Privy Council Letter to the JPs of Middlesex

TNA: PC 2/22

p 327 (28 July) (Greenwich)


A Lettre to Robert Wrothe, William ffleetwood, Iohn Barne, Thomas ffowler and Richard Skevington, Esquire and the rest of the Iustices of Middlesex nerest to London. Her Maiestie being informed that there are verie greate disorders Comitted in the Common play houses both by lewd matters that are handled on the Stages and by resorte and Confluence of bad people, hathe giuen direction that not onlie no plaies shalbe vsed within London or about the Citty or in any publique place during this tyme of Sommer, But that also those Play houses that are erected and built only for suche purposes shalbe plucked downe namelie the Curtayne and the Theatre nere to Shorditch or any other within that County. Theis are therfore in her Maiestes name to Chardge and Commaund you that you take present order there be no more plaies vsed in any publique place within three myles of the Citty vntill Alhalloutide next And likewyse that you do send for the owner of the Curtayne, Theatre or anie other Common playhouse, and Inioyne them by virtue hereof forthwith to plucke downe 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, which yf they shall not speedely performe you shall aduertyse vs that order maie be taken to see the same don according to her maiestes pleasure and Commaundment. And hereof praying you not to faile me &c./

The like to Mr. Bowier, William Gardyner, and Bartholomew Scott, Esquires and the rest of the Iustices of Surry; Requiring them to take the like order for the Playhouses on the Banckside, in Southwarke, or elswhere in the said County within iij miles of London.

  • Marginalia
  • Endnote

    This order was never carried out and may not have been related to the performance of The Isle of Dogs during the same summer as some have assumed: see William Ingram, 'The Closing of the Theaters in 1597: A Dissenting View,' Modern Philology 69.2 (November 1971), 105–15. Glynne Wickham, while subscribing to the view that the order should be seen in the context of the Isle of Dogs production, has pointed out that the intention of the order was essentially a restraint of public performances in London for three months only rather than outright suppression of all theatres. In fact playing resumed at the Curtain and the Rose (but not the Swan) in October and November 1597. As he notes, the Chamberlain's and Admiral's Men were preparing for performances at Court during the Christmas season and both enjoyed the patronage of members of the Privy Council, so rehearsing for a royal audience would have facilitated their return to those two public stages in the autumn. See further 'The Privy Council Order of 1597 for the Destruction of all London's Theatres,' The Elizabethan Theatre: Papers given at the International Conference on Elizabethan Theatre held at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, in July 1968, David Galloway (ed) (Toronto, 1969), 21–44.

  • Document Description

    Record title: Privy Council Letter to the JPs of Middlesex
    Repository: TNA
    Shelfmark: PC 2/22
    Repository location: Kew

    A similar Privy Council letter to the JPs of Surrey does not survive but the version to the JPs of Middlesex on page 327 conveys the message copied to both sides of the Thames.

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

    24 October 1596–18 September 1597; English; paper; i + 228 + i; 403mm x 253mm; ink pagination 1–369 (some numbers obscured by repairs), followed by 3 unnumbered leaves (with pen trials) and 40 unnumbered 19th-c. leaves (index in a different hand); good condition, some repairs at edges; bound in maroon leather over boards, tooled, gold- stamped title on spine: 'ELIZABETH. | VOL. XIII. | COUNCIL | REGISTER. | 24. OCT. 1596. | TO | 18.SEP. 1597.'

  • Manuscript Images

    The National Archives of the UK, PC 2/22

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