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Building playhouses, the accession of James I, and the Red Bull.

FOUR hundred years after the event seems a convenient time to ask whether the accession of James I on March 24, 1603, affected the schemes of people who built (or, more accurately, caused to be built) the professional London playhouses that comprised the Shakespearean stage. This essay begins with a general review of the building of all twenty-three of them, from 1567 to 1629, and concludes with comments on the first scheme in hand after the accession.

Curiously diverse people built these places. Many were or became financiers but had begun as something closer to the ground: a grocer, a joiner, a dyer, a draper, a haberdasher, a yeoman, a waterman, and apparently four innkeepers. The others were professional musicians and actors, a senior civil servant, perhaps a yeoman of the Queen's guard, a gentleman or two, a knight, and, it seems, two earls. At least one builder was evidently illiterate, and many were chancers who had no obvious interest in drama as art.

Whoever the builder was, however, he proceeded much as others had done or were to do. The constraints and opportunites that faced the builder of the first playhouse in 1567, that is, faced the builders of the last in 1629. The builder had mainly to find four things: 1) players, 2) a piece of suitable real estate, 3) artisans (to erect the place), and above all 4) money. These things, especially the second and fourth, required very nice calculation, and even when well calculated could lead to serious losses and to the lawsuits the documents of which survive to instruct the theater historian about the building of playhouses. They could also lead to thunderbolts from the Privy Council that delayed the builders of at least the second Blackfriars, first Fortune, and Red Bull playhouses and destroyed the schemes of people who would have built (or had already built) others: in, for example, Nightingale Lane in Whitechapel, a garden in Whitefriars, and Porter's Hall in Blackfriars.

Builders seem to have assured themselves that professional players would use their playhouses when they were built. At least seventeen playhouses were built for specific players, from those who would open John Brayne's playhouse in the yard of a farmhouse called the Red Lion in 1567 with the anonymous (and lost) Story of Samson to the King's Revels who would open William Blagrave's and Richard Gunnell's Salisbury Court with Thomas Randolph's The Muses' Looking Glass in 1629. (1) However reckless theatrical entrepreneurs may have been in some of their dealings (like Brayne), they did not, it seems, build playhouses on spec. But although all adult players received the same financial arrangement, except those in the two last private playhouses, adult players were not equally enthusiastic about playing in all playhouses. Francis Langley, for example, had trouble finding players for the Swan, as his fraught contract with Pembroke's Men in 1597 suggests, as did Philip Henslowe and Jacob Meade for the Hope.

The piece of ground where a builder could build a playhouse, or an existing building that he could make into one, had to be accessible to people who would pay to see the kind of plays that the players meant to mount. It had to be priced within the financial scheme the builder had in mind. Even more important, it had to be where the local authorities and inhabitants would not object too strongly or could be persuaded to acquiesce, and where for local or other reasons national authorities would not interfere. This complex equation took the builders of playhouses all over London, into the City proper, both within the walls (six playhouses) and outside (three), and into the suburbs on the east (two), south (six), north (five), and west (one). (2) The London of, say, 1603 was riddled with places where Shakespearean playhouses were, had been, or would be. Contrary to the usual offhand opinion, more of these places were within the city (39 percent) than in any of the suburbs; a quarter of them (26 percent) were actually within the City walls. These numbers count the five playhouses in Southwark as in a suburb, though one could argue that they were in the City as much as the playhouses in Blackfriars were. (3) The western suburb was the city of Westminster, where in 1617 the Phoenix inaugurated the present theatrical district, the West End.

Among the places where the builder of a playhouse could look for a site were the many lands and buildings belonging to monastic institutions that had been dissolved less than thirty years before the building of playhouses began. These places were often in the hands of speculators and ripe for redevelopment. Six of the twenty-three playhouses appeared in such places, where, in a sense, drama supplanted religion. (4) Moreover, another playhouse was said to have been built on the site of a chapel and three more were built in places belonging to undissolved religious institutions--so that 44 percent of Shakespearean playhouses had a curious, if remote, connection with religion. (5)

The builder of a playhouse had to choose a site where he thought he could persuade the neighbors not to protest too cogently to the Privy Council. One of the two partners at the first Fortune saw to the erection of the playhouse, the other to the placating of neighbors, which after much ado and some delays he managed to achieve. One of the neighbors who objected to the second Blackfriars in 1596 was the patron of the company that proposed to play there, and for well over a decade these neighbors had their way. Builders of playhouses tried to win over neighbors by promising to make regular payments to the expenses of the parish and to maintain the highway outside the playhouse. The more needy the parish was, therefore, the less trouble the builder might have. Besides, the parishioners of poor parishes were less likely to be articulate and well connected in Whitehall.

The artisans who erected playhouses included carpenters, bricklayers, plasterers, thatchers, tilers, blacksmiths, nailers, and painters. The builder could put these people to work in one of three ways. He could draw up a contract with a man, nearly always a carpenter, who would lead a team of them in erecting the building according to stated specifications. The famous contracts for the Fortune and Hope and Henslowe's relationship with John Griggs at the Rose are examples of this process. Or the builder could contract with one man to see to the erecting of one part of the playhouse and with one or more other men to see to the erecting of other parts--as Brayne did at the Red Lion in 1567 and Edward Alleyn apparently did at the second Fortune in 1622-23. Or the builder could be his own contractor: hire workmen and buy materials as needs arose. Henslowe did so when he extensively rebuilt the Rose in 1592, as, probably, did John Hemmings and his son-in-law, John Atkins, when they directed the building of the second Globe in 1614. The men who led teams of workmen were supposed to be able to pay salaries and buy materials between the payments they received according to their contracts, but sometimes, as at the first Fortune, the entrepreneur had to help.

Although bales of documents record arguments among people who had to do with the building of playhouses, none even hints at an argument about the design of a playhouse. Could design have been beyond argument, taken for granted? Builders must at least have discussed with players and artisans what was necessary, given the size or shape of a piece of property or an existing building, and what the available money would buy. In at least four cases the builder simply had his artisans build parts of the playhouse as artisans had built equivalent parts of previous playhouses. (6)

The builder needed large amounts of money for two or three things: to acquire property for his playhouse, to erect it, and, sometimes, to equip players so that they could use it.

Some builders bought property outright, like Francis Langley at the Swan and James Burbage at the second Blackfriars, or did not need to acquire property because they already controlled suitable pieces of it, like the master of the choristers at St. Paul's, the keepers of four inns, and Alleyn at the second Fortune. The builders of fourteen, if not all fifteen other playhouses, however, had to acquire property by lease, a process that required less ready money. (7) Information about twelve such leases survives to suggest much about the builder's plans, including how long he expected to be in business.

The builder could acquire an existing lease or negotiate a new one. In either case he could have to pay a fine, a lump sum paid at the outset over and above the rent. This sum could be considerable ([pounds sterling]240 at the first Fortune) and suggest that the rent was not the true value of the property. The longest of the twelve leases ran for forty-one and a quarter years, at Salisbury Court. Leases at six other playhouses ran for thirty or thirty-one years, (8) and at four ran for twenty to twenty-five and a quarter years. (9) The lease at Whitefriars ran for only eight years. Unlike their Greek and Roman predecessors, the builders of Shakespearean playhouses, or at least those who leased property, did not intend to build for eternity.

Rents were much higher in the western end of the City and in Westminster than in other places and much higher if the property already consisted of significant buildings. Rents also steadily increased because of inflation. The greatest annual rents were at three late private playhouses erected in existing buildings in the western end of the city: at Whitefriars in 1604 ([pounds sterling]50), the Phoenix in 1616 ([pounds sterling]45), and at Salisbury Court in 1629 ([pounds sterling]100). Annual rents were lower if the property consisted mainly of a piece of open ground on which the lessee would build a playhouse that would materially increase the value of the property: at the Theatre in 1576 ([pounds sterling]14), the Rose in 1585 ([pounds sterling]7, which the lessor tried to raise to [pounds sterling]20 in 1603), the first Globe in 1598 and the second in 1613 ([pounds sterling]14 10s 0d, which the lessees agreed to raise to [pounds sterling]40 in 1634, a sum the lessor thought not nearly enough). The annual rent at the Boar's Head in 1594 was [pounds sterling]40, but the property included a large inn; at the Fortune it was [pounds sterling]12 but after the payment of a huge fine. At Newington Butts Jerome Savage got a "messuage" in connection with which to build his playhouse and some 4,500 square feet of ground for [pounds sterling]2 13s 4d a year--in a remote place in 1576, and from 1577 the lessor tried hard to cancel the lease. (10)

The builder's greatest need for money arrived when he set about erecting the playhouse. Statements survive of at least part of the costs of erecting eleven of the twenty-three playhouses, ten public ones and one private one. As one might suppose, the larger places cost more than the smaller ones, and costs increased as time went by. Stands for spectators and the elaborate stage of the Red Lion apparently cost about [pounds sterling]15 in 1567. Nine years later the partners at the Theatre planned to spend about [pounds sterling]200 on the whole playhouse, representing mainly, probably, a great advance in size and comfort rather than inflation, but in the end they spent about [pounds sterling]700. Somebody probably spent a similar amount erecting the Curtain at much the same time, since contemporaries often equated the two buildings. It cost well over [pounds sterling]100 to rebuild much of the Rose in 1592 and about [pounds sterling]300 to build the stands for spectators and a few other things at the Boar's Head in 1598 and 1599--both places being smaller than at least the Theatre. The Theatre's successor, the first Globe, which was much the same size and shape as the Theatre, also cost [pounds sterling]700 to build in 1599. The first Fortune cost [pounds sterling]520 in 1600, and people at the Red Bull said in 1605 that they had spent [pounds sterling]500 when the building was nearly complete, and their device for raising money could have provided [pounds sterling]450. A scruffier place (according to Jonson in the induction to Bartholomew Fair), the Hope, cost [pounds sterling]360 in 1613, and that sum included accommodation for animals. The Theatre's next successor, also much the same size and shape, the second Globe, cost [pounds sterling]1,400 in 1614, though its owners were obliged to spend only [pounds sterling]700 and had promised the lessor to spend [pounds sterling]1,000. They also spent another [pounds sterling]200 on a house in which to refresh their customers. The second Fortune, which unlike the second Globe was a very different kind of structure from its predecessor, cost [pounds sterling]1,000 to build in 1622-23. In 1629, the owners of Salisbury Court also spent [pounds sterling]1,000 converting a barn into a small private playhouse and building a house nearby for its manager.

The builders of playhouses raised such sums of money either from their own resources in cash and credit or from the resources of a group of investors (incorporation). Enough of the financial arrangements at nineteen of the Shakespearean playhouses survives to show or at least suggest where this money came from. Nine playhouses were built with money provided by a single owner and five more by two partners acting as a single owner. (11) One (the Rose) was started by a single owner who agreed while construction was going on to take a partner, but the partner presently disappeared from the affairs of the playhouse. Five playhouses were built with money provided by some form of incorporation, (12) and two built by single owners were eventually incorporated (the second Blackfriars and first Fortune).

The single owner, or pair of owners, built the place so that he, or they, could run it as a profitable business. He, or they, raised money from cash reserves, or from selling possessions, or from borrowing. One partner, Brayne, sold his previous business, and his wife actually went to work on the building. Familiar forms of borrowing were bonds (or recognizances) and mortgages. In bonds the borrower agreed that he owed the lender usually something like twice as much as the loan, and the lender agreed that the borrower's agreement would be null and void if he paid the money back by a certain time. Mortgages began by saying that something of value (like the playhouse or the lease on the ground) formerly belonging to the borrower now belonged to the lender, and concluded as bonds did. The single owner, or a pair of them, could be driven to disastrous forms of borrowing to raise money, and a relationship between two owners could become tumultuous, even violent.

Incorporations were a device begun by the Burbages at the first Globe in 1598 to raise money and to spread the risk. At first, the investors were all people closely involved in the playhouse: Cuthbert and Richard Burbage, who had come to own the Globe's predecessor (the Theatre), kept 50 percent of the venture for themselves and granted the other 50 percent equally to five actors, including Shakespeare, who beonged to the company for whom the playhouse was built. These people shared the expenses and profits of the place. The wisdom of spreading the risk became apparent in 1613 when the first Globe burned down and the sharers had to build the second. In later incorporations, the investors were anybody whom the promoters could persuade to advance money. The contracts that held these schemes together read that the investor owned a part of the property or the lease on it. The playhouse was run by managers, and shares often passed from hand to hand so that investors (even those at the two Globes) became increasingly remote from the goings-on at the playhouse. Quarrels in the courts took place among sharers at both Globes, the Red Bull, and Whitefriars.


Nobody built a playhouse in London in 1603, before or after the accession of James I, but somebody could have been tempted at least before the accession. From 1590 to 1603 nine theatrical enterprises had ceased and only five had replaced them. Only one other playhouse was ready to receive spectators, the Curtain, which was ancient and, because the Privy Council had ordered it to close in 1600, theoretically dead. After the accession, a builder would have had trouble finding players and money, because a great plague had settled on London closing the playhouses and scattering the industry into the provinces or the grave. Besides, people must have been uncertain about how the new regime might deal with the stage.

By April 1604, the plague was over and the regime had shown not only that playhouses would continue but that important companies of players would have members of the royal family for patrons. So toward the end of the year Aaron Holland began a scheme to build a new playhouse, the Red Bull. Holland once described himself as a gentleman; others described him as a servant of the Earl of Devonshire and a yeoman. Thomas Woodford said that "he pretended he was vtterlie vnlearned and illiterate not beinge able to reade," but Holland insisted that he was indeed "vnlettered." Holland secured a lease beginning probably at Christmas on property for his playhouse (see the appendix), and by then he had also found, it seems, both a member of the royal family who was willing to be a patron and a veteran player who aspired to lead a new company of players. The member of the royal family was a Danish prince, Ulrik, the Duke of Holstein, who was the queen's younger brother. He arrived in England early in November and in London at court on November 12. (13) The player was Martin Slatier, one of the Queen's Men. Because, presumably, he had agreed to join Holland, his colleagues gave him [pounds sterling]12 on December 7 on condition that he not associate himself with them again, and he gave them a bond of [pounds sterling]30 that would be forfeit should he try to do so. Formally, however, he remained a sworn servant of the queen. (14)

When Holland looked for places in greater London where he might build a public playhouse, he must have thought about the six existing functioning playhouses. Two (St. Paul's and the second Blackfriars) were at the western end of the City within the walls. Of the four others, three were relatively new, the Globe, the Boar's Head, and the Fortune; the Curtain had been built in 1577. The Globe was south of the Thames in Southwark. The Boar's Head was just outside the eastern end of the City. The Curtain was in a suburb north of the east-central part of the City. The Fortune was also north of the City but considerably farther west.

Holland could not have looked for a place within the walls because the City had apparently managed to banish public (but not private) playhouses there in 1596. South of the river, the Swan still stood but was closed, and Henslowe had just abandoned the Rose partly, it seems, because his receipts fell after the opening of his neighbor, the Globe. In the east, the Privy Council had recently prevented the building of a playhouse near the Boar's Head, in Nightingale Lane. In the north, however, the Curtain was in business and being tolerated, though it was supposed to be extinct, and, the Privy Council having decided not to listen to some of the inhabitants of St. Giles Cripplegate, the first Fortune was flourishing. So Holland settled on a place in St John Street in Clerkenwell, north of the City but almost as far west of the Fortune as the Fortune was of the Curtain. His new playhouse would be the westernmost of all the public playhouses.

He proceeded much as predecessors had done. The land had once belonged to a nunnery, (15) and Holland's lease on it probably ran for thirty years, but whether he paid a fine and how much he paid in rent are not known. He bought the acquiescence of the parish, according to Slatier, by promising to pay 20s. a month "towardes the poore of the parish" and to amend and maintain "the pavements and highe waies" near the playhouse. Like the Boar's Head, the Red Bull was built "in a square Court in an Inne," and, since it was "framed" and "sett vp," it was made largely of timber and wood; but no hint survives of who did the work or how Holland contracted for it. Slatier said that when the playhouse was nearing completion, the project had cost [pounds sterling]500, which is probably an exaggeration.

To raise money, Holland organized an incorporation the terms of which are probably revealed in the the history of the one original share mentioned in contemporary documents. It was in the form of a lease on an eighteenth of the money spectators would pay to go into the galleries and onto the stage, after deductions for the players' part and expenses--in short, on the money that owners usually received. This lease apparently began at Lady Day 1605, and it ended at Michaelmas 1634. Holland sold it to a player among the Queen's Men, Thomas Swinnerton, for [pounds sterling]25 "or thereaboutes" in 1605 (paid, Holland complained, in dribs and drabs), and Swinnerton paid [pounds sterling]2 10s a year in rent. Presumably Holland meant to sell eighteen such leases and so have [pounds sterling]450 with which to build the playhouse and [pounds sterling]45 a year for himself. Eventually Swinnerton found his share a "hard penny worth" and sold it to Philip Stone for somewhat more than [pounds sterling]25 in February 1609; Stone sold it to Woodford for yet more, [pounds sterling]50, in June 1612.

This incorporation was only the second of a Shakespearean playhouse, and it was a sensible and businesslike improvement on the first, at the first Globe. Holland's granting each sharer a lease on a part of the owner's profits of the playhouse (and, perhaps, on an equal part of the playhouse itself), his selling the shares, and his collecting rents on the shares to provide an income for himself--all these things were new, and subsequent incorporations echoed them.

The Duke of Holstein was a "little," comely man who delighted in field sports. When he arrived in London, he "went straight to court and after a few words of compliment" told the king that he, the king, had "committed a great mistake" to make peace with Spain. In reporting this event to the doge and senate, the Venetian ambassador in London, Nicolo Molin, described the duke as a bumptious young man who was twenty-four years old (the queen was thirty), had little knowledge of the world, "ignored all etiquette," and spoke and acted "with great freedom." (16) Molin decided that he disliked the duke and as the weeks went by kept a critical eye on his doings.

The duke spent his time in England living, as Molin reported, a life of pleasure. While Holland and Slatier were getting the scheme underway to build a playhouse, the duke was "a lusty Reveller all this Christmas," and among his revels was an occasion during which Molin's dislike of the duke became mutual. It was the elaborate wedding in Whitehall of Sir Philip Herbert and Lady Susan Vere on December 27, 1604. The king and queen presided over the festivities, and the duke was a prominent guest. So was Molin, the only ambassador invited, who, as the embodiment of the Republic of Venice, was given precedence over the duke. This concession to statecraft "the Duke took not well." At supper he barged into Molin's place before Molin could get there, and Molin angrily dined alone "in Cecil's room." And at the masque with which the day ended, Molin sat on a stool on the king's right, but the duke, who was to sit on another on the queen's left, stood in pique during all three hours of the performance. (17)

Within six months the duke had cost his hosts 80,000 crowns ([pounds sterling]20,000). Eventually he enfuriated the queen by treating her rooms as his own, and she refused to speak to him. So the king hinted broadly that the duke should leave and to sweeten his departure made him a Knight of the Garter and gave him an enormous pension of [pounds sterling]3,000 a year. The duke was godfather to Princess Mary on May 5 and "supported" the queen when she was churched on May 19. Then on May 31, after visiting all the ambassadors except Molin, he reluctantly left London. He rode to Rochester accompanied by the king, Prince Henry, and "diuers Lords Knights and Gentlemen," and there on June 1 he boarded the king's ship Adventure (Captain Matthew Bredgate, master). (18)

He was in Hamburg on June 9, when he scribbled a note of thanks in French to Robert Cecil, the Earl of Salisbury (the king's chief minister), and wrote another missive to King James, both of which Bredgate took back to England. The duke professed himself the earl's most devoted and faithful friend whom he would serve to the last drop of his blood. (19)

The Privy Council had already ordered the work on the playhouse to stop, and Slatier had already written "The humble peticion of Martyn Slatiar" to protest. (20) He did not date his petition, but he implied in it that the duke was in England and might not always be so. The duke, Slatier wrote, had granted him a warrant "to selecte and gather a company of Comedians to attend his Grace here or elswhere." The petition should date, therefore, from the fourth week of May. The work on the playhouse was now nearly finished, Slatier wrote, and he needed such a place "as others of their profession haue" to "shew himself in the best manner he could in his Graces service." In the heading to his petition, Slatier gave himself as a queen's man, not a Duke of Holstein's man.

The playhouse was eventually finished, not, it seems, later in 1605 as usually thought, but rather in the first eight months of 1607. It was first demonstrably used as a playhouse when the Queen's Men settled in for a long stay in the autumn of 1607--without Slatier, whose former colleagues were then suing him on his bond because, presumably, he had recently decided that he was a member of the company again.

In December 1606, Holland was raising money on his playhouse presumably so that he could finish it. He leased half the owner's profits of the place on December 23 to Thomas Greene, the leader of the Queen's Men and a man of means. (21) Effectually, Greene acquired nine of the eighteen original shares, which Holland either had not sold before or had forfeited for nonpayment of the rent. Greene's lease, however, was not identical to the original leases, since it began at Christmas 1606 and ended at Christmas 1633. If Greene paid as much for his lease as Swinnerton had paid for his lease, Holland had [pounds sterling]225 in new money with which to get on with the playhouse. Greene was probably living in the Boar's Head in the winter of 1606-07, and his company was playing there. (22) He must have decided to move the company to a new playhouse in which he took a large personal stake. Perhaps too large, for in August 1607 he sublet a ninth of his profits (effectually two of his shares) to Christopher Beeston, another leading member of the company and another man of means. Beeston paid [pounds sterling]5 a year in rent, as an original sharer would have done for two shares, and must have paid a fine, perhaps [pounds sterling]50, as such a sharer would also have done.

As for the Duke of Holstein, he was cultivating his ties with England during that winter of 1606-7. From Butzow in Mecklenburg, where he lived, he wrote to King James on December 15 and 29 and to the Earl of Salisbury on January 14. (23) The letters concern grand Continental affairs and nothing so trifling as the duke's English players or Holland's playhouse. Then toward the end of January the duke sent a "gentleman" to London with a gift of horses for Prince Henry and further letters to the king. Many dignitaries sent horses to a prince who "tooke great delight in ryding of great horses, and laboured to have of the best and rarest horses that were to be found." (24) The duke's gift, however, ran into trouble.

The duke's gentleman entered the Spanish dominions in the Netherlands at Rheinberg, a fortress near the west bank of the Rhine, supposing that "passe ports" signed by the duke would see him and the horses safely through the war of Dutch independence. The governor of Rheinberg, however, was unimpressed. He "stayed" the horses, declaring that they were "horses of srvice, wch, wthout Commission" from the Spanish authorities he "could not permitt to passe." The gentlemen sought help from Ralph Winwood, the English agent in The Hague, on February 8, 1607. Winwood procured a pass for him from the Dutch authorities, gave him the one hundred crowns for which he asked (the duke was "not very rytche eny way"), and sent him on to Sir Thomas Edmondes, the English ambassador in Brussels, the capital of the Spanish dominions. Edmondes reported the case to London in a letter dated February 18. He alluded to the futility of the duke's passport: the duke's gentleman had "attempted to passe into Holland wthout passport from hence." More usefully, Edmondes added, "I haue procured order for the release of the said horses, and his free passage." (25)

Presumably the gentleman, the letters, and the horses arrived in London early in March and caused people to think, as a new Venetian ambassador in London reported on March 12, that the duke himself was "expected." (26)

The duke, however, did not arrive in England in 1607, or, indeed, ever again. On March 19 he was at Butzow writing a letter to King James in which he complained of "la Guerre de Flandres" but did not mention a visit to England (neither had he mentioned a visit in his earlier letters). Now, from March 19 to October 17 he wrote five surviving letters from Butzow to the king or the Earl of Salisbury also without mentioning a visit to England--or anything to do with the Red Bull playhouse. (27)

The interest of the Queen's Men in the playhouse should have diminished opposition to Holland's finishing it, and the duke's letters and equine gift could have mitigated reasons for interrupting its erection in 1605. When the Queen's Men moved into the Red Bull in the autumn of 1607, therefore, the playhouse was probably new. It would continue as a playhouse for fifty-five years, longer than any of its rivals, even housing plays often from 1642 to 1660 when playing was illegal.

The accession of James I in 1603, therefore, seems to have influenced builders of playhouses very little, with one striking exception. The excuse for undertaking to build the Red Bull was the willingness of a member of the royal family to be the patron of the players that would use it. Nothing of the sort had happened before. Neither the company of royal players that Queen Elizabeth had inherited nor the one she created moved anyone to propose a new playhouse. Everything else at the Red Bull could have happened had she lived another five years.

Appendix: Leases at the Red Bull

Aaron Holland's lease on the Red Bull inn does not survive, but hints about it in contemporary documents do. The same is true of the leases he granted on the owner's profits of the playhouse that he built in the inn. (28)

In a lawsuit of 1623, he said that he had once had the lease on the inn and that it had not yet expired. Martin Slatier's petition in May 1605 makes clear that Holland's lease on the inn existed then and had existed for some time--long enough for Holland to negotiate the consent of the parish for him to build the playhouse and to do much of the work of building it. The Duke of Holstein, who was prominent in the rationale for building the playhouse, had arrived in England in November 1604.

Moreover, the leases that Holland granted to Thomas Swinnerton and apparently others on an eighteenth of the owner's profits of the playhouse should have begun and ended while the lease on the inn was in effect. In a lawsuit of 1619, Thomas Woodford (who then owned Swinnerton's lease) said that it began in the third year of James I, which began on March 24, 1605; and in 1623 both Woodford and Holland said that it ended at Michaelmas 1634.

One may guess, therefore, that the lease on the inn ran for thirty years, from Christmas 1604 to Christmas 1634. Since Holland had spent a lot of money on the playhouse by the time of Slatier's petition and had probably raised at least some of it by selling leases on the owner's profits, those leases must have begun at Lady Day (March 25) 1605. They would have run for twenty-nine and a half years, to Michaelmas 1634.

Woodford said twice in 1619 that Swinnerton's lease on the profits comprised a "parte of the said playhouse and gallaries" and the commensurate profits, and he implied as much in other remarks in 1613, 1619, and 1623. Holland did not challenge this idea in his careful demolition of Woodford's case in 1623, but all his many allusions to the lease say firmly that the lease was on the eighteenth of the profits, not, presumably, anything else.

Thomas Greene's lease on the profits was somewhat different from Swinnerton's. His widow said in a lawsuit of 1632 that the lease was for "certaine Roomes" in the Red Bull and the moiety "or full halfe parte of the yarde play house and attiring house parcell of the sayde Messuage or Tenement with the Appurtenances there then erected and builded by the saide Aron [Holland] or his assignes and allsoe the Moytie or full halfe parte of all the money profitt commodity gaine and aduauntage of all such Playes Prizes shewes or other thinges whatsoeuer to be made showed acted done or procured to be done within the saide Playhouse or yard or any parte thereof and the moitye or full halfe parte of all such Rents and yearely profitts to come grow arise or be made of and vppon the saide ground wherevppon the saide playhouse standeth." According to his widow, therefore, Greene's lease comprised both a part of the playhouse and the commensurate profits.

She also said that the lease was signed on December 23, 1606, began two days later, at Christmas 1606, and ran to the end of twenty-seven years, i.e., to December 24, 1633. She did not mention either the fine or the rent.

She described the sublease that Greene granted to Christopher Beeston as "articles of agreement" made in or about August 1607 providing that Greene "should continually pay and deliuer" to Beeston "for the tearme of six and twenty yeares or thereabouts after the date of the saide Articles the -8th-or-9th-iust parte (as your subiect now remembreth) of all such some and somes of money and other commodityes profitts and benefitts whatsoeuer that at any time dureing the said terme should be collected had or received out of or by reason of the said Playhouse (the actors and Plaiers partes and all other ordinary duties arising out of the same first being deducted[)]." In return, Beeston "should & would ... truly pay" Greene [pounds sterling]5 a year. She did not mention a fine or a part of the playhouse, but neither was much to her purpose. She sued Beeston because after paying [pounds sterling]5 a year to Greene and his widow "for many yeares togeather," he had stopped paying.


This essay began as a presentation to the theater history seminar at the meeting of the Shakespeare Association of America in Victoria, B.C., on April 11, 2003. The assigned topic was "1603 and the business of Theatre." Information about the details of playhouses in the first section below derives from English Professional Theatre, 1530-1660, ed. Wickham, Berry, and Ingram (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 290-674.

1. The playhouses for which contemporary documents do not hint at who the original players may have been are the four inns, the Curtain, the Rose.

2. Within the walls: the Bull, the Cross Keys, the Bell, St. Paul's, the first Blackfriars, the second Blackfriars; in the City but outside the walls: the Bel Savage, Whitefiars, Salisbury Court; in the suburbs: (east) the Red Lion, the Boar's Head, (south) Newington Butts, the Rose, the Swan, the first Globe, the second Globe, the Hope, (north) the Theatre, the Curtain, the fist Fortune, the Red Bull, the second Fortune, (west) the Phoenix.

3. The playhouses were in two parts of the parish of St. Saviour: the Clink and Paris Garden. Southwark became one of the wards of the City in 1550 when (according to the relevant patent) the City bought nearly all the king's property there for [pounds sterling]647 2s 1d and bought the king's rights there for 500 marks more ([pounds sterling]333 6s 8d), including, repeatedly, his rights "in & per totas parochias sancti Saluatoris Sancti Olaui & Sancti Georgii," which D. J. Johnson translates, "in and through all the [the editor of the Calendar of the Patent Rolls reasonably prefers "the whole"] parishes of St. Saviour's, St. Olave's, and St. George's." The city, however, did not attempt to exercise authority in the Clink and Paris Garden. See at the Public Record Office (hereafter PRO), C.66/829/mm. 33-36 (especially m. 34); Johnson, Southwark and the City (London, 1669), 118, 399; Calendar of the Patent Rolls, 1549-51, 278-79.

4. The Theatre, the Curtain, the first Blackfriars, the second Blackfriars, the Red Bull, Whitefriars.

5. The Swan, and St. Paul's, Newington Butts, the Rose.

6. The two Globes, the first Fortune, the Hope.

7. Nothing is known about how Brayne held the land on which he built the Red Lion.

8. James Burbage's lease at the Theatre was for twenty-one years, but it specified that he could have another ten if he spent [pounds sterling]200 on other buildings on the site. The lease at Newington Butts was originally for fourteen years but for a fine of [pounds sterling]10 was soon extended to thirty. The lessees at the second Globe wanted a lease of thirty-one years, but they began with one of twenty-two and managed to extend it to thirty-one later. The other leases were at the Red Bull (see the appendix) and Phoenix.

9. The first Blackfriars, the Rose, the Boar's Head, the first Fortune.

10. The only other rent known was for the first Blackfriars: in 1576 Richard Farrant agreed to pay [pounds sterling]14 a year for mainly six rooms in two adjoining medieval buildings within the southwestern end of the city walls.

11. Single owner: the Red Lion, St. Paul's, Newington Butts, the first Blackfriars, the Curtain (?), the Rose, the Swan, the second Blackfriars, the Phoenix; two partners: the Theatre, the Boar's Head, the first Fortune, the Hope, Salisbury Court.

12. The first Globe, the Red Bull, Whitefriars, the second Globe, the second Fortune.

13. Calendar of State Papers, Venetian (hereafter CSP, Ven.), 1603-07, 193 (the Venetian ambassador reported on November 7 that the duke was in the country), 195. For the remarks about Holland see Slatier's petition (below) and at the PRO, Req.2/411/149 and 148 (a bill and answer), also C.3/390/47 the bill. The duke was the brother of Christian IV, the King of Denmark; he was also titular bishop of Schleswig (1602) and coadjutor (1591) then titular bishop (1603) of Schwerin: Dansk Biografisk Leksikon (Copenhagen, 1933-44), "Ulrik, 1578-1624," for which I am indebted to Mr. Ian Buttle and Dr. Alan McGowan.

14. PRO, C.P.40/1789/m.2114d. I am indebted to Eva Griffith's "Sewers, Brewers, Clowns, and Houses: the Worcester's Men at the Rose and the Queen's Servants at the Red Bull," presented to the theater history seminar at the meeting of the Shakespeare Association of America in April 2003.

15. Eva Griffith, "New Material for a Jacobean Playhouse: the Red Bull Theatre on the Seckford Estate," Theatre Notebook 55, no. 1 (2001): 8.

16. John Nichols, The Progresses, Processions, and Magnificent Festivities of King James the First (London, 1828), 1: 466; Memorials ..., "collected (chiefly) from the original papers of ... Sir Ralph Winwood," ed. Edmund Sawyer (London, 1725), 2: 52; CSP, Ven., 1603-07, 195.

17. CSP, Ven., 1603-07, 206-7, 236; Memorials, 2: 43, 44. Cecil was presumably Robert, soon to be Earl of Salisbury. For another treatment of the Duke's adventures in England, see Leeds Barroll, "Defining 'Dramatic Documents,'" MaRDiE 9 (1997): 113-17.

18. CSP, Ven., 1603-07, 240, 245, 248, 535; Historical Manuscripts Commission (hereafter HMC), Salisbury, 17:226; John Stow, The Annales, "continued ... by Edmond Howes" (London, 1615), pp. 863, 864; Molin wrote on June 5 that the duke left London on Friday (May 31). Howes wrote in his continuation of Stow's Summarie (1607), 570, merely that the duke "imbarked" on June 1 and in the Annales (1615) that he went to Rochester as above and "tooke shipping" on June 1.

19. Hatfield House, Cecil Papers, Ms. 134, no. 68; HMC, Salisbury, 17:228, 268-69. On June 20, Bredgate and his ship were back in Dover, and he had sent both of the duke's letters on to London.

20. Hatfield House, Cecil Papers, Ms. 197, f. 91 (2) (HMC, Salisbury, 17:234). According to Slatier, everything about the project except the company of players belonged jointly to him and Holland, including the lease and money. Since Slatier does not appear again in the affairs of the playhouse, however, I assume that Holland was the prime mover. Prof. Barroll transcribes this petition (123-24), but Slatier's "500" with "librae" (or, in the grammar of the sentence, "libras") above means [pounds sterling]500 not 500s.

21. PRO, Req.2/709. For notice of this document, I am again indebted to Eva Griffith's essay presented to the theatre history seminar at the meeting of the of the Shakespeare Association of America in Aprl 2003.

22. Greene gave himself as of Whitechapel (where the Boar's Head was) in the lease of December 23, 1606, by which he acquired half the Red Bull. Moreover, he told a court of law in May 1607 that he lived in Whitechapel and also "in the winter time last at suche time as plays wear vsed to be played and acted at the bores head wthout Algate" (Metropolitan Archives, DL/C/217, pp. 214-17).

23. PRO, S.P.75/4, ff. 73-77. He lived on the Ruhn estate near Butzow.

24. Roy Strong, Henry Prince of Wales (London, 1986), 63, 65.

25. Hatfield House, Cecil Papers, Ms. 115, ff. 96v-97 (HMC, Salisbury, 19:42, [also 505]); PRO, S.P.77/8, f. 251; Nichols, 1:466.

26. CSP Ven, 1603-07, 483.

27. PRO, S.P.75/4, ff. 79, 81, 91, 96, 100.

28. See above and at the PRO, C.3/390/47; Req.2/411/149; Req.1/26/f.890; Req.2/709. See also English Professional Theatre, 1530-1660, 570-79, 592-94.
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Author:Berry, Herbert
Publication:Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 1, 2006
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