Privy Council Order regarding the Restriction of Playhouses

TNA: PC 2/25

pp 223–4 (22 June) (Greenwich)

Order of the Lords for the restrainte of the imoderate vse and Companye of Playhowses and Players.

Whereas diuers Complaintes haue bin heretofore made vnto the Lordes & others of her Maiestes priuye Counsell, of the manyfolde abuses and disorders that haue growen and do contynue by occasion of many houses erected and employed in and about the Cittie ‸⸢of London⸣ for Common stage playes And now verie latelie by reason of some Complainte exhibited by sondry persons againste the buyldinge of the like house in or near ‸⸢Golding Lanebouglane, by one Edward Allen a Servant of the right honorable the Lord Admyrall the matter aswell in generaltie touchinge all the saide houses for stage playes and the vse of playinge as in particular concerninge the saide house now in hand to be buylte in or neare ‸⸢Golding⸣ bougl Lane, hath bin broughte into question and consultacion amonge their Lordships. fforasmuch as it is manifestley knowen and graunted that the multitude of the saide houses, and the mysgouerment of them hath bin and is dayly occasion, of the ydle ryoutous, and dissolute living of great Nombers of people, that leavinge all such honest and painefull course of life as they should followe, doe meete and assemble there and of many particular abuses and disorders that doe therevpon ensue; And yet Neuertheles it is considered that the vse and excercise of suche playes (not beinge euill in yt self) may with a good order and moderacion be suffered in a well gouerned state; and that her Maiestie beinge pleased at some tymes to take delight and recreation in the sight and hearinge of them, some order is fitt to be taken for the allowance and maynetenaunce of such persons as are thought meetest in that kinde to yealde her Maiestie recreation and delighte, and consequently of the houses that must serue for publike playinge to keepe them in exercise; To the ende therefore that both the greatest abuses of the playes and playinge houses may be redressed, and yet the aforesaide vse and moderation of them retayned, The Lordes and the reste of her Maiestes privie Counsell, with one and full consent haue ordered in manner and forme as followeth.

ffirste that there shalbe aboute the Cittie two houses and no more, allowed to serue for the vse of the Common stage playes; of the which houses one shalbe in Surrey, in that place which is Commonly called the Banckeside or thereaboutes and the other in Middlesex. And forasmuch as their Lordships haue bin enformed by Edmund Tylney esquier her Maiestes Servante and Master of the Revelles that the house nowe in hand to be builte by thesaide Edward Allen is not intended to encrease the Nomber of the play houses but to be insteede of an other (namely the Curtayne) which is ether to be ruyned and plucked downe or to be put to some other good vse as also that the scytuation thereof is meete and convenient for that purpose; it is like wise ordered that the saide house of Allen shalbe allowed to be one of the two houses, and namely for the house to be allowed in Middlesex ‸⸢for the Company of players belonging to the Lord Admyrall⸣ so as the house called the Curtaine be (as it ‸⸢is⸣ hath bin) pretended) either ruynated or applyed to some other good vse And for the other house allowed to be on Surrey side whereas ‸⸢their lordships are pleased to permitt⸣ <...> to the Company of players that shall play there to make their owne Choice which they will haue ‸⸢of diuers houses that are there⸣ choosing one of them and no more

‸⸢And ye said company of plaiers beinge the Servantes of the lord Chamberlain that are to play there haue made choise of the house called the Globe, it is ordered that the said house and none other shalbe there allowed.⸣ And especially it is forbidden that any stage playes shalbe played (as some tymes they haue bin) in any Common Inne for publique assembly in or neare about the Cittie./

Secondly, forasmuch as these stage plaies, by the multitude of houses and company of players haue bin so frequent not servinge for recreation but invitinge and callinge the people dayly from their trade and worke to misspend their tyme | it is likewise ordered that the two seuerall Companies of players assigned vnto the two houses allowed may play each of them in their seuerall houses twice a weeke and no oftener, and especially that they shall refrayne to play on the Sabbath Day vpon paine of imprysonment and further penaltie: and that they shall forbeare altogether in the tyme of Lent and likewise at such tyme & tymes as any extraordinary sicknes or infection of disease shall appeare to be in or about the Cittie./

Thirdly because the orders wilbe of little force and effecte vnlesse they be duely putt in execution, by those vnto whome it appertayneth to see them executed; It is ordered that seuerall Copies of these orders shalbe sent to the Lord Maior of London; and to the Iustices of the peace of the Counties of Middlesex and Surrey. and that lettres shalbe written vnto them from their Lordships, straightly charginge them to see to the execucion of the same, aswell by Comyttinge to prison any owners of play houses and players as shall disobey and resist these orders, as by any other good and lawfull meanes that in their discretion they shall finde expedient, and to certifie their Lordships from tyme to tyme, as they shall see cause of their proceedinges herein.


  • Marginalia
    • At the Courte at Greenwich.
    • .22. of Iune
    • °Memorandum, that the alteracion and interlying of this order was by reason that the said order after the same was entred in the Booke came againe in question and debate, and the said interlyninge & amendementes were sett downe according to the laste determinacion of their lordshipes. ° (signed) ThomasSmith

      [Footnote: ThomasSmith: Clerk of the Council]

  • Footnotes
    • Whereas: W in display script
    • the like house: Fortune playhouse
    • Lord Admyrall: Charles Howard (c 1536–1624), tenth earl of Nottingham and Lord Admiral, 1585–1618/19
    • Middlesex: followed by a blank space approximately 7 characters in length
    • ThomasSmith: Clerk of the Council
    • <...>: cancelled text approximately 45 characters in length
  • Endnote

    The 'diuers houses' on Bankside at this time included the Rose and the Swan as well as the recently opened Globe, now base for the Lord Chamberlain's Men. Whether this order had a direct impact on the type of entertainment offered henceforth at the Swan is an open question but Henslowe's Rose continued its operation for at least three more years after the Lord Admiral's Men moved north of the river to the Fortune playhouse; see 'History of the Playhouse' and Foakes, Henslowe's Diary, pp 164, 213–26.

  • Document Description

    Record title: Privy Council Order regarding the Restriction of Playhouses
    Repository: TNA
    Shelfmark: PC 2/25
    Repository location: Kew

    The order on pages 223–4, with minor differences, is also to be found in the city's Remembrancia (LMA: COL/RMD/PA/01/002, ff 95–6, no 188).

    For an abstract of the document and details of its transcription history, see the related EMLoT event record.

    23 January 1599/1600–7 December 1600; English; paper; ii + 261 + ii; 428mm x 283mm; ink pagination 1–447, 38 unnumbered leaves (19th-c. index in a different hand); many leaves damaged and repaired; bound in maroon leather over boards, tooled, gold-stamped title on spine: 'ELIZABETH. | VOL. XVI. | COUNCIL | REGISTER. | 23. JAN. 1600. | TO | 7.DEC 1600.'

  • Manuscript Images

    The National Archives of the UK, PC 2/25

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