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Built in 1587 by theatre financier Philip Henslowe, the Rose was Bankside’s first open-air amphitheatre playhouse (Egan). Its foundation, excavated in 1989, reveals a fourteen-sided structure about 22 metres in diameter, making it smaller than other contemporary playhouses (White 302).
Despite its small size, the Rose was a hub of theatrical activity. Its popularity was partly due to its location; falling outside of the jurisdiction of the City of London, Bankside was a locus for brothels, inns, animal-baiting arenas, public gardens, and fishing pools (White 305). Relatively free of civic interference and surrounded by pleasure-seeking crowds, the Rose did very well, staging works by such playwrights as Shakespeare, Marlowe, Kyd, and Dekker (Egan).
The 1590s were comparatively early days for London playhouses. So-called
privatehalls (the theatrical venue of choice for the privileged classes) were not yet common; hence, playgoers at the Rose would have consisted of a mix of upper and lower classes (Gurr, Playgoing 80). Tradesmen and artisans likely formed the bulk of the demographic, but servants, apprentices, students, gentlefolk, and citizens (and citizens’ wives) were also in attendance (70–78). The size and variety of the crowd, plus the theatre’s extra-jurisdictional real estate, also guaranteed the presence of cutpurses, prostitutes, vagrants, and gangs (149).
Activity at the Rose began to decline in 1600, when Henslowe turned his attention to his newly constructed Fortune Playhouse, located in London’s northern suburbs (Egan). Meanwhile, competition had sprung up in the form of the Globe theatre, which was built a mere fifty yards away from the Rose (Gurr,
Condition274). No longer interested in maintaining the venture, Henslowe had the Rose torn down in 1606 (Egan).
- Egan, Gabriel, ed. Shakespearean London Theatres. De Montfort University and Victoria & Albert Museum. Open.
Rose Theatre.The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare. Ed. Michael Dobson and Stanley Wells. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2001. 396. Oxford Reference Online. Reprint. Subscription.
- Gurr, Andrew. Playgoing in Shakespeare’s London. 3rd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2004.
The Condition of Theatre in England in 1599.The Cambridge History of British Theatre. Vol. 1. Ed. Jane Milling and Peter Thomson. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2004. 264–81.
London Professional Playhouses and Performances.The Cambridge History of British Theatre. Vol. 1. Ed. Jane Milling and Peter Thomson. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2004. 298–340.
Last modification: 2016-05-27 14:37:29 -0700 (Fri, 27 May 2016) (tlandels)