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Duration 44:00

Philip Henslowe, Edward Alleyn and the invention of London theatre in the age of Shakespeare

The actor Edward Alleyn and his father-in-law Philip Henslowe built and expanded several London public playhouses, including the Rose, the Fortune, and the Hope. Named by King James VI and I as Joint ‘Masters of the Royal Game of Bears, Bulls and Mastiff Dogs’, Henslowe and Alleyn also staged such blood sports as bull- and bear- and lion-baiting at the Bear Garden and other venues, including royal palaces. They also commissioned plays and ran acting companies.

Most of what modern scholars know about the early modern English theatre, both as financial enterprise and artistic endeavour, comes from the study of the Henslowe and Alleyn manuscripts at Dulwich College. This podcast looks at documents from the archive, now digitised at, to demonstrate how the two men helped to invent ‘Shakespearean’ theatre’.

Grace Ioppolo is Professor of Shakespearean and Early Modern Drama in the Department of English and Literature at the University of Reading. She has taught at UCLA, UC Berkeley, and The Shakespeare Institute at the University of Birmingham. She is the author of many publications on modern English theatre and is the founder and Director of the Henslowe-Alleyn Digitisation Project ( which has made available online over 2,000 pages of manuscripts in the single most important theatre history archive in the age of Shakespeare.