AD's English Literature : Philip Henslowe’s Diary and the Rose Theatre: Invaluable Material Evidence for the Study of the English Theatre in the age of Playwright William Shakespeare

Philip Henslowe’s Diary and the Rose Theatre: Invaluable Material Evidence for the Study of the English Theatre in the age of Playwright William Shakespeare

Reading through the diary pages we learn, Philip Henslowe, son of Edmund Henslowe of Sussex was an enterprising man who was permanently settled on the bank side by 1577 and who married his master’s rich widow who had a fair daughter by her first marriage named Joan. In the eighties of the sixteenth century Henslowe is known as a dyer, in the nineties as a pawn-broker and always as a purchaser of southward property. As a businessman of enterprise, Henslowe of quick to mark the prospects of the theatre business; in 1585 he built the Rose Theater. Read More about William Shakespeare By 1594 he possessed another theatre at Newington butts. His step –daughter Joan was married to the famous actor, Edward Alleyn and this marked the beginning of a successful and profitable partnership with the great actor. By the time Henslowe the English theater manager owned the Fortune  and Hope  theaters in London. Read More about Drama  

To record first and most interestingly, Philip Henslowe took a lease of property called ‘the little rose with two gardens’ in 1585. It was situated on the backsides between the river and Maid Lane. The lease was to run for twenty years on a rental of £ 7. Later in 1587, the said Henslowe formed a partnership with one John Cholmley for building a playhouse on a portion of this property. It was built by 1588 and appears in Norden’s map of 1593 as a round building. Cholmley died in 1592. 

As Henslowe’s account of repairs shows, the theatre was erected on a brick foundation with timber and plaster and it had a thatched roof. The first company to perform at this theatre as per records of Henslowe’s diary is Stranger’s. Read More about Elizabethan Literature  
Assuming that all the entries in the said diary refer to the Rose, six different companies performed plays here form 1592 to 1603- namely, Stanger’s,  Sussex’s , Queen’s admiral’s,  Pembroke’s and Worcester’s. The curious thing is that by 1592 Philip Henslowe starts keeping a diary, which has become one of the most important records of the period and an indispensable look into the world of the theatre of the Elizabethan era. In the diary, Henslowe keeps record of costumes purchased, and monies paid to the various people with whom he did business, etc.

After 1603 there are no further records about the Rose. Henslowe’s lease of the property expired in 1605. He did not renew the lease as the rent of   £ 20   seemed heavy for him, Malone states that the Swan and the Rose were closed in 1613 as theatres but that after 1620 they were sometimes used for the exhibition of prize-fighters. Read More about William Shakespeare

On the other hand, On the death of Alleyn who was heir to most of Henslowe’s property, the latter’s diary and other papers passed to the library of Duldtwitch College where they remained forgotten and mislaid till Edmond Malone unearthed them. These documents, later edited by W.W. Gregg throw a flood –lighton Henslowe’s relations with the theatre and on the Elizabethan stage in general. The diary which is in the nature of an account or men random book covers the years 1592-1603, and forms tow parts. In the first part Henslowe records the performances by the companies at his theater, the names of the plays and the amounts received by him as owner of the theatre. He seems to have started with a performance by the stranger’s company on 23 June, 1592.  Read More about William Shakespeare

Rose Theatre
This information apart, the diary furnishes us with a fair knowledge of the contemporary playwrights and players and a chronology of the play. In fact,  Philip Henslowe’s diary provides invaluable material evidence for the study of the English theater in the age of playwright William Shakespeare. Read More about William ShakespeareIn his diary he kept his accounts of transactions for his theaters, as well as records of loans and payments to actors and dramatists. Henslowe acted as a banker to the players and made payments on their behalf to playwrights. Those plays acted at his theatres were put together by syndicates of two to five writers. Read More about Elizabethan Literature  
Playwriting thus became a practical business and not so much high art. For example in 1599, Dekker himself wrote only two plays but collaborated in fourteen. Of the 280 plays referred by Henslowe about one-seventh survives and they are mostly by single authored. This only reveals the natural instinct of an author to be interested more in his own singular work for the purpose of getting artistic value. Read More about Elizabethan Literature  

This diary also shows that popular plays were often revised. Thus Marlowe’s tragedy of Dr Faustus, written in 1592 and having twenty-five performances between September, 1594 and October, 1597 was entered for publication on 7th January, 1601. Bird and Rowley, Henslowe’s hack, were paid for making additions to this play on 22ndNovember, 1602. Revision and collaboration of Shakespeare’s plays Read More about William Shakespeare shows signs of such alterations and revisions. Collaboration, however, in Shakespeare’s plays is more an exception than a rule, there being fairly general agreement that portion of unevenness in King John.

Henslowe’s diary is by far the most important document illuminating the Elizabethan stage and theatre. It also aids immeasurably the chronological study of the Shakespearean plays and furnishes evidence for the authenticity and authorship of the plays. 
Now try to answer....

  •  The group of five: Philip Henslowe,   Edward Alleyn, John Heminges, Henry Condell, Richard Burbage .
  •  1584: The   property called The Little Rose contained a rose garden, but also a brothel.  There was built The Rose theatre, the third real theatre in London, and the very first on that side of the Thames.  (First real theatre - The Theatre in Shoreditch, built in 1576 by James Burbage)
  •  In the diary there is no mention of Shakespeare. Why? Professional rivalry?

Ardhendu De

 Ref: Wikipedia, Rose theatre

Ardhendu De

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