Rose Playhouse Collection

History of the Playhouse

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 receipts, thanks to Henslowe's diary. And it was the first theatre site to be discovered and partially excavated in the late twentieth century.

Henslowe's earliest entries in the diary indicate his likely acquisition of the manuscript after his brother John's death in 1591, so details are lacking for the period before 19 February 1591/2. In fact, 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. As Neil Carson noted after his detailed analysis of the contents, 'It is difficult to imagine how Henslowe could have supervised his various business enterprises without a fuller set of books including, at the very least, a ledger in which he would have recorded his transactions with individuals. If such books existed, possibly they became separated from the diary at the time of Henslowe's death. Whatever the truth, we must recognize, I think, that the diary contains only a partial record of Henslowe's activities, albeit a record maintained by a reasonably painstaking individual.' It is worth emphasizing that some of the documents in the treasury chest, where they were kept in Dulwich after Alleyn's acquisition of the collection, could have been mislaid or lost much later. When George Warner, Keeper of Manuscripts at the British Museum, first examined and catalogued the surviving Henslowe-Alleyn papers in the 1880s, he noted that Edmond Malone, who first discovered the diary, was allowed to take possession of 'many curious manuscripts relative to the stage' which he kept until his death. 'The greater part are said to have been then returned by the younger James Boswell, his literary executor; but some of the papers which he published as belonging to the collection are no longer to be found in it, and how many more disappeared, of which no record remains, it is impossible to say.'

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. While building contracts survive for both the the Fortune and the Hope, no similar document 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, in both its phases, 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 of 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 wall of the stage 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 JPs, 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. 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 earlier 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, the players 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 previous 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 (543.58 sq 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 were probably submitted some time after the work was completed.

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, usually assumed to have been 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 marshal's men in Southwark. Although the play that served as the pretext 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, a restriction that would endure 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 playhouse. 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 JPs 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 joined the reformed 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).

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 1594. 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.

Wiggins and Richardson account for 173 plays and one jig, with a further eight and another jig possibly performed by or written for the Lord Admiral's Men recorded primarily in Henslowe's diary or in the Stationers' Register up to the summer of 1600. Of this remarkable repertory only twenty-one have survived (with two fragmentary), in print or in manuscript. For this same period, the following 'plots' 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, George Chapman, Henry Chettle, Thomas Dekker, Michael Drayton, Thomas Heywood, Ben Jonson, Anthony Munday and George Peele, with older plays of proven popularity from 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 in 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 rigorous 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...'

It ended 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.

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 cease performances 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 section, 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 in the north and the Globe in 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 of at 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, with 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.

  • Footnotes
    • Susan Cerasano, 'Revising Philip Henslowe's Biography,' Notes and Queries 32.1 (1985), 67–8.
    • See Carson, Companion, p 8, and his summary, p 13.
    • Warner, Catalogue, p ix, here quotes Malone, 'Rise and Progress,' p 288.
    • See Warner, Catalogue, pp vi-xii, especially p x, for a fuller account of the vicissitudes that impacted survival of the complete archive.
    • For a transcription of the Fortune contract, DC: Mun 22, see Foakes, Henslowe's Diary, pp 306–15, and the Henslowe-Alleyn Digitisation Project, Mun 1, group 22; and for the Hope contract, DC: Mun 49, see Greg, Henslowe Papers, pp 19–22, and the Henslowe-Alleyn Digitisation Project, Mun 1, group 49.
    • For the impact of the excavation, preservation, and long-term monitoring of the Rose site, see Mike Corfield, 'The Rose Theatre: Twenty Years of Continuous Monitoring, Lessons, and Legacy,' Conservation and Management of Archaeological Sites 14 (2012), 384–96.
    • Reconstructing the Rose was launched in 2019. The Rose Revealed Project was generously funded by De Montfort University and involved consultations with numerous experts, including the archaeologists of MoLA.
    • 'Little Rose Estate,' pt 1, p 234. Peggy Phelan, 'Playing Dead in Stone, or, When is a Rose not a Rose?,' Performance & Cultural Politics, Elin Diamond (ed) (New York, 1996), 65–88, provides an entertaining account of the cultural politics surrounding the excavation of the Rose. See also Eccles, Rose Theatre, pp 147–237; Rutter, 'Preface to the Revised Edition,' Documents, ix–xxiv; and Jean Wilson, The Archaeology of Shakespeare: The Material Legacy of Shakespeare’s Theatre (Stroud, 1995), 159–79.
    • 'See Bowsher and Miller, Rose and the Globe, pp 111, 114. It may also be indicative that the entrance door to the playhouse is shown at the south end on both versions of John Norden's map (1593 and 1600).
    • Bowsher, Rose Theatre, 39–40. Given the fixed stage, Bowsher, in a later essay, refutes the speculation that the Rose might have been first intended to serve as a bearbaiting arena before serving as a playhouse, an idea floated by Jon Greenfield and Andrew Gurr in 'The Rose Theatre, London: The State of Knowledge and What We Still Need to Know,' Antiquity 78 (June 2004), 330–40. See further Bowsher, 'The Rose and its Stages,' Shakespeare Survey 60 (2007), 36–48.
    • Bowsher, Rose Theatre, p 69, n 11, cites two articles by Glynne Wickham that point out that neither a trap nor 'heavens' would have been required for plays mounted in the early Elizabethan playhouses, including those of Marlowe at the Rose: 'Notes on the Staging of Marlowe's Plays,' Shakespeare's Dramatic Heritage: Collected Studies in Mediaeval, Tudor and Shakespearean Drama (London, 1969), 121–31, especially pp 125–6, and '"Heavens," Machinery, and Pillars in the Theatre and Other Early Playhouses,' The First Public Playhouse: The Theatre in Shoreditch, Herbert Berry (ed) (Montreal, 1979), 1–15.
    • 'Encounters Between Actors, Audience and Archaeologists at the Rose Theatre, 1587–1989,' Studies in Contemporary and Historical Archaeology 4 (2007), 64. More recently Mark Hutchings,'Titus Andronicus and Trapdoors at the Rose and Newington Butts,' Shakespeare Survey 71 (2018), 221–31, has reviewed evidence for a trap door from Q1 stage directions of Titus Andronicus, as performed at the Rose in 1594. While not arguing for a trap in the first phase of the Rose, he proposes that a trap would have been essential and available for Titus Andronicus in the post-1591 playhouse.
    • See the Reconstructing the Rose website.
    • Bowsher, Rose Theatre, p 43. Bowsher and Miller provide the most extensive information on the excavation of the site in Rose and the Globe, 32–76. See also Gurr, Shakespeare's Opposites, chapter 4, 'Staging at the Rose and the Fortune,' 120–61, for an account of the original building and renovations of the Rose as well as a consideration of its staging conditions compared with the later Fortune playhouse where the building contract provides details that we can only wish we had for the upper structure of the Rose.
    • See Privy Council Letter to the JPs of Surrey, 1587.
    • See Privy Council Letter restraining Plays, 1587.
    • 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. For associated records, see: Petition to the Privy Council by Strange's Men, c 1590, Petition to the Lord Admiral by the Watermen, c 1590, and Warrant from the Privy Council, c 1590.
    • Nelson has not yet published his 2012 conference paper, ‘Philip Henslowe and the Bankside Watermen: A Fresh Look at Three Familiar Documents’ (paper, University of Reading, November 24, 2012). For now, see further Manley and MacLean, Lord Strange’s Men, pp 50–1.
    • For an in-depth study of the first known company resident at the Rose, see Manley and MacLean, Lord Strange's Men. Unless otherwise noted, discussion of their career at the Rose comes from this source.
    • See Petition to the Privy Council by Strange's Men, c 1590.
    • For details of Leicester's Men and the formation of their new company, see Lord Strange's Men, pp 30–6.
    • See Foakes, Henslowe's Diary, pp 9–13, and the Henslowe-Alleyn Digitisation Project, MS 7, ff 4–5v.
    • Carson, Companion, pp 14–15.
    • Bowsher, Rose Theatre, pp 48–50. See also Bowsher, 'Twenty Years On: The Archaeology of Shakespeare's London Playhouses,' Shakespeare, 7.4 (2011), 461–2, who describes this as the archaeologists' most important discovery. While the shape of the stage may have remained largely unchanged, '[h]itherto the actors were largely acting in one, forward, direction. With the extra space at the sides of the second Rose stage acting had to be in three directions.' The result would have benefitted the actors as the improvement provided 'a greater scope for interaction with the audience.'
    • Bowsher, Rose Theatre, p 51.
    • Full details of the second phase of the building discovered during the archaeological excavation in 1989 are provided in Bowsher and Miller, Rose and the Globe, pp 56–64, together with photographs of the site and an architectural drawing, fig 50.
    • See Foakes, Henslowe's Diary, p 13; Julian Bowsher, 'Marlowe and the Rose,' Constructing Christopher Marlowe, J.A. Downie and J.T. Parnell (eds) (Cambridge, 2000), 37–8; and Bowsher and Miller, Rose and the Globe, pp 113–16.
    • For an image of the 1593 map, see above, 'History of the Property.' See also EMLoT events the related EMLoT events here and here.
    • Ernest L. Rhodes, Henslowe’s Rose: The Stage & Staging (Lexington, 1976), 12, speculated that Norden, viewing from a distance, mistook the rose motif on the playhouse banner for a 'multipointed star.'
    • See Bowsher and Miller, Rose and the Globe, pp 28–32.
    • Carson, Companion, p 15 also notes: 'The other expenses listed on folios 4–5 have the appearance of an account retranscribed from other sources....' See also Gurr, Shakespeare's Opposites, pp 27–8, on the impracticality of daily performances interrupting building construction, while noting that builders' wages and construction costs would have been paid in arrears if their work preceded the performance season.
    • Manley and MacLean, Lord Strange's Men, p 59. See also Appendix 3 in this edition.
    • See Chapters 3 and 4 for the census of the repertory and Appendix B, p 339, for the repertory audit outlining frequency of performance and total and average receipts for each play recorded. See also Appendix 3 in this collection.
    • For edited transcripts of the relevant diary entries, see Foakes, Henslowe's Diary, pp 16–21, and the Henslowe-Alleyn Digitisation Project, MS 7, ff 7–8v.
    • See Privy Council Letter to the Master of the Rolls et al, 1592.
    • See Letter from the Lord Mayor to Lord Burghley, 1592
    • For details of their summer and early fall tour in 1592, see Manley and MacLean, Lord Strange's Men, pp 248–58 and 342. See also Cameron Louis (ed), Sussex, REED (Toronto, 2000), 136, and note, p 281.
    • See Order regarding Plague, 1592/3.
    • See Foakes, Henslowe's Diary, pp 20–1, and the Henslowe-Alleyn Digitisation Project, MS 7, f 8v.
    • Chambers, Elizabethan Stage, vol 2, pp 92–6, and Gurr, Shakespearian Companies, pp 174–7, 182–4, both provide concise summaries of the career and repertory of this company. Both sources give a starting date of 26 December and a count of twelve plays during Sussex's first run at the Rose, but a check of the diary corrects that reckoning. See also Appendix 3.
    • See further Scott McMillin, 'Sussex's Men in 1594: The Evidence of Titus Andronicus and The Jew of Malta,' Theatre Survey 32.2 (1991), 214–23, and Manley and MacLean, Lord Strange's Men, pp 323–4. Laurie Johnson, Shakespeare's Lost Playhouse: Eleven Days at Newington Butts, Routledge Studies in Shakespeare (New York and London, 2018), 153–61, reviews differing interpretations of the title page and the performances of Titus Andronicus at the Rose as well as later the same year at Newington Butts.
    • See Privy Council Letter to the Lord Mayor, 1593/4
    • See Foakes, Henslowe's Diary, p 21. See also the Henslowe-Alleyn Digitisation Project, MS 7, f 9.
    • See Foakes, Henslowe's Diary, pp 21–35, and the Henslowe-Alleyn Digitisation Project, MS 7, ff 9–14v.
    • For performances at court, see Gurr, 'Appendix 4,' Shakespeare's Opposites, p 293.
    • Johnson, Shakespeare's Lost Playhouse, pp 143–4. See further pp 136–7 and 140–5. MacLean's small edition of dramatic records for Newington Butts will be forthcoming in the REED series.
    • See, for example, Greg, Diary, vol 2, pt 2 pp 85–6, and more recently, Johnson, Shakespeare's Lost Playhouse, p 145, and Gurr, Shakespeare's Opposites, p 28.
    • They ended their first run on 26 June 1595; see Foakes, Henslowe's Diary, p 30. For a succinct chart of performance dates and related payments for the Rose, 1594–1600, the 'Chronological Abstract of the Diary in so far as it Relates to Dramatic Affairs' provided by Greg, Diary, vol 2, pp 328–32, remains useful and is not repeated here. Chambers, Elizabethan Stage, vol 2, pp 141–3, 159–60, also summarizes the dates of opening and closing at the Rose, as witnessed, not always consistently, by Henslowe.
    • See further Appendix 3 for an inventory of plays, extant or lost, performed by relevant companies at the Rose according to genre, title and author, and British Drama 1533–1642, vols 2–4.
    • See Foakes, 'Appendix 3,' Henslowe's Diary, pp 326–33, for the actors named in all six extant plots, five of which are in BL: Add MS 10,449, with one, much debated, for 2 Deadly Sins, at Dulwich College, MS XIX. See further Greg's transcriptions and commentary in Henslowe Papers, pp 133–5, for Dead Man's Fortune, tentatively dated 1593, and pp 143–4, for the fragmentary 2 Fortune's Tennis, tentatively dated 1600. For 2 Deadly Sins, see R.A. Foakes' digital essay, 'The "Platt" (or Plot) of The Second Part of the Seven Deadly Sins' and the discussion of the plot on the Henslowe-Alleyn Digitisation Project website. See also DC: MS XIX, ff 2–3, and the Henslowe-Alleyn Digitisation Project, MS 19, ff 1B-1C as well as Greg's transcription, Henslowe Papers, pp 129–32.
    • See Bowsher and Miller, Rose and the Globe, p 64; Foakes, Henslowe's Diary, pp 6–7; and the Henslowe-Alleyn Digitisation Project, MS 7, f 2v.
    • The mayor's letter is preserved in the city's Remembrancia, LMA: COL/RMD/PA/01/002, ff 33–3v. For a transcription see Chambers and Greg, 'Remembrancia,' pp 74–6.
    • De Witt's original letter in Latin does not survive. This translation is made from a copy of the letter recorded by van Buchell in his commonplace book as quoted from Wickham et al, English Professional Theatre, p 441; a transcript of the copied letter will be included in my edition of Swan Playhouse records forthcoming in the REED series. Van Buchell's copy of the drawing accompanying this letter has been much reproduced and used as an example of stage design in the period. See, for example, R.A. Foakes, Illustrations of the English Stage 1580–1642 (Stanford, 1985), 52–5, no 26.
    • See Privy Council Letter to the JPs of Middlesex and Surrey, 1596.
    • See Foakes, Henslowe's Diary, pp 54–60, and the Henslowe-Alleyn Digitisation Project, MS 7, ff 25–27v.
    • See Privy Council Letter to the JPs of Middlesex, 1597.
    • For further discussion of the privy council order, sometimes seen as triggered by a controversial performance of The Isle of Dogs at the Swan in July, see Glynne Wickham, ‘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, and William Ingram, ‘The Closing of the Theaters in 1597: A Dissenting View,' Modern Philology 69 (1971), 105–15.
    • See Letter from the Lord Mayor to the Privy Council, 1597.
    • Wickham, 'Privy Council Order,' pp 32–3.
    • Charles William Wallace first discovered the evidence for the contracting and defection of actors from the Rose to the Swan and back again in the court of Requests records; see 'The Swan Theatre and the Earl of Pembroke's Servants,' Englische Studien 43 (1911), 340–95. See also Ingram, London Life, pp 167–91, for this turbulent period in the lives of the actors concerned.
    • David Mateer has discovered King's Bench court evidence that the boy actor, Richard Perkins, was also lured from the Rose by Langley, possibly for only a brief period in 1597, despite having a contract with Edward Alleyn to act with the Lord Admiral's Men for three years, beginning 26 November 1596. See further 'Edward Alleyn, Richard Perkins and the Rivalry between the Swan and the Rose Playhouses,' Review of English Studies 60.243 (2007), 61–77, with transcriptions of KB27/1343/1 rot. cccxliiij verso; KB/27/1345 part ii, rot. mviij verso; and KB/27/1348 part ii, rot. dcccclvj in appendices. It is likely that Perkins returned to fulfil his contract with Alleyn as a result of the lawsuit but no proof has yet been found.
    • See Foakes, Henslowe's Diary, pp 60, 70–2, 94–5, 120–1, and the Henslowe-Alleyn Digitisation Project, MS 7, ff 27v, 35, 36v, 48, and 62v. Records relating to the Swan, including the court of Requests case between the actors, Robert Shaa et al, and Francis Langley (TNA: Req 2/266) will be published in MacLean's edition for the Swan Playhouse records forthcoming in the REED series.
    • See further Susan Cerasano, 'Edward Alleyn's "Retirement" 1597–1600,' Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England 10 (1998), 98–112.
    • See St Saviour's Vestry Minutes, 1598.
    • See 'The Commercial Significance of the Payments for Playtexts in Henslowe's Diary, 1597–1603,' Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England 5 (1991), 117–63, especially 118 and 131, and 'Toe to Toe Across Maid Lane: Repertorial Competition at the Rose and Globe, 1599–1600,' Acts of Criticism: Performance Matters in Shakespeare and His Contemporaries: Essays in Honor of James P. Lusardi, Paul Nelsen and June Schlueter (eds) (Madison, 2006), 21–37. See also Chambers, Elizabethan Stage, vol 1, p 361, and vol 2, p 162, for the unjustified depiction of the playwrights as 'extremely out-at-elbows men of letters who hung about the Rose' and 'occasionally found it profitable to take their "earnest" for a play, and then to find plausible reasons for indefinitely delaying its completion.'
    • Knutson, ‘Commercial Significance,’ p 131. An earlier article by Neil Carson, 'Production Finance at the Rose Theatre, 1596–98,' Theatre Research International 4 (1979), 172–83, also questioned the dominant narrative, pointing out through close analysis of various sources of evidence between 1596–8 that the diary does not consistently record all expenses and income and so cannot be relied upon as a comprehensive witness to playhouse operations.
    • See Warrant from the Lord Admiral, 1599/1600.
    • See Warrant from the Privy Council, 1600 and Privy Council Order regarding the Restriction of Playhouses, 1600.
    • See Privy Council Letters to the JPs of Middlesex and Surrey and the Lord Mayor, 1601.
    • See Foakes, Henslowe's Diary, p 164, and the Henslowe-Alleyn Digitisation Project, MS 7, f 83. See also REED, P&P, for the touring career of Pembroke's men and Gurr, Shakespearian Companies, pp 266–73, 276–7.
    • See Foakes, Henslowe's Diary, 213–26, and the Henslowe-Alleyn Digitisation Project, MS 7, ff 115–120v. See also Gurr, Shakespearian Companies, pp 317–22, 328–30, and for plays performed at the Rose by both Pembroke's and Worcester's Men, see Appendix 3.
    • See Privy Council Letters to the JPs of Middlesex and Surrey (A), 1602/3. See also Leeds Barroll, Politics, Plague, and Shakespeare's Theater: The Stuart Years (Ithaca and London, 1991), 101–2.
    • See Foakes, Henslowe’s Diary, p 209, and the Henslowe-Alleyn Digitisation Project, MS 7, f 109v.
    • See Foakes, Henslowe’s Diary, pp 225–6, and the Henslowe-Alleyn Digitisation Project, MS 7, f 121. Wiggins and Richardson include this play as possibly performed at the Rose; see British Drama, vol 4: 1598-1602, #1255.
    • See further Barroll, Politics, Plague, and Shakespeare’s Theater, pp 102–4
    • A brief abstract of this letter, dated 9 April 1604, was copied from the lost privy council register for 1601/2–13 by Gilbert Burnet, bishop of Salisbury (BL: Additional MS 11,402, f 93v).
    • DC: MS I, single sheet, foliated 54 by Warner and numbered 39 in his Catalogue. See also the Henslowe-Alleyn Digitisation Project, MS 1, article 39.
    • The original privy council registers for 1601/2–13 were destroyed by fire in 1618. However, Barroll, Politics, Plague, and Shakespeare’s Theater, pp 104–23, provides a detailed outline from other historic sources of the likely impact of the 1603–4 plague on Shakespeare's company, the king's men, then resident at the Globe, but all London area playhouses would have felt the economic consequences.
    • Bowsher and Miller, Rose and the Globe, pp 65–6.