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Henslowe's Rose

Henslowe's Rose: The Stage and Staging

Ernest L. Rhodes
Copyright Date: 1976
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Henslowe's Rose
    Book Description:

    Some of the most famous plays in the English language were performed on the stage of the Rose theater, which stood on the Bankside in Elizabethan London.Henslowe's Roseis the first full-length study of this important theater.

    Rhodes gives as full an account as the evidence of contemporary pictures and documents permits of those Rose, the method of its construction, its general plan, its repertory of plays, and its staging. From the action of these plays he deduces the form of the stage itself and the nature of its facilities. The total of five openings in the walls at stage-level is of particular significance, since the most widely held conception of the Shakespearean stage has been based primarily on the De Witt sketch of the Swan theater, showing a two-opening façade.

    The contemporary pictorial evidence used by Rhodes is reproduced in this volume for the convenience of the reader. In addition many sketches and plans illustrate Rhodes's findings, which are summed up in a photograph of a model built to specifications derived from such sources as Henslowe's diary, contemporary pictures of the outside of the Rose, and the Vitruvian theater plan.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6439-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xvii-xxviii)

    Henslowe’s Rose is probably the most important theater in our literary history, excepting, of course, the 1599 Globe. Yet it has not been studied as a theater or as a stage in its own right. This lack of interest is easily explained, for the Rose faded in the shadow of Shakespeare’s Globe on the Bankside in the spring of 1603 and has remained figuratively in the shadow of the Globe since then. Even so, William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, and most of the well-known playwrights of the period had a hand in writing plays that were presented at the Rose.¹ Many...

  5. A Note on Practices
    (pp. xxix-xxix)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxx-xxx)
  7. 1 The Theater Building
    (pp. 1-13)

    The Rose theater owed its name, according to Chambers (2:405), to the fact that it was built on property that had been, “as recently as 1547–48, a rose garden.”¹ The use made of the property before Philip Henslowe built his theater there is of some importance: one may assume, for instance, that if the plot had been used for growing roses, it was sufficiently well drained and solid to permit some excavation below the stage for a “cellarage”—if such excavation was indeed necessary.

    Henslowe obtained the site through a lease dated 24 March 1585, in which the property...

  8. 2 The Trapdoor
    (pp. 14-20)

    The Shakespearean public theater was a little universe, a microcosm, a representation in wood and plaster of the heavens above, the world below, and hell beneath.¹ In reconstructing the little world that was the stage of the Rose, we may as well begin with a part of the world that fascinated the Elizabethan: the ground on which he walked and the ever-present openings in it that led to hell. And while we are at the entrance to it, we can consider hell itself.

    The existence of at least one trapdoor in the floor of the stage of the Rose may...

  9. 3 The Stage of the Rose Theater
    (pp. 21-27)

    The stage of the Rose had to be high enough above the ground to permit the actors and stagehands to move about beneath the stage with speed and ease sufficient to maintain the proper pace of the play. Excavation was possible because the Rose, according to Chambers, was built on land originally used for growing roses, and one can assume that it was well-drained and solid enough to permit some digging below the surface without the risk of running into mud and water.¹ If the cellar of the Rose was excavated at all, it was probably not more than a...

  10. 4 Five Openings in the Walls
    (pp. 28-35)

    I have found in tracing the movement of the actors about the stage in the plays of the Rose that the stage shown in the De Witt sketch of the Swan simply could not have accommodated the pieces presented in Henslowe’s theater. Most of the plays required three openings in the stage wall or walls. Some certainly had to have at least four openings and a few seem to me to have required five.

    There is nothing new about the idea that the stage shown in the drawing of the Swan was inadequately equipped for the presentation of many Shakespearean...

  11. 5 The Gates
    (pp. 36-41)

    The action in fifty-four episodes found in twenty-four different plays of the Rose begins in one of the “doores” (sometimes two separate doors) and focuses on “the gates” or in some instances a practical door.¹ The movement of the actors about the stage in these episodes enables us to locate and describe the most prominent of the openings on the stage at the Rose—“the gates,” double doors centered in the wall at the rear of the stage, as in Robert Fludd’s “Theatrum Orbi” (plate 6).

    The first scene ofTitus Andronicus(a-4) contains an episode that locates the doors...

  12. 6 One Door and the Other Door
    (pp. 42-53)

    Allardyce Nicoll pointed out in 1957 that “there are many [stage] directions which indicate entries or exits by the ‘ends’ of the stage.”¹ Certainly a theater with openings in walls at each end of the stage seems to be necessary for the presentation of a number of plays of the Rose which call for entrances“at one doore ... at the other doore”or“at either end”or“on the one side ... on the other part,” as well as directions calling for actors to “pass over the stage.”

    In his article “Passing Over the Stage” (SS12:47–55), Nicoll...

  13. 7 The Discovery Spaces
    (pp. 54-69)

    Professor Richard Hosley begins his article “The Discovery-Space in Shakespeare’s Globe” (SS12:35–46) by attacking the concept of an “inner stage” and in effect disposing of it with the observation “there is no unambiguous evidence whatsoever for an Elizabethan ‘inner stage’ ” (p. 36).

    Hosley finds that discoveries at the Globe are “few and infrequent.” They are “primarily shows of persons or things themselves inherently interesting. They are never (as in the proscenium-arch theater) conveniences for the sake of arranging furniture out of sight of the audience.” They “do not involve any appreciable movement within the discovery-space, the discovered...

  14. Plates
    (pp. None)
  15. 8 Links between the Heavens and Hell
    (pp. 70-78)

    The stage and the areas above it that were used for playing were linked by the facade, by the two columns supporting the heavens, and by stairs apparently located behind the facade. These three parts of the playhouse ought to be considered before we turn to the playing places above the stage.

    It is more than likely that the Rose had three galleries for spectators, as did the Swan, the Fortune, the Hope, and presumably the Globe. In fact, the evidence for three galleries in the Elizabethan public theater is so well known that it need not be reviewed here....

  16. 9 The Places above the Stage
    (pp. 79-92)

    Although references are plentiful to the several places located above the stage and used in presenting plays at the Rose, those references yield little specific information about them beyond what can be gathered from their names: the gallery, the penthouse and the window, “my lords Rome,” and the heavens.

    Richard Hosley believes that Shakespeare’s plays were “designed for production in a theatre having a gallery over the stage essentially similar to the Lords’ room shown in the Swan drawing.”¹ The plays given at the Rose required a raised place for playing that was located behind the stage and divided by...

  17. 10 Synchronous and Successive Staging
    (pp. 93-96)

    Thus far I have been concerned with the reconstruction of the stage in Henslowe’s Rose theater. My conclusions about that stage have been brought together, for purposes of illustration, in a model built by my colleague Mr. William R. Duffy (plate I). I should like to turn now to a consideration of the way the stage of the Rose was used in presenting plays. First, however, we ought to look briefly at two of the underlying principles of Shakespearean staging. E. K. Chambers employs the terms “synchronous” as descriptive of staging in the private theaters and “successive” as descriptive of...

  18. 11 Medieval and Classical Staging Practices
    (pp. 97-108)

    In reconstructing the stage of the Rose, I have regularly referred to a number of staging practices that involved the use of the several parts of the stage including the trap, the gates, the openings in the walls about the stage, the penthouse, the gallery, and the lift. My aim has been to show that those features were present and arranged much as I have reconstructed them in the model (plate 1 ). It may be enlightening, therefore, to come at the problem from another direction, to show how the stage was used in presenting plays and to point out...

  19. 12 Medieval Stagecraft and the Vitruvian Facade
    (pp. 109-113)

    The staging practices discussed in this chapter and in those that follow develop from the fusion of medieval stagecraft (including its classical antecedents) with an Elizabethan adaptation of the Vitruvian stage. It is the thrust of this chapter and those that follow to show how those practices were worked out on a Vitruvian stage that was arranged and equipped much as I have reconstructed it (plate 1).

    I hold that the gates, the penthouse above the gates, and the gallery at each side of the penthouse may be equated in play after play of the Rose with the mansions of...

  20. 13 The Use of Properties for Special Effects
    (pp. 114-123)

    The properties in Henslowe’s inventories of the Admiral’s goods in 1598 have provided explanations and insights for almost every study of Shakespearean staging practices since Malone printed the lists in 1790. Something of their value in establishing a repertory of extant plays of the Rose may be evident in Appendix A; the assistance provided by these items in identifying Heywood’sAgesas plays associated with the Rose can be cited as an instance of their value to the present work.

    The importance of the list of large properties to a study of the staging of plays at the Rose is...

  21. 14 The Use of Bushes, Trees, Arbours, Bankes
    (pp. 124-133)

    The seventy-nine references to properties introduced to create special effects may give some clues to the way properties were handled in the 140 references in which the dialogue and stage directions are unclear. The first and the most important properties in this larger group are features of the landscape: bushes, trees, “arbours,” “bankes,” and rocks. Fourteen references in the dialogue and stage directions indicate, and sixteen others suggest, that these objects were represented on stage by properties. Only in three instances, however, is it clearly designated just how properties in this group were put onto the stage: two trees were...

  22. 15 The Use of Tents, Beds, Thrones
    (pp. 134-148)

    Tents, pavilions, beds, and thrones all require the use of curtains and, I believe, a recessed area, or discovery space. Beds and thrones are also presented by the opening of tents in two b-plays. It may be practical, therefore, to consider these kinds of properties as a group because of their apparent relation in the presentation of plays at the Rose.

    References to tents in five plays of the Rose show clearly that the stage represents an area before a tent, and it is possible that the directions in a sixth,I Troilus and Cressida, plot (a-1) (36–4o) have...

  23. 16 The Use of Chairs and Tables
    (pp. 149-154)

    Seats of all kinds except thrones—that is, stools, benches, and chairs—may be considered together with “the bench,” “the barre,” and tables, as well as properties used in staging eighteen banquets at the Rose. In twelve episodes there is evidence in the plays that banquets are brought onto the stage, but in only two episodes is explicit provision made for removing them. Nevertheless there is no reason not to believe that all eighteen of the banquets were brought onto the stage at the beginning of the episode and taken away at the end of it.

    It is not clear...

  24. 17 Some Utilitarian Practices
    (pp. 155-169)

    Regardless of where they may have originated, sixteen of the practices followed in presenting plays at the Rose appear to be more frequently associated with Shakespearean stagecraft than with its medieval antecedents. I suspect these practices result from the imaginative handling of staging problems arising from the adaptation of medieval stagecraft to the distinctive Elizabethan concept of the Vitruvian stage. That concept, Dr. Frances Yates argues in herTheatre of the World, found its way into England through John Dee’s preface to Henry Billingsley’s English translation of Euclid in 1570. Dr. Yates says that “judging by the Preface, what interested...

  25. 18 Conclusion
    (pp. 170-176)

    I have reconstructed the stage of the Rose (plates 1, 14, and 15) with the idea that it was an Elizabethan adaptation of the Vitruvian stage, an adaptation in which the perspective scenes developed in Italy by Serlio were not used. And I have proceeded on the assumption that the stage had the facilities and equipment necessary for the presentation of the forty-three plays extant in texts surely or probably given there. In the absence of specific measurements for the stage, I have constructed a Vitruvian plan for the Rose (plate 17), based on a scale that represents the inside...

  26. Appendix A: The Material Related to the Rose
    (pp. 179-223)
  27. Appendix B: Introduction of Properties onto the Stage
    (pp. 224-225)
  28. Appendix C: References to Parts of the Rose
    (pp. 226-263)
  29. Appendix D: Dimensions for Reconstruction
    (pp. 264-266)
  30. Notes
    (pp. 267-274)
  31. Index
    (pp. 275-286)