Issues in Review: Reading Acting Companies


  • Scott McMillin Cornell University
  • Lawrence Manley Yale University
  • Roslyn L. Knutson University of Arkansas
  • Mark Bayer Ohio State University



Scott McMillin: This collection of three papers, selected by Scott McMillin, highlights new scholarly work on the repertory of Strange's Men, Pembroke's Men, and Queen Anne's Men.

Lawrence Manley: The repertory of Strange's Men, as it is represented in Henslowe's records of their 134 performances at the Rose Theatre in 1592/3, contains an unusually large number of plays involving pyrotechnics, possibly including the staging of human immolations. Though pyrotechnics were a familar feature of traditional dramaturgy, such effects were used by Strange's Men to represent acts of cruelty and judicial punishment that had an edge of topical relevance to English history and politics. The theatrical daring of pyrotechnics in the Strange's repertory may thus have been part of a 'company style' that readily accommodated the politically daring and dramatically innovative work of Marlowe in The Jew of Malta and The Massacre at Paris and of the young Shakespeare in 1 Henry VI.

Roslyn Knutson: Although Pembroke's Men in 1592/3 had talented (if youthful) players and a patron in good standing with the queen, the company reportedly fell on hard times. No one knows why. Here I consider whether the problem might have been the repertory, which I explore in terms of the four plays known to be theirs (Edward II, 1 Contention, The True Tragedy, and A Shrew), or their touring schedule.

Mark Bayer: In 1616, Queen Anne's Men, under the management of Christopher Beeston, moved theatrical operations from the Red Bull, a large public playhouse in Clerkenwell, to the Cockpit, an indoor hall on the increasingly fashionable Drury Lane. The success of this move was overshadowed by a riot on Shrove Tuesday, 1617, in which apprentices damaged the new theatre, forcing the company to return temporarily to the Red Bull while the Cockpit was under repair. Narratives of this event tend to describe it either as an indiscriminate episode of civil unrest or, more cogently, as demonstrating a specific animosity towards Queen Anne's Men because they were now playing the Red Bull repertory at a prohibitively expensive venue. In an effort to revise these received interpretations, I argue that the reasons for the riot go well beyond the release of aggression and issues of cost. The profit-driven motives of the Queen Anne's Men violated communal principles of fair dealing and their abandonment of the Red Bull and Clerkenwell affected a more intangible sense of loss and indignation, placing pressures on local businesses that relied on the daily theatre traffic, and severely weakening charitable efforts within the parish.






Issues in Review Essays