In order to understand the richness and scope of the images in the Henslowe Alleyn electronic archive, members of the Henslowe-Alleyn Digitisation Project have contributed ‘digital essays’ on a representative sample of these wide-ranging documents. Included are essays on poems, personal letters, private leases and deeds, public or government indentures and letters patent, ‘diaries’ or account books, a theatrical part, a theatrical plot, and a play manuscript, all of which reveal numerous aspects of theatrical production and performance.

More broadly, all of these documents are unique and invaluable witnesses to literary, theatrical, social and economic history in the English early modern age, in which theatre entrepreneurs such as Henslowe and Alleyn could, in effect, collaborate with monarchs, privy councillors, aristocrats, and religious and social leaders, as well as everyday colleagues in the theatre industry such as dramatists, actors, tailors, carpenters, tradesmen, scriveners and even the 'watermen' who rowed playhouse customers across the Thames. The papers of Henslowe and Alleyn record both ordinary and extraordinary daily life, in which the acts of contracting plays, inspecting new costumes, bailing actors from debtors' prison, and sharing festive meals with 'poor brethren' co-existed with performing at court for the monarch and dining at the homes of many of the most influential figures in the kingdom. These manuscripts therefore demonstrate that there was not always a strict or hierarchical division between those seeking patronage at the most basic level and those offering it at the highest level.

Above all, these digital essays suggest that rather than being powerless, marginalised or scandalous, early modern theatre professionals moved successfully among and prospered in all political, economic and social spheres. Thus, these essays offer us the strongest possible documentary evidence that early modern English drama and performance did not simply reflect culture but create it.

List of Essays

George Warner and Francis Bickely catalogued the Henslowe-Alleyn papers by topic in numerous volumes of manuscripts; for these catalogues, see series 1 and 2 of The Catalogue of the Manuscripts and Muniments of Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift at Dulwich (London, 1881, 1903). The digital essays are presented in the order of the catalogue number of the documents under discussion.

Manuscripts in MSS 1

  • ‘W.P’s Letter to Edward Alleyn with a Copy of Verses Addressed to ‘sweete Nedd’, by H. R. Woudhuysen.
  • ‘An Inventory of Theatrical Apparel (c. 1601/2)’, by S. P. Cerasano.
  • ‘A Letter from Nathan Field, Robert Daborne and Philip Massinger to Philip Henslowe (c. 1614)’, by R. A. Foakes and Grace Ioppolo.
  • ‘Robert Daborne's Contracts to Write Plays for Philip Henslowe (1613)’, by Grace Ioppolo.
  • ‘Robert Daborne's Foul Papers and Fair Copies (1613)', by Grace Ioppolo.
  • ‘Ben Jonson’s Autograph Fair Copies of Two Poems’, by Peter Beal.
  • The ‘Part’ of Orlando in Robert Greene’s play Orlando Furioso', by R. A. Foakes.

Manuscripts in MSS 2

  • ‘A Draft of the Royal Patent for the Mastership of the Game of Bears, Bulls, and Mastiff Dogs (November 24, 1604)’, by S. P. Cerasano.

Manuscripts in MSS 7

  • ‘Henslowe’s Diary (1591-1609)’, by S. P. Cerasano.

Manuscripts in MSS 9

  • ‘The Diary of Edward Alleyn (1617-1622)’, by Grace Ioppolo.

Manuscripts in MSS 19

  • ‘The 'Platt' (or Plot) of The Second Part of the Seven Deadly Sins’, by R. A. Foakes.

Manuscripts in MSS 20

  • ‘The Manuscript of The Telltale’, by R. A. Foakes, Peter Beal and Grace Ioppolo.

Muniments, Series 1 and 3

  • ‘The Deed of Partnership in the Rose Playhouse (January 10, 1587)’, by Julian Bowsher and S. P. Cerasano.
  • ‘The Contract for the Fortune Playhouse (1600)’, by R. A. Foakes.
  • ‘The Foundation Deed of God’s Gift College (1619)’, by Jan Piggott.