the audience may have come across the river by ferry or on foot but there was also a long string of inns along the high street of Southwark leading to London Bridge, including the famous Tabard where Chaucer’s pilgrims gathered before their trek to Canterbury. When Henslowe arrived, the area was therefore already established for rough sports with audience appeal, but there was no playhouse yet. The only playhouse south of the river was much further south, at Newington Butts, by then no longer under the management of the actor Jerome Savage, and less conveniently located. The Theatre and the Curtain were the only other playhouses open at this time but they were across the river, north of the city walls. Did Henslowe, a man with enterpreneurial instincts and considerable ambition, see an opportunity to expand the entertainment options on Bankside by building the first Southwark playhouse on the Little Rose site? The evidence suggests that he did.
When Henslowe purchased the lease of the Little Rose, there no longer seems doubt that he had money of his own to invest but his marriage to Harry Woodward's widow must have consolidated his financial position further. Judging by the terms of the lease, there were already houses and shops on the property, so he could count on steady income from rentals for at least twenty more years, when the lease had to be renewed. But he may have had more on his mind than rental income.
Within a short space of time, he must have hired the carpenter, John Griggs, to begin building a playhouse: by January 1586/7, less than two years after the lease was signed, the deed of partnership with John Cholmley mentions the 'playe howse now in framinge.' The partnership deed itself secured the details of Cholmley's involvement in running concessions for the Rose while also avoiding conflict over the location of the playhouse near the small house at the Little Rose, for which he probably held an ongoing sub-lease. It is evident, however, that it was Henslowe's initial investment that launched the development of the Rose.
The exact opening date of the Rose is not recorded but it is generally agreed to have been in operation by October 1587, when some of the local residents had apparently complained of the new arrival on the Bankside scene. A letter from the privy council to the Surrey justices of the peace on 29 October 1587 outlines the protest as follows:
'thinhabitaunts of Southwa<..> had complained vnto their Lordshipes declaring that thorder by their Lordshipes sett downe for the restrayning of plaies and enterludes within that Countie on the Saboath daies is not obserued, and especiallie within the libertie of the Clincke and in the parish of St Sauours in Southwarke.' There can be no doubt that the plays were performed at the Rose, the only playhouse located in the Clink at that time. In fact, more than a decade would elapse before the Globe opened there on the south side of Maid Lane.
With the opening of the Rose in 1587, Henslowe launched his role as a playhouse landlord in earnest. Sometime between 1587 and 1590 he attracted an acting troupe of notable talent to make the Rose their preferred base of operations. We can now say with some confidence that this company, Lord Strange’s men, did not aim to pursue the provincial touring habits of their predecessors. Presumably they recognized the potential of the burgeoning entertainment market of London, even as Henslowe did, so finding a stable base for performance at the Rose would have been appealing.
Sometime during this same period Henslowe began expanding his network in various directions. By c 1590, he had gained his first appointment at court. The watermen's petition to the lord admiral is the first surviving record to refer to Henslowe as 'one of the groomes of her maiesties Chamber'. Around this time he also met and established an increasingly close relationship with Edward Alleyn, the leading actor of the lord admiral's men. The precise date when Alleyn left that company to combine forces with Strange's men has not been established but sometime in the 1590–1 period is very plausible. The touring licence during the plague year issued to Strange's men by the privy council on 6 May 1593 includes Alleyn, still named as 'seruaunt to the right honorable the Lord highe Admiral,' but it also refers to the troupe as 'al one companie seruantes to our verie good the Lord the Lord [sic] Strainge.' Apparently Alleyn retained his individual affiliation with his influential patron, the lord admiral, but at some point moved to join Strange's men at the Rose. In October 1592 he married Henslowe's step-daughter, Joan, so the personal bonds were strong from at least that year forward if not before.
An intriguing confusion in court records of payment for performances during the 1590/1 Christmas and Shrovetide seasons may be evidence of an even earlier association of Alleyn with Henslowe and Strange's men. The treasurer of the chamber accounts record payment on 7 March 1590/1 to the actor George Attwell, on behalf of Strange's men, for two performances by his company on 27 December 1590 and 16 February 1590/1. Yet puzzlingly, the privy council, on a separate occasion on 5 March 1590/1, authorized warrants for payment instead to lord admiral's men for the performances on those same dates. Which record is correct? In his article 'The Chimera of Amalgamation,' Andrew Gurr has suggested that this was not an instance of a fleeting amalgamation of the two companies. Rather, because Charles Howard, the lord admiral, was present at the 5 March privy council meeting, the official record made at the time acknowledged Alleyn's primary affiliation, in deference, though he was performing on both occasions with Strange's men. In any case, Alleyn was to become Henslowe's key professional partner in several entertainment ventures and they were to prosper together for many years on Bankside and beyond.
The history of the Rose playhouse itself has been outlined in the previous section of this introduction. Following his older brother John's death in 1591, Henslowe inherited the memorandum book in which John had earlier recorded some of his Sussex mining accounts (1576–81). By 19 February 1591/2, he began to add notes of his own so a more detailed picture of theatrical performances and further renovations of the playhouse emerges, thanks to its survival – unique for the era. But Henslowe did not rest with managing this innovative venture. Rather, he moved ahead with what looks like a strategic plan to acquire more lands on Bankside as well as the monopoly on the lucrative bearbaiting enterprise. In December 1594 Edward Alleyn bought the lease of the Bear Garden properties at the Bell and Cock from Thomas Burnaby – that purchase included an arena, bear house, bull house, cottage, stable, and hayloft. He also was licensed as a deputy by Ralph Bowes, then the court-appointed master of the bears, bulls, and mastiff dogs, to hold games on the site, with obvious profits to be made from paying customers. Half the interest in this bearbaiting enterprise and property he then shared with Henslowe. In 1596 Henslowe added to his growing land holdings by acquiring the sub-lease, ultimately from the Crown, for substantially more of Bankside – the Unicorn, the Great Rose, and the Queen’s Pike Garden.
With the consolidation of property along Bankside, Henslowe and Alleyn began developing a joint venture for acquiring monopoly of the bearbaiting games there, including the court appointment as master of the bears, bulls, and mastiff dogs. The master had a number of privileges beyond the lustre of the court appointment. There was a reward each time a baiting was held at one of the royal palaces such as Whitehall – and the queen, nobility, and foreign visitors did delight in this type of entertainment. The master also had sole right to license the many touring bearwards on the provincial circuits, while also receiving a percentage of their profits. And then there were the profits from the Bear Garden itself, as well as from the breeding and sale of mastiffs. There were expenses too, of course, but there is no doubt that Henslowe and Alleyn were aiming for the appointment soon after the acquisition of the Bear Garden lease at the Bell and Cock. Letters indicating that they held this ambition survive from 1598, the year when the master, Ralph Bowes, sickened and died. On 4 June, Henslowe wrote to Alleyn as follows:
'...mr Bowes liesse very sycke & every bodey thinckes he will not escape in so mvche that I feare I shall losse alle for docter seasser hath done nothinge for me & as for ower other matter betwext vs I haue bene with my lord admeralle a bowte yt & he promyssed me that he wold move the quene abowte yt & the next daye he Rides frome the corte to winser so that ther is nothinge ther to be hade but good wordes which trvbelles my mynd very mvche for my losse you knowe is very mvche to me I did move my ladey edmones in yt & she very onerabley vssed me for she weant presentley & moved the quene for me & mr darsey of the previ chamber crossed her & made yt knowne to her that the quene had geven yt all Readey in Reversyon to one mr dorington a pensenor & I haue talked with hime & he confesseth yt to be trew but as yet mr bowes lyveth & what paynes & travell I haue tacken in yt mr langworth shall mack yt knowne vnto you for I haue had his heallp in yt for so mvche as In hime lyesse for we haue moved other great parsonages for yt but as yeat I knowe not howe yt shall pleasse ‸⸢god⸣ we shall spead for I ame sure my lord admerall will do nothinge....'
Very disappointingly, as Henslowe had suspected, John Dorrington, the gentleman pensioner of Nottinghamshire referred to above, was indeed appointed master of the bears, bulls, and mastiff dogs in August following Bowes' death. The friendly assistance of their mutual friend, Arthur Langworth of The Brill, Ringmere, in Sussex, had been to no avail, nor had other lobbying efforts at court revealed in the letter.
The mention in the letter of 'ower other matter betwext vs' is intriguing. By 1598 Alleyn had taken his leave of the stage and would not return until the opening of a new playhouse in 1600 to be occupied by the lord admiral's men – the Fortune, located on Whitecross Street in the parish of St Giles without Cripplegate just north of the city walls. Both Victor Landro and Susan Cerasano have persuasively argued that this move was at the planning stage for the two partners during Alleyn's brief retirement and predated Alleyn's acquisition of the lease for the site in December 1599. Furthermore, this alternative timeline challenges a traditional narrative that the lord admiral's men were forced to abandon the Rose because of competition from the Globe after the lord chamberlain's men moved from the Theatre north of the river to a new site south of Maid Lane on Bankside in 1599. Landro makes the telling point that the shifting demographic and a burgeoning new audience in the northern suburbs would not have escaped the notice of Henslowe and Alleyn, even as they expanded their business interests in the Bear Garden. Finding a suitable property, securing funding, and negotiating a lease would have taken considerable time and would not likely have been deferred until 1599 by two partners as strategic in their thinking as Henslowe and Alleyn. When the neighbours were roused to protest construction of the new playhouse to the privy council early in 1600, Alleyn was well-positioned to appeal for support to his powerful patron, the lord admiral, and the queen, an appreciative member of the audience at his court performances in times past. Subsequent organization of support for the playhouse at the community level, with the promise of generous tithes for the local poor, won the day. Alleyn took the lead in negotiations, but Henslowe supervised the construction process and assumed partnership of the Fortune in 1600, with 'a half-share of the playhouse and its profits for a term of twenty-four years at an annual rent of £8.' The Fortune opened with the lord admiral's men in residence in the late autumn 1600. The last record in the diary to the company at the Rose was 13 July 1600.
Back on Bankside, the determined patience of the partners was rewarded in 1604 when Dorrington died. They moved quickly to purchase the patent for the mastership of the bears, bulls, and mastiff dogs from Sir William Stewart, a Scottish friend of James I who was first recipient of the royal appointment. £450 was the charge for the privilege, a hefty sum that Henslowe and Alleyn were nonetheless able to muster for this long-desired and prestigious position. Within two years they began renovations at the Bear Garden where a more substantial welcoming gatehouse named the Dancing Bears was built on the Bell and Cock site.
Henslowe's decision to abandon renewal of the lease for the Rose in 1605 may have been the result of several factors, not only the proposed increase in cost of the lease. Since 1600 there had not been any continuity in companies resident at the aging playhouse while the lord admiral's men were soon flourishing at the new Fortune. Furthermore, the serious recurrence of plague in 1603 led to lengthy closure of the London area playhouses. Henslowe's Bankside priority in this period may well have been renovation of the Bear Garden although he also continued his acquisition of other properties, picking up the lease of the Great Pike Garden further west along Bankside in 1609. All of his properties had houses and shops that brought regular income to the owner of the lease, so Henslowe was by no means dependent on the quirky and unpredictable fortunes of his first playhouse. Around the same time Alleyn was building his own substantial estate, soon acquiring the manor of Dulwich in the Surrey countryside where he eventually relocated. Perhaps for financial reasons he therefore sold Henslowe his share in the Bear Garden in 1610/11, though he retained the share in the mastership and the Fortune Playhouse operation.
An increase in status at court was not only confirmed by acquisition of the mastership of the bears, bulls, and mastiff dogs, but also by Henslowe's royal appointment in 1603 as a gentleman sewer of the Chamber. In 1606 he was named as a gentleman pensioner and granted a pension from the Crown. As a man of considerable property, he also assumed leadership roles in his home parish of St Saviour's Southwark. The opening of the relationship may not have been promising. The vestry minutes of St Saviour's in 1598 note anxiety about the playhouses located within their parish boundaries: by 1595 Francis Langley's Swan theatre had opened in the manor of Paris Garden just west of Bankside. On 19 July, the following order was recorded: 'Inprimis it was ordered at this vestrye that a peticion shalbe made to the bodye of the Councell concerninge the playehouses in this paryshe wherein the enormyties shalbe shewed that comes therebye to the paryshe And that in respecte thereof they maye be dismissed & putt downe from playeinge....' There had been a previous order in May (renewed twice) that the churchwardens ask the playhouse owners to contribute tithes for the poor, but no evidence survives that they did so. However, as Paul White explains further in his forthcoming essay, 'Philip Henslowe and Edward Alleyn in Parish Politics and Service,' the social capital to be gained from actively participating in the lay leadership of his home parish was not lost on Henslowe. 'One needed to have lived in the parish for at least eight years to be a vestryman, but Henslowe’s name in the Token Books as a communicant in the Spring of 1588, and just about every year thereafter, indicates that he fulfilled that requirement by about 1596 and was a parishioner in good standing. He was certainly wealthy enough and sufficiently well-connected at court in the 1590s to have qualified for the vestry. Moreover, he was a commissioner of the lay subsidy in 1593, 1594, and 1597, a prestigious appointment and reserved usually for vestrymen.' On 8 July 1607 Henslowe was at last appointed to vestry and became a regular attender at the almost monthly meetings despite his many other responsibilities. The following year in 1608 he was chosen churchwarden, a term renewed in 1609. In the latter year he was also appointed as one of the governors of St Saviour's Grammar School. In 1614 and 1615 again he served as churchwarden, the second term ending prematurely with his death in January 1615/16. Alleyn too served the parish in various capacities during the same period.
Following the closure of the Rose in 1605 (if not before), the final phase of Henslowe's career needs only be covered briefly here. Although Alleyn would continue to develop diversified interests elsewhere, Henslowe's focus seems to have been more on Bankside where he lived. By c 1612 he began planning for another playhouse that would combine what had been separate enterprises at the now demolished Rose and the ongoing Bear Garden. In 1613, with another partner, the waterman Jacob Meade who had been working at the Bear Garden since the late '90s, he conceived of a multi-purpose entertainment centre with a removeable stage, that could mount weekly plays, animal baitings (at least bi-weekly), and other types of amusement such as ‘flytings,’ in which contestants hurled scurrilous verse at each other. Some helpfully detailed contracts for the demolition of the old Bear Garden arena and construction of the Hope have survived to show us that Henslowe had in mind a playhouse to rival in size and beauty, not the Globe, but rather the Swan, which seems to have ceased long since as a competitive operation. One of the royal acting troupes, the Lady Elizabeth’s men, became the resident company in 1614, opening with Ben Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair in their first season. A well-known quotation from the induction of that play sheds some light on why the playing troupes moved to less odorous quarters by the end of this decade:
‘The play shall presently begin. And though the Fair be not kept in the same region that some here perhaps would have it, yet think that therein the author hath observed a speciall decorum, the place being as dirty as Smithfield, and as stinking euery whit.’
Bernard Beckerman first analyzed the gradual evolution of Henslowe's role in theatrical production in The Theatrical Manager in England and America still holds some currency. His final assessment can be quoted: 'Historically Henslowe represented the manager of the future at an early stage of development. Yet his ability to function as a manager or producer was blocked by the structure of the acting company. In fact, the two could not co-exist. Shared responsibility among working actors not only followed different procedures of decision-making but had no room for managerial guidance. The company needed financing but not control and, in fact, resisted control by a single individual.' Beckerman suggested that four periods can be identified in the growth of Henslowe's role as a proto-theatre manager.
In the first phase at the Rose (up to 1596–7), Henslowe was acting primarily as a landlord, with less direct involvement in the company's operations. The second, 'late Rose-early Fortune,' period, ran from mid-1596 to early 1604, a time when playing companies were challenged by increasing efforts by the authorities in London and on the privy council to control the number of playhouses and their operation, while they also faced more competition and plague closures. Henslowe seems to have attempted greater involvement as banker with lord admiral's men during this period, offering loans to the company during seasons of declining performance income at the Rose or at court (for example, 1596–7, when they were not invited). Carson's review of evidence in the diary for these years notes an extension of involvement in company affairs: 'Beginning in the Spring-Summer season of 1598, Henslowe seems to have provided most of the money spent on playbooks, costumes, and properties by Admiral's Men.' For the first time, he is also on record posting bonds for two actors who had defected to join Pembroke's men in 1597 at the rival Swan playhouse, as well as for two others seeking to join lord admiral's men at the Rose after the controversial performance of Jonson and Nashe's Isle of Dogs play in July 1597. If, as may be the case, Langley had initiated the idea of requiring actors to sign bonds with him before playing at the Swan, Henslowe was to follow his example in adopting this deeper involvement in the affairs of the lord admiral's men. Entries in the diary show that he required the disaffected actors recruited from Pembroke's men, as well as others, totalling ten altogether, to guarantee that they would play only at the Rose for stated terms ranging from one to three years. As this new approach was happening in 1597, Alleyn retired from the stage, leaving Henslowe to manage relations with the company more directly. However, despite their apparent dependency on periodic financial loans, the evidence suggests that he was unable to assert substantial control of the management of the lord admiral's men who repaid their debts whenever they could. 'It would appear that the landlord was satisfied to lend money to the players in order to keep them at his theatre, where he earned a more than satisfactory income from rent.' In other words, the gain was stability for the playhouse operation rather than control of the company's productions while in residence there.
The third period highlights Henslowe's management of the Bear Garden, in partnership with Alleyn until 1610. The fourth and final phase Beckerman termed the 'Hope period,' beginning in 1611 when the new company of Lady Elizabeth's men first signed articles of agreement with Henslowe. Almost two decades after the opening of the Rose, Henslowe's management style had evolved so that he was more forceful in his dealings with Lady Elizabeth's men. When he and Jacob Meade launched work on the Hope playhouse on Bankside in 1613, they were making plans for Lady Elizabeth's men to be resident. Articles of Agreement drawn up with the actor Nathan Field representing the company around the same time illustrate Henslowe's increasing responsibilities for providing the playhouse, costumes and props, influencing membership, arbitrating in cases of dispute and, ultimately, choice of plays commissioned. Articles of Grievance and Oppression drawn up by the company by 1615 survive in the Henslowe-Alleyn archive to illustrate that relations between Henslowe and the players may have become frayed as a result.
When Henslowe died on 6 January 1615/16, he was a man of wealth and property, drawing income from numerous rentals, various court appointments, and successful business ventures that centred on entertainment, primarily on Bankside. He appears to have kept his investments and partnerships under effective control during his lifetime, but once dead, the rights to his estate became subject to bitter conflict and interminable court cases that will be included in the forthecoming REED edition for the Bear Garden/Hope records. Was Henslowe really worth the £10,000 to £12,000 that his avaricious nephew claimed and clearly wanted a slice of? Poor Agnes, who inherited the bulk of the estate, was described in a dispute over the will, as ‘aged almost 100 yeares and grown Childishe and very simple.’ Edward Alleyn was accused of ‘most cunninglie’ insinuating himself into the process of drawing up a version of the will during Henslowe’s final hours. For quite a few years a formerly functional family and partnerships fell into disarray but it is worth noting that Alleyn, also a man of influence and strategy, was well-placed as son-in-law to Agnes Henslowe to inherit much of the estate left to her by her husband.
The Rose holds a unique place in the history of Elizabethan theatre. It was the first of several playhouses built on Bankside. It is the only one to have a contemporary record of the repertory of plays performed there as well as the owner’s share of the gate, thanks to Henslowe's diary. And it was the first theatre site to be discovered and partially excavated in the late twentieth century.
Admittedly, the diary does not have a complete and readily understood accounting of the full run of plays performed and profits taken throughout the almost twenty years of theatrical activity at the Rose. Henslowe's earliest entries indicate his possible acquisition of the manuscript after his brother John's death in 1591 so details are lacking for the period before 19 February 1591/2. There is no reason to assume that Henslowe did not keep a record, however informal, of his playhouse business between the opening of the Rose in 1587 and February 1591/2, but that record has not survived so we must piece together from various sources what evidence is available centuries later.
Unlike the Fortune and the Hope, no building contract for the Rose is preserved amongst the Henslowe-Alleyn papers at Dulwich College. The construction process and costs are therefore lost to us but between December 1988 and May/June 1989, the exciting discovery of the foundations of the Rose revealed unexpected details about the architectural design and stage of the first playhouse erected on the site 400 years earlier. The story of this discovery has been documented fully by others, notably the archaeologists involved: Blatherwick and Pickard, 'Little Rose Estate,' parts 1 and 2; and more fully, Bowsher and Miller, Rose and the Globe. Most recently, the open access website, Reconstructing the Rose, has made available a remarkable 3D computer modelling of the Rose based on a comprehensive review of the archaeological and historical evidence as well as previous scholarly analysis and debate. The scope of this innovative digital project, which is intended to complement further initiatives by the Rose Theatre Trust to complete excavation of the playhouse site and establish a permanent visitors' centre, is outlined in Roger Clegg's Introduction. The website is richly illustrated and annotated to detail information about each aspect of the building and renovation of the Rose, to which the reader is referred.
In very brief summary of the archaeological discovery, the developer group Imry Merchant acquired the site, intending to demolish the existing 1957 office block named Southbridge House before erecting a new building now known as Rose Court. A short-term, ten-week archaeological assessment and excavation was required by the Southwark Council before construction could commence and was funded by the developer. However, ten weeks rapidly turned into six months, as Blatherwick and Pickard explain: 'The totality of the survival of those remains plus the unprecedented public response towards the extant structure, associated with both William Shakespeare and the development of modern English dramatic tradition, had a major impact on national policy towards archaeological remains in England and on public awareness of the potential of urban archaeological remains. After negotiations in the late spring of 1989, most of the archaeological remains of The Rose were preserved in situ by the introduction of a protective "environmental" regime and the re-design of the piling configuration on which the new development was to sit.'
Only two-thirds of the site could be excavated at the time, so the eastern side of the playhouse remains to discover. What has been uncovered reveals that the original structure was a thatched timber-framed polygon consisting of fourteen sides approximately 72' in diameter. There were two rings of walls surrounding an open yard, with no reliable proof of the exact location of the exterior entrance into the yard, although evidence suggests that it would have been at the south end near the main access to the site across the bridge over the sewer at Maid Lane. The stage, tapered in shape, projected out into the north section of the yard between bays 6 and 10, delimited by the inner wall at the north. Bowsher summarizes its measurements –which surprised many scholars at the time – as follows: 'At the front it had three edges, a long central one and two tapering shorter sides. It thus had a depth of 5m (16ft 5in.) and an estimated maximum width of 11.5m (36ft 9in.) narrowing to 8.2m (26ft 10in.) at the front, covering an area of about 46.4m (499.45sq ft).... The wooden boards of the actual stage would certainly have been raised above the level of the yard, perhaps by 1.52m (5ft) as recorded at the Red Lion. The front stage wall at the Rose survives to a height of about 0.12m (4 3/4in.) above the yard but flush with the surface under the stage. It was therefore a permanent feature, unlike the temporary trestles employed at the later Hope....' There was no evidence of supporting pillar bases for a roof overhanging the stage or a projecting tiring house: the area between the outer and inner back walls of the stage likely served the latter purpose. The number of doors in the rear wall and the existence of a trap door below the stage cannot be confirmed though both remain subject to speculation. See, for example, one of the archaeologists, Bowsher, on the subject of a trapdoor: 'The stage surface itself is assumed to have been wooden boards, raised well above the yard surface. Within the footprint of the stage was a plaster surface that would suggest that there was an under stage area or void, which might have provided storage room and access on to the stage proper through a trapdoor.' Reconstructing the Rose has an extensive section on the contemporary evidence for playhouses in the period having at least two stage doors, a central opening, and decoration of the frons scenae.
According to Bowsher, the open yard, of friable grey mortar, where the groundlings stood, would have measured approximately 117.3m (1262.62 square feet), 'some 15m (49ft 2 1/2in.) from east to west and from the stage, 9m (29ft 6in.) from north to south.' The northern section of the yard had a notable slope, raked to the front of the stage. No evidence of an exterior stair tower, interior staircase, or the number of galleries was discovered, though either two or three galleries seem likely.
This building, as partially revealed at its foundation level by archaeologists in 1989, was the Rose, built by the carpenter John Griggs in partnership with Philip Henslowe and opened sometime before October 1587. At the end of that month the neighbours were complaining to the authorities that the privy council order restraining plays on the Sabbath was being ignored in the liberty of the Clink. A previous letter on 7 May 1587 from the privy council to the Surrey justices of the peace, ordering the inhibition of plays during the heat of the summer months, might imply the opening of the Rose sooner than has been assumed, but the letter is not specific enough to confirm an earlier date of opening.
There is no direct documentary evidence known about the company or companies first hired to play at the Rose. A common assumption has been that Lord Strange's men arrived there just as Henslowe began using his famous memorandum book. Furthermore, the speculative dating of 1592 or 1593 has been typically assigned to the petition from Strange's men to the privy council and the watermen's companion petition to the lord admiral pleading for the reopening of the Rose, as well as the privy council's response in lifting the restraint on playing there. See, for example, Chambers, Elizabethan Stage, vol 4, p 311, who suggests a date of July 1592 following the restraint of playing at the Rose from 23 June 1592 after the Feltmakers' apprentices' recent riot in Southwark. However, Alan H. Nelson has studied the seventeen signatures on the watermen’s petition, discovering from his St Saviour's parish register research that two of those signing were dead by 1591. Given that the earliest of the two men's death dates was January 1590/1, the previous summer of 1590 therefore becomes a viable date for the petitions and, just possibly, the year before.
Strange's men were a large company performing plays by some of the best in the business – Marlowe, Kyd, and Greene among others, and quite likely including a young Shakespeare by 1592. When Henslowe was forced to close the playhouse temporarily c 1590, for as yet unknown reasons, they protested ‘oure Companie is greate, and thearbie our chardge intollerable, in travellinge the Countrie, and the Contynuaunce thereof, wilbe a meane to bringe vs to division and seperacion, whearebie wee shall not onelie be vndone, but alsoe vnreadie to serve her maiestie, when it shall please her highenes to commaund vs.’ So too did the self-described ‘poore watermen,' who benefitted from ferrying the constant traffic across the Thames to the theatre. The reference to the players' hope of a command performance before the queen is worth remarking on. Some of the most seasoned actors of the day had joined Lord Strange's men following the death of their previous patron, the earl of Leicester, in September 1588. During the Christmas and Shrovetide seasons, 1590–90/1, they were to perform twice at court, so their anticipation of such a lucrative opportunity, c 1590, was not unfounded. As noted in the next section, Edward Alleyn, the star actor from lord admiral's men, would join them soon, possibly as early as these first court performances, so they must have rapidly become a major attraction on Bankside. The following year they were invited to perform an unprecedented six plays at court during the festive season, so it is likely that they would have continued to prefer residency at the Rose the rest of the year rather than touring the provinces.
At some point during 1591–2, Henslowe renovated his playhouse, perhaps in response to the remarkable success of the resident acting company. Early in his diary, ff 4–5v, he notes, in itemized detail, 'such carges as I haue layd owt a bowte my playe howsse in the year of or lord 1592.' The costs were considerable, totalling around £108. The 1989 archaeological excavation of the site revealed some of these structural renovations made to the playhouse with the assistance of the original builder, John Griggs. The alterations were focused on rebuilding the northern end of the site to allow for an increase in audience capacity and improved staging conditions. The stage was newly constructed: as Bowsher describes, it was '...built 2.1m (6ft 10 1/2in.) farther north than the original. It had a depth of 5.6m (18ft 4in.) and it is estimated to have been 8.4m (27ft 7in.) long, although its front length was not fully uncovered by our excavation. This would have provided a complete stage area of about 50.5m2 (543.58sq ft).... Although its dimensions were not much larger than those of the first stage, it was slightly more rectangular and gave the impression of a greater "thrust" because of the extension of the yard on each side of it.' Surviving evidence of pillars close to the front corners of the stage suggests that a roof for full stage cover was provided for the first time, thereby necessitating the widening outward of the galleries to the east and west to preserve sight lines. The yard was thus substantially expanded by an estimated thirty-nine per cent 'to cover about 163m2 (1754 1/2sq ft). It was barely raked, in contrast to the incline of the first, and the original mortar was replaced with a mix of compacted earth, cinder, and cracked hazelnut shells. Henslowe's own renovation notes on f 5v of the diary indicate the addition of a 'penthowwse shed' added at the tiring house door behind the stage, but no trace was found of its construction or precise site during the excavation. He also refers for the first time to a lords' room and its ceiling but the location of this special seating area was not revealed either.
J. Norden, Civitas Londini. 1600. National Library of Sweden, Maps and Pictures DelaG 89. Used by kind permission.
Two contemporary views of the Rose playhouse were drawn by John Norden, the first version published in 1593 and the second, illustrated here, from the inset map of London included in his 1600 panorama of the city, also showing part of Southwark's Bankside area. The playhouse, as renovated by 1592, appears at the centre, mislabelled as 'The stare,' just south-east of the Bear Garden and north of the newly built Globe across Maid Lane. The sewer lines along both sides of Maid Lane and running to the north between the Rose and the Bear Garden are outlined as well, indicating why Henslowe's name appears as frequently as it does in the reports of the sewer commissioners during the period between 1588 and 1605. The small tenement in the corner at the south-west end of the Rose site would have been the victualling house once leased by John Cholmley. Its foundations too were discovered during the 1989 excavation.
As the diary confirms, in 1592–3 Lord Strange's men performed at Henslowe's Rose, with an extended run from 19 February–22 June 1592, and another from 29 December 1592–1 February 1592/3. It seems improbable that they would have mounted their plays during the period of reconstruction of the north end of the playhouse, so the February/March 1591/2 dates of Henslowe's 'carges' would seem to favour Neil Carson's assessment that 'The receipts are for large bills which were probably presented some months after the work was completed. The other expenses listed on folios 4–5 have the appearance of an account retranscribed from other sources....'
During the spring and early summer of 1592, the company played 'an initial series of 105 consecutive performances of twenty-four different plays, old and new, and then a shorter series of twenty-nine performances, including three more new plays, for a total of twenty-seven plays in all.' This 'first recorded example of daily performance by a professional acting company in Elizabethan London' and the repertory of extant and now lost plays has been extensively studied by Manley and MacLean in Lord Strange's Men, so the details need not be repeated here. Folios 7–8v of the diary identify the plays performed by Strange's men, with dates and daily amounts taken, presumably from half the receipts for seating in the galleries for the two seasons on record at the Rose. The company's share of the receipts from the gallery seating and totals taken from the groundlings in the yard have not survived.
External events, however, would disrupt the continuous operation of the Rose in the early 1590s. The first followed the performance of A Knack to Know a Knave on 22 June. On 23 June the privy council ordered the closure of playhouses in London and the suburbs until Michaelmas, out of concern for the potential of further unrest and disorder at Midsummer that might be triggered by London apprentices. This order was clearly in response to the mayor of London's letter of 12 June outlining 'moste outrageous and tumultuous' events that had happened recently when Feltmakers' apprentices clashed with the knight marshals’ men in Southwark. Although the play that served as the context for the assembly of Feltmakers’ apprentices in Southwark was not named, the Rose would have been the only playhouse available for a performance there. However reluctant they may have been, this very large and successful company of Strange's men was therefore forced to tour the provinces, with some of their performance stops on record, starting with an appearance at Rye in Sussex on 24 June.
The second season in repertory at the Rose began soon after the first of six performances at court on 27 December. Between 29 December and 1 February 1592/3 Strange's men were back in residence but a serious outbreak of plague led to another privy council order on 28 January for closure of all London area theatres for the duration of 1593. Strange's men would never return to the Rose and Henslowe does not record performances and profits taken again until 27 December 1593 when he itemizes the appearances of the earl of Sussex's men for several weeks until 6 February 1593/4. Thirty performances were offered, with a total of thirteen plays in repertory. The inclusion of Titus Andronicus, presumed to belong to Pembroke's men, and Strange's The Jew of Malta in their schedule has led some scholars to deduce that Sussex's company now included some actors from Pembroke's men and others from the remnants of the earl of Derby's men. Henry Radcliffe, the earl of Sussex, died on 14 December 1593 just before his company began playing at the Rose so they would have been in transition during the early part of 1594. Ferdinando Stanley, Lord Strange, assumed the title as earl of Derby upon his father's death on 25 September 1593. By late 1593 he had lost favour at court and his company probably had to seek patronage elsewhere. When the key players resumed activities in mid-1594 they were re-formed as the lord chamberlain’s men, soon to include both Richard Burbage and Shakespeare in their ranks, but at a different theatre. Where they were during the first half of the year remains a mystery but the title page of Titus Andronicus, entered in the Stationers' Register on 6 February 1593/4, may hold a clue to temporary amalgamation of some of the actors from each company in the attribution 'Plaide by the Right Honourable the Earle of Derbie, Earle of Pembrooke, and Earle of Sussex their Seruants.'
William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The most lamentable Romaine tragedie of Titus Andronicus (London, 1594), title page and opposite. Call #: STC 22328. Used by permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Another break in the performance schedule resulted from the privy council's order addressed to the lord mayor on 3 February 1593/4. An open-ended restraint of plays was imposed again for fear of plague: 'Wee thearfore thought it very expedient to require your Lordship foorthwith to take strait order that thear bee no more publique playes or enterludes exercised by any Companie whatsoever within the compas of five miles distance from London till vpon better lykelyhood and assurance of health farther direction may bee given from vs to the contrary.' Although orders directed to the justices of the peace in Surrey do not survive, there seems no doubt that the Rose was forced to close again, not to reopen for business until 1–8 April when the diary notes eight performances of five plays there by Sussex's and the queen's men together. Added to the repertory were two well-known queen's men plays, Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay and King Leir, both performed twice.
During this period of plague and uncertainty for acting companies and playhouse owners, Edward Alleyn seems to have returned to his former mates in the lord admiral’s men. No surprise, perhaps, that Henslowe's son-in-law and partner Alleyn, who was also the lead actor of the company, would accept Henslowe's offer to make their base at the Rose. Between 14 May 1594 and 13 July 1600 the lord admiral's men began a long-term engagement at the Rose that was broken only by periodic interventions by the privy council when plague fears resurfaced, by required closures during Lent, or by very occasional disruptive events. During such interruptions they can sometimes be found on limited tours in the provinces but their preference was clearly for London and the court where they were invited to perform annually fourteen times before 1600 (with the sole exception of 1596–7).
Gurr has proposed that in May 1594 Henry Carey, the lord chamberlain of the royal household, with his son-in-law, Charles Howard, the lord admiral, established a 'duopoly' of officially sanctioned acting troupes under their patronage that would henceforth dominate the London theatre scene while also satisfying the need to provide the queen with court entertainment during the Christmas and Shrovetide festive season. Engaging in current debates about this admittedly speculative proposal seems unnecessary within the focused context of this collection. However, a healthy skepticism seems in order, given the lack of documentary evidence. There is sufficient resistance to regulation by authorities on record to suggest that the explosion of creative talent and the drive for commercial success in London, and by extension, at court, in the entertainment business during this era might have challenged such an attempt to restrict playing in the London area to only two companies at only two playhouses.
The first interruption in the new arrangement between Henslowe and the re-formed lord admiral's men seems to have occurred between 17 May and 14 June. From 3–13 June both the lord admiral's men and the recently formed lord chamberlain's men moved to the old playhouse at Newington Butts, less conveniently located a mile to the south and soon to be closed. Laurie Johnson has recently done an in-depth study of this relatively unknown and little documented playhouse and its brief glory days when two famous Elizabethan companies brought their talents to its stage. He proposes that extreme weather and flooding on the marshy Bankside during the 1594 'year of floods' must have caused Henslowe's move to negotiate rental of an alternative space with the Newington Butts owner, Peter Hunningborne: 'I suggest the ongoing rain and spates of high waters took their toll on Henslowe's Bankside venue, forcing him to consider viable alternatives, and Newington's indoor venue on high ground would seem to have been just that.' Whether the two companies performed the seven plays mounted there together (some more than once) or alternated remains the subject of ongoing debate as Henslowe groups his entries together under a common heading and the exact number and membership of the companies during this era of formation are not known.
When the lord admiral's men returned to the Rose on 15 June, they settled in for a long residency, their almost daily performances for the following year disrupted only by performances at court on 28 December and 1 and 6 January. In fact, Henslowe's accounting practices between 15 June 1594 and 5 November 1597 allow a relatively reliable view of the repertory schedule at the Rose before he shifts to a notably different style of record. Gurr has traced the membership, performances, repertory practices, and play texts during the company's sojourn at the Rose in detail in his study of the company in Shakespeare's Opposites, to which the reader is referred. Earlier studies of the company and its career at the Rose include Chambers' summary in Elizabethan Stage, vol 2, pp 139–73, and Greg's earlier edition of Henslowe's Diary with extensive commentary and tables of reference in volume 2.
Gurr accounts for 158 plays performed by or written for the lord admiral's men as recorded in Henslowe's diary or in the Stationers' Register up to the summer of 1600. Of this remarkable repertory only twenty-four have survived in print and two in manuscript. For this same period, he includes the following 'plots' that may have belonged originally to the lord admiral's men but are now gathered in BL: Add MS 10449, ff 2, 3, and 5: Frederick and Basilea, from a lost play they first performed in 1597; the fragmentary Troilus and Cressida from a lost play written by Dekker and Chettle in 1599 and presumably performed soon thereafter; and Peele's The Battle of Alcazar, which Greg has argued persuasively for dating as 1598. Greg published transcriptions of all three, with commentary, in Henslowe Papers, pp 135–44. The roll call of playwrights working with lord admiral's men during their Rose period includes, among others, Thomas Heywood, Anthony Munday, Thomas Dekker, George Chapman, George Peele, Michael Drayton, Henry Chettle, and Ben Jonson, with older plays of proven popularity from the late Christopher Marlowe (Jew of Malta, Massacre at Paris, 1 and 2 Tamburlaine and Doctor Faustus) and Thomas Kyd (Spanish Tragedy) still in the repertory.
In 1595, the Rose was closed for most of Lent, but this was also when Henslowe recorded his costs for renovations to the playhouse that were largely cosmetic, for painting and carpentry. In June the same year he also paid for making a throne for the 'heavens.' Some competition was surfacing on Bankside at this time. Francis Langley, who had acquired the manor of Paris Garden in 1589, was a dodgy customer of less evident management abilities than Henslowe but by 1595 he may have been inspired by the Rose’s success to open another playhouse, named the Swan. The lord mayor of London wrote in some agitation to Lord Burghley on 3 November 1594 about Langley's intentions but it seems likely that the Swan opened nonetheless during the following year. It is possible that Henslowe's renovations the same year may have been in response.
Norden’s 1600 inset map of the city of London (see above) gives a view of the Swan playhouse added to the Southwark landscape, west from Bankside in the manor of Paris Garden on a corner south from the river. Certainly a Dutch visitor, Johannes de Witt, writing to his friend, Arend van Buchell, from London, c 1596, was much impressed by the new rival south of the Thames:
'Of all the theatres, however, the largest and most distinguished is the one whose sign is a swan (commonly, the Swan theatre), which, to be sure, accommodates three thousand people in seats. [It is] built of an accumulation of flint stones (of which in Britain there is a vast abundance) supported by wooden columns which, on account of the colour of marble painted on them, can deceive even the most acute, whose form, at least, since it [the playhouse] seems to represent the general notion of Roman work, I have drawn above.'
Both the Swan and the Rose would have felt the impact of the privy council's letter to the Surrey JPs on 22 July 1596 when plays were prohibited once again for fear of the increase in sickness. After the heat of the summer season had passed, Henslowe's accounting of receipts resumes on 27 October with a straight run, including Lent, through to 28 July 1597. However on 28 July as the lord admiral's men were performing The Witch of Islington, the privy council was issuing a stern order to close all playhouses within a three mile radius of London until All Hallowtide and further, to 'plucke down quite the Stages, Gallories and Roomes that are made for people to stand in and so to deface the same as they maie not be ymploied agayne to suche vse.' This rigourous demand that all playhouses be destroyed was never carried out but certainly immediate closure was mandatory. The order seems to have been in direct response to an outraged letter from the lord mayor and aldermen of the city of London protesting the increasing number of plays portraying
'prophane fables, lascivious matters, cozeinge devises, & scurrilus beehaviour, which are so set forth as that they move wholie to imitation & not totheauoydinge of those faultes & vices which they represent. Amonge other inconveniences it is not the least yat that they give opportunity to the refuze sort of evill disposed & vngodly people that are within and abowte this Cytie to assemble themselves & to make their matches for all theire lewd and vngodly practices...,'
with a request for immediate and final suppression of stage plays in the London area.
In fact, playing resumed at the Rose (but not the Swan) on 11 October 1597. As Wickham notes, the lord admiral’s men would have been preparing for performances at court during the Christmas season, and as they enjoyed the patronage of an influential member of the privy council, the need to rehearse well in advance would have facilitated their return to the stage in the autumn. But Langley was not so lucky and had to wait until 1 November before reopening the Swan. During the hiatus he also lost several of the actors of Pembroke's men who had signed bonds to confirm their residency there for a year beginning 20 February 1596/7. Altogether five members of the company defected to join the lord admiral's men at the Rose, including Thomas Downton and Richard Jones who had been enticed by Langley to leave the Rose and join Pembroke's men at the Swan in February just past. The defectors were still identified as Pembroke's men by Henslowe until 4 March 1597/8 but subsequently they may all have been absorbed into the lord admiral's men and were no longer differentiated. From October 1597 to 13 July 1598, the lord admiral's men maintained their Bankside base at the Rose, but without Edward Alleyn who retired from the stage in the autumn of 1597 for three years to pursue other purposes.
In July 1598, a further, apparently futile, appeal to the privy council was made by members of the St Saviour's vestry, requesting that the local playhouses be pulled down because of their 'enormyties.' Instead, a third playhouse would be erected on Bankside the following year when the Globe opened on the south side of Maid Lane, not far from the Rose. This playhouse, too, is shown on Norden's 1600 inset map. Much has been made in times past of the competition that would thereby ensue between the lord admiral's men and the chamberlain's men newly relocated from the Theatre to the Globe in 1599. Did Henslowe respond by laying plans to move his enterprise in retreat to the north of the city where the Fortune playhouse would open in the autumn of 1600? Roslyn Knutson has argued persuasively against a narrative inherited from Chambers that when Henslowe changed his style of accounting towards the end of 1597 to record more loans to the company and partial payments to playwrights it must mean that the lord admiral's men fell on hard times and 'lived from hand to mouth, and had acquired the thriftless habit of sharing their profits weekly or even daily, and keeping no reserve fund.' Instead, when focusing on the 'crucial year' of 1599–1600, 'which has the highest incidence of partial payments in the diary,' Knutson does a close analysis of the accounts and concludes as follows: 'I suggest that over the years of 1597–1603 the Admiral's men maintained a large repertory of new and old plays on a variety of popular subjects and in a variety of dramatic kinds; that in 1599–1600 they increased the number of works-in-progress that they usually financed in order to acquire an even larger, newer, and more diversified set of offerings; that in 1600–1, they eased the burden of expenses by continuing plays already in repertory and by reviving a few old favorities; that in 1601–2 they increased the number of revivals, which not only were relatively inexpensive to produce but also served as a showcase for Alleyn's return to the stage.'
The probability that Henslowe and Alleyn together had conceived of a strategic move to the north side of the Thames before the Theatre was dismantled and the Globe opened on Bankside has been discussed in the previous chapter, where links to the relevant records in this collection can be found. The January 1599/1600 warrant from the lord admiral in support of the new playhouse, in particular, refers to 'the dangerous decaye of that Howse' (that is, the Rose). Whether these words are an accurate reflection of the Rose's condition or simply designed to make a persuasive case for the move of the lord admiral's men to the desired new location could be debated. However, the privy council picked up the theme in support of Alleyn's building project in their 8 April order, followed by an order on 22 June legislating only two playhouses for operation in the London area – the Fortune on the north and the Globe on the south. Burbage's Theatre had already been pulled down but the venerable Curtain remained, so it was singled out for demolition (which did not happen). About eighteen months later, a renewed attempt by the privy council to control the number of active playhouses was made and their frustration is apparent:
' ... wee do now vnderstande that our said order hath bin so farr from taking dew
effect, as in steede of restrainte and redresse of
the former disorders the multitude of play howses is much encreased, and that no daie
passeth over without many Stage plaies in one place or other within
and about the Cittie publiquelie made; The default of perfourmance of which
said our said order, we must in greate parte the rather impute to the
Iustices of the peace....'
It is evident that despite the notional 'decay' of the Rose and official attempts to reduce the number of playhouses on Bankside, Henslowe continued to maintain its operation regardless of the loss of the lord admiral's men to the fair new Fortune that he and Alleyn had opened in 1600. The diary's accounts during this period are quite sporadic for the Rose and there is no consistent evidence of residency by a single company. On a new folio Henslowe begins to record performances by Pembroke's men, but only two entries are made for 28–9 October. Whether they remained for long is undocumented. Their patron, Henry Herbert, died less than three months later, on 19 January 1600/1, so the company probably disbanded shortly thereafter. The only company known to have used the Rose subsequently as their base, for almost a year, was the earl of Worcester's men, recorded in the diary for various loans, play commissions, and costume purchases for the period 17 August 1602 through to 9 May 1602/3. This company would receive new royal patronage by Queen Anne soon thereafter and would move to playhouses north of the river.
1603 was a year of national crisis. The aging queen's illness raised anxieties early in the year. The privy council's order of 19 March for the restraint of stage plays until further notice was probably in response. The queen died a week later and was buried on 28 April so playing may have been suspended in deference until after that date. Henslowe noted the suspension of play (again) on 5 May 1603 at the time of King James’ arrival. There is a further note in the diary, 'Begyninge to playe Agayne by the kynges licence & Layd owt sence for my lord of worsters men,' on 9 May but the only payment is to Chettle and Day for a play so it seems unlikely that Worcester's continued at the Rose. Severe plague broke out again across the country in 1603 and deaths in London began to rise in May according to surviving records. Henslowe does not record the ensuing long closure in his diary but he did make vigorous note of his resistance to the proposed rise in the cost of the lease on the Little Rose property revealed to him at a meeting on 25 June (see the previous section for the details).
The diary is silent on any performances offered or companies playing at the Rose after Worcester's men departed. The privy council registers are lost for this period, but an original copy of the privy council letter on 9 April 1604 to the lord mayor and JPs of Middlesex and Surrey survives in the Henslowe-Alleyn papers at Dulwich. As the letter makes explicit, the Rose playhouse was not included among those permitted to reopen after Lent:
Wheras the kings maiesties Plaiers have given the
<...> highnes good service in ther Quallitie of
Playinge and for as much Lickwise as they are at all times to be emploid In that Service
whensoever they shalbe Commanded We thinke it therfore fitt the time of Lent
being now Past that your Lordships doe Permitt and suffer the three
Companies of Plaiers to the King Queene and Prince publicklie to Exercise ther Plaies in
ther severall and vsuall howses for that Purpose and noe other vz The Globe scituate in
maiden Lane on the Banckside in the Countie of Surrey & the fortune in Goldinge Lane, and the Curtaine In Hollywelle in the Countie of midlesex without any lett or Intervpption In respect of any former
Lettres of Prohibition heertofore written by vs to your
Lordships Except ther shall happen weeklie to die of the Plague aboue the
Number of thirtie when the Cittie of London and the Liberties therof Att which
time wee thinke it fitt they shall Cease and forbeare any further
Publicklie to Playe vntill the Sicknes be againe decreaced to the saide Number and so we
bid your Lordships hartilie farewell ffrom the Court
Whitehalle the ixth of Aprille 1604
Other historical sources indicate that the plague raging in London would have kept the playhouses closed until after Lent 1604, and even then the rest of that year was likely to have been disrupted by fresh outbreaks. Given these circumstances we might ask whether operations ceased at the Rose entirely by May 1603, given the onset of plague in London, Henslowe's other involvements at the Fortune and the Bear Garden, as well as practical concerns for the age and looming cost of improving and maintaining the Rose playhouse as of Michaelmas 1605 when the original lease on the Little Rose would expire. As outlined in the first section above, the Sewer Commission reports for 1605–6 indicate that Henslowe abandoned the lease and the playhouse; the archaeological analysis of the remains in 1989 appear to confirm that it was dismantled around the same time.