English Renaissance Theatre

December 2023

Coda: The Life of Augustine Phillips

Episode 113:

As a coda to season 5 this episode is a potted history of the life of Augustine Phillips, player in the Lord Chamberlin’s Men, with the details taken from documented records.

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English Renaissance Conclusions (sort of)

Episode 112:

To close season five of the podcast I pick up three items I dropped in the previous narrative and then offer some concluding thoughts:

Thomas Watson – the life and works of the possible co-author of ‘Arden of Faversham.

Henry Chettle – the life and works of the prolific collaborator.

Thomas Heywood – the life and works of a playwright now better remembered for his commentary on others rather than for his own work.

Drawing some conclusions on:

The public playhouses

The players

The State vs. the theatre

The growth of education

Pamphlets, prose, and poetry

Christopher Marlowe

The city of London

The lesser known playwrights

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November 2023

Arden of Faversham and the Domestic Tragedy

Episode 111:

The true story behind ‘Arden of Faversham’

The plot outline of the play

Is the domestic tragedy really tragedy?

The main themes of the play

The domestic eating of the play

The low characters

The role of destiny in the play

Questions of authorship

Other surviving domestic tragedies –

‘A Warning for Faire Women’

‘Two Tragedies’

‘A Yorkshire Tragedy’

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The Play’s the Thing: Elizabethan Acting Style and Stage Conventions

Episode 110:

The problems of the lack of evidence about conventions and acting style.

How a player learned his craft.

The rhetorical or performance style of acting.

Theatre as a poetic form.

The rhetorical style is overtaken by a more naturalistic style.

Stage sets and costume.

Thomas Hayward’s thoughts on a player’s skills.

Hayward on players as scholars.

The impact of Iambic Pentameter.

Hayward on Alleyn and Perkins playing Barabas in ‘The Jew of Malta’.

The convention of the soliloquy.

The convention of the aside.

The convention of eavesdropping.

The convention of boy players and female roles.

The convention of the play within the play.

The convention of the masque.

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October 2023

The Star Players: Kemp. Alleyn and Burbage

Episode 109:

We don’t know a lot about individual players of the Elizabethan and Jacobean stage, but there are three stars of the day that we have some information about.

Richard Tarlton, the Queen’s favourite comic player.

Will Kempe’s origins and early career.

‘A Knack to Know a Knave’ and ‘Fools of Gotham’.

Did Kempe fall out with Shakespeare?

‘Kempe’s Jig’ and last days.

Edward Alleyn’s family and early life.

Touring with the Earl of Worcester’s Men.

Return to London and success with the Admiral’s Men.

Praise of Alleyn from Ben Johnson.

Marriage and events in London while on tour.

Semi-retirement from acting.

Business partnership building the Fortune Playhouse and other entertainments.

Alleyn’s […]

Thomas Dekker: London’s Playwright

Episode 108:

The second part of the story of Thomas Dekker and his works

‘Old Fortunas’ – Dekker’s first known play

‘The Honest Whore’, a good example of what was good and bad in Dekker’s work.

‘The Civil Wars in France’ – three parts, an introduction and a bit of a mystery.

Dekker’s debt to the Lord Chamberlin’s Men and rescue by Henslowe.

How Henslowe’s Diary shows Dekker’s incredible work rate.

The Play of Sir Thomas Moore – including a word on Shakespeare’s contribution.

‘The Shoemaker’s Holiday’, Dekker’s best surviving work

The Bishop’s Ban of 1599 and a theatrical spat.

Dekker’s account of the failure of ‘The Whore of Babylon’.

Later […]

Thomas Dekker: Gulls, Gallants and the London Playhouse

Episode 107:

In the first of two episodes on Thomas Dekker I discuss his earliest life and his prose works.

Dekker’s early life and first forays into the playhouse.

His prose work ‘The Wonderful Year’

The Gull’s Handbook – with some extensive quotes from and explanation of his piece on behaviour in the playhouse

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September 2023

Henslowe’s Diary

Episode 106:

We have the detail about the way a London playhouse functioned thanks, in a large part, to one document.  Theatre owner Philip Henslowe kept a record of many aspects of his enterprise at the Rose theatre from 1591 to 1609.  A large part of the diary comprises of daily records of the takings at the box office, which plays were performed, if they were new or revivals, and various other details about expenses, costumes and matters related to the running of The Rose.

This episode looks at activity at The Rose for two months through the eyes of Henslowe’s Diary

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Thomas Kid and the Spanish Tragedy

Episode 105:

The life of Thomas Kyd, including a word on Elizabethan schooling.

Thomas Nashe on Kyd.

Kyd and the London playwright set.

Kyd and Lord Strange.

Questions over the first performances of ‘The Spanish Tragedy’.

Is ‘The Spanish Tragedy’ a sequel?

Cornelia, Kyd’s other surviving play.

The Ur-Hamlet and other plays and collaborations.

Kyd and Marlowe.

The publication of the ‘The Spanish Tragedy’

A synopsis of ‘The Spanish Tragedy’

The power of the plotting of the story.

Similarities to ‘Hamlet’.

The weaknesses of Kyd’s verse.

The strengths of Kyd’s visual and dramatic settings.

The body strewn stage at the end of the play.

Why Kyd is no Shakespeare.

The significance of ghost of Andreas and the personification […]

August 2023

Two Globes, a Fortune, a White Friar and Hope: The London Playhouses 1587 – 1642 part 2

Episode 104:

Continuing the story of the Elizabethan theatre buildings.

The construction of The Globe

Master carpenter Peter Street

The death of The Globe

The Fortune – Henslowe’s replacement for The Rose

The Whitefriars Theatre

The Hope – Henslowe’s replacement for his bear garden, almost.

The second Globe Playhouse

The Globe reimagined.

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July 2023

The Elizabethan Playing Troupes

Episode 102:

The sources of information on the playing troupes.

The Earl of Leicester’s Men – the earliest recorded acting troupe.

How troupes operated under the patronage of their master.

The royal patent and how it changed the way troupes operated.

The sumptuary laws and protections that actors were given.

The decline of the Earl of Leicester’s Men.

Lord Strange’s Men.

The merging of Lord Strange’s Men and The Admiral’s Men

Lord Strange’s Men become touring players.

The Earl of Sussex’s Men and complications at The Rose Theatre.

The Queen’s Men at The Rose Theatre (briefly).

Lord Hudson’s Men become the Lord Chamberlin’s Men.

The Lord Chamberlin’s Men at Newington Butts.

The Lord Chamberlin’s […]

Edward 2nd & The Jew of Malta: The Rest of Marlow

Episode 101:

How Marlowe’s other plays differ from Tamburlaine and Dr Faustus.

The plot of ‘The Jew of Malta’.

The depiction of Barabbas the Jew and how it might have been received by the audience.

‘Edward 2nd’ as a history play rather than a tragedy.

The theme of homosexuality in Marlowe’s work.

The plot of ‘Edward 2nd’.

The slow burn of the play adding to it’s subdued nature.

The motif of the wheel of fortune.

Edward’s character and the difficulty of empathy.

The problem with the language in the play.

The character of Gaveston.

The symbolism of the manner of Edward’s death

The character of Isabella.

Mortimer the antagonist.

Comparisons between ‘Edward 2nd’ and ‘The Jew […]

June 2023

Dr Faustus: Wisdom, Power, and the Immortal Soul

Episode 100:

Dr Faustus is one of the most influential plays of the Elizabethan period.  Most commentators see this play as Marlowe’s masterpiece, and it is certainly the most performed of his plays through the centuries.

The two printed version of the play and how they may have come to be updated.

The Plot of ‘The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus’.

The source material for the play.

The effect of earning and wisdom.

Comparisons with Tamburlaine

The questioning of Christian doctrine.

The philosophical and religious debates in the play.

The impact of the comedic moments in the play.

How the scenes with the Pope would have been received

The play’s debt to […]

The Two parts of Tamburlaine the Great

Episode 99:

Marlowe’s ‘Tamburlaine the Great’ is a play in two parts, an early example of a writer responding to popular acclaim by giving his audience more of the same, but for all of that mercenary motivation, and the fact that the first part was conceived as a stand-alone piece, they do work well as a conjoined piece.

The history of the printed plays and the introduction by the printer Richard Jones.

A summary of the plot of part one of the play.

The relationship of the play to the historical Timor.

A summary of the plot of part two of the play.

The position and […]

May 2023

Marlowe’s Mighty Line

Episode 98:

Marlowe as a playwright at the beginning of the greatest period of Elizabethan creativity.

A short recap on Marlowe’s university life.

Marlowe moves to London.

The anonymity and earning power of Elizabethan playwrights.

‘Dido, Queen of Carthage’.

Thomas Nashe as co-author of ‘Dido, Queen of Carthage’.

Marlowe’s sexual preferences.

The Elizabethan attitude to sexuality.

Marlowe and religion.

The School of Atheism.

Marlowe’s use of rhetoric.

Marlowe, blank verse, and iambic pentameter.

Marlowe’s poetry.

Marlowe’s Mighty Line.

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The Short Life and Strange Death of Christopher Marlowe

Episode 97:

Christopher Marlowe was one of the giants of Elizabethan theatre, but he died young in mysterious circumstances. In this episode I try to unpick the mystery of why he died. Was it just an argument about the cost of a meal, or the result of some far more sinister goings-on in the world of Elizabethan espionage and court rivalry?

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Thomas Nashe: Satirist, Pamphleteer & Playwright

Episode 96:

The life and works of Thomas Nashe

Early Life

Cambridge University and ‘Terminus et non Terminus’

Nash moves to London and joins the ‘University Wits’

Pamphlets and work for the Archbishop of Canterbury

Nashe’s style and pseudonyms

Disagreements with the Gabriel brothers

Nash’s Dildo

Pearse Penniless

Summers Last Will and Testament, his only surviving solo-authored play

The Unfortunate Traveller

Christ’s Tears Over Jerusalem and Imprisonment

Terrors Of the Night

The Isle Of Dogs and the closure of theatres in the summer 1597

Nash’s Lentern Stuff and his final years

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April 2023

A Sextet of Tudor Playwrights

Episode 95:

The life and plays of some of the lesser known playwrights of the Tudor period.

George Gascoigne – his shady life story and his Italian translations into English prose.

Robert Greene – how he carved out a professional writers life from an unpromising start, his plays, and that notorious comment about Shakespeare.

Thomas Lodge – a prodigious talent who sought out an adventurous life and wrote two verse plays.

Thomas Preston – A Fellow of Cambridge University who wrote plays in many different styles.

Collaboration in the Tudor period.

George Peele – part of the ‘university wits’ set, best known for ‘The Araynment of Paris’ […]

Gorboduc: The Tragedy of Ferrex and Porrex

Episode 94:

Gorboduc the first tragedy in blank verse

The lives of the co-authors Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville

The plot of the play including the description of the opening dumb show

The origins of the Gorboduc story

The political message of the play

How the play incorporates ideas and style from Seneca, Aristotle, and the medieval traditions

The use of allegorical characters

The problems whit the play as good drama

The play as an academic debate

The second printing of the play

The innovation of bank verse

The highpoint of the play

How satisfactory , or not, is the ending of the play?

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March 2023

Comedy, History & Morality: Three Early Tudor Plays

Episode 93:

The earliest extant plays from the Tudor period include comedies and a historical morality, which give an insight into how theatre developed.

A summary of the elements that came together to make Tudor theatre a very special development.

Students and Masters become playwrights looking to Seneca

Nicolas Udal, schoolmaster and writer of the earliest surviving comedy

A summary of Ralph Roister Doister

The problem of the authorship of Gammer Gurton’s Needle

A summary of Gammer Gurton’s Needle

John Bale and the manuscript of King Johan

A summary of the plot of King Johan

How King Johan works as a morality play, a history play and a tragedy.

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The State Vs the Theatre part 2: Elizabeth

Episode 92:

Elizabeth’s reign is seen as the golden age of theatre where many great playwrights, and one genius in particular, flourished.  But did that happen because of the freedoms they were granted, or because of the constraints they worked under?  

The situation in theatre as Elizabeth ascended to the throne.

The revision of the Act of Uniformity.

The renewal of the ban on Interludes and censorship play printing.

Rules introduced to combat the spread of plague.

Attempts to ban plays on moral grounds.

The arguments against stage plays performed on Sunday.

 Touring companies in the north and continued performances of Corpus Christi plays.

Tightening control after the rebellion in […]

February 2023

The State Vs the Theatre part 1: Henry, Edward, & Mary

Episode 91:

By the 1530s the State was concerned with the regulation & censorship of plays. Here are the key moments of legislation under Henry, Edward & Mary.

The background of what made legislation necessary.

The end of the Corpus Christi Cycle Play.

The beginnings of actions against players

The Act For The Advancement of True Religion

Pammachius performed at Cambridge and the aftermath.

Early controls in London

The death of Henry 8th and changes under Edward

Repeated attempts to ban theatre.

The death of Edward and changes under Mary.

More bans are issued and the severity of punishments increases

The death of Mary

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Creating a Profession: The Development of the Stage-Player

Episode 90: 

The development of the profession of acting, of ‘stage-playing’ through the Tudor period.

How the professional stage player developed out of the medieval entertainer.

How travelling players became household players and then settled in the London playhouses.

The beginnings of an acting profession.

The Earl of Leicester’s Men.

The English Sumptuary laws.

The boy troupes.

The objections to players and playhouses.

The reputation of players.

Some examples of contemporary views of players.

The stars of the day – Burbage and Allen.  

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January 2023

Building Theatre: The Earliest Playhouses in London

Episode 89:

As England emerged from the Medieval period theatre became established in London in purpose built theatres and in buildings adapted for the purpose. In this episode we look at those earliest theatres and their builders:

The Red Lion, a probably short lived theatre built by John Brayne

Four Inns that operated as theatres The Bel Savage, The Bull, The Bell, and the Cross Keys

The Theatre at Newington Butts

The Theatre – probably the first truly purpose built theatre since Roman times. The Story of how James Burbage and John Brayne acquired land, built The Theatre and kept it running […]

The Renaissance from Europe to England

Episode 88:

An introduction to season 5 of the podcast.

The theatrical links between England and Continental Europe in the 16th Century.  Some differences and similarities.

Why English theatre stands apart from that of continental Europe.

Sir Philip Sidney’s ‘Defence of Poetry’, his dislike of the stage and ideas on the power of poetic language.

The development of English as a language to be used poetically.

The slow rise of England out of the Medieval period.

Theatre and king Henry 8th.

The rise of secular plays during the reformation period through the reign of Elizabeth 1st.

English scepticism about Continental culture.

The Playhouses, plays, playwrights and acting troupes.

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