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Lord Strange's Men and Their Plays

Lord Strange's Men and Their Plays

Lawrence Manley
Sally-Beth MacLean
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 488
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  • Book Info
    Lord Strange's Men and Their Plays
    Book Description:

    For a brief period in the late Elizabethan Era an innovative company of players dominated the London stage. A fellowship of dedicated thespians, Lord Strange's Men established their reputation by concentrating on "modern matter" performed in a spectacular style, exploring new modes of impersonation, and deliberately courting controversy. Supported by their equally controversial patron, theater connoisseur and potential claimant to the English throne Ferdinando Stanley, the company included Edward Alleyn, considered the greatest actor of the age, as well as George Bryan, Thomas Pope, Augustine Phillips, William Kemp, and John Hemings, who later joined William Shakespeare and Richard Burbage in the Lord Chamberlain's Men. Though their theatrical reign was relatively short lived, Lord Strange's Men helped to define the dramaturgy of the period, performing the plays of Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Kyd, and others with their own distinctive flourish.Lawrence Manley and Sally-Beth MacLean offer the first complete account of the troupe and its enormous influence on Elizabethan theater. Seamlessly blending theater history and literary criticism, the authors paint a lively portrait of a unique community of performing artists, their intellectual ambitions and theatrical innovations, their business practices, and their fearless engagements with the politics and religion of their time.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-20689-0
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-11)

    On 6 May 1593, some three months after the London theaters had been closed by the worst outbreak of plague in London before the Great Plague of 1665, the Privy Council licensed “the seruauntesto our verie good the LordStrainge” to continue their “quallitie of playing” on tour outside of London. The license named six sharing actors in this company, which was patronized by Ferdinando Stanley, Lord Strange and later 5th Earl of Derby: “Edward Allen, seruaunt to the right honorable the Lordhighe Admiral, William kemp, ThomasPope, Iohn Heminges, Augustine Phillipes & George Brian, being al one companie.”¹...

  5. 1 Origins of Lord Strange’s Men
    (pp. 12-36)

    Family tradition was fundamental to the creation and patronage of Lord Strange’s Men. From the standpoint of the players who formed the company, aristocratic patronage was both a working condition dating back to the medieval period and, following the 1572 “Acte for the Punishement of Vacabondes,” a legal necessity, since the Act declared that “Bearewardes, Comon Players in Enterludes & Minstrels, not belonging to any Baron of this Realme or towardesany other honorable Personage of greater Degree,” were subject to punishment as “masterless men” akin to “Roges, Vacaboundes, and Sturdye Beggers.”¹ But from the standpoint of the company’s patron, Ferdinando...

  6. 2 Lord Strange’s Men in London, 1589–1593
    (pp. 37-63)

    When Lord Strange departed for London, where, from 8 February to 29 March 1588/89 he sat through his first thirty-one sessions in the House of Lords, his players may have followed; no records of the company on tour elsewhere during that spring or summer have as yet been found. If the new company did go to London, they arrived in the capital at a crucial moment, just as the developing controversy over Martin Marprelate was taking to the public stage. By the following November, Lord Strange’s Men had taken a prominent role in this controversy, arousing the ire of the...

  7. 3 A Census of the Repertory I: The Rose Plays
    (pp. 64-103)

    Thanks to a memorandum book that Philip Henslowe inherited and began using shortly after his brother’s death, the residence of Lord Strange’s Men at the Rose (19 February–22 June 1592 and 29 December 1592–1 February 1592/93) is the first recorded example of daily performance by a professional acting company in Elizabethan London. Henslowe was an entrepreneur and impresario renting out theatrical space, and so any separate purposes of Lord Strange’s Men can be read only indirectly through what he chose to record for his own purposes. There is no evidence in the early pages devoted to Lord Strange’s...

  8. 4 A Census of the Repertory II: Lost Plays and Others
    (pp. 104-156)

    Our census of Rose plays has so far yielded ten surviving plays with plausible links, some stronger than others, to Lord Strange’s Men:The Battle of Alcazar, Orlando Furioso, The Jew of Malta, 1 Henry VI, A Looking Glass for London, The Spanish Tragedy, A Knack to Know a Knave, The Massacre at Paris, John of Bordeaux,and (parts of)The First Part of Hieronimo. Outside of these plays in Henslowe, there remain one additional extant play with an unambiguous titlepage attribution to Lord Strange’s Men,Fair Em; one additional play with a possibly ambiguous title-page attribution,Titus Andronicus; and...

  9. 5 The Archive: Sources and Genres in the Repertory
    (pp. 157-181)

    In her study of Latin American performance, Diana Taylor explains that cultures generate, store, and transmit knowledge by means of an “archive” of enduring material artifacts (such as buildings, objects, texts, and other documents) and by means of a “repertoire” of actions and practices involving live participation (such as spoken language, dance, sports, rituals, and other modes of performance). Taylor’s interest lies primarily in modes of participatory performance that operate at some remove from archival forms of knowledge, but she recognizes that the “archive” and the “repertoire” interpenetrate across a spectrum of cultural phenomena, from language (which combines live speech...

  10. 6 Repertoire: The Plays in Performance
    (pp. 182-215)

    Before they joined together as Lord Strange’s Men, the members of the company had been Leicester’s, Lord Admiral’s, and Queen’s Men; some of their plays likely came to them from these companies. The playwrights who prepared new plays for them wrote for other companies as well. It is inevitable, then, that the company should have relied upon the common currency of Elizabethan theatrical craft. To be found in their plays are techniques of allegorical embodiment, pantomime, and visual display prominent elsewhere in the tradition and among their rivals. The processions, disguisings, conjurings, apparitions, devils, swordplay, battles, and clowning in their...

  11. 7 Politics and Religion in the Repertory
    (pp. 216-246)

    On 12 November 1589, just six days after the arrest of members of Lord Strange’s Men for performing at the Cross Keys Inn in defiance of a mayoral order to desist, the Privy Council wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury proposing measures to prevent stage players from handling “in their plaies certen matters of Diuinytie and of State vnfitt to be suffred.”¹ The Council was invoking a proclamation of 1559 that forbade the performing of plays “wherein either matters of religion or of the governance of the estate of the commonweal shall be handled or treated.”² The timing of the...

  12. 8 Travels and Performance Venues
    (pp. 247-279)

    The long-established tradition of provincial touring by professional companies leads us to expect a similar pattern of activity for Lord Strange’s second troupe. If key members of Leicester’s Men did migrate after their patron’s death to Strange’s newly formed company, then they would have brought broad and relevant experience from travels across the kingdom and even onto the continent. The best routes, the most lucrative avenues, the cultivation of a patron’s interests on the road, would all have been familiar to the likes of Will Kemp, George Bryan, and Thomas Pope. Yet quite strikingly, the new Strange’s company does not...

  13. 9 Shakespeare and Lord Strange’s Men
    (pp. 280-320)

    Not long after Lord Strange’s Men played their 1592 season at the Rose, Shakespeare came to public notice in print for the first time.Greenes Groats-worth of witte, bought with a million of Repentance(1592) described “an vpstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with hisTygers hart wrapt in a Players hyde, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you: and beeing an absoluteIohannes fac totum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shakescene in a countrey” (sig. Fv). The question of where and how Shakespeare attracted this attention...

  14. 10 Endings
    (pp. 321-332)

    On 25 September 1593, the day of his father’s death (and thus the day he became 5th Earl of Derby), Ferdinando Stanley was visited at New Park in Lancashire by Richard Hesketh, an exiled Lancashire gentleman. Hesketh later confessed he had been sent as an emissary from Catholics abroad to sound out Stanley on his willingness to take up the claim to the English throne that descended to him through his mother. The earl did not meet with Hesketh on that occasion, but two meetings with Hesketh followed, the first at New Park on 27 September, when Hesketh delivered a...

  15. Appendix A: Henslowe’s Diary Transcriptions
    (pp. 333-337)
  16. Appendix B: Repertory Audit
    (pp. 338-339)
  17. Appendix C: Itineraries of Lord Strange’s Men, 1576–1593
    (pp. 340-342)
  18. Appendix D: Casting Studies
    (pp. 343-364)
  19. Appendix E: Actor Comparison Chart
    (pp. 365-368)
  20. Notes
    (pp. 369-426)
  21. Bibliography
    (pp. 427-456)
  22. Index
    (pp. 457-475)