The Queen’s Men, 1583–1603
There is no tangible evidence about what prompted the queen, or her agent, the Privy Council’s secretary Francis Walsingham, to set up the Queen’s Men, a new and monopolistic playing company with her patronage, on March 10, 1583. One possible reason must have been the weight of the city’s hostility to playing, and the need for the court to give some protection to the leading players, or at least enough to permit them to play in London and so fulfil their duties in the Christmas revels. The negotiations that the new Lord Chamberlain took in hand with the Lord Mayor in 1584 over accommodation for the Queen’s company in London indicate that this last motive was at least as strong as the others. The claim that support for the leading playing companies was necessary in order to ensure the annual supply of plays to the court now became the Privy Council’s standard argument in defence of playing. This chapter looks at the history of the Queen’s Men, their performances from 1583 to 1603, the plays they performed, the playhouses where they performed, their playing sharers, and their travelling records.
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