A HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
A History of Theatrical Art
In Ancient and Modern Times by
Authorised Translation by
Louise von Cossel
The Shakespearean Period
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PItNTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
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LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
FIG. Facing pag
I. An Old London Inn-Tabard Inn (from an i8th century
2. London in Shakespeare's time (after Hoefnagel's ground plan). 20
3. Interior of a private theatre (Title to William Alabaster's
4. View of London, with the "Swan," "Fortune" and "Globe"
5. Part of a map of London, 156 56
6. The New Globe Theatre 82
7. Interior of the "Red Bull" theatre 94
8. Richard Tarlton as a Clown 172
9. William Kemp dancing a Morris Dance 180
ro. William Shakespeare 194
ii. Alleyn as Dr Faustus 198
12. Alleyn as Hieronimo 200
13. Edward Alleyn (after a picture at Dulwich College) 210
14. William Shakespeare (from the bust belonging to the Garrick
Club) .. 214
15. Richard Burbage (after a picture at Dulwich College) . 232
16. Nathaniel Field 238
Before the Existence of Theatres-Influence of Italian stage technique
-Inns-Attacks of the Puritans-James Burbage and the Erection of
the First Theatre.
AT the date of Shakespeare's birth (1564) no permanent
theatre as yet existed in England. I
But there had long existed a class of professional
actors, descended partly from the mystery and miracle
playing artisans of the Middle Ages, partly from the I
strolling players, equilibrists, jugglers and jesters.1
Professional Italian actors (players of the Commedia
dell'Arte), who in the sixteenth century spread their gay
and varied art all over Europe, also supplied English
players with that touch of professional technique, in
which their somewhat vacillating and half amateurish
art was still wanting.
While, however, as far as France is concerned, the
Italian influence must strike everybody who studies the
1 As early as the ninth year of the reign of Henry VII. we find in a
royal account-book the following among other entries: . Item, payed
for two players in the hall, 26s. 8d. Item, to the king's players for a reward,
oos. .. Item, to the players that begged by the way, 6s. 8d. (quoted by
Malone: Historical Account of the English Stage, p. 43). Here we notice
already an interesting difference between the refined royal actors, who
receive ioos. in reward, as much as the king loses at cards, and the poor,
destitute jugglers who beg alms on the high road of their passing
III. A I
2 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
stage-history of the country, the evidence of a fertilisa-
tion of English scenic art by the Commedia dell'Arte is
scanty. Yet I think it is sufficient to deserve more
attention than has hitherto been bestowed on it.
In any case there is sufficient evidence to prove that
Italian professional actors penetrated into England and
exercised their art there.
In January 1577 an Italian comedian came to London
with his company. The English called him Drou-
siano, but his real name was Drusiano Martinelli, the
same who with his brother Tristano visited the court
of Philip II.; and there is no reason to suppose that he
was either the first or the last of his countrymen who
tried to carry off good English gold from merry London.
The typical Italian masks are quite well known to the
authors of that period. Thus Thomas Heywood men-
tions all these Doctors, Zannis, Pantaloons and Harlequins,
in which the French, and still more the Italians, dis-
tinguished themselves.1 In Kyd's Spanish Tragedy, an
in Ben Jonson's The Case is Altered, mention is made
of the Italian improvised comedy, and a few well-known
types of character in the dramatic literature of the time
bear distinct traces of having been influenced by Italian
masks; e.g. Ralph Roister Doister in Udall's comedy of
1 Thor. Heywood: An Apology for Actors, 1612; reprinted by the
Shakespeare Society, 1841, p. 43. Comp. also the passage in Shakespeare's
As You Like It, ii. 7 :-
"The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound."
that name; as well as the splendid Captain Bobadill
and his no less amusing companion, Captain Tucca, in
Ben Jonson's Every Man in his Humour and The
Poetaster, all of which are reproductions of the typical
However, it is not these literary testimonies that I
consider the most striking evidence of the influence of
Italian professional technique on English professional
actors. It is a remarkable discovery made by the
highly esteemed Shakespearean archaeologist, Edmond
Malone, about a century ago, in Dulwich College, that
mine of ancient English dramatic research, founded by
the actor Edward Alleyn.
Among the notes left by the old pawnbroker and
theatrical manager, Henslowe, and the various papers,
letters, parts, accounts, etc. his son-in-law, the famous
and very wealthy actor Allen, among these rare docu-
ments, to which we owe a great part of our knowledge
of the Shakespearean stage, Malone found four remark-
able card-board tables, on which the plots of as many
plays were put down, together with the names of the
persons represented, their entrances and exits, cues for
music, sennets, etc.
According to Collier's description,' these tables-one
of which only is preserved, the three others having
disappeared through the carelessness and disorder which
at that time prevailed in the Dulwich treasury-were
about fifteen inches in length and nine in breadth. They
1 J. P. Collier: English Dramatic Poetry, iii. p. 197 (edit. 1879). In Malone's
Additions to the Historical Account, we find four reprints of these tables,
with explanations partly by Malone himself, partly by Steevens.
4 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
were divided into two columns, and between these, towards
the top of the table, there was a square hole for hanging
it up on a hook or some such thing. They bore the
i. The Plotte of the Deade Man's Fortune;
2. The Plotte of the First Parte of Tamar Cam;
3. The Plotte of Frederick and Basilea and
4. The Platte of the Secound Parte of the Seven
The last mentioned play is known for certain to
have been composed by the excellent comic actor,
Richard Tarlton. Gabriel Harvey, the astrologist and
the implacable antagonist of Thomas Nash, tells us in
his letters 1 how Tarlton himself in Oxford invited him
to see his celebrated play on The Seven Deadly Sins;
Harvey asked him which of the seven was his own
deadly sin, and he instantly replied: By G- the sinne
of other gentlemen, lechery."
Tarlton died in the year 1588, and some of the other
plays, especially The Dead Man's Fortune, are con-
sidered to be a good deal older than his. They belong,
therefore, to an early period of the English Renaissance
These four tables caused considerable trouble to
Malone and his contemporary Steevens, as well as to
later investigators, as they are without equals in the
archaeology of the English stage. If these men had
known that such tables, containing the plot of the piece
which was acted at the time, were always hung up on
the stage of the Italian Commedia dell'Arte in order to
I [Gabriel Harvey:] Four letters and certain Sonnets, 1592, p. 29.
the quarters where they took place, and that the joyous,
but by no means refined or quiet "pit," when going
home, excited by one of Tarlton's jigs and by the strong
ale of the inn, was not animated by very respectful
feelings towards their sour Puritan fellow-citizens, who
were scandalised as they watched "merry London"
crowding past their windows. Nor is it improbable that
these anything but respectful feelings vented themselves
in some of the coarse expressions in which the plays of
those times abound, where Puritanism, the sworn enemy,
is concerned; this barbarous sect," as it is called by a
modern English author,' "from whose inherited and
contagious tyranny this nation is as yet but imperfectly
It is certain, at any rate, that the Puritan citizens
entertained a deep and sincere hatred of anything con-
nected with plays and actors, and if it had been in their
power to do what they liked, the world would once for
all have been relieved of such pernicious and wicked
vagabonds as William Shakespeare, Christopher Mar-
lowe and Ben Jonson.
Fortunately, however, this power did not lie with the
Luckily, this sect, which like a malicious growth seemed
to have gathered to itself all the stubbornness, insensi-
bility and rude obstinacy of the nation, was counter-
balanced by a refined and intellectual nobility, which was
inspired by the new artistic and philosophical thought of
the Renaissance, and seemed to foresee, if not fully to
recognize, what a mine of poetry the English theatre of
'A. C. Swinburne : A Study of Ben Jonson, p. 43.
8 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
those times was destined to be. Thanks to men like
Sir Francis Walsingham, Lords Leicester, Nottingham,
Strange and Sussex, the drama resisted for a time the
violent and unwearied attacks of the Puritans. Most
fortunately for the actors also, Queen Elizabeth, as well
as her successors, James I. and Charles I., was fond of
plays, and favourably inclined towards their performers.
Elizabeth rendered a great service to the actors by
placing them under the patronage of the nobility. The
municipal authorities, who were frequently Puritan, con-
sidered neither dramatic art nor dramatic poetry as an
acceptable means of livelihood; consequently, those who
cultivated these noble arts easily exposed themselves to
being treated as "masterless men," unless they could
give a reference to some distinguished aristocratic name.
" The Queen ordered by law-in a statute which has
Soften been misunderstood-" that all common players of
interludes wandering abroad, other than players of inter-
ludes belonging to any baron of this realme, or any other
honourable personage of greater degree, to be authorised
to play under the hand and seale of arms of such baron
or personage, shall be adjudged and deemed rogues and
vagabonds "; in other words, the Queen urged all actors,
for their own sakes, to place themselves under the
patronage of some nobleman, in order to protect them
against the persecution of the Puritan citizens.
But even such mighty protection could not entirely
shield them, and it was this very power of the London
Corporation to injure the actors that caused the establish-
ment of the first London theatre.
In the year i572 the Plague broke out in London;
it killed many thousands of people, and kept recurring
at certain intervals during the next twenty or thirty years,
carrying horror and death with it. Under these circum-
stances all dramatic performances were prohibited for a
time in London, a precaution which was reasonable
enough, as the dense crowding of people might have
helped to spread the disease. But the magistrate seems
to have caught eagerly at this opportunity of interfering.
In Harrison's Description of England the event
is reported as follows: Plaies are banished for a time
out of London, lest the resort unto them should ingender
a plague, or rather disperse it, being already begonne.
Would to God these common plaies were exiled for
altogether as semenaries of impiety, and their theatres
pulled down as no better than houses of baudrie. It
is an evident token of a wicked time when players wesce
so rich that they can build such houses. As moche I
wish also to our common beare baitinges used on the
sabaothe daies." 1
We cannot help noticing the predilection of the
Puritans for the coarse bear-fights, which in their opinion
were only displeasing to God when performed on a Sab-
bath, whereas the play-houses at any time were no better
than the "ill-famed stews in Southwark. It cannot be
denied, however, that, under the prevailing circumstances,
it was quite right that the play-houses should be tem-
1 Harrison's Description of England, edited by F. J. Furnivall, i. p. 54.
From this report it might seem as if there existed permanent theatres as
early as 1572, but Harrison's annals are continued down to 1592, and, as
Ordish (Early London Theatres, p. 31) justly points out, he may have written
this passage at any period between 1572 and 1592. Harrison has confused
what happened in 1572 with his own reflections about later events.
Io HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
But the sudden and unwarranted expulsion of all
dramatic performances from the precincts of London a
few years later (1575) cannot be accounted for other-
wise than by the increasing popularity which these plays
enjoyed among the non-Puritan public, and the envy
with which the clergy saw the people crowding much
more to the places where actors interpreted the rising
poets, than to .those where the preachers themselves
enunciated their gloomy doctrine.
In the year 1574 the actor, James Burbage, father
of the afterwards famous Richard Burbage, with four
other actors, all belonging to the retinue of the Earl of
Leicester, had received permission from the Queen to
perform all kinds of plays anywhere in England, "for
the recreation of her beloved subjects as well as for her
own comfort and pleasure, if it should please her to see
Perhaps it was a countermove on the part of the
Puritan community when the Lord Mayor and the
Corporation in the following year straightway forbade
all plays within the precincts of the town. If so, it
proved a failure. James Burbage resolutely hired a
liberty outside the city, and here, in 1576, on the
premises of an ancient Roman Catholic priory, he built
the first English play-house, which he named "The
In the following year "The Theatre" gained an ally
in "The Curtain," which was built in the same neigh-
bourhood, both of course causing great indignation
among the Puritans. In 1577, the year after the first
play-house had been erected, there appeared a furious
pamphlet (by John Northbrooke') against "dicing,
dancing, plays and interludes as well as other idle
The treatise is written in the form of a dialogue,
and the colloquists, Youth and Old Age, enter upon
the subject in the following terms:-
Youth.-" Do you speaker against those places also, which
are made uppe and builded for such players and
enterludes as the Theatre and Curtaine is, and
other such like places besides ?"
Age.-" Yea, truly ; for I am persuaded that Satan hath
not a more speedie way and fitter school to work
and teach his desire, to bring men and women
into his snare of concupiscence and filthie lustes
of wicked whoredome, than those places and plays
and theatres are; and therefore necessary that
those places and players should be forbidden,
and dissolved, and put down by authorities, as
the brothell houses and stewes are."2
And no doubt all possible means were taken to have
plays forbidden and the play-houses pulled down, but
though the attack of the Black Army never ceased for
a moment, the Puritans did not succeed in getting the
better of the theatres till the year 1642, when they
acquired political power through the Civil War; and,
fortunately for the part of mankind which appreciates
1 Edited by T. P. Collier.
2 The Stews," houses of ill-fame, were mostly situated in Southwark.
They were not prohibited by the authorities, and stood under the supervision
of the Bishop of Winchester (Northbrooke's Treatise against Dicing, Danc-
ing, Plays and Interludes, etc., edited by T. P. Collier).
12 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
art, this precious flower of culture, one of the richest
and most remarkable periods in the life of dramatic
art had developed into full bloom before the outbreak
of the war.
Now and then in the course of this history we shall
have opportunities of returning to the struggle between
the theatres and the Puritans. At present we will only
quote a further example of the attacks during the time
of the earliest theatres, an example which not only shows
the Puritan hatred of actors, which has been sufficiently
indicated, but also the general favour with which the
new theatrical enterprises were at once received.
In a sermon of 1578 we read the following bitter and
deep-drawn sigh by the clergyman, John Stockwood:
" Wyll not a fylthye played wyth the blast of a trumpette
sooner call thyther a thousand than an hours tolling
of a bell bring to the sermon a hundred ?-nay, even
heere in the Citie, without it be at this place and some
other certain ordinarie audience, where shall you finde
a reasonable company ?-whereas, if you resort to the
Theatre, the Curtayne and other places of players in the
Citie, you shall on the Lords Day have these places,
with many other that I cannot recken, so full as possible
they can throng." I
x Quoted by J. A. Halliwell-Phillipps: Outlines of the Life of Shakes-
feare, 3rd edition, p. 400.
"The Theatre" and its History-The Performances merely a Branch of
Sport-The Quarrel between Burbage and George Allen-The Staff
and Repertoire of "The Theatre"-The Second Theatre, "The
THAT the bold defiance with which James Burbage
and the other actors met the Lord Mayor and the
Corporation should prove so successful, lay almost in
the nature of things. The prohibition of plays within
the bounds of the city of London did not mean that
they were looked upon with animosity by the people,
but merely that a majority in the Corporation was
unfriendly to them. It was soon shown that, though
the wise city fathers could easily forbid the actors to
perform their plays in London, they could not prevent
the enthusiastic public from walking in crowds a mile
out of town in order to see such performances, especially
as people were quite accustomed to the journey.
Burbage, who was a business-like man, had chosen
his ground quite close to the public places, where the
Londoners practised their open air sports, and amused
themselves with tennis and football, stone-throwing,
cock-fights and archery.
Burbage gave his new building the name of "The
Theatre." The title was not intended to mean the theatre
par excellence, for the word theatre was not then com-
monly used to denote a building in which dramatic
representations were performed. It is more probable
that he thought he had succeeded in choosing an elegant
14 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
name with a certain suggestion of the old classics, which
was euphonious and not quite common.
The usual name for a theatre was the play-house,1
a house intended for all kinds of games and sport, such
as fencing, bear-fights, bull-fights, jigs, morris-dances
and pantomimes, as well as for dramatic performances.
It cannot be sufficiently emphasised that the theatrical
entertainments of those times were something more or
less literary, anyhow something quite apart from the
dramatic performances of the present day. They were
meant to satisfy mixed desires in the nation; but besides
satisfying its craving for beautiful, picturesque language,
fine spectacles and merry jests, they also gratified its
desire for the display of physical strength, for shallow
rhyming tricks and competitions, graceful exercises of
the body, indeed for all that might be included under
the notion of sport, and give opportunity for betting.
Therefore, the plays, properly so-called, alternated
with fights between animals, in which bears and bulls
were baited by great bloodthirsty bull-dogs, or with
fencing matches fought by celebrated English and
foreign fencing masters, with rope-dancing, acrobatic
tricks and boxing. Even the serious performances
ended with a more or less absurd jig, in which the
clown sang endless songs about the events of the day,
and danced interminable morris-dances.
Shakespeare and his contemporaries, whose works
are now reckoned among the first literature-so much
so that they are scarcely read any longer-at the time of
which we are speaking were nothing but practical play-
1 Play-house, from the Anglo-Saxon flegahus; plega= play, game, sport.
THE THEATRES 15
wrights, and Shakespeare was so far from dreaming that
the time would come when his plays would be counted
among the most precious treasures of posterity that, as
we know, he did not even take the trouble to have a
printed edition of his works published.
The many fighting scenes in the plays of the time, in
Shakespeare's among the rest, the wrestling match in As
You Like It, the duel between Macduff and Macbeth,
the fencing scene between Hamlet and Laertes, no
doubt afforded opportunities for magnificent displays of
skill in the use of arms and in physical exercises, and
we may be sure that the spectators followed those scenes
with an interest which was perhaps more of a sporting
than of a literary nature.
It was according to a well-calculated plan, therefore,
that the elder Burbage erected his play-house north of
the city in Finsbury Fields, where from ancient times the
people had been accustomed to see and practise military
exercises and other sports, and where the soldiers were
still in the habit of practising archery and musketry.
And it was with equally sound calculation that he
gave the theatre its particular form, which remained
essentially the same in all the play-houses of the Shakes-
Before the establishment of permanent theatres there
had long existed amphitheatres for the performance of
fights between animals, the so-called Rings." These
Rings-the auditorium as well as the arena-were open
all round, and the seats, like those of the ancient Greek
theatre, were placed according to the natural formation
of the ground.
16 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
Burbage retained the circular amphitheatrical form.
Being a joiner as well as an actor and manager, he
was no doubt his own architect in his new theatrical
But instead of the roofless, open air auditorium, he
constructed a covered circular wooden building with
storeys or galleries, which was made so as to contain a
number of boxes for the distinguished and well-paying
public, and which entirely enclosed the open uncovered
arena, which, as it recalled the inn-yards, was called
"the yard," or afterwards, perhaps on account of the
high pit-like construction surrounding it, "the pit,"
whence the poorest and humblest spectators enjoyed
the performances. ._---
Finally, he built a covered "tire-house" or "tiring-
house "-as it was called in those times-for the actors,
a place in which also all the requisites and the so-called
" properties were kept. This tiring-house stood within
the circle, and its roof towered up above the auditorium.
From the tiring-house the stage-a simple wooden
platform resting on rams-was pushed forward, and it
might be removed when the arena was to be used for
fights between animals, etc., instead of dramatic per-
By this reform of the building-a reform which be-
came epoch-making to the whole Shakespearean period
-James Burbage obtained a threefold advantage: more
comfortable seats for the more distinguished portion of
the audience, where they were sheltered from wind and
weather; the use of the house both for plays and the
baiting of animals; and the power to oblige the public
to pay their admission at certain doors of his building,
which spared him the unpleasant and unsafe collection of
money from spectators, who might not always be very
willing to pay.
But this result was not obtained without considerable
Though we are not so fortunate as to possess a draw-
ing of the outside or inside of The Theatre," about the
shape of which, therefore, we must partly draw our con-
clusions from analogy with other play-houses, we are
comparatively well informed as to its outward history
till it was pulled down in_ JjS-
Thus we know that the enterprise cost James Bur-1
bage 666, i3s. 4d., a considerable sum in those days,
which would be equal to about eightfold that amount ii
our own time.
This money Burbage borrowed of his father-in-law,
John Braynes, to whom he had to pay high interest, and
it represented only the cost of the building itself, for he
did not buy the ground on which it stood. This ground
belonged to one Giles Allen, and in the contract between
him and Burbage it was settled, among other points, that
if, in the course of the first ten years after the drawing up
of the lease, Burbage spent a sum of 2oo0 or more on
the building, he should have a right to remove it after
the expiration of the lease.
The lease was drawn up in the year 1576, for a period
of twenty-one years. In spite of many pecuniary diffi-
culties which the heavy rent and high interest naturally
entailed on Burbage-who for some time even seems to
have been obliged to mortgage his entire property-and
18 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
innumerable annoyances from the Puritans, Burbage
succeeded in keeping his theatre above water till the
expiration of the lease and till his own death, which
occurred in 1597.
But before this date he had been negotiating with the
proprietor, Giles Allen, about a prolongation of the lease.
Allen, who was evidently as grasping as he was difficult
to deal with, and who may not unjustly be suspected of
having been an instrument in the hands of the Puritan
authorities, had caused him a good deal of trouble in the
course of years. On seeing how people crowded to the
theatre, he had tried, for one thing, to press Burbage for
a higher rent, and, partly for religious, partly for moral
reasons, had threatened to forbid the running of a play-
house on his property. The negotiations about the new
lease had not come to an end when the elder Burbage died,
and left his two sons, Cuthbert, who was a bookseller,
and Richard, who was the leading actor of his time, not
only burdened with the play-house, the long lease of which
had expired, but opposed by a proprietor with whom it
was impossible to come to terms, and by a magistrate who
was more eager than ever to deal a blow at the play-houses.
In the same year, when the two brothers took on
"The Theatre," the Lord Mayor of London actually
succeeded in inducing the Privy Council to issue an
order of suppression against it and other play-houses.
The order begins as follows: Her Majestie being
informed that there are verie great disorders committed
in the common playhouses both by lewd matters that are
handled on the stages, and by resort and confluence of
bad people, hathe given direction that not onlie no players
shall be, used within London or about the Citty, or in
any public place, during this tyme of sommer, but that
also those playhouses that are erected and built only for
such purposes shall be plucked down, namelie the
Curtayne and the Theatre nere to Shorditch, or any
other within that county."
It is not known whether the order was withdrawn
or whether the disregard of it was winked at-the court
very likely was not particularly inclined to see the
sentence of condemnation carried out--at all events,
neither The Curtain" nor "The Theatre" was pulled
down at the time. But the order shows how much power
the Puritan citizens possessed, and what difficulties the
brothers Burbage had to contend with.
They seem, however, to have inherited their father's
resolute character. Since it seemed quite impossible to
come to terms with the grasping proprietor, Allen, the
brothers were sensible enough to avail themselves of the
clause in the now expired lease, which permitted them
to pull down and remove the buildings they had erected
on the premises, in case they had spent at least 200 on
them during the first ten years.
This sum had been much exceeded at the time, and one
day, to the great consternation and anger of the astonished
Giles Allen, they simply removed The Theatre."
One of the paragraphs in the account of the subse-
quent law-suit between Allen and the Burbages gives
a very vivid idea of this remarkable removal. Allen
accuses Cuthbert Burbage of "unlawfullye combining
and confederatinge himself with the sayd Richard
Halliwell-Phillipps: Outlines of the Life of Shakespeare, 3rd ed., p. 403.
20 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
Burbage and one Peeter Streat, William Smyth and
divers other persons, to the number of twelve, to your
subject unknown, did about the eight and twentyth
daye of December in the one and fortyth yeere of your
Highnes raygne [I598] . ryoutouslye assemble them-
selves together, and then and there armed themselves
with dyvers and many unlawfull and offensive weapons,
as, namelye, swordes, daggers, billes, axes and such like,
and so armed, did then repayre unto the sayd Theater,
and then and there, armed as aforesayd, in very ryotous,
outrageous and forcyble manner, and contrary to the
lawes of your highnes realme, attempted to pull down
the sayd Theater, whereuppon divers of your subjects,
servauntes and farmers, then going about in peaceable
manner to procure them to desist from that their unlaw-
full enterprise, they the sayd ryotous persons aforesayd
notwithstanding procured then therein with great
violence, not only then and there forcyblye and
ryotouslye resisting your subjects, servauntes and
farmers, but also then and there pulling, breaking and
throwing down the sayd Theater in very outrageous,
violent and riotous sort, to the great disturbance and
terrefyeing not only of your subjects sayd servauntes
and farmers, but of divers others of your Majesties
loving subjects there neere inhabitinge; and having so
done, did then also in most forcible and ryotous manner
take and carrye away from thence all the wood and
timber thereof unto the Bancksyde in the parishe of
St Marye Overyes, and there erected a newe playehowse
with the sayd timber and wood."
Such was the precipitate end of the first short-lived
S. I ", :' i.
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Shakespeare's Time (after Hefnage ground-plan).
London play-house. But the new house, which was
built out of its materials on the "Bankside," was the
celebrated "Globe," the name of which is inseparably
connected with that of Shakespeare.
As we said above, James Burbage, the creator of
"The Theatre," belonged to the company which played
under the patronage of Lord Leicester, and therefore
went under the name of Lord Leicester's Servants" or
" Men." The four other actors, who in 1574 received a
royal licence to act from Queen Elizabeth, were John
Perkin, John Lanham,William Jonson, and RobertWilson.
While James Burbage was no doubt the leader of
the company, Robert Wilson is supposed to have been
its chief actor, at all events of comic parts, and he was
the only one among the five who was also a dramatic
author. Under his name, but after his death, Cuthbert
Burby 1 published in 1594 The Prophecy of the Cobbler;
and among anonymous plays the following are ascribed
to him: Fair Em, the Miller's Daughter from Man-
chester; The Three Ladies of London, etc.2
Most likely some of Wilson's plays were acted in The
Theatre." With this exception the internal history
of this play-house is rather obscure, and very little is
known of its repertoire. A few titles may be found
in contemporary literature, such as The Blacksmith's
Daughter, mentioned by the Puritan Gosson3 in his
1 A variant of Burbage. The Danish original does not contain this note,
and I have not been able to find the variant Burbay" anywhere but on
this page.-L. v. C.
2 Comp. F. G. Fleay: A Biographical Chronicle of the English Drama,
under "Robert Wilson, senior," ii. pp. 278, ff.
3 Gosson : School of Abuse, p. 30. The Conspiracies of Catilina is men-
tioned by Gosson as "a pig of my owne Sowe," as it was written by himself.
22 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
"School of Abuse," as containing the treachery of Turks,
the honourable bountye of a noble mind, the shining of
vertue in distresse" "The Conspiracy of Catilina,"
"Caesar and Pompey," and "The Play about the Fabians."
All these must have belonged to the earliest repertoire
of The Theatre," for Gosson's "School of Abuse"
appeared in 1579.
It is of more interest that Thomas Lodge 1 mentions
the original pre-Shakespearean Hamlet as having been
acted in "The Theatre." He speaks of one who "looks
as pale as the visard of the ghost which cries so miserably
at the Theater, like an oister-wife, 'Hamlet, revenge.' "
The same company, originally Lord Leicester's Ser-
vants continued to act in "The Theatre" till it was
pulled down But the company several times changed
its patron and consequently its name. In 1588 Lord
Leicester died, and after his death Ferdinando Stanley,
Lord Strange, became the patron of the company; till
1592, therefore, the actors were called Lord Strange's
Men." But in 1592 Lord Strange was created Earl of
Derby; consequently the troupe became for two years
"The Earl of Derby's Men." In 1594 the Earl of
Derby died, and Henry Carey, first Lord Hunsdon and
Lord Chamberlain, undertook to become patron of the
company, which, therefore, adopted the name of "The
Lord Chamberlain's Servants." The son of Lord
Hunsdon, George Carey, second Lord Hunsdon, after
his father's death in 1596, also inherited the patronage
of the actors, and for almost a year they had to content
themselves with being called Lord Hunsdon's Men,"
1 Th. Lodge : Wits Miserie, 1596.
until Lord Hunsdon became Lord Chamberlain like his
father, and allowed the company to resume the title of
"The Lord Chamberlain's Servants" (1597). This name
the actors retained till the accession of King James in
1603, after which they were promoted to the title of
" The King's Players"; this title put them in the first rank,
which indeed they had long held in reality, and which
they kept till the suppression of the play-houses in 1642.
It is no slight task for one who desires to study
theatrical affairs in the time of Shakespeare to make
himself acquainted with the varying names of the com-
panies of actors; but without such knowledge it would
be very difficult to pursue the thread of the history even
of the leading companies.
/bout the year 1590 our company received an addi-\
ti6n in the person of a young man, who was not only a
skilled and useful actor, but who also possessed the
accomplishment of being able to adapt older plays to
the taste of the times, and even proved to have the gift
of writing tolerably good plays himself, though older and
jealous colleagues might hint at their not being alto-
gether original. This young man, whose capacities
became of no slight use to the company and The
Theatre," was named William Shakespeare.1
At this time the leading actors of The Theatre"
were the great tragedian Richard Burbage, who was then
quite a young man, Henry Condell and John Heminge,
who continued to be the mainstays of the company.
There was also the clown, Augustine Phillips, an excellent
1 It is impossible to give the exact date of Shakespeare's engagement at
24 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
comic actor of the old school. These four became the
most intimate friends of Shakespeare, and to Condell
and Heminge posterity owes special gratitude, since it
was they who, after the death of Shakespeare, undertook
the publication of the first printed collection of his plays.
It is impossible to decide definitely which of Shake-I
speare's plays belonged to the repertoire of The
Theatre." It is probable that his first plays, Love's
Labour Lost, The Comedy of Errors, The Two Gentle-
men of Verona, and his first tragedy, Romeo and Juliet,
saw the light on this stage between 1589 and 1591.1
Afterwards, between 1594 and 1597, these were possibly
increased by A Midsummer Night's Dream, Richard the
Second, King John, The Merchant of Venice and HenryIV,
The repertoire of "The Theatre also included-Ihe
so-called "jigs," merry after-plays, mostly consisting of
songs and dances, with frequent allusions to the events
of the day, sneering at the Puritans, the magistrates
and other enemies of the play-houses. Later, we shall
have an opportunity of entering more closely into the
character of the "jig."
It has been briefly mentioned above that not long
after the establishment of The Theatre "-at the latest
in the following year-this play-house gained a com-
panion in The Curtain," which thus became the second
of its kind in London.
The two play-houses were very close to each other,
but for this very reason it seems natural to suppose
Fleay: The English Drama, ii. p. 176, and Life of Shakespeare.
Others are of the opinion that no drama of Shakespeare's appeared
before 1591. Comp. Sidney Lee: Life of William Shakespeare,
THE THEATRES 25
that they were rather meant to support than to rival
each other. They were like a kind of double-barrelled
gun directed against the Corporation,1 and they seem
indeed, to an equal extent, to have roused the anger of
the Puritans, for they are generally mentioned together
in the Puritan pamphlets directed against play-houses and
all other wickedness.
However, the history of "The Curtain" is almost
unknown to us. While we know a good deal about
the outward circumstances of The Theatre on account
of the constant troubles which the Burbage family had
to endure from the proprietor of the ground and the
municipal authorities, and of the subsequent lawsuit, the
reports we find about "The Curtain" are extremely
meagre. We know neither when 2 nor by whom it was
built, nor when it was pulled down.
By a mistake which is natural enough, its name has
been connected with the front curtain of the stage. We
shall see later that no such curtain existed in the time of
Shakespeare, and we do not know that the background
draperies of that period had the fixed name of curtain."
Anyhow, the possibility of this derivation is ab-
solutely excluded by the fact that the spot on which
the second London play-house was built, for some un-
known reason bore the name of Curtayne Close." 3 So
the play-house was simply named after the spot on which
it was built.
1 Ordish: Early London Theatres, p. 80.
2 It was probably in 1577, for it is mentioned, together with "The
Theatre," shortly after the erection of this building. However, it may have
been built in the same year as the latter (1576), only a little later.
3 Halliwell-Phillipps : Outlines of the Life of Shakespeare, 3rd ed., p. 422.
*. .- ... .. ... ..
26 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
As long as The Theatre stood close beside it, the
two companions shared almost the same fate. We have
seen that in 1597 an order was issued to pull down
both play-houses; this order, however, was never carried
out. But after the removal of "The Theatre" to
Bankside, The Curtain seems to have gone its own
way. The actors, on the whole, were not afraid of
pleading their cause from the stage, and of retorting on
the attacks of their assailants by lashing them with the
whip of caricature, and it seems that those of The
Curtain had gone a little too far in their Aristophanic
parodies of their worthy fellow-citizens and chief magis-
trate. For in May 160o the justices of the peace for
the county of Middlesex received the following admoni-
tion from the Privy Council: "We doo understand
that certain players that use to recyte their players at
the Curtaine in Moorefeilds, do represent upon the stage
in their interludes the persons of some gent of good
desert and quality that are yet alive under obscure
manner, but yet- in such sorte as all the hearers may
take notice both of the matter and the persons that are
meant thereby. This being a thing very unfitte, offen-
sive and contrary to such direction as have been hereto-
fore taken, that no plaies should be openly shewed but
such as were first perused and allowed, and that minister
no occasion of offence or scandal, wee do hereby require
you that you do forthwith forbidd those players to
whomsoever they appertaine that do play at the Cour-
taine in Moorefeildes to represent any such play, and that
you will examine them who made that play and to shew
the same unto you, and as you in your discrecions shall
:\*.. .': : "". ...
.... . .
,je g *
thincke the same unfitte to be publiquely shewed to
forbidd them from henceforth to play the same eyther
privately or publiquely; and yf upon veiwe of the said
play you shall finde the subject so odious and inconvenient
as is informed, wee require you to take bond of the
cheifest of them to aunswere their rashe and indiscreete
dealing before us."
We know nothing of the result of this prosecution,
but we may be allowed to assume that it did not result
in very severe measures. We seem to read a certain
concealed sympathy in the writ of the great Lords, and
we cannot help suspecting that it was the Puritan citizens
who felt themselves hit, and who brought the complaint.
If the Lords had been the butt of the mockery, no doubt
the proceeding of the actors would have appeared to them
much worse than "rashe and indiscreete."
Until the Globe Theatre was built, the Burbages
most likely possessed a share in "The Curtain." At
any rate, their company used that building alternately
with their own; no doubt, for instance, during the period
between the pulling down of "The Theatre" and the
building of "The Globe." During this period they
played (as the "Lord Chamberlain's Men") among other
things no less famous a piece than Ben Jonson's Every
Man in his Humour, which, according to old tradition, was
accepted on the recommendation of Shakespeare, after
having been put aside contemptuously by the other lead-
1 The original editions of the plays of this time generally have after their
title a note stating by what company they were acted ("---, as acted by
--'s men "). Thus a knowledge of the varying names of the companies
provides us with a pretty safe means of determining the date of the appear-
ance of the plays.
28 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
ing actors. This splendid play had an enormous success.
Of Shakespeare's plays Muck Ado about Nothing and
The Second Part of King Henry IV. were acted.
There is scarcely any reason for assuming with
Halliwell-Phillipps and Ordish, that the first performance
of Henry V. took place at "The Curtain." At the
appearance of this play (in 1599) the Globe Theatre
was built, and we cannot doubt that it was here that
this popular play saw the light. So the frequently
mentioned "wooden O" in the prologue does not allude
to "The Curtain," but to "The Globe."
The outward shape of "The Curtain" we must imagine
to have been, like that of "The Theatre," circular, and
unroofed in the centre. It is generally supposed to
have been somewhat smaller than Burbage's first theatre.
The last period of the existence of The Curtain"
is enveloped in obscurity. But there is no reason to
suppose that it did not continue to exist till all play-
houses were put down during the Civil War, 1642-47.
If The Curtain was preserved as long as that, its life
was longer than that of any other play-house of the
Interior of a Private Theatre
(Title to William Alabaster's Roxana).
The Blackfriars' Theatre-Its Comparatively Slight Importance to Shake-
speare-Its Situation and Construction-Private and Public Theatres
-The Question of Property-Children's Plays.
BEFORE his death the energetic James Burbage started
another theatrical enterprise, the Blackfriars' Theatre.
In the reading world the name of the Blackfriars'
Theatre has for a long time been connected almost as
closely as that of "The Globe with the dramatic and
the histrionic work of Shakespeare, but this is correct
only to a certain extent. It is true that Shakespeare
appeared as an actor on this stage, and that some of his
pieces were performed there, but his work at this theatre
was only of very short duration, and the most important
and glorious part of his career belongs exclusively to
" The Globe," which, moreover, was the only theatre
in which he had a pecuniary share as part-pro9prietQr.
Until a few years ago the descriptions of the theatrical
circumstances of the time by Shakespeare's biographers
were chiefly based on the treatment of this subject by
Malone and Collier, as given in the former's Historical
Account of the English Stage," and the latter's "Annals
of the Stage."
Malone, who was unique in his time as an expert
in theatrical archeology, brought forward an immense
quantity of material to throw light on the theatrical
circumstances of the time, and his honesty is above
suspicion. However, as he himself confesses, he did
not succeed in gaining a correct knowledge of the
30 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
chronological details of the theatres themselves; and
their history, on the whole, was not clear to him.
Of the honesty of Collier, the less said the better.
His account of the history of the ancient theatres is a
model of inaccuracy, even in the last edition of his large
work, which appeared as late as 1879; besides which, his
quite erroneous dates are put forth with the authoritative
assurance which his once great name had given him.
No wonder, therefore, that many later literary critics of
Shakespeare have been tempted to adopt his entirely
The last twenty or thirty years, however, have
thrown abundant light on this question by the discovery
of documents, which remove all doubt as to the outlines
of the history of the most important theatres, though, so
far as I know, no connected account of their external
and internal history has yet been forthcoming.1
The present attempt to place the various theatres of
the Shakespearean era in their correct relation to each
other is essentially based on such documents as deeds of
purchase, building-agreements, law-reports, petitions, etc.
On the 4th of February 1596 James Burbage bought
a property which stood on ground belonging to the
monastery of the Blackfriars, which is now pulled down,
the Blackfriars' precinct," as it was called. The site is
now occupied by the imposing offices of The Times," in
1 T. F. Ordish, an expert in the topography of ancient London, has begun
such a history, and begun it admirably. Unfortunately, he has not con-
tinued the work. The first part was published in 1894, and treats of the
history of some of the theatres lying outside the town. The chapter by H.
Barton Baker on the Elizabethan Theatres, in his London Stage, is too con-
densed and too inaccurate to be taken into serious consideration.
Queen Victoria Street near Blackfriars' Station. In the
days of Queen Elizabeth the open spaces in the Black-
friars' quarter were in great favour as tennis-courts.
During the preceding reigns tennis had been forbidden
in the Convent grounds, but Elizabeth willingly per-
mitted respectable citizens, as well as strangers, foreign
ambassadors and other noblemen, to practise on this
spot the elegant game, which was as fashionable then as
it is now. But vagabonds, with apprentices and servants,
who played against the will of their masters, were for-
bidden the use of this ground.'
When James Burbage chose this ground for the
construction of a new theatre, he well knew what he
was about, and he acted on the same practical principles
which had guided him in selecting the site for "The
Theatre." It had previously been a pleasure-ground,
not for the lower classes, but for noblemen and wealthy
merchants, and it was a monastic ground with old
"liberties," over which the chief magistrates of London
had no control.
The old monastery had been partly rebuilt, and
private suites of rooms had been arranged in it. One
of these private suites belonged to Sir Thomas More,
and on the second floor there had formerly been a very
large hall, which at the time we are writing of had been
converted into seven spacious rooms, and lately inhabited
by a physician, William de Lawne. This property was
bought by the elder Burbage for Z600.2 What he
1 Two royal licences for playing tennis in the Blackfriars' quarter have
been found by Mr J. Greenstreet and published in The Athencem, January
2 The deed of purchase has been published by J. O. Halliwell-Phillipps
in his Outlines, pp. 511-522.
HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
meant to do was to restore the old hall to its original
shape, and then to make a theatre of it.
Burbage probably began converting the private
house into a theatre very soon after the purchase, for
as early as November in the same year thirty-one in-
habitants of the Puritan persuasion, among others,
William de Lawne, the former owner of the building,
brought a complaint before the Privy Council to prevent
the change from taking place.
It is said in this complaint,1 which is very charac-
teristic: ". . that whereas one Burbage hath lately
bought certain rooms in the same precinct neere adjoin-
ing unto the dwelling houses of the right honorable the
Lord Chamberlaine and the Lord of Hunsdon, which
romes the said Burbage is now altering, and meaneth
very shortly to convert and turne the same into a
common playhouse, which will grow to be a very great
annoyance and trouble, not only to all the noblemen
and gentlemen thereabout inhabiting, but also a general
inconvenience to all the inhabitants of the same precinct,
both by reason of the great resort and gathering to-
geather of all manner of vagrant and lewde persons that,
under cullor of resorting to the players, will come thither
and work all manner of mischiefe, and also to the
great pestring and filling up of the same precinct, yf it
should please God to send any visitation of sicknesse
as heretofore hath been; for that the same precinct is
already grown very populous, and besides that the
same play-house is so neere the church that the
noyse of the drummes and trumpetts will greatly dis-
1 Halliwell-Phillipps, Outlines, 3rd edition, pp. 522, 523.
turbe and hinder both the ministers and parishioners in
tyme of devine service and sermons, in tender con-
sideracion whereof, as also for that there hath not at
any tyme heretofore been used any common playhouse
within the same precinct, but that now all players being
banished by the Lord Mayor from playing within the
Cittie by reason of the great inconveniences and ill rule
that followeth them, they now thincke to plant themselves
in liberties; that therefore it would please your honors
to take order that the same roomes may be converted
to some other use, and that no playhouse may be used
or kept there; and your suppliants as most bounden shall
and will dayly pray for your Lordships in all honor and
happiness long to live. . ."
Of this petition the Privy Council seems not to have
taken the slightest notice. But it was the cause of a
series of forgeries concocted and published by J. P.
Collier, which represent petitions by various actors of
Burbage's company, Shakespeare among the number,
expressing a desire that the Blackfriars' Theatre may
not be prohibited. They also mention Shakespeare's
share in it as being worth Z933, 6s. 8d. Collier tried to
prove that the Blackfriars' Theatre was already built in
1576, and that Burbage and his company acted in it for
a long time, and it was in support of these assertions
that he produced his forgeries. For the same purpose a
letter was composed purporting to be from the Earl of
Southampton to Sir Thomas Egerton, in which the Earl
desires protection for the actors, mentioning Burbage
and Shakespeare by name. However, as late as 1596
the Blackfriars' Theatre was not yet ready for use, and it
34 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
was not till many years later that Shakespeare and his
company came to act in it.
Probably in the beginning of 1597 James Burbage
finished his new play-house. It differed very much from
the others; indeed, it was only a large hall which was
made into a stage and an auditorium. The hall, as
we have seen, was on the second floor, and several
winding flights of stone stairs led up to it. In contrast to
"The Theatre" and "The Curtain," the whole space
was covered-the leaden roof of the house is mentioned
several times in the above-quoted deed of purchase.
Later, these play-halls, which were arranged inside ordi-
nary private houses, were called private play-houses,"
as distinct from the larger open-air stages out of town,
which were called "public play-houses."
Whether there existed any real difference between
the private and the public play-houses, besides the fact
that the former were smaller in size and under cover,
has never been ascertained.
It may be supposed, however, that at the outset
Burbage meant to collect a small and select aristocratic
public in his new locality, and to exclude the tumultuous
elements, which frequently caused annoyance to the
actors in the pits of the public theatres; and that for
this reason he called his play-house "private," just as in
English public-houses there is a private room for the
more distinguished visitors, while the crowd must be
contented with the "public room." It may be, indeed,
that during its earliest years The Blackfriars had a
more exclusive character, but later there appear distinct
complaints that the owner has converted his theatre
into a "publique playhouse, into which there is daily
so great resort of people, and soe great multitude of
coaches, whereof many are hackney-coaches bringing
people of all sortes that sometimes all their streets
cannot conteyne them, that they endanger one the other,
break down stalles, throw down men's goodes from
their shopps, hinder the passage of the inhabitants there
to and from their howses, lett the bringing in of their
necessary provisions, that the tradesmen and shopp-
keepers cannot utter their wares, nor the passengers go
to the common water staires without danger of their
lives and lyms, whereby many times quarrells and
effusion of blood hath followed, and the minister and
people disturbed at the administration of the Sacrament of
Baptisme and publique prayers in the afternoonss. . "1
The enumeration of all these horrors, which, as we
scarcely need observe, hails from the Puritan camp,
shows what popularity this little theatre enjoyed after
the death of Shakespeare, but it does not give us any
clearer an idea than before of the difference between
private and public theatres.
We must mention one more characteristic feature,
which resulted from the establishment of a private
theatre inside a house; the effect, that is, that could be
produced by playing sometimes in artificial light and
sometimes in darkness by closing the shutters over the
windows. From this effect the open air theatre was
excluded. A contemporary author 2 says: "All the
1 This quotation is taken from an order issued by the Corporation of
London, who in 1619 wished to suppress The Blackfriars." The order is
quoted entire in Halliwell-Phillipps: Outlines, 3rd edition, p. 538.
2 Thomas Dekker: The Seven Deadly Sins of London, etc., 1606; quoted
by Malone, Historical Account of the Enelish Stage, p. 63, n. 7.
HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
city looked like a private play-house, when the windows
are clapt down, as if some nocturnal and dismal tragedy
were presently to be acted."
The closed play-houses were probably lighted, in
England as elsewhere, by chandeliers hung above the
stage, to which a row of oil-lamps with double wicks
seem to have been added later. Anyhow, this method
of lighting is shown in an illustration (much more recent,
it is true) of another private theatre "The Red Bull"
(fig. 7). Compared with fig. 3, which may quite well
represent The Blackfriars," though we do not know
for certain that it does, this drawing clearly shows that
the scenic arrangements in the closed halls were essentially
similar to those of the public play-houses.
It is quite possible that old James Burbage meant to
fall back on Blackfriars, if he did not succeed in coming
to terms with Giles Allen. However, he died, as we
know, in 1597, the very year in which his play-house
was arranged. This hall, therefore, was never used by
the Burbage company, but was let to the well-known
company called The Children of the Chapel," or
afterwards, "The Children of His Majesty's Revels,"
a company which enjoyed great favour at court in
those times, and thus had particular reason to expect a
large audience in the aristocratic quarter of Blackfriars.
In 1635 the bookseller Cuthbert Burbage writes the
following lines about this matter to Lord Pembroke
I On account of a complaint from some of "the King's players," who
considered themselves prejudiced by C. Burbage, by this time the only
surviving heir of his father James and his brother Richard. The various
documents concerning this affair have been published by Halliwell-Phillipps
(Outlines, pp. 539-551), and offer a most valuable contribution to our know-
ledge of the scenic conditions of the time.
(p. 549): . The father of us, Cuthbert and Richard
Burbage, was the first builder of playhowses, and was
himself in his younger yeeres a player. 'The
Theater' hee built with many hundred pounds taken
up at interest. . Now for the Blackfriars, that is our
inheritance; our father purchased it at extreme rates,
and made it into a playhouse with great charge and
trouble; which after was leased out to one Evans that
first sett up the boyes commonly called the Queenes
Majesties Children of the Chappell. In process of
time, the boyes growing up to bee men, which were
Underwood, Field, Ostler, and were taken to strengthen
the King's service; and the more to strengthen the
service, the boyes dayly wearing out, it was considered
that house would bee as fitt for ourselves, and soe
purchased the lease remaining from Evans with our
money, and placed men players, which were Heminge,
Condell, Shakespeare, etc., and Richard Burbage, who,
for thirty-five yeeres paines, cost and labour, made
means to leave his wife and children some estate, and
out of whose estate soe many other players and their
families have been maintained."
That this statement of C. Burbage about Blackfriars
is correct has been confirmed quite recently by a series
of records' concerning the lease of the theatre, which
give us also the date, hitherto unknown, at which The
King's Company itself began acting at Blackfriars.
Henry Evans of Blackfriars, London, gentleman,
hired the large Hall," as the play-hall is called in the
1 They are published in full by James Greenstreet in The Athenaeum,
7th and 21st of April 1888.
38 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
proceedings, with the adjoining room of Richard Burbage,
for twenty-one years at a rent of 70 a year.'
During the first few years, while the boy-actors were
still all the fashion, Henry Evans no doubt did good
business with his children-plays. Everybody knows
Shakespeare's complaint of "little eyasses that cry out,"
a passage to which we shall have an opportunity of
But after some years taste changed, the cleverest
boys, like Nathaniel Field and the above-mentioned
Underwood and Ostler, grew up, and it was difficult for
Evans to find new actors; so difficult, indeed, that he
had recourse to the expedient of tempting "gentlemen's
children against their will and employing them as actors,"
for which "disorderly conduct and proceeding" he was
sentenced by the Star Chamber.
Under these circumstances Evans grew tired of
managing the theatre, which no longer brought him the
income which he had expected, and in i6o82 he pre-
vailed on Richard Burbage to cancel the lease of
twenty-one years. Thereupon "The King's Players"
came to occupy "the larger Hall." And, as the record
of the proceedings tells us, here they succeeded in
gaining so much favour with the public that in one
1 The lease for the twenty-one years was not signed till the year 1600,
but it is distinctly mentioned in the proceedings that the hall was constantly
(that is ever since its reconstruction) used for acting. Did not Evans have
it during the three intervening years (1597-600o)? Did the children act
under another manager? Or did another grown-up company act previously
at Blackfriars? To these questions I have not succeeded in finding an
2 This appears from the record of the proceedings, dating from 1612, in
which it is stated that during the last four years Burbage and his companions
had received the proceeds of The Blackfriars."
winter they took o000o more than they were accus-
tomed to get on the Bankside (that is, in "The Globe"
Special mention is made of John Hemminge, a highly
esteemed actor of The King's Company," as one of the
partners, but not of Shakespeare. Of course it is not
impossible that the latter may have owned a share in
the theatre, but there is nothing to prove it.
After the death of Richard Burbage, which occurred
in 1619, "The Blackfriars" remained in the possession
of the family, and "The King's Company continued to
act there as well as at The Globe." There were eight
shares in the small theatre in the City, while the larger
"Globe" was divided into sixteen shares. In the year
1635 we find the eight shares thus divided: the comic
actor, John Shancke, has two; Cuthbert Burbage, one;
the tragic actor, Richard Robinson, one; the tragic
actor, Joseph Taylor, one; John Lowin, an actor of
distinction, one; the widow of Henry Condell, one; and
the widow of John Underwood, one.
After that time there is no information about "The
Blackfriars." No doubt it continued to exist till the
Civil War, 1642; possibly it was used for acting up to
1647, when plays definitely stopped. But after the
Restoration, in I660, it was no longer used as a theatre,
and very likely it was pulled down by the Puritans in
As we have seen, the first period of its existence-
from 1597-1608 -was occupied by the acting of the
"Children of the Chapel."
The child-actors were mostly recruited from the
40 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
boy-choristers in the Chapel Royal. They were trained
and instructed by older actors, and they seem to have
cultivated a caricaturing imitation of the real and cele-
brated actors,' a speciality by which they evidently suc-
ceeded for a time in attracting a large part of the public.
From the allusions in Hamlet it seems that the
actors at "The Globe" suffered great pecuniary loss on
account of these boy-actors, and even that they were
obliged to go touring in order to make their living.
It is in the second scene of the second act, in the
conversation between Hamlet and Rosencrantz about
the actors who are expected at Elsinore, that Shake-
speare finds an opportunity of venting his annoyance at
these troublesome little rivals. He begins thus:-
Hamlet. What players are they?
Rosencrantz. Even those you were wont to take
delight in, the tragedians of the city.
Ham. How chances it they travel ? their residence,
both in reputation and profit, was better
Ros. I think their inhibition comes by the means of
the late innovation.
Ham. Do they hold the same estimation they did
when I was in the city? are they so
Ros. No, indeed are they not.
Ham. How comes it ? do they grow rusty?
Ros. Nay, their endeavour keeps in the wonted
pace; but there is, sir, an aery of children,
1 Comp. for instance Ben Jonson's Poetaster, which was written for and
performed by these boys.
little eyasses, that cry out on the top of
question, and are most tyrannically clapped
for't; these are now the fashion. . .
During this period The Blackfriars and its eyasses
provided a particularly powerful attraction by serving
Ben Jonson as a medium in an exceedingly sharp,
literary and personal quarrel which he had to settle with
some of his contemporary actors and authors. The
principal sufferers were John Marston and Thomas
Dekker, and the quarrel included some of the Henslowe-
Alleyn actors (" The Lord-Admiral's Men "), who at this
time mostly acted in "The Fortune" Theatre.
Ben Jonson afterwards maintained, in his well-known
conversations with William Drummond, that the origin
of this not very creditable theatrical quarrel lay with
Marston. "He had," writes Drummond, "many
quarrels with Marston, beat him, and took his pistol
from him, wrote his Poetaster on him; the beginning of
them were that Marston represented him in the stage."
If Marston began the quarrel--which is possible,
though there is no evidence to prove that he had
maliciously represented Jonson on the stage 2-Jonson
I BenJonson's Conversations with William Drummond, edited by David
Laing, London, 1892. In the above quotation a correction of the punctua-
tion has been made by J. H. Penniman (The War of the Theatres), which
gives a very different sense to the much debated passage. The original
runs as follows: . Marston represented him in the stage, in his youth
given to venerie. He thought the use of a made nothing in comparison to
the wantonness of a wyfe. . Mr Penniman puts a full stop after "the
stage," and makes the words in his youth . begin a new period, thus :
" . Marston represented him in the stage. In his youth given to
venerie, he thought the use of a made nothing in comparison . The
correction appears very plausible.
2 F. G. Fleay thinks that Chrysoganus in Histriomastix by Marston is
meant to represent Jonson, but he informs us at the same time that this
42 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
laid on far the more heavily when it came to his turn to
defend himself. In Every Man out of His Humour, in
Cynthia's Revels, and especially in The Poetaster, he
completely turned the tables on Marston and his other
antagonists. He had the two last acted by the Chapel-
boys, and they drew dense crowds of people to the
Blackfriars' Theatre, and afforded great amusement to
the public, to whom literary quarrels have always been a
Quite apart from the wonderful Pantilius Tucca, who
probably is not a portrait, but, like his dramatic
kinsman, Captain Bobadill, an imitation of the typical
Italian Capitano, The Poetaster exhibits a unique gallery
of Jonson's friends and enemies, and though the events
of the play are supposed to take place in the time of the
Emperor Augustus in Rome, it gives a better idea of
contemporary literary life in London than many histories
Under the mask of Horace, Jonson -with no
inopportune modesty represents himself, and gives
himself the pleasure of punishing the dull and tedious
Crispinus, that is, Marston, by administering an emetic
to him, which makes him vomit all the crude and stilted
phrases with which he has encumbered his works.
But besides this principal attack he deals several
side-blows at his contemporaries among fellow-authors
and actors. Dekker is very hard hit as Demetrius, and
with the actors of "The Fortune" Theatre Jonson
character is described as very sympathetic (Chronicle of the English
Drama, ii. 71). I have had no access to Marston's Histriomastix-it is not
included in Bullen's edition of his works-so I am unable to express any
personal opinion about the resemblance of the portrait.
seems at the time to have lived in the most strained
relations, but it is impossible to say, in every case,
against whom the malicious sarcasms, which are
showered down on the heads of his former companions,
are directed.' No attack on Shakespeare is to be found
in the play; it has even been suggested that the
refined and noble Virgil was meant to represent
In spite of this Shakespeare retorted on behalf of his
fellows. The Poetaster was brought out in 160o, and in
an anonymous University play of the same year, The
Return from Parnassus, the literary quarrel is mentioned.
In a conversation between Richard Burbage and William
Kemp, the latter says: Few of the University men
play well; they smell too much of that writer Ovid and
that writer Metamorphosis, and take too much of
Proserpina and Juppiter. Why, here's our fellow Shake-
speare puts them all down, I, and Ben Jonson too. O
that Ben Jonson is a pestilent fellow! he brought up
Horace giving the gods a pill, but our fellow Shake-
speare hath given him a purge that made him berag his
Upon which Burbage answers: It's a shrewd fellow,
There has been much debate about the purge which
Shakespeare is said to have given Jonson. It is clear
enough that Shakespeare took up arms against Jonson's
attacks on the actors, the attacks which were performed
1 I suppose Esop to be the celebrated tragedian Edward Alleyn, who is
also called Seven-and-a-half-share." More about this in a future chapter.
Possibly Frisker is William Kemp.
44 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
by the boys. In Hamlet his protest against this mode
of fighting appears indeed in a very direct form. He
says of the youthful actors who, as is clear from The
Poetaster, were accustomed to parody their adult fellow-
players: ". . and so berattle the common stages-so
they call them-that many wearing rapiers are afraid of
goose-quills and dare scarce come thither."
And the dialogue continues as follows:-
Hamlet. What, are they children ? who maintains
'em? how are they escoted? Will they pursue the
quality no longer than they can sing ? will they not say
afterwards, if they should grow themselves to common
players-as it is most like, if their means are no better
-their writers do them wrong to make them exclaim
against their own succession.
Ros. 'Faith, there has been much to do on both
sides; and the nation holds it no sin to tarre them to
controversy; there was for a while no money bid for
argument, unless the poet and the player went to cuffs
in the question.
The meaning of these words is as clear as possible
and needs no comment. However, there is no "purge"
here which might cast a slur on the reputation of Jonson.
It has been supposed that Shakespeare's real rejoinder
to Jonson was to be found in Troilus and Cressida,1
where Ajax was meant to represent Jonson. But,
though this is by no means an absurd suggestion in itself,
it seems improbable that this play was written until long
after the quarrel had been settled.
1 F. G. Fleay: A Biographical Chronicle of the English Drama, ii.
p. 189, f.
On the other hand, it is not impossible, though it has
not come to our knowledge, that there may be found in
Hamlet or elsewhere a stronger and more direct rejoinder
to Jonson. We only know the scene quoted above from
the folio edition,' and it is quite natural that in this
edition, which was introduced to the reading world by
Jonson himself, any passages that might be personally
offensive to him were left out. To judge from the
quotation from The Return from Parnassus there seems
not to be the slightest doubt that, somehow or other,
Shakespeare took part in the quarrel. And that the
company to which he belonged sided against Jonson,
appears distinctly from the fact that they acted a strongly
polemical play written by Dekker and Marston against
Jonson. The title of it was Satiromastix, or, as it was
also called, The Untrussing of the Humorous Poet-
that is Jonson.
However this may be, through these quarrels the
little stage of "The Blackfriars" gained a sudden and
sensational notoriety, and its young actors won a tran-
sient fame, as well as probably a basis of artistic skill,
which carried some of them safely through the dangerous
turning-point in their lives, when the beards began to
appear on their chins.
From Jonson's works we know the names of some
of the Chapel-boys. He mentions Nathaniel Field,
Salathiel Pavy, Thomas Day, John Underwood, Robert
Baxter, John Frost, William Ostler, and Thomas
Of these Nathaniel Field was, and continued to be,
I It is not found in the two quarto editions of Hamlet,
46 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
by far the most celebrated. He also became a popular
playwright. But several of the other boys likewise
became actors of note.
The Southern Bank of the Thames and its Places of Amusement-Fights
between Animals-Edward Alleyn and the Lions-The Watermen
and their Poet.
WE have related above how the Burbages, tired of their
ground on Finsbury Fields, north of London, pulled
down "The Theatre" and removed the materials to
Bankside, where they used part of them to build a new
The southern bank of the Thames was, and is still,
called Bankside. Behind the part of it which was
covered with buildings there were to the south
of the City-large commons which were used for all
kinds of sport-target-shooting in Newington Butts,
baiting of wild beasts in the grounds of Paris Garden,
etc. There were also large inns where all kinds of
amusements went on, and two circuses and amphi-
theatres, one for bear-baiting and one for bull-baiting,
to which the citizens of London frequently made
In the inhabited part of the south side of London,
called Southwark, the acting of plays, and complaints
thereof, had been common at an early period.
As early as 1547, the Bishop of Winchester, Stephen
Gardiner, complained of the actors' competition with
himself. It was intended, he writes in his petition,
4-View of London, with the Swan," Fortune," ane Theatres (from Visscher's View of London, 1616).
Jk~ !T H
' *-~ ~C
which was presented to the Privy Council, to celebrate
a solemn funeral mass for the late blessed King Henry
VIII.; but the Southwark actors insisted that they were
also going to perform "a solemn play, to try who would
get the largest audience, they in play or I in earnest,"
and the Bishop requests that this blasphemy may be
The course of theatrical events on the south of the
river was exactly the same as on the north.
When the actors were banished from the precincts of
the town by the Mayor and Corporation, there could be
no question where those who went southward should set
up their theatres. Close to the bank, which at this time
was covered with one or more rows of houses, stood the
two above-mentioned Rings for bear and bull-fights,
popular amusements which were then, and long con-
tinued to be, one of the favourite entertainments of the
Londoners, and which were a very characteristic feature
of their public life.
In books of travel by strangers who visited London
at this time, we look in vain for the name of Shakespeare.
Not a line is found even about any of his plays. The
bear-fights, on the other hand, seem to have made a
deep impression on the minds of the travellers, to judge
from the numerous descriptions of them which they
have left. Thus one of the attendants of the Spanish
ambassador, the Duke of Nijera, writes about a sojourn
in London in 1544:-
On the other side of the town we saw seven bears,
some of them very large; they are driven into a circus,
1 Related by Ordish after State Papers, Domestic, February 5th, 1547.
HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
where they are enclosed by a long rope. Great fierce
dogs are let loose against them as if to be eaten by them,
and a fight takes place. It is no bad joke to look at this
fight. The great bears fight with three or four dogs;
sometimes the former, sometimes the latter, get the upper
hand. The bears are savage and very strong, and not
only defend themselves with their teeth, but embrace the
dogs so tightly with their forelegs, that these would be
suffocated if they were not helped by their masters. In
the same place a pony is pushed on with a monkey on
its back, and defends itself against the dogs by kicking
them. The screams of the monkey in seeing the dogs
hanging on to the ears and neck of the pony make this
scene appear very amusing." 1
Considering the early period at which this report was
written, we cannot wonder that the Spaniard had nothing
to say about English plays. It is more astonishing that
in 1598, when the drama and the art of its representation
were in their full glory, the German traveller, Paul
Hentzner, should only have a few lines to devote to
the theatres proper, while he gives the following interest-
ing description of the fights between the animals : There
is still another place, built in form of a theatre, which
serves for the baiting of bulls and bears; they are
fastened behind, and then worried by great English bull-
dogs, but not without great risque to the dogs, from the
horns of the one and the teeth of the other; and it some-
times happens they are killed upon the spot; fresh ones
are immediately supplied in the places of those that are
SFrom a Spanish manuscript in the British Museum, quoted by J. P.
Collier: English Dramatic Poetry, iii. p. 94.
wounded or tired. To this entertainment there often
follows that of a blinded bear, which is performed by
five or six men, standing circularly with whips, which
they exercise upon him without any mercy, as he cannot
escape from them because of his chain; he defends him-
self with all his force and skill, throwing down all who
come within his reach and are not active enough to get
out of it, and tearing the whips out of their hands and
Indeed, these excessively brutal sports were not only
an amusement to the people: they were also very much
relished by the higher classes. In a play by Richard
Brome, The Antipodes (1638), there is a scene in which
an old woman reads a programme of a bear-fight. A
young girl warns her against that kind of amusement in
the following words: Let me ask one thing of you.
Avoid that kind of animal pastime, it is the work of
Satan." But the old woman replies: Beware what you
are saying, child; it is the King's delight." 1
And it was the Queen's also at that time. When
foreign princes visited the English court, it was the
fashion to show them the performances of the English
dogs; there was even a special royal functionary, whose
business it was to see that there should always be a
sufficient supply of animals, so that there might be a
performance ready at short notice for Royalty. This
office of Master of the Royal Games of Bears, Bulls
and Dogs" was eagerly sought after, among others by
SA German report of the visit of the Duke of Wiirtemberg to a fight
between dogs and bears, in 1592, informs us that there were at that time
about 120 royal dogs.-Rye : England as Seen by Foreigners, p. 45 ; quoted
by Ordish, p. 209.
50 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
the celebrated actor Edward Alleyn, who indeed finally
succeeded in obtaining it. No doubt he gained a con-
siderable part of his large fortune by these sports. One
of the first things which James I. did after. his accession
was to assist at a fight between dogs and a lion in the
Tower under the superintendence of Alleyn. The account
of this, to us, revolting spectacle may be found in John
Stow's "Annales of England" (1603).1 As this report
is very little known and throws an interesting light on
the taste of the time, it may not seem unreasonable to
quote it here in spite of its length:-
"Whereupon the king caused Edward Allen, late
servant to the Lord Admirall, now sworne the Prince's
man and Maister of the Beare Garden, to fetch secretly
three of the fellest dogs in the Garden, which being done,
the King, Queene and Prince with 4 or 5 Lords, went to
the Lions Towre, and caused the lustiest lion to be
separated from his mate, and put into the Lions den one
dog alone, who presently flew to the face of the Lion,
but the Lion suddenly shooke him off, and grasped him
fast by the necke, drawing the dog up staires and down
staires. The King now perceiving the Lion greatly to
exceeded the dog in strength, but nothing in noble heart
and courage, caused another dog to be put into the den,
who proved as hotte and lusty as his fellow, and tooke the
Lion by the face, but the Lion began to deale with him
as with the former; whereupon the King commanded
the third dog to be put in before the second dog was
spoiled, which third dog, more fierce and fell than either
of the former, and in despight either of clawes or strength,
I It is quoted here from the edition of 1631, pp. 835 f
tooke the Lyon by the lip, but the Lion so tore the dog
by the eyes, head and face, that he lost his hold, and
then the Lion took the dog's neck in his mouth, drawing
him up and down as he did the former, but being
wearied, could not bite so deadly as the first, now
whilest the last dog was thus hand to hand with the Lion
in the upper roome, the other two dogs were fighting
together in the lower roome, whereupon the King caused
the Lion to be driven down, thinking the lion would
have parted them, but when he saw he must needs come
by them, he leapt cleane over them both, and contrary
to the King's expectation, the lion fled into an inward
den, and would not by any means endure the presence
of the dogs, albeit the last dogge pursued eagerly, but
could not finde the way to the Lion. You shall under-
stand the two last dogs whilst the Lion held them both
under his pawes, did bite the Lion by the belly, whereat
the Lion roared so extremely that the earth shooke
withall, and the next Lion rampt and roared as if she
would have made rescue. The Lion hath not any
peculiar or proper kind of fight, as hath the dog,
beare or bull, but only a ravenous kinde of surprising
for prey. The 2 first dogs dyed within few dayes,
but the last dog was well recovered of all his hurts,
and the young Prince commanded his servant E. Allen
to bring the dog to him to S. James, where the Prince
charged the said Allen to keepe him and make much
of him, saying, he that had fought with the King of
Beasts, should never after fight with any inferior
This strong predilection for exciting fights between
52 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
wild beasts, a predilection which in a somewhat modified
form still survives in the English nation, drew crowds to
the southern bank of the Thames, and made the open
parks, the gay riverside and the stately inns favourite
places of excursion, especially in summer-time, when the
grounds offered the additional attractions of lively strolling
musicians, male and female rope-dancers, puppet-shows,
clowns who danced the Morris-dance, and fools who sang
comic songs. Rare foreign animals were also exhibited,
as well as giants, grotesque dwarfs and peculiar mechanical
And behind these places of amusement-on the
space now occupied by Lambeth, the most miserable
and dirty quarter of London-we find in those times
fresh and bright green meadows, with cattle grazing and
birds singing. It was a charming place to keep holiday
in for all who belonged to "old merry England "; here
they might sit down on the turf enjoying the contents of
their well-filled hampers-strong beer and savoury meat
-and consider which performances were to be visited
after the meal, the bear-fight or the rope-dancers, the
fencing matches or the comedians.
The principal means of reaching the southern bank
was the ferry-boats. Only one bridge crossed the
1 Shakespeare also testifies to the taste of the time for all monstrous
curiosities. In The Tempest he makes Trinculo say of Caliban, on meeting
this remarkable creature for the first time : What have we here? a man or
a fish ? dead or alive ? A fish: he smells like a fish; a very ancient and
fish-like smell; a kind of, not of the newest, poor-John. A strange fish !
Were I in England now, as once I was, and had but this fish painted, not a
holiday fool there would but give a piece of silver; there would this monster
make a man; any strange beast there makes a man; when they will not
give a doit to relieve a lame beggar, they will lay out ten to see a dead
Indian." Act ii. Sc. 2.
Thames within the circuit of the town-old London
Bridge, which was thickly covered with houses and
towers, full of shops and tradespeople. But along both
banks there were a quantity of landing-places, stairs,"
between which people were rowed or sculled across by
the watermen, a very numerous and rather important
corporation of old disbanded seamen, who in times of
peace gained their livelihood on the river, while in
war-time all who were not disabled had to leave the oar
and go out to serve in the Navy again, and fight for the
honour of Old England.
The watermen were well aware of their responsible
and important task, and their charges were consider-
able;1 but they were popular, and their busy traffic on
the river is a characteristic feature in the physiognomy
of London in those days. It is interesting for'is close
connection with stage matters. In the history of the
drama we several times meet with the name of a water-
man, Jacob Mead, as theatrical manager, either in co-
operation with or in opposition to the great managers,
Philip Henslowe and Edward Alleyn. Another, the
well-known John Taylor,2 the water-poet," as he called
himself, was a friend of actors and dramatic authors,
took his meals with them in the "Cardinal's Hat" and
other public-houses, and even appeared in person on the
stage and as an author. Shakespeare, no doubt, many
times sat in the ferry-boats of Taylor and his comrades,
listening to the tough yarns which were spun there; and
1 In the very accurate accounts of the actor, Edward Alleyn, I find
several times the sum of one shilling put down for a passage by ferry;
sometimes, however, only 4d. ; for short passages the fare was 3d.
2 Sometimes erroneously confounded with the actor Joseph Taylor.
54 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
all who have wondered at the great poet's skill in sea-
manship, though he is not known to have ever been on
the sea, might perhaps have found the source of his
knowledge in his familiarity with the able seamen of the
This John Taylor was a very curious person and
very characteristic of his time; originally a mariner,
afterwards an invalid, waterman and poet. He made
songs to order for weddings and funerals, wrote pam-
phlets on contemporary people and events, held rhyming
tournaments in the play-houses, and undertook the most
eccentric "travelling-matches," 1 which he afterwards
described in humorous pamphlets. Sometimes also he
pleaded as representative of his comrades, the watermen,
and on one occasion he throws a light on the state of the
ferry traffic to the theatres, which is not without interest.
In 1613, at a time when the actors were again begin-
ning to move into the town, in particular deserting
Bankside, south of the Thames, the watermen expe-
rienced considerable decline in their income, and Taylor
sent a petition to the King concerning the actors, to
prevent them from keeping a play-house in London on
1 Of these travelling matches, which even now have not quite gone out
of fashion in England, one consisted in travelling on foot from London to
Edinburgh without a penny in the pocket, and without "begging, borrowing,
or asking for meat, drink, or lodging." Another still more eccentric
journey was the one he undertook, in company with a vintner, from London
to Queenborough. They were to row in a boat of cartridge paper, and
with oars made of two stockfishes tied to sticks. However, before they
had rowed three miles, the boat came to pieces, and the travellers barely
escaped from the venture. John Taylor left in all sixty-three works of great
interest to investigators of the life of those times, and all bearing witness to
high spirits, though not to a very refined mind. He was born in 1580, and
died in 1653.
the northern side of the Thames. He writes in his
petition: ". . Afterwards-the players began to play
on the Bankside, and to leave playing in London and
Middlesex, for the most part. Then there went such
great concourse of people by water, that the small
number of watermen remaining at home were not able
to carry them by reason of the court, the terms, the
players, and other employment. So that we were
enforced and encouraged, hoping that this golden stir-
ring would have lasted ever, to take and entertain men
and boyes, which boyes are grown men, and keepers of
houses; so that the number of watermen, and those that
live and are maintained by them, and by the only labour
of the oare and skull, betwixt the bridge of Windsor and
Gravesend, cannot be fewer than forty thousand; the
cause of the greater halfe of which multitude hath been
the players playing on the Bankside; for I have known
three companies, besides the bear-baiting, at once there;
to wit, The Globe, The Rose, and The Swan.
"And now it hath pleased God in this peaceful time
[from 1604-1613] that there is no employment at the
sea, as it hath been accustomed, so that all those great
numbers of men remains at home; and the players
have all (except the King's men) left their usual resi-
dence on the Bankside, and doe play in Middlesex, far
remote from the Thames; so that every day in the
week they do draw unto them three or four thousand
people, that were used to spend their monies by
His Majesties Players did exhibit a petition against
us, in which they said, that our suit was unreasonable,
56 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
and that we might as justly remove the Exchange, the
walkes in Paul's or Moorefields, to the Bankside, for our
profits, as to confine them."'
The Theatres on the Southbank-Henslowe and Alleyn and their Theatres,
Newington Butts and The Rose "-Competition and Co-operation
with Burbage's Company-The first "Globe Theatre" and its Rd-
THUS, very naturally-we might say necessarily-the
open pleasure-grounds south of the Thames became the
next resort of the actors when banished by the Lord
Mayor from the precincts of the town itself.
Indeed, we know absolutely nothing about the
theatrical matters of the first years after the eviction
from Southwark, which also came under the jurisdiction
of the Lord Mayor. Whether, immediately after the
establishment of The Theatre" and The Curtain," a
permanent play-house was built on the Southside, we
do not know; but, judging from the success of the two
northern theatres, it is probable that an attempt was
made here also, and it is generally supposed that
Newington Butts was the site of the third London
Our knowledge of stage-matters on the Southside is
chiefly derived from Henslowe's Diary," an account-
book kept by the stage-manager, Philip Henslowe, during
the years 1592 to 1609, the manuscript of which was
found about a hundred years ago by the excellent Shake-
1 John Taylor: Works, edit. 1633, p. 171; quoted by Malone: His-
torical Account, p. 164, n. 7.
-:- i' .. ___
5-Part of a Map of London, 156o. On the south side of the river are seen the two circuses for animal-baiting.
spearean archeologist, Edmond Malone,' in Dulwich
College, founded by Edward Alleyn, the son-in-law of
Like his contemporary, James Burbage, Henslowe,
the builder of The Theatre," was originally an artisan,
by occupation a dyer. But there is nothing to show
that he ever practised the dramatic art in person. It is
still less probable that he was a dramatic author, for his
accounts and letters bear witness of the most helpless
ignorance of the art of writing, and his orthography is,
even for those times, quite puzzling in its absurd irregu-
larity.2 But if he was not a literary man, he was certainly
a man of business. It appears, to judge from the Diary,3
that from 1577 to 1578 he occupied himself with forest
exploitation and the timber trade. It is difficult to say
whether about that period he had already begun his
theatrical enterprises. His theatrical accounts do not begin
till 1592, but before that time there are entries which prove
that he lent money on interest, a transaction which he con-
tinued assiduously to the end of his life, and by which he
acquired considerable power over the actors in his service.
On October 22nd, 1592, we find the entry in Hens-
1 Malone printed parts of the Diary in an appendix to his Historical
Account of the Rise and Progress of the English Stage, Basil, MDCCC.
Later, in 1845, the whole manuscript was published by J. P. Collier for the
2 He writes, for instance, "Troyeless and creasseday" for Troilus and
Cressida; "titus and ondronicous" for Titus Andronicus; "the venesyon
comodey" for The Venetian Comedy ; Doctor Fostose" for Doctor Faustus ;
" sesor and pompie for Cacsar and Pompey, etc. Comp. Henslowe's Diary,
edited by Collier, pp. 149, 33, 41, 42 and 44.
3 Collier questions whether this part of the Diary is Henslowe's own, but
this has been established beyond doubt by G. F. Warner (Catalogue of MSS.
and Monuments of Alleyn's College of Gods Gift at Dulwich, 1881, p. 157).
58 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
lowe's Diary: "Edward Alleyn was wedded to Jone
Woodward." Though it is more than probable that
Henslowe had been interested in theatrical business for
some years before that time, this short note nevertheless
marks a turning point in his dramatic career. Joan
Woodward was his step-daughter, and her husband was
one of the most distinguished actors of his time, and
perhaps the most active theatrical manager of whom this
epoch can boast. This close family connection with the
popular actor no doubt strengthened Henslowe's resolu-
tion to build an entirely new theatre, based on the
artistic and financial skill of his son-in-law, and this plan
was carried out in the same year, 1592, when "The
Rose" Theatre was built on a piece of ground behind
the houses for bear-baiting and bull-baiting on Bankside,
and close to the much frequented landing-place of Paris
Garden on the Thames.1
From the very detailed accounts which Henslowe
kept of his expenses for the new theatre, it appears that,
like the former play-houses, "The Rose" was chiefly
built of wood, that it had turned pillars to support the
galleries,2 and that it was thatched with straw or reeds.3
About 1593, therefore, London possessed four per-
1 The theatre is seen distinctly in Norden's map of London of 1593. It
does not follow with absolute certainty from the Diary that "The Rose"
theatre was built precisely in 1592, as the account does not give the name of
the play-house, but only mentions it as "my play howsse," and it is not
stated whether the item relates to repairs or a new building. But it seems
most probable that the new "Rose" Theatre was meant. Comp. this item
with a later one of 1595, which relates to repairs.-See Henslowe's Diary,
pp. 11-15 and p. 4.
a As we see also in the somewhat later "Swan" Theatre in the illustra-
tion of the interior, discovered by Dr Gaedertz.-Gaedertz : Zur Kenntniss
der altenglischen B2ine, etc.
3 In the accounts are found several items for the thatcher and his men.
manent play-houses; two on the north side, "The
Theatre" and "The Curtain," and two on the south
side, "Newington Butts" and "The Rose," all four,
however, outside the proper territory of the town.
Things had developed in a remarkably similar way on
both sides of the Thames; two plain and quite illiterate
master-workmen, a joiner and a dyer, each build or
invest money in two theatres, and create incomes for
themselves by levying contributions on the acting com-
panies to whom they let their stages.
There was no arrangement confining each company
to its own stage. On the contrary, we see from Hens-
lowe's "Diary" that now one, now another company
appeared on his stage, and that he charged them
different rents. Burbage's actors played on Henslowe's
stage, and the reverse may also have been the case,
though this is not proved.
The company, however, which was more particularly
attached to Henslowe's enterprise was that of "The
Lord Admiral's Men," a company of which Henslowe's
son-in-law, Edward Alleyn, became the stage director,
and unquestionably the leading actor. We can scarcely
be mistaken in assuming that during the earliest period
of permanent theatres The Lord Admiral's Men were
the leading company in London. It was for them, above
all, that Christopher Marlowe, the greatest dramatic
author before Shakespeare, shone forth and wrote his
plays, in which he probably acted as well, and that
Alleyn interpreted before an admiring audience his wild
and powerful characters, Tamburlaine, Barabbas (in The
Jew of Malta), and Dr Faustus.
60 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
Noted dramatists, like Thomas Lodge and Thomas
Dekker, added to the repertoire of the same company.
However, the increasing fame of Shakespeare as
an author, and of Richard Burbage as an actor, soon
turned the scales in favour of The Lord Chamberlain's
Servants," to whom these two magnates devoted their
life-long work. At the same time, The Lord Admiral's
Men" long continued to maintain their position as the
second of the companies.
A paragraph in Henslowe's "Diary" shows us the
Lord Chamberlain's and the Lord Admiral's men acting
together in brotherly union at Newington Butts. The
old manager notes this event in the history of the stage
in the following words:-
In the name of God Amen, beginning at Newing-
ton, my Lord Admiralle and my Lorde chamberlen men,
as followeth, 1594." 1
After which, as usual, he puts down the share he
has received for each day of performance and for each
play. We see that he gets very little, much less than
his usual share-it varies between 17s. and 4s., while on
other occasions he frequently receives several pounds.
1 I happen to notice that Mr Sidney Lee, in his new, large, and excellent
biography of Shakespeare (A Life of William Shakespeare, illustrated library
edition, 1899, p. 35) mentions this joint acting of the companies as having
taken place in 1592 in The Rose" Theatre, and as having lasted for some
months," and that on the same page he confuses some data relating to the
history of the stage. Otherwise, Mr Lee's book is well known for its sound
accuracy, and in this respect compares favourably with the numerous
aesthetical appreciations of Shakespeare, in which theatrical matters are
nearly always neglected. I do not write this note in order to correct the
distinguished English author, but merely as a kind of anticipatory apology
for possible mistakes which I may happen to commit. Where even the
greatest experts can err, it will easily be understood that the ground is
difficult and not much worked.
This, perhaps, is the reason why the partnership
lasted so short a time, only ten days, from June
3rd to 13th. Possibly the shares, having to be divided
between so many distinguished persons, became too
small for the money-loving Henslowe; possibly it was
simply a case of a rupture. This, at any rate, is certain,
that we never afterwards hear of a co-operation between
the two companies; the name of Shakespeare is not
even mentioned in the papers left either by Henslowe
or by Alleyn.1
The competition between the two leading companies
reached its height when The Lord Chamberlain's Men"
definitely left the Shoreditch quarter and settled on
We have seen how Richard Burbage and his com-
panions, no doubt including Shakespeare, on a day in
15982 pulled down their old "Theatre" and removed
the timber to Bankside. There, in the immediate vicinity
of The Rose and The Bear-garden," they made their
builder, the carpenter Peter Street, erect a new play-
house, which they decorated with a splendid sign which,
according to the fashion of the time, was painted on the
outer wall. It represented Atlas3 carrying the globe,
and underneath was written Totus mundus agit histrio-
nem." The new play-house was no doubt finished in the
I In the Alleyn Pafers and Memoirs of Alleyn, indeed, published by
J. P. Collier, we find Shakespeare occasionally mentioned; but these
passages are only some of the editor's frequent forgeries, detected too late.
2 Not in 1593 as stated by Collier.
3 In the literature of the time, and even in modern writings on Shake-
speare, Hercules is generally charged with this heavy task, though it justly
devolves on Atlas. Comp, for instance, Hamlet, ii. 2 (" Hercules and his
burden," even in speaking about "The Globe.") Malone's Historical Ac-
count, p. 69, and Collier, English Dramatic Poetry, iii. p. 113.
62 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
same year in which it had been commenced, at any rate
in 1599, and after its sign it was called The Globe."
There are several illustrations of "The Globe"
Theatre-among others that reproduced here from
Visscher's "View of London" (fig. 4)-and we should
like to think that the theatre, the octagonal exterior of
which is so well known, was identical with that to which
Shakespeare was attached, for which he wrote his best
plays, and where he made his money.
This, however, is not so. There is no picture of
Shakespeare's "Globe," and we know scarcely anything
about its outward appearance. In 1613, shortly after
Shakespeare had retired, the play-house built by Richard
Burbage was destroyed by fire; a new one, more suitable
to the requirements of the time, rose in its place, and
this is the building we see represented in the familiar
The original "Globe" was constructed-as already
mentioned-of the material of "The Theatre," which
had been pulled down. No doubt, like the latter, it
was circular in shape. This seems to be proved by
Shakespeare's words in the prologue of one of the first
plays which was acted on its stage, viz. in Henry the
Fifth, where we read:-
"... .Can this cockpit hold
The vasty fields of France? or may we cram
Within this wooden 0, the very casques
That did affright the air at Agincourt? "
It is possible, indeed, that only the inside of the
building was circular while the outside was polygonal, but
there is no proof that it was so, and there is more pro-
bability in favour of the circular form.'
That the first "Globe" was of wood, we gather not
only from this prologue, but also from the above story of
the removal of its material, and from other evidence as
well. The roof was thatched, and the whole house was
probably neither very large nor very splendid. Other
qualities than outward stateliness made "The Globe"
what it became during this short period before it was
burned down; the workshop where the most precious
jewels of English literature were produced.
During these years, from 1599 to 1613, masterpiece
after masterpiece was represented on this plain wooden
platform, "this unworthy scaffold," as the poet himself
calls his stage.2
Henry V had already secured the success of the new
theatre. This play, indeed, was not one of the master-
pieces, but it dealt with the most popular national hero
of the English, and served as a patriotic clou which
neither could nor did miss its effect, the victory of the
English over the French at Agincourt. Too modestly
Shakespeare says about the performance:-
". .. And so our scene must to the battle fly;
Where (O for pity !) we shall much disgrace-
With four or five most vile and ragged foils
Right ill disposed in brawl ridiculous,-
SA passage in Heywood's Apology for Actors (Shakespeare Society's
Reprint, London, 1841, p. 37) also seems to prove the circular shape of the
ancient "Globe." He speaks of the Roman circuses and supposes them to
have differed in shape from theatres and amphitheatres, their frame having
been "globe-like and merely round." Heywood's Apology appeared while
the ancient Globe" still existed, namely in 1612.
Henry V., prologue to Act iv.
64 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
The name of Agincourt: Yet sit and see;
Minding true things by what their mockeries be."
Even though a representation on the stage must
necessarily be far removed from the picturesque splendour
of reality-a circumstance, by the by, which the prologues
of this play constantly impress upon us-we may be sure
that nothing was neglected to reproduce a battle scene
as magnificently as possible at a period when fighting on
the stage was so common and so popular.
This play, at any rate, was a marvellous success, and
was followed by others which better deserved to be so.
First came a series of splendid comedies, like Much Ado
About Nothing, in which the celebrated comic actor,
William Kemp, delighted the public as the ingenious
constable Dogberry; The Merry Wives of Windsor, no
doubt with John Heminge as Sir John Falstaff (brought
to life again by order of the Queen); As You Like It
and Twelfth Night, in which Malvolio won special
popularity as a caricature of the sour and conceited
Then followed such achievements as Julius Casar
(1600 or 1601), Hamlet (1601 or 1602), Othello (1604),
King Lear (1605), Macbeth (1606), Timon of Athens
(1606), Antony and Cleopatra (1607), Coriolanus (1608),
Cymbeline (1609), A Winter's Tale (1610), The Tempest
(161o); all produced with Richard Burbage in the prin-
cipal parts. The same period saw Ben Jonson's Sejanus
I The year of performance of some of the plays is perforce only given
approximately. I am chiefly guided by Fleay (Chronicle of the English
Drama). The last pieces-after 1608-may possibly have been acted at
Blackfriars as well.
(1603), Volpone (1605), The Alchymist (16o1), and The
Conspiracy of Catilina (1611); and Beaumont and
Building of "The Fortune" Theatre-Its Situation and Arrangement-
Difficulties and Dangers threatening from the Authorities.
As a matter of course, a theatre with such cards in its
hand as The Globe attracted great attention from the
public. Indeed Henslowe and Alleyn seem to have
understood at once that competition with Burbage's
excellent company was out of the question.
Still they did not give up, and they had no reason
to do so. They were part-owners of The Bear-garden,"
the arena for bear-fights which has been repeatedly
mentioned, and they made much money by it. Later,
as already stated, they succeeded in obtaining after
several vain attempts the eagerly desired patent as
" Masters of the Royal Games," a function which gave
them very great advantages. In short, they were very
On seeing that the fame of "The Rose" Theatre
was bound to decline in the immediate vicinity of the
new and rising Globe," they did not hesitate to leave
it to its fate, and to build a new play-house in a new
quarter. Thither Alleyn went with his company, The
Lord Admiral's Men,"' while "The Rose" was let to
companies of minor importance.
1 They were also called "The Earl of Nottingham's Men," and were
under the patronage of Lord Charles Howard, until at the accession of
King James (1603) they were given the title of "The Prince's (Henry's)
66 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
Before this, a somewhat inferior company called
" Lord Sussex's Men had played here; now Henslowe
let the building to The Earl of Worcester's Players,"
who afterwards, in 1603, became "The Queen's (i.e.
Anne of Denmark's) Men." This company, however,
does not seem to have been successful there, and after
1603 we hear very little of "The Rose" Theatre.
Apparently it sank to a lower class of performances-
puppet-shows and displays of fighting. On Visscher's
map of London of 1616, we find no trace of this theatre.
At that time, therefore, it had very likely been pulled
down. Rose Alley," 1 the name of a street, still exists
as a reminder of Henslowe's old play-house.
As early as the year after "The Globe" had been
built, on January 8th, 1600, Henslowe and Alleyn made
a contract with Peter Street, who had built for Burbage,
for the construction of a new, large and fashionable
theatre on a site which the two managers had acquired
in St Giles's Parish near Golden Lane and outside
Cripplegate. They moved, that is, to the north of the
town, far away from Burbage and his dangerous com-
petition, but though the ground chosen lay outside the
gate, and was consequently safe from the persecution
of the Mayor and Corporation, it was still in a densely
crowded and much frequented quarter.
As we learn from the builder's contract,2 this new
play-house was to be something hitherto unknown in
shape, size and solidity. In contrast to the earlier
theatres, which had only been of wood, it had a founda-
1 T. F. Ordish: Early London Theatres, p. 200.
2 Published in extenso in Halliwell-Phillipps's Outlines, 3rd ed., pp. 524 ff.
THE THEATRES 67
tion of brick, which was to rise a foot above the
ground; in shape it was square, while the former theatres
were circular; its dimensions were spacious for those
times, for it measured 80 feet each way outside, and 55
feet inside. It was built with three storeys, the lowest 12
feet high, the middle 1, and the upper 9. Each storey
was 12 feet deep; the floor of each of the two upper
galleries protruded 12 inches. There were four sets of
"Gentlemen rooms "-the best seats, a sufficient number
of twopenny rooms" for the middle class, and seats in
every part of the galleries. The stairs, passages and
partitions were to be similar to those which Peter Strange
had made in The Globe," the newly-built play-house on
Bankside. This piece of information, however, does not
make us any the wiser with regard to the construction
of the Shakespearean theatre. On the whole this con-
tract does not-as Halliwell-Phillipps and others think
-tell us what "The Globe" was like; it merely states
all the points in which Henslowe's new theatre was to
differ from it.
The stage was to be 43 feet broad, and its length was
to extend to the middle of the pit (the yard1), being
supported below by strong new oak planks. Above it
was to be placed a roof covered with tiles like the
galleries and the tiring-house, and provided with leaden
gutters so arranged as to let the water out at the back-
not over the stage or the spectators. In all other respects
the stage was to be arranged like that of The Globe,"
1 The contract says the reverse, but evidently the meaning must be as
stated above, as elsewhere in the contract the word breadth is used for
what we should call depth. By length I here understand the distance from
the tiring-room to the end of the platform.
68 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
with suitable windows and glass panes in the tiring-
house. No windows are mentioned in the auditorium,
and there probably were none, as the galleries were
open towards the yard or pit.
"And the said howse," the contract continues, "and
other things before mentioned to be made and doen,
to be in all other contrivitions, conveyances, fashions,
thing and things, effected, finished and doen, accord-
ing to the manner and fashion of the said house called
the Globe; saveinge only that all the principal and
maine postes of the said frame and stage forward
shall be square and wrought palaster-wise, with carved
proportions called satiers to be placed and sett on the
topp of every of the same postes; and saving also that
the same Peter Streete shall not be charged with anie
manner of paynteinge in or about the said frame, howse
or stage, or anie parte thereof, etc."
Street was desired to use timber of larger dimensions
and heavier weight than that which had been employed in
"The Globe," and his payment for the building was 440.
The entire sum, however, for the complete structure
with the decorations and painting was 520, as appears
from an entry in one of Edward Alleyn's note-books,
where we read:-
What 'The Fortune' cost me, Nov. 1599:-
First for the leas to Brew 1 240
"Then for building the playhouse .520
For other private buildings of myn owne 120
"So that it hath cost me for the leasse ,88o"
I Patrick Brew, a goldsmith in Lombard Street. Among the Alleyn
Pafiers there are several letters to and from him. J. P. Collier in his
In front of the theatre was placed a painted statue of
the Goddess of Fortune, and the house was called after
her, "The Fortune." '
The new theatre had probably been opened by the
beginning of the following year (1601). In August, at
any rate, we find it in full activity, for at that date
Henslowe had to pay three pounds in taxes for the past
month 2 to the Master of the Revels.
But even before the building was finished, the ex-
pectations as to this large new theatre had caused a
great sensation in London, and called forth fresh com-
plaints from the Puritans, complaints which this time
threatened to break in a violent storm on the heads of
On account of these complaints the Lords of the
Privy Council felt bound, on the 22nd of June 16oo, to
issue an order that in future there must be only two
theatres in London. The Privy Council considers the
exercise of such players not being esvill in ytself, may
with good order and moderation be suffered in a well-
governed state," especially as "her Majestie, being
English Dramatic Poetry, iii. I19, calls him Drew, and does not seem to
know who he is ; which is all the more remarkable because it was Collier
himself who discovered and published the letters in the Alleyn Papers.
1 In Thomas Heywood's The English Traveller (iv. 6) we read :
I'll rather stand here
Like a statue in the forefront of your house
For ever-like the picture of dame Fortune
Before the Fortune Play-house."
It is possible, however, that this refers to the rebuilt "Fortuna," in 1623, and
that the previous one had to content itself with a painted sign like "The
Globe." The English Traveller appeared in 1633, but the date of its
performance is unknown.
Henslowe's Diary, p. 182.
70 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
pleased at tymes to take delight and recreation in the
sight and hearing of them."
It was not expedient, therefore, to suppress them
entirely. But, on the other hand, it was notorious that
"the multitude of the said houses and the mysgovern-
ment hath been and is dayly occasion of the ydle, ryotous
and dissolute living of great numbers of people, that,
leaving all such honest and painefull course of life
as they should followed, doe meete and assemble
So the Council had to decide that in future there
must only be two play-houses in or near London, one on
Bankside and one in the county of Middlesex. But
meanwhile their lordships had learned from the Master
of the Revels, Sir Edmund Tylney, who received large
gratuities from Henslowe and Alleyn, "that the house
nowe in hand to be built by the said Edward Allen is
not intended to increase the number of the playhouses,
but to be insteede of another, namely the Curtayne,
which is either to be ruined and plucked down or to be
put to some other good use."1 Therefore, and because
its situation was altogether suitable for its purpose,
Alleyn's house was allowed to be one of the two
acknowledged theatres, the one in Middlesex, and "The
Lord Admiral's Servants" were permitted to act there.
The other, that on the Surrey side or Bankside, was to
be "The Globe," where "The Lord Chamberlain's
Men" were allowed to perform.
But in no other places in or out of London were
plays to be performed, and it was specially forbidden
1 Halliwell-Phillipps : Outlines, p. 530.
"that any stage-playes shall be played, as sometimes
they have bin, in any common inne for publique assembly
in or neare about the Cittie."
Further, the two privileged companies were not to
play more than twice a week, "each of them in their
several house twice a week and no oftener, and
especially they shall refrayne to play on the Sabbath
day upon payne of imprisonment and further penalties "
Finally-" because these orders wil be of little force
and effect unless they be duely putt in execution by those
unto home it appertayneth to see them executed, it is
ordered that several copies of these orders shal be sent
to the Lord Maior of London and to the Justices of
Peace of the counties of Middlesex and Surrey, and
that letters shal be written unto them from their Lord-
ships straightly chargeinge them to see to the execution
of the same, as well by commyttinge to prison any
owners of playhouses and players as shall disobey and
resist these orders as by any other good and lawfull
means that in their discretion they shall finde ex-
pedient, and to certified their Lordships from tyme
to tyme as they shall see cause of their proceedings
At that moment there were at least six permanent
theatres in London. The Burbages possessed two,
"The Globe" and "The Blackfriars"; Henslowe and
Alleyn three, "The Rose," "The Fortune," and "The
Curtain," the last of which they must have acquired by
1 This order from the Privy Council, with certain other documents con-
cerning the same affair, is reproduced in extenso in Halliwell-Phillipps's
Outlines, 3rd ed., pp. 528-535.
72 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
this time, since they promise to pull it down when they
build "The Fortune"; finally there was a sixth be-
longing to a certain Francis Langley, The Swan," the
history of which we shall soon have an opportunity of
relating. It may be also that "The Newington"
Theatre still existed, but it was of scarcely any import-
ance, and its whole history is very obscure.
At any rate the strict orders from the Privy Council
meant the suppression of four large play-houses, three
of which were only a few years old.
Fortunately for the actors and the proprietors, this
order shared the fate of many others: it was never
carried out. A year and a half later, in December 160i,
the Lord Mayor sends in a new complaint of the many
theatres, to which the Privy Council replies as follows:
"Wee have received a lettre from yow renewing a com-
plaint of the great abuse and disorder within and about
the cittie of London by reason of the multitude of play-
howses,. . wee must let yow know that wee did much
rather expect to understand that our order sett down and
prescribed about a year and a half since for reformation
of the said disorders upon the lyke complaint at that
tyme had been duely executed, then to finde the same
disorders and abuses so much increased as they are.
The blame whereof, as we cannot but impute in great
part to the Justices of the Peace or some of them in
the counties of Middlesex and Surrey, who had special
direction and charge from us to see our said Order
executed for the confines of the Cittie, wherein the
most part of those play-howses are scituate. . .Wee
do therefore once again renew hereby our directions
unto you, as wee have donne by our lettres to the
justices of Middlesex and Surrey. .. ."1
Here follows a repetition of the earlier order, which
winds up with a request to imprison the proprietors of
theatres if, regardless of their duty, they have plays
acted in other places besides the two authorised theatres,
"The Fortune" and "The Globe." And, as before,
a strict injunction is sent to the Justices of the
But, just as before, the writs were entirely disre-
garded. It is most astonishing to see how such orders
from the highest authorities are ignored time after time,
and treated as empty menaces in spite of their being
addressed to the Puritan Lord Mayor, the hereditary
enemy of actors.
This would be quite incomprehensible if the Lords
of the Council had not played a double game, secretly
protecting the theatres while publicly censuring them.
Among the councillors of state at that time were men
like Nottingham, Shrewsbury and Worcester, who were
known to be very favourably inclined towards plays and
actors, and who, without openly breaking with the Mayor
and the Corporation, found it amusing to play a few
tricks on the conceited Puritan prigs.
That the actors also considered the grave city fathers
as a good butt for their wit is seen for one thing from
the almost farcical way in which Shakespeare treats the
Lord Mayor and Aldermen in his Richard III., where
he makes Gloster and Buckingham send them off on a
I The county of Middlesex contained the part of London which lay north
of the Thames, the county of Surrey contained the part south of the river.
74 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
wild goose chace, and exhibits them as foolish victims
of the grossest dissimulation.
At any rate, the theatres were left alone for the
present. It is true that the proprietors had to pay a
considerable sum to the functionaries in whose hands
their welfare lay, and we shall see later how the Master
of the Revels taxed the actors. Still, the theatres which
had to succumb in the struggle for existence perished
by a natural death, and no brute force was exercised
against their development.
Not even The Curtain disappeared, though
Henslowe and Alleyn had engaged themselves to pull
it down when they built The Fortune." It continued
to exist, as we have seen, probably down to the time
of the Civil War. It is even possible that Henslowe
and Alleyn never owned this theatre, in which case,
indeed, the promise of pulling it down would be the
climax of comic impudence to the Puritan authorities.
This promise, as far as I know, is the only indication of
"The Curtain's ever having been in the possession of
Henslowe and Alleyn. In their detailed account-books
no mention whatever is made of it.
But a few years previously the two partners had built
"The Rose," which, indeed, they did not show the
slightest intention of pulling down. On the whole, the
last twenty or thirty years of the century had brought
vigorous life into the theatrical world, and, it must be
confessed, had increased the number of theatres slightly
beyond what the town was able to support at the time.
About the year 1596 a large new play-house had been
added, of which we have not yet had an opportunity of
speaking in greater detail. It was called The Swan,"
and like "The Rose" and "The Globe," it was situated
on the southern bank of the Thames, but more to the
west than the others.
A Dutch scholar, Johan de Witt, who visited London
about that time, has left not only a description but also
a drawing1 of this theatre, which in 1596 was quite new,
and for that very reason, perhaps, particularly impressed
the foreign traveller by its stately appearance. The
translation of his Latin description runs as follows:
"There are in London four theatres (Amphitheatra) of
noteworthy beauty, which bear different names according
to their different signs. In each of them a different play
variaa scena) is daily performed before the people. The
two most magnificent of these are situated across the
Thames on the south side, and are called from the signs
suspended over them: 'The Rose'2 and 'The Swan.'
Two others, 'The Theatre' and 'The Curtain,' are
situated outside the town to the north, on the road which
is entered through 'the episcopal gate,' generally called
'Bishopsgate.' There is also a fifth, but of a different
construction, meant for baiting of wild beasts, in which
many bears, bulls and dogs of an extraordinary size are
fed in separate dens and cages, which are baited to fight,
and thus afford a most delightful spectacle to the people.
Of all the theatres the largest and most magnificent is
the one whose sign is a Swan (generally called 'The
Swan' Theatre), as it holds three thousand persons, and
1 Both were discovered by Dr K. Th. Gaedertz, who found them in the
Utrecht Library. The descriptions in the text are taken from his work
2 "The Rose," as we have seen, was also new at the time.
76 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
is built of flint, of which there is a large abundance in
England, supported by wooden pillars. The paint that
covers these pillars produces such an excellent imitation
of marble that it baffles even the sharpest eye. And as
in shape it seems to be an imitation of Roman work,
I have given a drawing of it above." 1
This Swan Theatre," the magnificence of which
made such a deep impression on the Dutch scholar, is
well known to us from other sources. In the year 1594
the Lord Mayor of London wrote to the Lord Treasurer,
informing him that a certain Francis Langley, licensed
alnager,2 intended to build a new theatre on the Bank
side, which he asked him to forbid his doing.
Evidently the Lord Treasurer did not comply with
the request of the Lord Mayor, for Francis Langley
built his theatre on the ground of Paris Garden, quite
close to the Bear-garden, and to the much frequented
landing-place on the Thames, Paris Gardens Stairs; and
probably from the many swans which crowded the river
at the time-he chose a swan as the sign of his play-
house, and called it The Swan Theatre." There is no
evidence to show when "The Swan" was built and
opened for use. If Dr Gaedertz is right in his assertion
that de Witt visited London in the summer of 1596, it
is not likely to have been open for less than a year.
But other circumstances seem to indicate that it was
quite new in I598.3
In other respects we are exceedingly well informed
1 The drawing is reproduced in vol. ii. of the present work: Middle Ages
and Renaissance, facing p. 326.
2 Comp. Ordish: Early London Theatres, p. 253.
3 Comp. Ordish: Early London Theatres, p. 259.
with regard to this play-house. We possess a drawing
of the interior by de Witt; its exterior is illustrated in
Visscher's View of London (of 1616); it is described,
as above, by de Witt, and, finally, we have the fairly
detailed building contract of the later Hope Theatre,"
the construction of which was to be exactly like that of
This play-house, therefore, as far as its outward history
is concerned, is probably the best known of all contem-
porary theatres. Unfortunately, its importance to the
dramatic art and dramatic literature of the time was
obviously slight; in any case its artistic history is as ob-
scure as our knowledge of its architecture is clear. It is
evident that the builder, Francis Langley, who seems to
have selected the place for his fine theatre very judiciously,
could not come up to his shrewd competitor, Philip
Henslowe, who owned "The Rose," "The Newington"
and The Bear-garden."
When de Witt's drawing appeared, it was thought
for a moment that the three actors represented there
might be meant for Malvolio, Olivia and Maria in
Twelfth Night, and that this would prove that Shake-
speare had written also for The Swan Theatre. But
this hypothesis failed on the simple ground that that
comedy cannot have been written before i6oo.1 On the
whole, there is nothing to justify the belief that any play
of Shakespeare's was acted at The Swan," or that the
company to which the great poet belonged, and for which
1 They might, by the by, be the same persons from an earlier play on
the same subject. Some people consider Twelfth Night to be an adapta-
tion of an earlier comedy.
78 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
he wrote exclusively,1 ever appeared on Langley's
From a short colloquy in Dekker's Satiromastix we
may conclude that Ben Jonson, whose restless nature
drove him in turn to all companies and all theatres,
acted Zulziman in "The Swan" Theatre. Otherwise
this theatre seems mainly to have been used for per-
formances of a lower kind, the so-called "activities," or
what we should call music hall entertainments," acrobatic
tricks, fencing matches, and plays of the lowest class.
The once magnificent building soon fell into decay, and,
on the whole, this theatrical enterprise seems to have
been a failure. In the year 1632, in a play by Marmyon,
called Hollands Leaguer,2 after a house of ill fame in
Paris Garden, mention is made of the things worth
seeing in that neighbourhood, among which occurs
"The Swan." The passage runs as follows: There
are pleasant walks and a concourse of strangers. Three
famous amphitheatres can be seen from the turret; one,
the continent of the world [i.e. 'The Globe'], to which
half the year [i.e. in summer] a world of beauties and of
brave spirits resort-a building of excellent Hope for
players, wild beasts and gladiators-and one other, that
the lady of the leaguer or fortress could almost shake
1 The only two of Shakespeare's plays which seem to have been written
for other companies are Titus Andronicus, which we find mentioned in
Henslowe's Diary (p. 33) as having been performed for the first time on the
23rd of January 1593 or 1594 by the inferior company, "The Earl of
Sussex's Men" (Rd at titus and ondronicous, the 23rd of Jenewary . iii. li
viii. s.), and Henry VI., which on the title-page of the first edition is stated
to have been acted by The Earl of Pembroke's Servants." But as we know,
Shakespeare's authorship of both these plays has been contested.
2 Shakerly Marmyon: Holland's Leagker, 1632; quot. by Ordish:
Early London Theatres, p. 275.
hands with, now fallen to decay, and, like a dying
swanne [i.e. 'The Swan' play-house], hangs her head
and sings her own dirge."
This melancholy description is the last information
we have about the once proud Swan."
The Burning of "The Globe"-The new "Globe" and its Proprietors-
Philip Henslowe as Theatrical Manager-The Burning and Recon-
struction of "The Fortune."
ON the 29th of June I613 London saw for the first time
the destruction by fire of one of its theatres, and it was
no other than The Globe which was destroyed.
By this time it was more than a year since Shake-
speare had retired from the stage. But a new play in
which he had a share was acted on this fatal day. The
historical play Henry VIII., or All is True, by Shake-
speare and Fletcher,' was on the play-bill, and this royal
drama was produced with much pomp and splendour.
The Knights of the Garter appeared in their magnificent
robes, and the Knights of St George in theirs; the Royal
Guard were refulgent in their embroidered surcoats ; even
the stage-contrary to custom-was covered with mats,
while for ordinary use it was only strewn with rushes.
In Act i., Scene 4, the King comes as one of a
company of makers to the house of Cardinal Wolsey,
and, in accordance with a common custom, on the
entrance of the King a volley of cannon-shots was fired.
The wad of one of these hit the roof, and in a twinkling
1 Henry VIII. is supposed to have been commenced by Shakespeare in
16II, and to have been performed two years later by "The King's Men,"
who had prevailed on Fletcher to finish it.
8o HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
the sixteen years' old theatre, which, as we remember, was
built of wood, was in flames. Though there were only two
narrow entrances to the whole theatre, all the people
escaped almost unhurt. Only one man," says the writer
of a contemporary letter,1 "had his breeches set on fire,
that would perhaps have broyled him, if he had not by
the benefit of a provident wit, put it out with bottle ale."
But the whole theatre and an adjoining house were
burned down in a little over an hour, and of course
among other things part of the expensive wardrobe of
the actors was destroyed.
Naturally the fire created a considerable sensation.
The Puritans considered it as a judgment from God,2 and a
street song appeared, which in graphic words, though in a
humorous way, preserved the memory of the sad event.
The song has the following title: "A Sonnet about
the Sad Fire in the Globe Theatre in London"; and
with an obvious allusion to the piece which was acted on
the fatal day, each verse ended with this refrain:-
Oh, sorrow, pittifull sorrow, an yett all this is true."
1 Sir Henry Wotton. In Reliquis Wottonianae, ed. 1685, pp. 425-6,
we find a description of the fire, first quoted by Malone, p. 69, n. 6. A
letter from Mr Chamberlain, dated July 8th, 1613, also discovered by
Malone ibidd.), and Stow's Chronicle, under the year 1613, also give descrip-
tions of this event in the annals of the theatre. The details given above are
drawn from these three sources.
2 As late as twenty years after, Prynne, in his Histriomastix, mentions
the burning of the two theatres, The Globe" and "The Fortune," as a
proof that plays are the work of the devil. See the original edition of 1633,
3 Printed for the first time in The Gentlemen's Magazine of 1816, from
an old manuscript. Afterwards reprinted by Halliwell-Phillipps (Outlines,
pp. 536 ff.) Malone mentions a ballad on the same subject, which is registered
in the bookseller's catalogue of 1613, but which he has never been able to
find. It can scarcely be the same as the above-mentioned sonnet; the title
at least is different.
The sonnet begins in a high strain with a summons
to Melpomene to report the last tragedy which was acted
at The Globe."
Now sitt the down, Melpomene,
Wrapt in a sea-cole robe,
And tell the dolefull tragedie
That late was played at Globe."
Then it describes how the fire began on the roof and
spread over the whole house consuming everything, even
the silk flag; further, how the knights and noblemen ran
out in great confusion, losing their hats and swords, and
the actors likewise, Burbage, Condell and old Heminge,
who stood with swollen eyes like a drunken Flemming,"
and looked with sorrow at the burning wigs, costumes
and drum-skins. At last the poet recommends the
actors not to thatch their house, but to go to the expense
of a tile roof.
"Be warned, yow stage strutters all,
Least yow again be catched,
And such a burning doe befall,
As to them whose howse was thatched;
Forbeare your whoreing, breeding biles,
And lay up that expence for tiles.
Oh, sorrow, pittifull sorrow, and yet all this is true."
To this warning Burbage and his companions paid
heed, and when, as early as the following spring,1 The
1 ". . and the next spring it was new builded in far fairer manner than
before."-Stow's Chronicle, under the year 1613.
"As gold is better that's in fire tried,
So is the Bankside Globe that late was burn'd,
For where before it had a thatched hide,
82 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
Globe rose again, it was not only much more splendid
in appearance, but it had a tiled roof.
The new "Globe remained under the management
of Richard Burbage till his death in 1619. After this
event it continued to remain in the hands of the family,
though now, as before, they shared the ownership with
some of the leading actors as partners. No doubt, even
on the establishment of the first "Globe Theatre,"
Shakespeare and others had shares in the enterprise.1
The bookseller, Cuthbert Burbage, the surviving brother
of Richard, writes in the year 1635 on this question,
after mentioning the difficulties which the family had
had with their first enterprise, "The Theatre": "We
then bethought us of altering from thence, and at like
expense built the Globe, with more summes of money
taken up at interest, which lay heavy on us many years,
and to ourselves wee joyned those deserving men,
Shakspere, Heminge, Condall, Philips and others,
partners in the profittes of that they call the House, but
making the leases for twenty-one yeeres hath been the
destruction of ourselves and others, for they dyeing at
the expiration of three or four yeeres of their lease,2 the
Now to a stately theatre is turned;
Which is an emblem, that great things are won
By those that dare through greatest dangers run."
John Taylor: Quatern ofnew-catched Epigrams, no. xxii.,
quoted by Malone, Historical Account, p. 70.
1 All actors were partners in so far as the entrance fee, which was col-
lected at the doors, was their due. But the proprietors took all that was
paid for the boxes, the galleries, and the seats on the stage. For further
information on this point see the following section, p. xo9.
2 All these "deserving men" were alive three or four years after the
building of the Globe. The first to die was Augustine Phillips, the old clown,
whose death occurred in 1605. Condell and Heminge lived respectively to
1627 and 1630. Shakespeare who, as we know, died in 1616, had probably
given up his share some years previously.
6-The New Globe Theatre.
subsequent yeeres became dissolved to strangers as by
marrying with their widdowes and the like by their
In 1635 the Burbage family, though none of them
acted any longer, still possessed 31 shares of the 16, into
which "The Globe" was divided; the remainder were
held by the widow of Condell (2), and by the actors
Robinson (31), Schanke (3), Taylor and Lewin (each
While "The Globe" continued to be a sound pay-
ing business, its theatrical reputation had somewhat
declined. The public which frequented it were scarcely
so refined as that which went to Blackfriars, and the
actors, "The King's Men," who were the same in both
places, performed at "The Globe" mainly what we
should call spectacular plays.
James Shirley, in the prologue of his Rosania, or The
Doubtful Heir, gibes at his own public. His plays were
to have been performed at Blackfriars, and his prologue
apologises for the refined fare in these words :
Gentlemen, I am only sent to say,
Our author did not calculate his play
For this meridian. The Bankside, he knows,
Is far more skilful at the ebbs and flows
Of water than of wit: he did not mean
For the elevation of your poles this scene.
1 In the reply above quoted to a complaint from some of the actors.
Comp. above, p. 37.
2 Comp. a complaint from the actors Benfield, Swanston and Pollard to
the Earl of Pembroke (1635), printed in Halliwell-Phillipps's Outlines, pp.
84 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
No shews, no dance-and what you most delight in,
Grave understanders,' here's no target-fighting
Upon this stage; all work for culers barr'd;
No bawdry nor no ballads;-this goes hard:
But language clean, and, what affects you not,
Without impossibilities the plot,
No clown, no squibs, no devil in 't.-Oh now,
You squirrels that want nuts, what will you do ?
Pray do not crack the benches, and we may
Hereafter fit your palates with a play.
But you that can contract yourselves, and fit,
As you were now in the Blackfriars pit,
And will not deaf us with lewd noise and tongues
Because we have no heart to break our lungs
Will pardon our vast stage, and not disgrace,
This play meant for your persons, not the place." 2
These words were written and spoken in 1640. A
few years later the famous "Globe" had ceased to
exist. The exact date of its destruction was the i5th
of April 1644, when the Puritans pulled it down.
The old home of the art of Shakespeare is now occu-
pied by the large breweries of Barclay & Perkins.-
When in 1613 "The Globe" Theatre was entirely
burned down, Henslowe at once profited by the chance
offered him by the temporary incapacitation of his most
dangerous competitors. He entered into partnership with
the waterman, Jacob Meade, who had formerly been a
1 Grave understanders, a very common pun on the populace in the pit,
who stood below the stage. Ben Jonson also called them "the understand-
ing gentlemen of the ground here."
2 This prologue is printed in Malone: Historical Account, pp. 72 ff.
keeper of the royal animals, and immediately had
his bear-circus transformed into a proper play-house,
but so that it might still be used for fights between
For the construction of this theatre "The Swan"
was to serve as a model. We read in the contract
between the carpenter and the mason on the one side,
and Henslowe and Meade on the other, that in circum-
ference and height it was to be equal to the play-house
called "The Swan."
The foundation was to be of brick, and the timber
in the lowest storey of oak only; the pillars likewise of
oak, and turned. The stage was to be surrounded by
a frame and to rest on rams, so that it might be removed
when the theatre had to serve for bull-baiting and bear-
baiting. The stage was to be covered by heavens "-
that is, a canopy-which was not, however, to rest on
pillars on the floor; it was to be provided with leaden
gutters for the rain-water to run off. The theatre was
to have three storeys like "The Swan," the lowest of
which was to contain some particularly comfortable
boxes, "convenient and suitable for gentlemen to
sit in." The roof was to be of English tiles, not
thatched like the previous theatres. Finally, a tile-
covered stable was to accommodate six bulls and three
The new play-house received the significant name of
"The Hope," and the company which was engaged to
act there obtained the Princess Elizabeth as patroness,
1 The whole building contract is printed by Malone: Variorum Shake-
86 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
and called itself, after her, "The Lady Elizabeth's
Servants." Its leading actor was Nathaniel Field, a
young star,' who had already won fame as a child-actor,
and who now rivalled Richard Burbage himself as the
Field was accompanied by a number of talented
young dramatists, above all, Ben Jonson, and next to him
John Fletcher, Philip Massinger, Robert Daborne, all
of them tempted by old father Henslowe's gold, and all
more or less in the pocket of the wily pawnbroker.
Among the papers left by Edward Alleyn are a
number of letters, complaints and receipts from authors
and actors who stood in business relations with Hens-
lowe.2 A thorough study of these old papers gives a
most vivid and interesting idea of the circumstances
in which dramatic authors lived at that time. It is
sad and painful to see how even distinguished artists
truckle and flatter in order to obtain a loan or an advance
from the plebeian upstart and nouveau rice, as we may
call Henslowe, a man who got his first start in life by
marrying the wealthy woman in whose service he was,
-who afterwards increased his fortune by pawnbroking
1 In 1613 he was 26 years old.
2 These papers were published for the Shakespeare Society by J. P.
Collier, partly in his Memoirs of Alleyn, partly in The Alleyn Pafers, but
unfortunately in a very disorderly and unchronological way. The notes
and explanations, moreover, are to a great extent more misleading than
instructive to anybody who is not thoroughly acquainted with the subject.
Finally, these editions are marred by a number of forgeries, which are so
many pitfalls for any student who has not been warned of them.
3 From a lawsuit over Henslowe's estate after his death we are fur-
nished with a document proving this fact, which, as far as I know, has not
been noticed before: "That Philip Henslow married Agnes at such tyme
as she was his Mrs and he her servant, being wholy advanced by her . ."
Memoirs of E. Alleyn, p. 124.
and all kinds of more or less surreptitious theatrical
enterprises, and was now a notorious usurer, scarcely
able to write a single consecutive sentence, but never
failing to begin his theatrical accounts with the words:
"In God's name, Amen."
The actors and dramatic authors were probably, as
a rule, a happy-go-lucky careless sort of folks, who were
very free with their money. Celebrated and distin-
guished men like Field and Dekker were continually in
prison arrested for debt, and obliged to turn for help
to their wealthy acquaintances. Robert Daborne, a
third-rate, but rather fertile author, has left a large
number of notes sent to Henslowe, all without exception
treating of loans and advances. We will quote one
which dates from about the time when "The Hope"
Theatre was opened. On August 3rd, 1613, he writes
to Henslowe as follows: Mr Hinchlow,' I have ever
since I saw you kept my bed, being so lame that I
cannot stand. I pray, S', goe forward with that reason-
able bargain for the Bellman; we will hav but twelve
pounds and the overplus of the second day, whearof I
hav had ten shillings and desyre but twenty shillings
more, till you have three sheets of my papers. Good Sr,
consider how for y' sake I have put myself out of the
assured way to get money, and from twenty pounds a
play am come to twelv ; thearfor in my extremyty for-
sake me not, as yU shall ever command me. My wife
can aquaynt yU how infinite great my occation is, and
1 This is one of several ways in which the name of the old stage-
manager is frequently spelt.
2 The Bellman of London, the play at which Daborne was working at
88 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
this shall be sufficient for the receipt till I come to set
my hand to your book.
"Yo' at command,
"Aug. 3, 1613."
Below is added in Henslowe's handwriting:-
"Lent Mr Daborne upon this not the 32 of August
in earnest of a played called the Bellman of London,
Henslowe was very cunning in the way he took
advantage of the difficulties of his authors and actors.
He sells them costumes and ornaments on part-payment,
buys plays of the authors and sells them to the actors,
but keeps the manuscripts for himself. When lending
money to individual actors, he charges the amount to the
account of the whole company, and deducts the instal-
ments and interests due to him from the proceeds of the
performance. He never permits his companies to get
entirely out of debt to him, but as soon as they are on
the point of freeing themselves he stops the performances
by dismissing the hired men of the company, that is, the
inferior actors and functionaries with whom he had a
contract, but whom he did not pay, and without whom
there could be no acting. In the course of three years
he dissolved five companies, for, as he said, If those
fellows come out of their debt to me, I should never
have any power over them."
And indeed, the discontent with him increased more
and more, and even within two years after the building
of The Hope," it broke out in a very sharply worded
complaint from the actors, in which they accuse him of
all the irregularities we have mentioned and several
Whether the actors reaped any benefit from their
complaint during Henslowe's life-time, we cannot dis-
cover, but it is not likely. However, a short time after
this the old pawnbroker died (in 1616), leaving a
considerable fortune (about 11 i,ooo) and an outstanding
claim of 4oo. His son-in-law, Edward Alleyn, took on
his theatrical business, and some months after the death
of Henslowe,2 made a contract with the company,
according to which he released them of 62oo0 of the
debt, and allowed them to pay the remainder out of a
fourth part of the proceeds of the galleries,3 a good proof
that the grievances against Henslowe were not un-
founded, for Alleyn, as a rule, was close enough in
Among the names of the actors who made this
contract with Alleyn we do not find that of Nathaniel
Field, so at this time he must have left the company and
"The Hope" Theatre, and no doubt had joined "The
King's Men (Shakespeare's old company) accompanied
by Jonson, Fletcher and Massinger.
The Globe" Theatre had risen again after the fire,
and the star of The Hope" was declining. Formerly,
plays had been acted four times a week, and there had
1 The complaint was printed by Malone from a MS. found in Dulwich
College. The MS. is nowhere to be found now, but a reprint of the
complaint is contained in the Alleyn Papers, p. 78 ff. The above
characteristic utterance of Henslowe is copied literally from the complaint.
2 Henslowe died on January 9th, 1616, and on the 20th of March in the
same year Alleyn made the contract with the actors.
3 The contract is reprinted in full in Collier's Memoirs of E. Alleyn,
pp. 127 ff.
90 HISTORY OF THEATRICAL ART
been bear-fights on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but
gradually the bear-fights seem to have once more gained
the upper hand; "The Hope" lost its fine name and
was commonly called the Bear-garden," 1 and as such it
was carried on down to 1642, when all entertainments of
the kind were forbidden.
The last news of the Bear-garden is of 1691. Then
it had become a glass factory where "crown window-
glass is made, which in all respects far exceeds French
Besides the burning of "The Globe" in 1613,
London had another great conflagration at a theatre to
record during this period. In 1621 the large and
magnificent Fortune," the first theatre in London, as it
is called by the writer of a contemporary letter,8 was
destroyed by fire. In the course of two hours the whole
of the fine building was converted into a heap of ashes,
and the actors lost their whole wardrobe and other
equipment, as well as their expensive "play-books," that
is, the manuscripts of the plays in their repertoire.
The company which was then acting at "The
Fortune" was the same that had occupied it all along,
viz., "The Prince's Servants," originally "The Lord
1We learn this from Stow's Survey of London, continued by Howe, in
which we read: "The Hope on the Bankside in Southwark, commonly
called the Beare-Garden, a play-house for Stage players on Mondayes,
Wednesdayes, Fridayes and Saturdayes; and for the baiting of the Beares
on Tuesdayes and Thursdayes, the Stage being made to take up and down
when they plesse."
2 Advertisement in The Gazette for June i8th, 169I, quoted by Ordish.
3 John Chamberlain, in a letter of December 15th, 1621, to Sir Dudley
Carleton; in the collection of MSS. of Dr Birch, Brit. Mus.; discovered by
Edmond Malone (Historical Account, p. 55, n. 5); Stow's Chronicle (1631
edit.) also mentions the fire, but puts it down erroneously to I617.
Admiral's Men," hitherto under the leadership of
Edward Alleyn, who, however, had given up acting
several years before.
If The Fortune" is called the first theatre of the
town, this must be understood to mean the most stately
in appearance. As a home of dramatic art and literature
it never attained the importance of "The Globe" or
The Henslowe-Alleyn enterprises always kept a touch
of a somewhat rough and business-like popularity, which
certainly brought a good deal of money into the cash-
box of the managers, but no corresponding artistic glory
to their memory.
After the fire and the subsequent reconstruction,
"The Fortune" for some years passed into the hands of
another company called "The Prince Palatine's Men,"
which, however, was entirely dissolved in 1624, after
which the old Prince's Servants" were reinstalled
under the name of "The Fortune Company," and
continued acting there till the Civil War.
About the year 1630 "The Fortune" and "The
Red Bull," probably used by the same company, seem to
have been considered as rather cheap and common
places of amusement, to judge from a passage in the
introduction to The Careless Shepherdess by Goffe, where
I will hasten to the money-box,
And take my shilling out again-
I'll go to The Bull or Fortune, and there see
A play for twopence, and a jig to boot."
The last news of "The Fortune" Theatre is an