The Rose (theater)

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The rose
The Rose (incorrectly marked here as "The Globe") in the 1616 panorama of London by Claes Janszoon Visscher Visscher panorama
Address: Maiden Lane, today: 56 Park Street
City: London 9AR (Southwark)
Coordinates: 51 ° 30 '26 "  N , 0 ° 5' 43"  W Coordinates: 51 ° 30 '26 "  N , 0 ° 5' 43"  W.
Architecture and history
Opened: 1587
Spectator: 1,300? Places
Named after: Location (field name )
Dismissed after 1605

The Rose was an Elizabethan theater built in 1587 and the fourth public theater building, after The Theater of 1576, the Curtain of 1577 and the Newington Butts Theater (c. 1580) - and the first of several theater buildings on the so-called Bankside (now part of the London Borough of Southwark ), an area that was once outside the jurisdiction of the City of London . The remains of the theater were discovered by archaeologists in 1989 and opened to the public.


Replica of the rose in the Museum of London . In the foreground the sales building for drinks and small dishes
The Rose can be found in the lower center of this map.

The Rose was built in 1587 by Philip Henslowe and a grocer named John Cholmley . It was the first theater built specifically to perform Shakespeare's plays. The theater was built on an edifice named "Little Rose"; a plot of land that Henslowe leased from the parish of St. Savior in 1585. The Rose was on Bankside, near the south bank of the Thames . The area was known for its recreational opportunities such as bear and bullbaiting , gambling dens and cathouses . There were extensive rose gardens and two buildings on the "Rose" property . Cholmley used one as a warehouse and Henslowe may have rented the other as a brothel. Professional theaters such as the Curtain Theater and The Theater have been running successfully in north London for several years. Henslowe now also saw this as an opportunity to earn money. Especially since the populous City of London was only a few minutes by boat across the street. So he built his Rose Theater at this location near the shore .

The theater was built under the direction of carpenter John Griggs . The building was made of wood; the outside was covered with plaster base and painted white to give the whole thing a brick appearance. There was also a thatched roof over the galleries. The discovery of a certain tool indicates this. The inner courtyard provided for standing room was 11 meters in diameter. The floor plan was designed as a 14- sided polygon with an outer diameter of 22 meters. Modern calculations show that the dimensions and the fourteen-sided layout were determined by the standard dimensions of a rod that were prevalent in those times . The English rod measures 5½  yards , equal to 16½  feet or 198  inches . Thus the length of the English rod is exactly (16½ × 0.3048 =) 5.0292 meters . This served as a basis for Griggs and he divided the circle into seven equal parts using a rule of thumb . It is not certain whether the house had two or three floors, which means that it is not possible to make a clear statement about the exact audience capacity. Theaters of that time held between 1500 and 3000 spectators. Since the Rose was a little smaller, around 800–1300 spectators would be expected in the first construction stage and 1300–1800 visitors after the later renovation. There was standing room in front of the stage and seats in the galleries, some of which were upholstered. A flagpole was widely used to advertise when the theater was about to put on a play. Cholmes built a small building near the entrance to provide drinks and snacks to the theatergoers.

Henslowe dedicated records of all expenses, costs and inventory components of the Rose Theaters have been preserved and make today a valuable source of Elizabethan theater. The originals are in the library of Dulwich College kept where they by actor and school founder, in 1619 Edward Alleyn was added were. Alleyn was the lead actor in the Lord Admiral's Men acting troupe . City records document that the Rose began operating at the end of 1587; however, there is no evidence of this in Henslowe's records up to 1592. This could indicate that he initially rented the theater to another drama company, to which he was otherwise unrelated. In May 1591, The Lord Admiral's Men separated from the Lord Chamberlain's Men , the troupe around the then most famous actor Richard Burbage at The Theater and performed at the Rose. Her repertoire included pieces by Robert Greene and especially by Christopher Marlowe , who became a domestic dramatist. Edward Alleyn married Henslowe's stepdaughter in 1592 and became a business partner of Henslowe.

The years between 1592 and 1594 were difficult for London's drama companies. A severe outbreak of the plague (with 11,000 victims in the end) often forced the theaters to close their doors by legal order. The theater companies were thus forced to earn their money with overland tours. The Pembroke's Men , who were not very successful in those years, hit the Rose 's performance restrictions particularly hard. However, between 1592 and 1593, the Lord Strange's Men were able to play at the Rose until the theater closed again. The Sussex's Men performed here from 1593 to 1594. In the summer of 1594 the epidemic subsided and the companies reorganized. The The Queen's Men occurred in 1594; the Lord Admiral's Men, still under Alleyn's leadership, took her place at the Rose that spring. From June 1595, at the peak of their success, they gave almost 300 performances of 36 pieces, 20 of which were premieres. There were still occasional plague and riot closings, such as the one over butter prices at Southwark Market, but the Rose prospered and Henslowe was able to make some cosmetic improvements to the theater.

The original Rose was a third smaller than the other theaters, including the stage. Henslowe expanded the theater for the Lord Admiral's Men. To do this, he set the stage back about two meters to create additional space for 500 more spectators. It measured 4.5 m in depth and 9.8 m in width. Henslowe financed everything himself, which indicates that Cholmley was no longer there - he had either died or had been bought out. The renovation changed the floor plan from what was originally a 14-cornered round to a distorted egg shape.

The success of the Rose Theater at this point encouraged other theater companies to follow suit. The nearby Swan Theater opened in the winter of 1596. Mainly popular dramas and comedies were played here, while the Rose was known for its historical plays. In 1598 Alleyn retired from the Rose for reasons of age and Henslowe took over the entire business in addition to his position as property owner. When the Lord Chamberlain's Men built the Globe Theater in the neighborhood in 1599 , this put the Rose in a more difficult economic position. In January of the following year, Henslowe and Alleyn built the Fortune Theater north of the Thames . In response to complaints from city officials, the Privy Council ruled in June 1600 that only two theaters should be allowed to operate: the Globe Theater in Bankside and the Fortune Theater in Middlesex - namely in Shoreditch . Henslowe and Alleyn had already built Fortune here, apparently to fill the vacuum the Chamberlain's Men left with their departure (into the Globe) in Shoreditch. The Rose Theater was briefly occupied by The Lord Pembroke's Men in 1600 and the Worcester's Men in 1602 and 1603. The lease then ended in 1605 and Henslowe was ready to extend it on the original terms. However, the parish insisted on renegotiating the contract and tripled the rent; Henslowe then gave up the theater. The rose could have been torn down the following year. Henslowe built the Hope Theater in 1613 , but died three years later.

Most Elizabethan theaters have probably struggled with the problem of performing acts at different heights. For example scenes with Juliet at her window in Romeo and Juliet . A small number of plays of his time even required the presence of several actors on a higher second level - for example the Roman senators in the opening scene of Titus Andronicus . An unusual concentration of pieces with this type of stage structure can be associated with the Rose today. In terms of stage design, the Rose seems to have been different from the other theaters of the time. In this way, larger scenes could be created on two or even three levels.


The position of the exposed foundation walls of the rose were illuminated for visitors

When a new, large building complex called "Rose Court" was to be built on Park Street, archaeological excavations began. Investigation trenches revealed the first findings. This was the attention of the actor Sam Wanamaker , who had been looking for funds to rebuild Shakespeare's Globe Theater for some time . It is believed that his successful effort to rebuild the Globe ultimately harmed exploration of the smaller, "subordinate" rose. In addition, before 1990 there was hardly any effective protection of archaeological work from the arbitrary decisions of the property owners. And so the excavations were always subject to destructive overbuilding. At the time of the excavations of the Rose Theater it also became apparent that there would be no financial support from official bodies, as the foundations of the theater were not considered a monument worth preserving. Nevertheless, there was great public interest in the excavations, which was also fueled by the archaeologists. Meetings were held in front of the excavation site and the urgency of preservation was pointed out. Celebrities like Peggy Ashcroft and Laurence Olivier spoke to the crowds on narrow Park Street. On May 14, 1989, a major event was held with prominent advocates and speakers. During the rest of the time, guards were posted to prevent construction workers from destroying the site. However, the executing construction company showed itself to be quite helpful and accommodating. However, this changed when it was taken over by another construction company, which was less open to historical preservation. Nobody really knew what was to happen with the excavation. However, they thought about it, found a structural solution and in 1999 the remains of the Rose Theaters were made accessible to the public within a specially drawn-in basement below the office complex (mostly only on Saturdays). The historical site has continued to be excavated and examined archaeologically. Parts of the foundations were also covered with a few centimeters of water so that the ground did not develop any major cracks. In 2007, 403 years after the last performance, a play was given again at this location, although the actors lined up around the narrow excavation site. In 2005 a blue plaque was placed at the entrance with a reference to the theater.

The events surrounding the difficult conditions of the excavations at the Rose Theater gave the impetus to legally incorporate archeology into the construction planning in a better and more binding manner. In addition, Margaret Thatcher's conservative government published the associated “Planning Policy Guidance 16: Archeology and Planning”, or PPG 16 for short .

When a department of "Greater London Archeology" (today MOLA ) carried out the excavations, many objects were brought to light, such as clay containers for the entrance fees, remains of beer mugs or wooden parts of the gallery rails, which can be seen in the museum today. Parts of the foundations under the "Ingressi", the former wooden stairs that led to the galleries , were covered with fruit seeds and hazelnut shells ; It was initially assumed that these were leftovers from consumed snacks - that is, hazelnuts as the popcorn of the English Renaissance theater . However, the nutshells were part of the building material. Combined with ash and earth, they provided a hard surface "which, in fact, 400 years later had to be broken up by archaeologists with a pickaxe". Initially, the floor of the courtyard (including the area under the raised wooden stage) had a surface made of screed mortar. When the building was expanded, a compacted layer of mud, ash, and slag mixed with hazelnut shells was used. The nutshells come from a nearby soap factory, where the nuts were used due to their oil content.

Modern revenants

  • A copy of the Rose Theater was featured in the film Shakespeare in Love . The stored film sets were later handed over by Judi Dench (who portrayed the Queen in the film) to the British Shakespeare Company (1994-2009), which wanted to rebuild it in the north of England. The end of the troop apparently petered out the project.
  • In 2018 , “Europe's first 'pop-up' Shakespearean Theater” was built in York with a 28-day construction period and at a cost of 3 million pounds, a short-term structure similar to the rose, which attracted 78,000 visitors. When the number of visitors collapsed by almost half during the repeat in 2019, the operator filed for bankruptcy.

Individual evidence

  1. a b Amanda Mabillard: Shakespeare's Theaters: The Rose . Retrieved October 12, 2019.
  2. a b c d The History of The Rose Theater, by David Nash Ford ( Memento from March 14, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  3. ^ A b Jon Greenfield, Andrew Gurr: The Rose Theater, London: the state of knowledge and what we still need to know , from the Journal Antiquity , published by the Department of Archeology, University of York, York 2004, Volume 78, Issue 300 , Pages 330–340 ( online as PDF, 1.7 MB ( memento from July 20, 2011 in the Internet Archive ))
  4. ^ Andrew Gurr: Shakespeare's Workplace: Essays on Shakespearean Theater in the Google book search
  5. Andrew Gurr: The Shakespearean Stage 1574-1642, Third Edition, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1992; Pages 38 and 123-31.
  6. Scott McMillin, The Elizabethan Stage and "The Book of Sir Thomas More," Ithaca, NY, Cornell University Press, 1987; Pages 113-33.
  7. Nonie Niesewand: The new Rose blooms at last Marlowe and Shakespeare's original Elizabethan playhouse has been given a hi-tech restoration . In: The Independent , April 12, 1999, p. 10. 
  8. ^ The Annals of London: A Year-by-year Record of a Thousand Years of History (1989 −1990) in the Google Book Search
  9. ^ Rose Theater revived after 393 years in The Independent of April 14, 1999
  10. October 2007, Rose Theater launch, Fringe Report
  11. ^ Blue Plaque for the Rose Theater . London Borough of Southwark. 2005. Archived from the original on June 16, 2008. Retrieved October 15, 2019.
  12. Gurr, p. 131.
  13. ^ Rutter, Carol Chillington: Documents of the Rose Playhouse , 2nd Edition, (Manchester University Press, 1999), pp. Xiii
  14. Julian Bowsher and Pat Miller: The Rose and the Globe — playhouses of Shakespeare's Bankside, Southwark Museum of London 2010, ISBN 978-1-901992-85-4 , pages 45-48; 61
  15. ^ Robert J Williamson: Shakespeare's Rose Theater . British Shakespeare Company. Archived from the original on May 17, 2011. Retrieved October 13, 2019.
  16. Chester's Rose Theater bid wilts on the stem , Chester Chronicle, August 12, 2010
  17. Rose Theater Kingston, About Us
  18. Shakespeare's Rose theater pops up in York , in BBC News on June 25, 2018
  19. Pop-up Shakespeare Rose theater firm 'facing liquidation' in BBC News from September 25, 2019


  • Julian MC Bowsher, Simon Blatherwick, Colin Sorensen: Unearthing Shakespeare's London: the excavation of London's earliest playhouse, the Rose theater from The Illustrated London News , Volume 277, Edition: 7092, 1989, pp. 91-93
  • Julian Bowsher: The Rose Theater: an archaeological discovery , from Museum of London , 1998, ISBN 0904818756

Web links

Commons : The Rose (theater)  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files