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  • Print publication year: 1991
  • Online publication date: March 2007

The Discovery of The Rose Theatre: Some Implications


The remains of the Rose provide the first direct evidence concerning an Elizabethan public theatre. It will no doubt be some time before a full report on the excavations is available, and the significance of the finding can be fully established. The excavation nearby of a part of the foundations of the Globe may open up new perspectives on both this theatre and the Rose. It is possible, nevertheless, to begin to work out some implications provisionally of what is the most exciting theatre discovery in this century. The Rose was financed by Philip Henslowe in partnership with John Cholmley, and built by John Griggs, described in the deed of partnership as a carpenter, in 1587. Henslowe lists in his account-book or diary expenses for refurbishing the playhouse in the spring of 1592. The remains include part of the brick, chalk, and clunch or soft stone foundations of the original theatre, and also the foundations of a substantial extension northwards, including a new stage, which were presumably added in 1592. Hitherto the only visual evidence available has been that provided by John Norden in his three panoramas of London engraved one in 1593 and the others in 1600, which show the Rose schematically as hexagonal or round. The excavations carried out by the Department of Greater London Archaeology of the Museum of London have now brought to light what John Orrell and Andrew Gurr describe as ‘the first really trustworthy evidence about any of the playhouses that flourished in Shakespeare’s day’ in their preliminary report on the findings in the Times Literary Supplement, 9–15 June 1989; I have relied on their account for basic information.

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Shakespeare Survey
  • Online ISBN: 9781139053204
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