Admiral's Men

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The Admiral's Men (also called Lord Admiral's Men , or Earl of Nottingham's Men ; after 1603 Prince Henry's Men ; after 1612, Elector Palatine's Men or Palsgrave’s Men ) were a theater company (English: Playing Company) or actors troupe of the Elizabethan Age and the following time of the house of Stuart . It is widely believed that they were the second most important theater company in English Renaissance theater (after Shakespeare's Lord Chamberlain's Men ).


When the Elizabethan Poor Laws were changed by a law of 1572, the situation of traveling actors changed: those who did not have patronage from a nobleman could be classified as a vagabond and subject to a range of penalties. In contrast, those who sought such protection were legally safer than before. Initially the ensemble was known as The Lord Howard's Men , named after their patron Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Nottingham . The troupe played in December 1576 at the Royal Court (a play called Tooley ) and a second time on February 17, 1577 ( The Solitary Knight ) and a third time in the following Christmas period on January 5, 1578. In the years 1577-1579 undertook she toured extensively from Bath to Nottingham .

A powerful patron like Howard could do a lot in the success of a troop. However, little is known to what extent he was involved in theater matters; as one of Queen Elizabeth's closest advisers, however, he was evidently listened to. He was almost the only one to vote against the attempt made by the Lord Mayor of London in 1584 to close the public theaters; with the result that the theaters remained open.

When Howard rose to the English Admiralty as Lord High Admiral in 1585 , this was also reflected in the name of the theater company. From 1585 to 1587 they appeared regularly as Admiral's Men in the country and at court. On November 16, 1587, a serious accident occurred during the performance: A cannon fired on the stage killed a child and a pregnant woman in the rows of the audience. The troupe then stopped all further appearances for a while. However, a year later, on December 29, 1588, and on February 11, 1589, they appeared again at court.

Despite the power of their patron, the Admiral's Men were not completely free from attacks and interference of an administrative nature. You and the Lord Strange's Men were forbidden to perform by the Lord Mayor of London in November 1589; It can be assumed that Edmund Tilney , the Master of the Revels (a kind of censorship agency), had expressed his dissatisfaction with the selection of the plays. In the meantime (November 1590 to May 1591) the Admiral's Men moved into James Burbage 's playhouse , The Theater . There they gave the piece Dead Man's Fortune with a young Richard Burbage in the ensemble. It was also the only time that the later competitors Burbage and the long-time star of the Admiralty troops Edward Alleyn stood together on stage.

While the Admiral's Men struggled to perform in the City of London, they were always welcome at court (on December 28, 1589 or March 30, 1590) and were popular in the country, where they toured in 1589 and 1590. In June 1594, the Lord Admiral's Men finally separated from the Lord Chamberlain's Men , Richard Burbage 's troupe, at The Theater and appeared on The Rose , which was built in 1587 . Her repertoire now included pieces by Robert Greene and Thomas Lodge (including "The Wounds of Civil War") and especially that of Christopher Marlowe , who became the lead author of Rose. Marlowe's Tamburlaine was printed with her name on the title page in 1590. Edward Alleyn married the stepdaughter of theater owner Philip Henslowe in 1592 and became an executive co-owner of the Rose Theater.

Years with Henslowe

It was in the later 1580s that the troupe began their longstanding relationship with Philip Henslowe . Henslowe was the builder of the Rose (and later other theaters), producer and impresario . The Rose was the home of the Admiral's Men for many years, and in a mix of manager and financier, Henslowe also played a key role in the company. During a major break in the seasons from 1592 to 1594 due to the outbreak of the bubonic plague in London, the Admiral's Men went on tour and returned to the Rose on May 14, 1594, where they celebrated their great successes. First The Jew of Malta and the two anonymously written and lost pieces The Ranger's Comedy and Cutlack .

The Admiral's Men now consisted of Edward Alleyn as their leading man as well as George Attewell, Thomas Downton and James Tunstall, who still come from the old cast. Richard Jones was a member of the Worcester's Men along with Alleyn and Tunstall in the 1580s . Jones and Downton left the Admiral's Men in 1597 to join the Pembroke's Men . After their scandalous portrayal of The Isle of Dogs , they returned to the Admiral's that same year. Attewell was a clown known for his dance performances. When the famous, authoritative clown Richard Tarlton died in 1588, Attewell took on the task of performing a combined dance performance, the so-called jig, at the end of each performance of the Queen Elizabeth's Men . John Singer, another clown in the Queen Elizabeth's troupe, also joined the Admirals in 1594; other members were Edward Juby, Martin Slater and Thomas Towne. The company played pieces by George Chapman , William Haughton and Anthony Munday , among others .

The legacy of Henslowe's diary (actually just one of the theater's books) provides scientists today with significantly more information about the Admiral's Men than about any other drama company of that time. The diary shows, among other things, the enormous demands that the Elizabethan repertoire system placed on actors. In the season 1594/95, the Admiral's Men usually played six days a week and gave a total of 38 pieces, including 21 premieres (one every 14 days, of which only eight were performed in the following seasons). In the next season, 1595/96, 37 pieces were staged, including 19 premieres, and in the following year, 1596/97, 34 pieces, including 14 premieres. Works by Christopher Marlowe were often on the repertoire: Tamburlaine Part 1 was performed 14 times in 1594/95, followed by The tragic history of Doctor Faustus (12 performances), The Massacre of Paris (10 performances), The Jew of Malta ( 9 performances) and Tamburlaine part 2 (6 performances). The most popular piece, however, was The Wise Man of Westchester , which was presented anonymously on December 3, 1594 and is now considered lost. It was performed 32 times over the next three years; last on July 18, 1597. Earlier scholars speculated that it might just be an alternate title for Anthony Munday's John a Kent and John a Cumber , but there is no solid evidence of this.

In 1600 Henslowe built another theater, the Fortune Playhouse . The Admiral's Men relocated to the new venue and when the lease for the Rose Theater expired four years later, that was the end of all performances there and the orphaned building was demolished the following year, 1605.

Sometime in the winter of 1603, after the House of Stewart had succeeded to the throne after the death of Elizabeth I, the troupe got a new patron, Prince Henry (1594–1612) (from 1610–1612 Prince of Wales ). From then on they called themselves Prince Henry's Men . Edward Alleyn retired from the stage in 1604, but was still associated with the company as the landlord of the Fortune Theater. During this time, the core of the troupe included William Bird, Thomas Towne, Samuel Rowley (brother of the playwright William ?), Charles Massey, the members of the King's Men : Humphrey and Anthony Jeffes, Edward Juby and Thomas Downton. Edward Juby was the troupe's paymaster for court performances, suggesting that he was largely responsible for the troupe's finances.

After the death of the prince in 1612, the company came his brother, under the patronage of Frederick V , Count Palatine and Elector of the Palatinate . The new patent dated January 11, 1613 lists six of the former actors: Juby, Bird, Rowley, Massey, Downton and Humphrey Jeffes, plus six new members, including John Shank (later long-time member of the King's Men) and Richard Gunnell , who later a theater director and impresario when he built the Salisbury Court Theater with William Blagrave in 1629 .


When the Fortune Playhouse burned to the ground on December 9, 1621, it was also a great loss for the troops. Their entire inventory of costumes and repertoire fell victim to the flames. The owner, Alleyn, rebuilt it using masonry in 1623 at a cost of £ 1,000 . The actors moved back in, but the beginning was difficult. They stayed there for a few more years, but saw their popularity decline. In 1631 the troop finally disintegrated. The Fortune then became the home of the King's Revels Men for three years from December 1631 , who previously performed at the Salisbury Court Theater . In the course of a new composition, a new troop appeared in 1631 under the name Prince Charles's Men , which existed under this name from 1608 to 1625. These then appeared in the Salisbury Court Theater.


The Admiral's Men have shown an enormous repertoire of plays over the years; Henslowe's diary lists dozens in the seasons between 1597 and 1603 alone. Unfortunately, most of the pieces did not survive the times; they only exist as titles (sometimes sensational, like The Boss of Billingsgate , Mahomet (Mohammed) or Judas ). The following list is a compilation of noteworthy and preserved pieces that the troupe brought to the stage:


In the 1998 film Shakespeare in Love , the Admiral's Men had a central appearance under Edward "Ned" Alleyn

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b Frank Ernest Halliday: A Shakespeare Companion 1564–1964 , Penguin, Baltimore 1964, pp. 23 and 24
  2. ^ Robert W. Kenny Elizabeth's Admiral: The Political Career of Charles Howard, Earl of Nottingham 1536-1624. The Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore 1970. Pages 31-32.
  3. ^ Edmund Kerchever Chambers The Elizabethan Stage. 4 volumes, Clarendon Press, Oxford 1923. Volume. 2, p. 135.
  4. Kate Pogue: Shakespeare's Friends in the Google Book Search
  5. ^ Andrew John Gurr : The Shakespearean Stage 1574-1642. Third edition, Cambridge University Press 1992, pages 103 and 104
  6. ^ Edmund Kerchever Chambers The Elizabethan Stage. 4 volumes, Clarendon Press, Oxford 1923. Volume. 3, p. 446.
  7. ^ Andrew John Gurr: The Shakespearean Stage 1574-1642. Third Edition, Cambridge University Press, 1992, p. 68.
  8. ^ Edmund Kerchever Chambers The Elizabethan Stage. 4 volumes, Clarendon Press, Oxford 1923. Volume. 2, pages 186-192.
  9. Joseph Quincy Adams : Shakespearean Playhouses: A History of English Theaters from the Beginnings to the Restoration. Houghton Mifflin, Boston 1917, p. 287.