Elizabeth Ist coat of arms

Rose Elizabethan Theatre

Picture of an Inn Yard Play

Picture of an Inn Yard Play

The Rose Theatre - Elizabethan Amphitheatre

The Rose Theatre was built by the Elizabethan Theatrical entrepreneur, Philip Henslowe, in 1587. It was the first theatre to be built on Bankside in the Liberty of Southwark , South of London, which was outside the jurisdiction of the City, its Lord Mayor and the Corporation of London.

The Rose was used as a base for their theatrical productions by the Admiralís Men Acting Troupe, lead by Edward Alleyn. Edward Alleyn was Philip Henslowe's son-in-law from marriage to his daughter in 1594.In 1597 Edward Alleyn retired from acting but still lead the company. Gabriel Spenser, one on the company's actors, was killed in a duel with the dramatist Ben Jonson in 1598. In 1623 Ben Jonson was closely associated with Publication of William Shakespeare's First Folio of plays. In 1600 The Admiralís Men moved to the newly built Fortune playhouse in North London. After the Admiral's men acting troupe left the Rose theatre for the Fortune it was used by Worcester's men who had broken their contact with the owner of the Boar's Head at Whitechapel. Lacking a permanent venue and facing legal action Worcester's men remained at the Rose until the end of 1605. They then  became Queen Anne's men and moved to the recently built and licensed Red Bull at Clerkenwell. The Rose is believed to have been demolished the following year in 1606.

The Rose Amphitheatre - Elizabethan Theatre
The known facts about the Rose, which was used as one of the massive amphitheatre venues for early English Elizabethan Theatre, are as follows:

  • London Location of the Rose - Bankside, Southwark
  • Diameter approximately 72 ft 
  • Diameter of the yard approximately 36 ft 
  • Stage size 15 ft deep by 32 ft wide
  • The Rose was built mainly of timber, with plaster used for the walls
  • Entries in Henslowe's accounts for bricklaying imply a brick foundation to support the wooden walls
  • The stage was painted
  • There was a tiring house behind the stage, for the players to 'attire' or dress in
  • A storage room known as the 'hut' was situated over the tiring house
  • A flagstaff was also included to fly a flag advertising the next performance
  • The Rose was opened in 1587
  • The theatrical entrepreneur involved with the Rose was Philip Henslowe
  • The Rose was one of the 12 massive amphitheatres, including the Globe Theatre, which were built around the City of London

In 1574 the City of London started regulating the Inn-yard activities.  The Theatrical entrepreneurs fought back and started to build purpose built wooden theatres such as the Rose. It was styled on the open air Roman amphitheatres providing a classical connection and an air of respectability to the Theatrical profession. The Rose was extremely quick to build, approximately 6 months, requiring only cheap building materials it therefore increased profits for the theatre at least five-fold.

Description of The Theatre amphitheatre
The Rose was described as an Elizabethan Amphitheatre which was octagonal or circular in shape having between 8 and 24 sides. The open air arena of the amphitheatre was called the 'pit' or the 'yard'. The stage of the amphitheatre projected halfway into the 'pit'. The Rose had a raised stage at one end which was surrounded by three tiers of roofed galleries with balconies overlooking the back of the stage.

Facts and Information about the Amphitheatre styled Elizabethan Theatres
Interesting general facts and information about the amphitheatre venue such as the Rose:

  • Audience capacity of an Elizabethan amphitheatre was between 1500 and 3000
  • Building materials used in the construction of early Elizabethan Theatres were timber, nails, stone (flint), plaster with thatched roofs
  • The 'Box ' and the 'Box Office' - Playgoers put 1 penny in a box at the Elizabethan theatre entrance. At the start of the play the admission collectors put the boxes in a room backstage called the box office.
  • The Entrance to the theatre - Usually one main entrance. Some later theatres had external staircases to access the galleries 
  • The owners of the theatre were called the 'Housekeepers'
  • There was no heating in the Elizabethan Theatre. Plays were performed in the summer months and transferred to the indoor playhouses during the winter
  • Lighting in the Elizabethan Theatre - Natural lighting as plays were produced in the afternoon. However there was some artificial lighting mainly intended to provide atmosphere for night scenes
  • Toilet Facilities? None . People relieved themselves outside. Sewage was buried in pits or disposed of in the River Thames
  • Size of Elizabethan Theatre - Up to 100 feet in diameter
  • Shapes of the Elizabethan Theatres - Circular or Octagonal in shape having between 8 and 24 sides
  • The height of the raised stage was 3 to 5 feet and supported by large pillars or trestles
  • Stage dimensions varied from 20 foot wide 15 foot deep to 45 feet to 30 feet
  • Only very rich women, who often wore masks, or women of dubious morals attended the amphitheatres
  • Musicians - Music was an extra effect added in the 1600's
  • A selection of ropes & rigging would allow for special effects, such as flying or dramatic entries
  • The floor of the Stage was made of wood, sometimes covered with rushes. Trap doors in the floor would enable some additional special effects such as smoke

The Rose
The Rose was used as a venue for Elizabethan plays, replacing the Inn-yard venues. The  purpose built Elizabethan Amphitheatres in London such as the Rose were used during the summer months and transferred to the indoor playhouses during the winter.

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