Oh, but I would have dearly loved to be in London last Thursday, and to attend A Tale of Two Roses, Frank Whately’s talk about the Rose Playhouse, Ned Alleyn and Christopher Marlowe… Continue reading
Tomorrow my friend Victoria Blake launches her new historical novel, Titian’s Boatman, and I should have been there… but the deities of the flu decided otherwise, and I’m moping at home instead, and whining to anyone within earshot that I should be in London, London, London… Continue reading
Henslowe’s Diary as a blog? Daily life at the Rose Playhouse?
This brilliant idea belongs to David Nicol, a Canadian teacher of Theatre Studies: daily entries from Philip Henslowe’s journal – the single most important document about the workings of an Elizabethan playhouse and playing company – complete with information on plays, thoughts about popularity and box office, and then questions, links and further readings. A very good introduction to the Diary itself, and to the cogs and wheels of Elizabethan theatre in general. Continue reading
It has always seemed to me that, while the first part of Tamburlaine the Great is all
black and white and red and gold, Marlowe’s later play, The Jew of Malta, bursts with colours.
It struck me from the very first time I met on the page Barabas, the eponymous Jew, first seen in his counting-house, lamenting the nuisance of counting silver… Continue reading
Even apart from Shakespeare’s death, 1616 was a momentous year, theatre-wise, and Shakespeare’s Globe is going to make the most of it, by celebrating this year’s numerous anniversaries with a host of events, shows, talks, concerts…
This month, the focus is on Philip Henslowe, one of the two great impresarios of Elizabethan theatre, Edward Alleyn’s father in law, and the man whose diary, preserved through the centuries, gave us most of what we know about the daily business of playhouses and companies. Continue reading
Think of Robert Greene, whose 456th birthday would be tomorrow, and his supposed deathbed repentance.
I mean, as far as hundredth sheep go, his (supposed) last bleat sounds remarkably bilious, doesn’t it? After living a life that was wild even by Elizabethan standards, he took ill, and turned very pious and very censorious. If printer Henry Chettle is to be trusted, while sick and ailing (from an indigestion of pickled herrings, of all things) Greene found the energy not only to repent his recklessness, but to rant venomously against quite a few fellow writers.
Actually, we can’t be sure Chettle is to be trusted at all, for he was quite a shady character, with the moral stature of a railway sleeper – far from above writing the Groatsworth of Wit himself, to publish it under dead Greene’s name for selling value… Anyway, whoever wrote the pamphlet had it in for two men in particular: a famous gracer of Tragedian – undoubtedly Kit Marlowe – and the Upstart Crow.
To Marlowe he preached about his sinful ways – either oblivious or not caring a button that to call someone an atheist in print might very well send this someone off to the gallows. Instead, with the Crow it was not a matter of religion: him Greene loathed because he had the gall to write plays in spite of being an unlettered player – a combination clearly synonymous with “cockroach” to Robert Greene, MA.
While there is no doubt where Marlowe is concerned, t is generally but not universally accepted that the Crow was Shakespeare, the grammar-schoolboy who strutted on a stage and presumed to write. The alternative theory that it might have been actor Edward Alleyn makes some measure of sense when you consider that in 1592 Shakespeare was perhaps not yet as famous as Greene seems to imply of the Crow, and that Greene, while despising all players, despised young Ned Alleyn most of all.
Whatever the case, it is little wonder that two of the Groatsworth’s targets didn’t take it too well, and complained with enough vehemence to force apologies – which, Greene being dead, Chettle provided in the preface to a later book. Maddeningly enough, he made no names, but went to some pains to point out that one of the two he had come to know in the meantime and was sorry to have offended, while with the other he did not care to be acquainted.
Again, it is generally assumed that the nice one was Shakespeare (or at least the Crow), while to Marlowe one gave a wide berth… I don’t know. Once more, was Shakespeare the Crow? And even if he was, who was likelier to command the more sugared apology – the provincial player and part-time writer, or the famous poet out of Cambridge with friends in high places? On the other hand, one might well want to distance oneself from such a taint as suspected atheism. On the other hand again, I wouldn discount the chance of some sarcasm, either – with Chettle waxing extravagant in his forced apology… After all, insincere adulation is hard to call to task without risking some ridicule…
Ah well – it might be one of those things we’ll never know. Things we’ve lost, because they were written – both the Groatsworth and the apology – for an audience of contemporaries, who woul know how to read between the lines, and not for us, four centuries and a half later.
I can’t help thinking, though, that Robin Greene, mischief-maker that he was, would have relished in the notion of these people of the future puzzling cluelessly about his Crow, and who was madder, worse, and more dangerous to know: Shakespeare or Marlowe – or maybe Alleyn?