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The fortune contract in reverse.


IN LATE SEPTEMBER 1626, just two months before Edward Alleyn died, he wrote a lengthy "Memorandum" relating to Dulwich College. (1) It is a little-known document, and the state of Alleyn's health at the time of its writing is unclear; but given the contents of the manuscript and the proximity of its writing to Alleyn's demise, it is difficult not to think of the memorandum as a set of instructions outlining the business that was to be carried out upon his death. The first sheet, in Alleyn's handwriting, lists properties that he bequeathed to the college upon his death; the second sheet, also in Alleyn's hand, catalogs the names of persons who owed him money. For most of us, the second list is the most interesting because Alleyn notes that, among others, Richard Gunnell, an actor who had performed at the Fortune with the Lord Palsgrave's Men since 1613, was 50 [pounds sterling] in debt; and even more impressive, "the kinges Maiestie in the Exchequer" owed Alleyn the staggering sum of 800 [pounds sterling]. Yet an assertion in the preamble to the Memorandum might be more useful for exploring the history of the Fortune playhouse. Here, Alleyn stated that most of his "evidences"--that is, papers verifying entitlement--were kept in "a chest at the bedsfeete in the yellow chamber, the keye where of is in the till of my deske." And although only a portion of the manuscripts relating to Henslowe and Alleyn's theatrical ventures could have been stored within this chest, one of these might have been Alleyn's copy of the contract for Fortune Playhouse which indicated that Henslowe and Alleyn constructed the playhouse in 1600. Moreover, the First Fortune seems to have been important to Alleyn from its inception. As events unfolded, it became the theater that he oversaw following Henslowe's death in 1616; and after its accidental destruction by fire in 1621 Alleyn replaced it with a second playhouse on the same site (also called the Fortune).

But despite the importance that the Fortune held for Alleyn--as a site for theatrical artistry, a setting offering opportunities for commercial success, and a home for actors, many of whom became Alleyn's lifelong friends--we normally study the playhouse from the standpoint of bricks and mortar, which is only natural in light of the fascinating specifics that the front of the Fortune contract provides. I will say a bit about that here, as well, but, I hope primarily to enlarge our sense of the Fortune and its creation by placing the front of the contract in a different context, one that can only be produced by a more careful reading of the back of the contract. Examining historical circumstances from this angle alters our understanding of the physical conditions that produced the playhouse in a unique way; and, also, it has significant ramifications for our interpretation of the human, economic, and political framework in which the theater was erected. Furthermore, reading the Fortune in reverse highlights the ways in which the physical fabric of the playhouse, as we envision it, is bound up in our sense of the contract. The manuscript of the Fortune, after all, provides the only setting in which the playhouse finally "exists."

The Manuscript

The Fortune contract is a manuscript measuring under one meter from side to side, and it is slightly shorter from top to bottom. (2) Written on parchment, in order to stand the test of time, it would have been identified by the legal establishment of Henslowe's time as a document called an "indenture"; that is, the manuscript represents an "agreement between two or more parties with mutual covenants" (that is, in legal terms, "accords"). (3) The part of the manuscript that has survived would have been only half of the original document because the term "indenture" takes its name from both the legal purpose and the shape of the manuscript. Originally, identical copies of the agreement were written on a single piece of parchment or vellum, and then these were cut apart in a serrated or sinuous line. Hence, after it was cut, the border of the manuscript was notched or "indented." The purpose for this procedure was simple: if, for any reason, there was a dispute over the agreement that had been made by the parties involved, the manuscripts could be brought together, and the edges tallied, indicating that they were parts of one and the same document. Additionally, both parts were authenticated by a custom that called for the signatures to be witnessed by two persons, with the addition of formal seals attached to the manuscript with cord or a thin piece of parchment. But contrary to the way in which the Elizabethans often used the word "letters" (from the Latin litterae) to refer either to a single, or several missives, the word "indenture" referred only to an individual piece of the original manuscript. Therefore, the phrase "a pair of indentures" referred to a reassembled, multipart document, although, occasionally, an agreement came to involve more than two parts. This is the process described by Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March, in act 3, scene 1, of Henry IV, Part 1, when Mortimer and the other conspirators envision their upcoming campaign against the royal forces and the tripartite division of the country that will follow the victory they anticipate. Mortimer explains the plan this way:
   The Archdeacon hath divided it [the country]
   Into three limits very equally:
   England, from Trent and Severn hitherto,
   By south and east is to my part assigned;
   All westward, Wales beyond the Severn shore,
   And all the fertile land within that bound,
   To Owen Glendower;--and, dear coz, to you
   The remnant northward lying off from Trent.
   And our indentures tripartite are drawne,
   Which being sealed interchangeably--
   A business that this night may execute--
   Tomorrow, cousin Percy, you and I
   And my good Lord of Worcester will set forth
   To meet your father and the Scottish power,
   As is appointed us, at Shrewsbury.

(3.1.70-84) (4)

Among the hundreds of theatrical manuscripts in the collection amassed by Philip Henslowe and Edward Alleyn are three building contracts, and all of them are indentures. These include the contract for the Fortune Playhouse, written in 1600; the contract for the renovation of some portion of tenements at the Bear Garden, written in 1606; and the contract to pull down the Bear Garden and to erect, in its place, a combination theater and gaming arena, known to history as the Hope, in 1613. The contract to build a playhouse in the Blackfriars district, undertaken by Alleyn in 1615 after Philip Rosseter had failed in a similar venture, is no longer extant; but if it had existed, we have every reason to expect that it too would have been an indenture. (5) Of the three existing contracts, that for the Fortune offers the most detailed picture both of the construction that was agreed on, and the terms of the project. The indenture for the renovation of the tenements at the Bear Garden offers some intriguing structural details and an elaborate schedule for the way in which payments were made at various stages during the actual building process; but neither it, nor the later contract for the Hope playhouse, assist us in answering many of the abiding questions regarding the reconstruction of the Bear Garden. In fact, the indenture for the construction of the Hope is the most unclear of the three because, in it, the parties agreed that many key elements of the playhouse--for example, the compass, form, width, height, boxes, and staircases--should be "as the Plaie house Called the Swan in the libertie of Parris Garden." (6) (And, of course, there is no extant contract for the Swan.) Consequently, the Fortune contract is a valuable manuscript offering, as it does, dimensions for so many significant architectural details.

The front page (or recto) of the manuscript was prepared, and probably written, by a professional scribe named William Harris. The level of his training is indicated not only by the fact that he wrote his title--"Pub Scr," the English version of the Latin scriba publica, "Public Scrivener"--after his name; but Harris's training is also illustrated by the clear hand in which the contract was written, in the manuscript's even lineation, and in the ornamental letter "T" on the first word in the opening line, the word "this" in the phrase that customarily introduces indentures: "This Indenture made ..." Furthermore, Harris's expertise is demonstrated in the correct use of customary phrases--such as "in witness whereof," "now theiruppon," or "in consideracon." And in typical fashion these are written in a bolder hand than the rest of the text in order to identify the beginnings of important sections within the document. Finally, Harris's training is confirmed in the form of the indenture, which employs a common pattern for the ordering of information within the deed.

Despite the existence of such traditional elements, the indenture was anything but conventional in other ways. As was the case with all scriveners of his time, Harris framed the agreement in a hodgepodge of architectural shorthand, what was thought of as standardized legal terminology, and quasi-legal rhetoric of his own invention. Any legal practitioner of the period would have recognized the opening statement ("This indenture made," etc.), as well as the closing statement ("In witness whereof the parties abovesaid to these present indentures interchangeably have set their hands and seals/given the day and year first abovewritten"). Architectural shorthand emerges in well-known descriptors--"according to the manner and fashion of the said house called the Globe"--as well as in phrasing such as "for the erecting, building, & setting up" or "suchlike stairs, conveyances, & divisions, without and within." The many references to" [X] number of feet of lawful assize" is also builder's shorthand, calling, as it did, for Peter Street to use measurements that corresponded to those set by the local assize of weights and measurements. Lastly, phrases such as "bargained, compounded & agreed," "at his proper costs and charges," and "reputed, accepted, taken & accompted" are all rhetorical turns that Harris employed in an attempt to describe the complexity of the agreement that Henslowe and Alleyn entered into with their builder.

Additionally, Harris participated in defining the agreement in other ways. At the end of the manuscript he served as witness to the indenture, and Francis Smyth served as the second witness to the contract, signing his own name behind Harris's and identifying himself as "app[rentice] to the said Scr[ivener]." Interestingly, Harris's relationship with Henslowe and Alleyn was more complex than the Fortune contract alone would indicate. For over a decade he had been employed by the two men, on various occasions, to draw up the legal paperwork relating to land transactions; and, like many scriveners of the time, Harris was probably involved in the legal negotiations that led up to the agreements in the contracts. Harris's first appearance in the Dulwich papers occurs in 1595 when he witnessed the bargain and sale of a share in a jointly held messuage, from John Alleyn (Edward's brother) to Edward. (7) During the following year Harris witnessed the transfer of more Alleyn family property from John's widow to Edward. (8) After 1600, Harris was involved in miscellaneous legal work--both for the Admiral's Men and for their financiers. (9) And in 1605, Harris served as the central agent for Edward Alleyn in the negotiations leading up to his purchase of Dulwich Manor. So over time, it appears that Harris played an increasingly important role in Henslowe and Alleyn's legal affairs, serving as counselor, head negotiator, and writer of documents, particularly to Edward Alleyn. (10)

Given this context, together with an understanding of the ways in which public scriveners generally operated, it would be reasonable to speculate that Harris assisted in working out the details of the negotiations that went into the Fortune contract in advance. He certainly met with each of the parties, separately or together, and took careful notes or "minutes," as they were called. Following this, he would have prepared one or several drafts of the final concord. Following all of the negotiations, the final indenture was copied onto the parchment so that it could be signed. Whether or not all of the signators were present at the time of the signing was immaterial because Harris and his apprentice witnessed both copies of the indenture, and they could easily have run the paperwork around to Peter Street and the playhouse owners at separate times. However, in order for the contract to go forward, all parties had, theoretically speaking, to agree on every detail contained therein. Therefore, it was only when all was signed and settled, and when the signed copies were cut apart, that the contract became a binding agreement.

The copy of the Fortune contact that has come down to us represents the final agreement between Street, of the one party, and Henslowe and Alleyn, of the other. As we might expect, Peter Street, the builder, signed the document with his tradesman's mark: a capital "P" for "Peter," with a backward "S" written over it, for "Street." An examination of other documents indicates that this was Street's customary way of signing documents, and it comes, of course, from the practice adopted by carpenters, in which they identified their work on a building project by "signing" the posts and beams with a unique mark. However, legally speaking, it is the holograph signatures of William Harris and Francis Smyth which verified that Street's signature was valid and that his copy of the document was signed and sealed in their presence. The other portion of the indenture--which seems to have been lost over time--would have been signed by Henslowe and Alleyn, and also witnessed by Harris and Smyth. From the sinuous cuts across the top of the Fortune manuscript, we can tell that the copy of the document located on the upper part of the parchment (the copy signed by Henslowe and Alleyn) was kept by Street. He also retained the famous "plot" of the theater, which apparently indicated the positions of various design elements. The lower copy of the contract, signed by Street, was kept by Henslowe and Alleyn; and this provides the explanation as to why it has survived. Whereas the manuscripts that Street received were viewed as working copies--the plot probably taken out onto the site where the actual building work was done--Henslowe and Alleyn removed their copy of the indenture to the safekeeping of one of their houses where the "evidences" for the rest of their businesses were stored.

Reading the Contract in Reverse

The front of the Fortune indenture is the most familiar side to those of us who study theater architecture. Here, as the terms of the contract are laid out, we find the basic elements of an actual playhouse characterized in detail. The external dimensions, internal dimensions, the heights of the galleries, the number of divisions for gentlemen's rooms and two-penny rooms, the size and shape of the stage (along with how it is to be paled in), specifications for the kinds of boards and gutters to be used in various parts of the building, even a few elements of the internal decoration (including a tiled roof over the stage)--all give a vivid impression of what one Elizabethan playhouse might well have looked like, in size, appearance, and texture. The front of the contract also offers us a sense of what level of expense the owners intended to undertake; and it even lays out the schedule for the distribution of the money that was allocated for the construction. The final cost was estimated at 440 [pounds sterling]--which seems high by comparison with the 360 [pounds sterling] set aside to build the Hope thirteen years later, and perhaps a bit modest by comparison with the estimates for other playhouses of the period. (11) However, what I am interested in, before discussing what we think we know best, are the notes on the back side, or verso, of the contract, and what we can glean from them that will help us to place the more familiar side in a different context.

The back of the Fortune contract consists of sixty-eight separate annotations in the hands of Edward Alleyn and Philip Henslowe, who framed them using the kinds of standard abbreviations that were used for accounting purposes, such as "pd" for "paid," and "dd" for the Latin "dedit" or "given" (that is, money laid out [for any reason, whether related to materials, or labor, or other things]). These are the same abbreviations that we see written throughout Henslowe's well-known theatrical Diary, and in the personal memorandum book that Alleyn kept between 1617 and 1622; (12) and we find the same abbreviations in other account books and memorandum books of the period as well. Also in evidence on the back of the Fortune contract are customary terms such as "lent," which refers to money that was borrowed for purposes other than funding construction. The majority of entries simply begin with "paid" or the word "more," as in "more money paid out." The most common phrase employed is "in parte of payment" by which Henslowe and Alleyn meant to signal that they were advancing only a fraction of what would eventually add up to a much larger total (i.e., the 440 [pounds sterling] set aside to cover construction costs). Last of all, it is worth noting that the annotations--dated between January 17, 1600, just over a week after the contract was signed, and June 11, roughly a month before the July 25 deadline for the building phase of the project--are relatively complete. They offer a clear sense of the pace of the work, and also suggest that all of the parties involved apparently underestimated the final expense of the theater.

Most of the entries are, in the legal language of the time, "acquittances" (from Old French acquittance) or receipts offered as evidence for the discharge of debt." In the procedure employed by Henslowe and Alleyn, money was advanced to Peter Street who, as head carpenter, purchased many of the materials and paid his assistants' wages. Acquittances also refer to sums laid out to those tradesmen who constructed parts of the building in Middlesex while Street worked out in the country. These included the bricklayer who built the foundation and the men who carted and hauled building materials to the site where the playhouse would eventually stand. In and of themselves, the annotations seem a rather mundane list of bricks, timber, and mortar; however, the information that can be gleaned from them increases our understanding of the Fortune, as a building and as a project, more than we might at first imagine; and, in some ways the list of annotations is more revealing about some details of the construction, than is the well-known front side of the contract. In addition to providing us with a partial account of the kinds and amounts of building materials, the annotations calendar the progress of the production throughout the many months that Street and his crew were building what was identified in the contract as a "house" and "stage." Moreover, the acquittances also project a sense of the ways in which Henslowe and Alleyn might have interfaced, on a financial and personal level, with the project.

In terms of the building materials, we learn that the bricks seem to have been made locally (perhaps at the nearby brick works in Islington). We also learn that the timber for the theater was cut somewhere out in the country, probably from forests near Windsor, fitted together temporarily, and then disassembled, transported to Middlesex, and erected on a foundation as a permanent structure. (Like the stipulation in the Hope contract--that builder Gilbert Katherens should "new build" the playhouse--the Fortune is also referred to as a "new house." This made for expensive construction costs.) And although the winter conditions would have delayed the construction of a foundation for the theater, cold weather provided an ideal time to fell trees. Consequently, it seems that Peter Street began the preparation of the wood flame almost immediately after he signed the contract, riding out into the country, from whence he would return from time to time; and during the periods when he was away from London his assistants couriered sums of money to him; or, on occasion, Alleyn delivered money to Street, which gave Alleyn the opportunity to see how the work was progressing. As John Orrell determined, in his essay entitled "Building the Fortune Playhouse," published in 1993, the accounts on the contract, supplemented by three leaves of accounts that were written into Henslowe's Diary, (14) suggest a working schedule for the construction. While I will not attempt to repeat the weighty details of this chronology here, it seems that the Fortune contract was signed on January 8. By January 24 Street was out in the country beginning his work there. By March 20, barge loads of timbers (representing the prefabricated playhouse) began to arrive in Middlesex. If the annotations are accurate the foundations were completed around May 8th, and it seems likely that the prefabricated building rose fairly quickly thereafter although, five weeks later, in the middle of June, when the annotations break off, the playhouse had not yet been completed.

Complementing these nuts-and-bolts impressions, the annotations on the back of the Fortune indenture create a human picture, suggesting, first and foremost, the utter centrality of Peter Street to all phases of the operation. With timber, bricks, sand, and such arriving on the scene in batches throughout the project, the master carpenter was vital since, in acting as the general contractor, it was his job to make certain that materials and workmen were coordinated in a well-defined order so that the project didn't lag behind due to material or human delays. Moreover, several of the acquittances indicate that the tradesmen who worked on the project were hired by Street who served as overseer for all phases of the project; for instance, William Shepherd, bricklayer, and Richard Deller, bargeman, were both paid "at the appointment of Peter Street." And if the schedule of payments in the annotations is at all accurate, despite a few delays, the work on the Fortune ticked along fairly regularly. However, it also appears that Street began to show signs of strain as the project went beyond its deadline and its budget. Perhaps in response to Street's volatile temperament (a characteristic for which he was well-known), or simply owing to everyone's heightened anxiety level, Henslowe and Alleyn noted that they began to purchase drink for the workmen, starting around the middle of May; and throughout much of the summer, Henslowe frequently noted that he laid out money to purchase both food and drink for Street. (15) At times, Henslowe and his bailiff--Gilbert East--even breakfasted and/or dined with Street. Finally, on June 10, barely over a month before the project was to be completed Henslowe and Alleyn gave Street 4s., as they said, "to pasify him."

In human terms, the list of acquittances on the back of the Fortune contract also offers a directory of Street's crew and the craftsmen with whom he worked. John Benion, referred to as "M[aste]r Street's man," and William Blackbourne were fellow members of the Carpenters Company, who appear alongside Street in manuscripts detailing the history of the company during the same period. (16) (Street was serving as a warden in the Carpenters Company in 1599 when he helped to move the theater from Hollywell to Southwark where it was rebuilt as the First Globe.) (17) Also mentioned is Street's apprentice Robert Wharton who was probably supervised, in part, by Benion, and who appears a fair number of times as the boy who collected money for Street. (18) Another man, William Wharton, is named only once; but he appears to have been related to Robert. Then there are the names of nine men and women who supplied and/or transported timber, as well as the names of five sawyers who cut timber. One of these, Robert Deller, also appears as a supplier of boards in records of the Carpenters Company for 1610. (19) Additionally, Henslowe's records identify two bargemen who moved the timber to a point where it was carted to the building site. And lastly, in and among the many entries for payments that Henslowe made directly to Street are the anonymous "workmen" who performed unspecified tasks, but whose labor was doubtless fundamental to the construction of the Fortune.

Complementing what we can tell about economic arrangements from the front of the contract, the annotations on the reverse of the indenture reveal some concrete information regarding Street's physical whereabouts during the Fortune project. On the front of the contract we read that Street was to be given the first half of the money owed, or 220 [pounds sterling] "Att suche tyme And when as the Tymberwoork of the saide fframe shalbe rayzed & sett upp ... Or wthin Seaven daies then next followeinge." But it is on the back of the contract that we learn that Street received the first advance for 40s. at the sealing of the contract nine days later (January 17). Moreover, the annotations reveal that, over the course of the next two months, most of the payments were transferred to Street by intermediaries; and then, from March 20 on, because Street was apparently spending more time in London, payments were made directly to him, and he, in turn, paid his workmen--frequently, though not always, on a Saturday. (20) The back side of the contract reveals, as well, that the price of timber, as calculated per load, could vary and that the fee for the carriage of a "faer" (or bargeload of timber) could differ as well, along with the periods of time that it took to transport timber or the prefabricated sections of the playhouse into Middlesex. All which variations made it difficult for Street to keep costs within the limits set out on the front of the contract, even if, as is stated there the second half of the payment would be delivered "att suche time and when as the saide fframe & woorkes shalbe fullie effected & ffynished ... Or wthin Seaven daies then next followeinge." According to John Orrell's final estimates, over the course of the six months that Henslowe and Alleyn financed the project they laid out a minimum of 509 [pounds sterling] (69 [pounds sterling] over the anticipated expense of the theater), without accounting for the costs of labor involved in tiling the roof, plastering the walls, or hiring glazers, plasterers, plumbers, and smiths to complete the finish work on the building. (21) In Alleyn's own list of expenses he claimed that he laid out 520 [pounds sterling] on the playhouse alone, a further 240 [pounds sterling] to secure the lease on the property, and 120 [pounds sterling] for other private buildings of his own, bringing the initial costs to a hefty 880 [pounds sterling], which only covered the construction of the theater and the development of the surrounding property in a preliminary fashion. (22) Nevertheless, it was probably worth the price for men like Henslowe and Alleyn, who would become court servants and aspired to even greater things. And also, they had years of experience as entrepreneurs. For them, the high costs were justified by the commercial and artistic success that they anticipated in return on their wager. Surely it was no accident that the new playhouse was named "The Fortune," which alluded not only to the fact that the owners had pinned their hopes on the good favors of Dame Fortuna, but to the "fortuna" that the investors hoped to reap as benefits, both in the arena of London commerce and at court.

The Fortune in the Context of Its Owners

The coming and going of people preserved in the annotations on the back of the Fortune contract remind us that Henslowe and Alleyn were also coming and going from the building site, as well as from the location where Street framed and created the playhouse. In fact, the placement of some annotations on the back side of the indenture, and the preservation of others within Henslowe's Diary suggest that while both men seem to have been committed equally to the success of the project, each investor took responsibility for managing the finances for the construction at different times, dependent upon whatever other responsibilities they were handling. And here is another point at which the back of the contract offers evidence that is absolutely unique to our understanding of the Fortune's history. In looking over the list of acquittances it appears that both Henslowe and Alleyn kept accounts, but Henslowe's hand predominates. John Benion, who located suppliers of timber, wrote one entry, and various payees and witnesses to payments wrote their signature below the entries inscribed by Henslowe and Alleyn. At the opening of 1600 it is Edward Alleyn's clear, open hand that we see down much of the left side of the manuscript. Then from the twentieth of March to the eleventh of June, Henslowe's hand is prominent as he copies a list of payments onto the right side of the page. At this point Henslowe ran out of space on the manuscript, but he had already started keeping another listing of expenses in his Diary, starting at some point previous to June 2 and ending on the eighth of August. However, the latter is not a simple continuation of building costs. Following one entry--a payment of 10s. for removing dung with a cart--and another--for going to Greenwich with Robert Shaw, an actor, which might be utterly unrelated to the Fortune project--Henslowe produced a list of some thirty-seven entries in which he recording nothing more than the expenses for food and drink for Street and his crew. From this we are led to conclude either that Hens]owe and Alleyn either stopped keeping building accounts in the middle of June or--what is more likely--that they continued on separate sheets of paper, or in another book. But these have been lost. Either way, what have been lost to us are the acquittances relating to the final phases of the project, about which we know very little. In this aspect we can only acknowledge that for certain periods, the Fortune contract, even when supplemented with the odd pages from Henslowe's Diary, renders a very incomplete picture.

But if the manuscript evidence supplied by Henslowe's portion of the back of the contract hints at anything, it is that Henslowe had commitments elsewhere that made it inconvenient for him to attend to the construction at every phase. Furthermore, as it turns out, these were substantial, primarily because, since 1593, Henslowe had spent a fair amount of time as a servant of the Chamber in the royal household, a responsibility that required that he divide his time between his business interests in London and wherever the Court might take him. Early in his career Henslowe began his service as one of fourteen Grooms of the Chamber, twelve of which were usually in service. The men who held these positions were men like Henslowe who were members of the gentry; and some of them, like Henslowe, also had family ties to the Court that went back in time to former generations. Edmond Henslowe, Philip's father, had been appointed Master of Ashdown Forest by the Crown, and he received a pension under Queen Mary for unspecified service to the Crown. Henslowe's uncle, Raphe Hogg, was licensed by the Queen to operate an iron foundry in Sussex, a business that was not only lucrative but which allowed him to gather further privileges, including a patent to make gunshot and to sell surplus cannons on the Continental market. In addition, Hogg supplied advice on the design of heavy weaponry, and is credited particularly with the invention of the best iron cannon of his day, many of which were used for guarding the Sussex coast against foreign invasion. As a result of these factors, Henslowe was socially and economically privileged, which led to his own appointment at Court; and he was apparently useful enough in that setting that by 1599 he had been promoted to the position of Gentleman Sewer (i.e., Steward). (23)

All this bears importantly on our characterization of Henslowe as an actor in the Fortune drama, especially as this drama was played out over the first months of 1600; and also it shapes our image of him as we seek to understand how his London investments came together with his ambitions in the more exalted setting of the Court. But, initially, it is useful for us to piece together what we can know of Henslowe's life within this chronological framework. During the Christmas season that stretched from December 1599, through the early part of 1600, the Court was sitting at Richmond. Four plays were performed, two each by the Chamberlain's Men and the Lord Admiral's Men companies. The latter performed The Pleasant Comedie of Old Fortunatus on December 27, and they performed The Shoemaker's Holiday on New Year's Day. The titles of the plays by the Lord Chamberlain's Men are unknown. (24) On January 8 the Fortune contract was signed; and sometime, soon thereafter, the Justices of the Peace in Middlesex attempted to stop the construction of the playhouse. The situation escalated so quickly that on January 12, Charles Howard, the Lord Admiral and patron of the acting company that hoped to move into the Fortune upon its completion, sent a warrant to the Justices of the Peace of Middlesex, authorizing Edward Alleyn to continue with his project. In justifying the need for a new playhouse, Howard made three claims: that the Rose was in a state of decay, that Alleyn had already "provided Tymber and other necessaries for theffectinge therof to his great chardge," and that "her Matie (in respect of the acceptable Service, wch my saide Servant and Companie have doen and presented before her Highenes to hergreate likeinge and Contentment; aswell this last Christmas as att sondrie other tymes) ys gratiouslie moved towardes them wth a speciall regarde of favor in their proceedings." (25) Five days later, from January 19 to 21, the Queen spent three days at the Chelsea home of Charles Howard, the Lord Admiral, patron of the company that would move to the Fortune upon its completion. (26) Nevertheless, for whatever effectiveness Howard's warrant might have had initially, the Middlesex justices continued to bring pressure to bear on the construction project, because on April 8, three months after work on the project had been done, a second warrant defending Alleyn was addressed "To ye Justices of Peace of ye Countye of Midd[le]s[ex,] especially of S' Gyles wth out Creplegate, and to all others whome it shall Concerne." (27) Like the previous warrant, this one made much of the Queen's favorable disposition toward Edward Alleyn. It recapitulated that Alleyn had spent quite a lot of money on the project too, and noted that the location was very "convenient" for theatergoers. The warrant--written "frome the Courte at Richmonde"--was signed by Howard, Robert Cecil, and George Carey Lord Hunsdon, who was the patron of Shakespeare's company; and while the manuscript was written by one of the Court secretaries, all of the signatures are autograph signatures. Interestingly, when we mesh this calendar with the construction calendar on the back of the Fortune contract it appears that, ultimately, the censure of the Middlesex justices produced little more than inconvenience for the playhouse owners. The payments to Street, and other tradesmen, occurred regularly, more or less without interruption, from mid-January to mid-June, including payments indicating that the workmen continued through Lent, and probably through all of the week leading up to, and including Holy Saturday, the day when they were given their wages. Because the following day was Easter, the workmen broke for two days, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday. They were paid again the next day, on Tuesday, the feast of the Annunciation.

But to return to politics: why didn't the justices seem to have more authority in the situation? And why is it that despite periodic attempts to close down the Fortune, throughout its history, the justices failed on every occasion? Looking more carefully at the particular moment which is the spring of 1600, we would be missing an important clue if we didn't recognize that not only was Alleyn popular with the Queen, but that Philip Henslowe--who had been promoted from a Groom of the Chamber to a Steward of the Chamber-probably had a role to play in the internal politics surrounding the construction phase of the project. In fact, one tax certificate, written from Court at Richmond on the tenth of October, 1600, notes that "Phillip Henslowe esqr, one of the Shewers of her mates chamber," was "most resyaunt and abiding here at the court in the time of Taxeacon and for the most part of the yeare before." (28) As a result, many of the payments on the back of the Fortune contract were copied in batches, from another source, probably from accounts kept by Alleyn who, on at least two occasions during the project (March 13, May 15), rode to Windsor to make payments to Street.

Moreover, there are other links between the Fortune contract and those who either served at Court or held Court-appointed positions. Early in the life of the Fortune project (January 21) the owners made their largest payment in the list--20 [pounds sterling]--to purchase timber from two men: "mr winche of the scaldinge howsse & mr Baylle kepere of the stare chamber dore." Another substantial payment--for 10 [pounds sterling] 10s.--was made to Winche and Baylle in early March. And it is also instructive to realize that, by 1600, Peter Street was not only well connected within the Carpenters Company, but that, as early as 1597-98, he was employed by the Royal Works; and a year earlier, in a lawsuit adjudicated in the Court of Requests, Street identified himself as an ordinary servant in the Queen's household. (29) Given these circumstances, it is entirely possible that Henslowe and Street, probably with Alleyn, had come together in other circumstances. Nor was the building of the Fortune the first construction-related encounter that Henslowe had with Street. Henslowe became the manager of the Royal Barge House, built by Street, which was constructed from 1597 to 1598, not far from the Rose Playhouse. (30) Furthermore, in the middle of December 1599, Henslowe lists sums laid out for construction on a house, possibly his own residence. He heads his list: "for bylldinge of my howsse vpon the bancksyd wch was goodman deres ... wth mr strette carpenter." (31) Although we associate Street with the large-scale building and jobbing work that he did on the Globe and the Fortune, and later on, on the tenements at the Bear Garden, we need only remind ourselves that Henslowe and Alleyn generally became well acquainted with their builders; and there is some likelihood that Street caught their attention through Court connections, before the Globe was built. John Griggs, who was employed as the master builder on the Rose Playhouse, in 1587, later renovated part of Edward Alleyn's house, becoming part of the friendship circle that grew up around Henslowe and Alleyn. (32) When Alleyn was on tour during the summer of 1593, Henslowe regularly included news of Griggs and his wife in his letter to Alleyn; and on August 1, Alleyn--who was still in the country--sent a letter to his wife and father-in-law, conveying his "harty commend[ations] to mr grigs and his wife and all his houshould." (33)

Both Sides of the Contract Taken Together

If we return to the front of the Fortune contract, the side that we know well, we can determine a few things about the appearance of the playhouse that are unique. Assuming that the owners' intentions were followed precisely, the playhouse measured eighty feet square, on the outside, and fifty feet square on the inside, all which were to be calculated in "feet of lawful assize." The front of the indenture also stipulates that there will be three galleries, of twelve feet in height, then of eleven feet, and finally, of nine feet, growing shorter as the workmen built from the ground upward. And all of the stories were to be twelve and a half feet wide, from the back wall to the front side, nearest to the pit, the top two with a jetty forward of ten inches. The builders were also to create divisions within the galleries for gentlemen's rooms and two-penny rooms; and, of course, stairs, conveyances, and divisions "like the Globe's." Not least of all there was to be a stage that measured forty-three feet in breadth, and which extended halfway out into the yard, or twenty-two and a half feet; and it was to be paled in below. Behind this would be a tiring house, and the house would also incorporate the usual windows, lights that were at the Globe; and there would be tiling on the stage and staircases with sufficient gutters to carry the water away from the covering of the stage. Lastly, after the structure was finished with the customary "lathe, lyme, & haire," the main posts on the stage, shaped as squares, would be decorated with carved satyrs, of the kind that one typically found on pilasters of the period. And the kind that Henslowe and Alleyn called for again to be included by Street on the reconstructed tenements at the Bear Garden six years later.

Of course, this description doesn't tell the whole story; and, in the final scene, although no manuscript ever seems "complete," the primary purpose of the Fortune indenture is to describe the intentions of the parties involved at the time of its signing, not necessarily to create a full picture of the Fortune Playhouse and the surrounding property, in all of its manifest complexity. Nor do the copious annotations on the back of the Fortune clarify some of the questions that the front of the contract raises. To a great extent, both sides of the contract are separate snapshots, illuminating only the playhouse and telling us nothing about Alleyn's subsequent investments, developments, and renovations on the Golding Lane property. For instance, we know that there was a taphonse near the theater, run by Mark Brigham, (34) although there is no provision for a taphonse in the contract; and over time, Alleyn created housing near the playhouse, possibly for the several players from the Admiral's Men who moved from Bankside to St. Giles when the playhouse was completed, presumably to help manage the Fortune. Nor does either side of the contract really elaborate on the reasons as to why Henslowe and Alleyn decided to design the First Fortune as a square building, abandoning the traditional polygonal structure typified by the Globe or the Swan. And why did they alter--also, perhaps--the shape of the stage? Granted, the Fortune stage might have offered more space for the actors. Yet the "quinque angle" to which Tamburlaine refers when he explains the necessity of changing the order of battle relative to different terrains is modeled so vividly by the shape of the Rose's trapezoidal stage where the play was being performed in the 1590s. (35) Were other nuanced allusions to the Rose theater lost in the move to a different architectural model?


Obviously, there are questions that no side of the Fortune contract can illuminate; and the back of the indenture that was signed in 1600 by the playhouse owners and its builder, prompts questions that bear ultimately upon both Fortune Playhouses, the first and the second. For, in many ways, it is important to look ahead; after all, the Second Fortune Playhouse was so important to Edward Alleyn that he made a special trip to visit the Earl of Arundel in order to show him the plot for the construction of the new playhouse. (36) But while we are busy looking forward we must concurrently look backward and sideways as well. For, as is commonly the case, the history of a playhouse often stands somewhere between portions of a manuscript that seem directly relevant to it, and other bits of the manuscript, which might at first seem less directly relevant. In the contract that we have been examining here, the manuscript points us not only to the physical playhouse, with which we are already familiar, but to new and original contexts which, prism-like, allow us to see flesh possibilities for the interpretation of the entire Fortune project. In this, we are reminded of Edward Alleyn's manuscript chest, with its many treasured "evidences," in the yellow chamber, the key to which was hidden in the till of his desk. As is the case with Alleyn's chest, we have yet to unpack fully the Fortune contract which is, in itself, a treasure chest, one full of mesmerizing detail, enticing suggestion, and alluring implications.


(1.) Folger Library, MS X.d.255. This essay was first read as a lecture at Shakespeare's Globe on November 4, 2006.

(2.) The manuscript citation for the Fortune contract is Muniment 22 in G. F. Warner, Catalogue of the Manuscripts and Muniments of Alleyn's College of God's Gift at Dulwich (London: Spottiswoode, 1881), 234-35. A "muniment" is a title deed or charter where rights are defended.

(3.) OED. Oxford English Dictionary Online, s.v. "indenture," #2, indenture&first=1&max_to_show=10&sort_type=alpha&result_place=1&search_id= hkkY-KsJtf1-11748&hilite=50115154.

(4.) William Shakespeare, King Henry IV Part 1, ed. David Scott Kastan (London: Thomson, 2002).

(5.) S. P. Cerasano, "Competition for the King's Men?: Alleyn's Blackfriars Venture," MaRDiE 4 (1989): 173-86.

(6.) W. W. Greg, Henslowe Papers (London: A. H. Bullen, 1907), 19-22, quotation from p. 20. (Hereafter cited as HP.)

(7.) Warner, Catalogue, 254.

(8.) Ibid., 255-56.

(9.) R. A. Foakes, Henslowe's Diary, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 43,166, 174, 244-45. (Hereafter cited as HD.)

(10.) Edward Griffin (Griffen) is scribe who worked frequently with Philip Henslowe. Ibid., 65,230 and Warner, Catalogue, 42, 46, 48, 77, 102.

(11.) E. K. Chambers, The Elizabethan Stage (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1923), 2:406,468. (Hereafter cited as ES.)

(12.) Warner, Catalogue, MS. IX, transcribed as pp. 165-95.

(13.) OED Oxford English Dictionary Online, s.v. "acquittance," #3, acquittance&first=1&max_to_show=10&sort_type=alpha&result_place=1& search_id=hkkL-MYo20g-1188l&hilite=50002004.

(14.) Ft. 98v-99r, which are Foakes, HD, 191-93. All of my references to the Fortune contract, throughout this essay, are to Foakes's transcription, HD, 306-15.

(15.) Foakes, HD, 191-93.

(16.) See, for example, the references to William Blackbourne in vol. 7 of Records of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters, ed. A. M. Millard, (Isle of Wight: Pinhorns, 1968), 42, 47. "Benion" is presumably the "John Benison" who became a freeman in 1577 (see vol. 5 of Records of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters, ed. Bower Marsh and John Ainsworth [London: Phillimore, 1937], which is Wardens' Account Book, 1571-91, p. 90).

(17.) B.W.E. Alford and T. C. Barker, A History of the Carpenters Company(London: George Allen and Unwin, 1968), 180.

(18.) Wharton's apprenticeship to Street is recorded in the Wardens' Account Book (1592-1614), transcribed and edited by A. M. Millard as vol. 7 of Records of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters, 7:151.

(19.) Richard Deller is referred to twice in 1610 entries of the Wardens' Account Book (1592-1614), transcribed and edited by A. M. Millard as vol. 7 of Records of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters, 7:341,361.

(20.) The Saturday wage payments occurred on Feb. 22, March 8, March 22, May 24 (2), May 31, and June 7. Other Saturday payments were given out on January 19, April 26, and May 10. Other payments made late in the week, on Friday, occurred on Feb. 15, Feb. 29, April 25, May 30, and June 6 (3).

(21.) John Orrell, "Building the Fortune," Shakespeare Quarterly 44 (1993): 144.

(22.) Foakes, HD, 302.

(23.) S. P. Cerasano, "The Geography of Henslowe's Diary," SQ 56, no. 3 (2005): 328-53.

(24.) Chambers, ES, 4:112.

(25.) Greg, HP, 49-50.

(26.) Chambers, ES, 4:112.

(27.) Greg, HP, 51-52; citation from p. 52.

(28.) NA, E115/219/79.

(29.) NA, REQ 2/91/57.

(30.) NA, E351/3233.

(31.) Foakes, HD, 66-67.

(32.) Ibid., 233-34.

(33.) Greg, HP, 35, 36, 41.

(34.) The reference to the taphouse is recorded in a later lease (Warner, Catalogue, 242-43).

(35.) Christopher Marlowe, Tamburlaine the Great, Parts One and Two, ed. Anthony B. Dawson (New York: W. W. Norton, 1997), 126-27 (2 Tamburline the Great, 3.2.62-67.)

(36.) Warner, Catalogue, 192 (June 12, 1622).
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Title Annotation:Edward Alleyn
Author:Cerasano, S.P.
Publication:Shakespeare Studies
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 1, 2009
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