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Rose Playhouse


When the Globe playhouse was built in 1599 it was but a stone's throw from the home of the acting company led by Edward Alleyn at the Rose playhouse. The Rose was owned by Philip Henslowe who kept an account book or diary of his dealings at the Rose for more than a decade. The site of the Rose was rediscovered in 1989 and excavated.

The Great Rival

The Globe's great rival the Rose, stood nearby on Bankside. Philip Henslowe built the Rose playhouse in 1587. It isn't known what appeared at the Rose for the first five years of its existence, but in 1592 its story really begins.

In 1591 Edward (Ned) Alleyn and Richard Burbage were the greatest actors in London, and both were members of an amalgamated group of two acting companies at The Theatre. The Theatre's owner, Richard's father James Burbage had an argument with Alleyn over the takings, insulted Alleyn's patron Lord Admiral Howard, and threw Alleyn out. The company led by Alleyn took up residence at the Rose in February 1592, and the resulting relationship that grew between Alleyn and Henslowe was a long and fruitful one. Alleyn married Henslowe's step-daughter Joan Woodward, and loving letters he wrote to his wife over a number of years survive.

Just prior to Edward Alleyn arriving at the Rose, Henslowe had made considerable alterations to the playhouse. The original had been a thatched polygon of about fourteen sides, roughly seventy-two feet in outside diameter with a yard of a little less than fifty feet across. The alterations involved the demolition of the stage end of the building. It was rebuilt further out, turning the regular polygon into a sort of tulip shape, with an enlarged tapering stage. The original theatre probably didn't have a roof over the stage, whereas the new playhouse did. This was important not because it kept the rain off the actors, but because it enabled the use of stage effects. The very latest technology was the heavens. The heavens were a hoisting device, which could fly in thrones, gods and anything else. It is feasible that Alleyn only agreed to move his company to the Rose if the theatre were enlarged and modernised.

The rivalry began in earnest when the Globe was built nearby in 1599. It would seem that the Globe won the battle because early in 1600 Henslowe built a new playhouse north of the Thames called the Fortune. He employed the builder of the Globe and the plans were specified in terms of the differences to the Globe. The Rose was demolished in 1606.

Rose Excavation

During the building of a new office block in 1989, the foundations of the Rose were discovered close to the bank of the Thames in Southwark. The shapes of both the original and rebuilt structures can be seen clearly. Much controversy followed the discovery, but the building eventually continued, and the foundations have been preserved in a gallery beneath the offices, covered in sand.

Henlowe's Diary

From 1592 Philip Henslowe kept an account book which is known as Henslowe's Diary . This was when Edward Alleyn's company moved to the Rose after his argument over the accounts at the Theatre. It is possible that Henslowe started to keep the book to avoid such wrangles in the future. It gives a fascinating insight into the day to day running of a playhouse. It details loans and advances of money made to playwrights, the takings for performances, and an inventory of stage properties made in 1598. They include "one lion's skin, one bear's skin, the city of Rome, Cupid's bow and quiver, Neptune's fork and garland, and one Hell moat" among much else. Among the box office receipts and records of loans are strange recipes, cures and charms.

The Henslowe character played splendidly by Geoffrey Rush in the movie Shakespeare in Love is just right. An entrepreneur who wants Shakespeare to produce a swashbuckling comedy and is upset when he gets a tragedy without a pirate king, and especially without a dog!

Edward Alleyn

Edward Alleyn was born in 1566, the son of a London innkeeper, and joined the acting troupe called Worcester's men when he was about 16 years old. He was 22 when his innkeeper brother John helped him to pay £37.10s.0d to buy the theatrical assets of one Richard Jones. These consisted of playing apparrelles playe Bookes, Instruments, and other commodities. You may judge what a considerable investment this was for one so young, when you are told that Shakespeare paid £60 a few years later for the second biggest house in Stratford.

Edward went on to become the most celebrated actor of his day with the Lord Admiral's playing company, creating a succession of parts, many written by Christopher Marlowe. There is a statue of Alleyn in Canterbury in his famous role of Barabas in Marlowe's The Jew of Malta. Other Marlowe roles included Dr. Faustus and Tamburlaine the Great and he continued to play these popular pieces long after Marlowe was killed in a barroom brawl in 1593.

Alleyn appears to have retired from the stage in 1603 around the time of the death of Queen Elizabeth I. He delivered a speech as the Genius of London from a niche in a triumphal arch constructed as part of the City's welcome to King James I in that year, but after that he seems to have concentrated upon his various business interests in partnership with Henslowe.

He became so prosperous that in 1614 he invested £10,000 to build a school which still thrives today. It is Dulwich College in South London, and it is there that Alleyn's and Henslowe's papers have been preserved.

In 1623 Edward's wife Joan, his goode swett harte & lovinge mouse, died, but six months later the 57 year old Alleyn married Constance the twenty-year-old daughter of the poet, John Donne, the Dean of St. Paul's. Alleyn died at the age of 60 in 1626.

Most of the information on this page has been gleaned from the two books: The Rose Theatre by Christine Eccles, and The Shakespearean Stage 1574 - 1642 by Andrew Gurr.




Original Globe

Original Globe Playhouse


In 1598 Shakespeare's acting company carried the timbers from the dismantled Theatre across the Thames to Bankside. There they used the timbers as the frame of their new playhouse they called the Globe. In 1613 it burnt down but they again rebuilt it. For more details click on the link.

The building


What we believe the original Globe looked like

The excavation


In 1989 the Museum of London excavated a small section of the Globe's foundations. Here's what they found.

The Rose


The Globe's great rival playhouse, its star Edward Alleyn and owner Philip Henslowe


New Globe

New Globe Playhouse


The American actor Sam Wanamaker worked hard for decades to make the new Globe a reality, but he didn't live to see it built. Here's the story of how the new Shakespeare's Globe came to be built on London's Bankside in the 1990's

Mike's Views, Reviews and Previews


A list of links to details and my reviews of every season since 1997 at Shakespeare's Globe


Globe Main

Globe Old & New top page


Recommended Books

The Rose Theatre
  by Christine Eccles
The Shakespearean Stage 1574 - 1642
  by Andrew Gurr

Well Furlong Book Shop


My list of recommended books about the Globe, the Rose and other playhouses of the time may be found in the Globe Playhouse section of the Well Furlong Book Shop . If you so wish, you may go on to buy many of the volumes in our Book Shop directly from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.



Shakespeare's Globe

  The official Shakespeare's Globe site
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