Category:Queen's (Elizabeth)


Of the companies under royal patronage in the Tudor period, the one whose business influenced the theatrical marketplace significantly in the 1580s was formed in March 1583 in conjunction with the authorization of Edmond Tilney, Master of Revels, to "chose out a companie of players for her maiestie" (qtd. in Chambers II.104). In making that selection, Tilney chose top-tier players from the strongest current companies: i.e., Leicester's, Sussex's, Warwick's. The definitive history of the company has been written by Scott McMillin and Sally-Beth MacLean, and their account in The Queen's Men and their Plays is the source here unless otherwise noted. Sir Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth's official who authorized Tilney, had no personal interest in the business of playing but "was aware of the cultural influence drama could have" (McMillin and MacLean 25). Apparently with the cooperation of Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester, Walsingham perceived the company as the queen's representatives on tour who, "dressed in their vivid livery coats," were telling stories with her political and religious bias through their drama (28). In 1588 the Queen's men slipped into decline due to a combination of forces: the death of major players (e.g., Tarlton), the rise of suddenly more competitive companies (e.g., the Admiral's men), and blowback from political controversies such as the Marprelate tracts. In what must have been the dying gasp of the 1583 company, the Queen's men appeared at the Rose playhouse with Sussex's men at Eastertide 1594 (1-8 April).



There is no extant royal patent for the Queen's company to name the original players, but a license dated 28 November 1583 by the Court of Aldermen of the City of London provides a partial list: Robert Wilson, John Dutton, Richard Tarlton, John Laneham, John Adams, and William Johnson. In that same and subsequent years the following players joined the company: John Bentley (1583), Lionel Cooke (1583), Laurence Dutton (1589), John Garland (1583, 1598), John Heminges (? >1588), Simon Jewell (? >1592), William Knell (>1587), Tobias Mills (1583), John Singer (1583), John Towne (1583), and John Symons (a tumbler, 1588-9).


The Queen's players toured continuously throughout the kingdom. McMillin and MacLean collate their stops from a variety of documents in the scholarly domain by 1998 (Appendix A). For updates, start with REED PP. A fact of the touring records is the Queen's consistently high payment: 20s. to 40s. On occasion the company toured with another troupe such as Sussex's men; on occasion they appear to have been in two places at once, indicating a temporary division into smaller troupes. McMillin and MacLean discuss the provincial venues in detail, with illustrations (67-83).

There is no comparable data on London venues except at court. Assuming that the Queen's players would locate themselves at the one local outdoor playhouse, scholars have projected runs at the Theater, but no documents confirm that projection. However, there is confirmation of performances at four London inns: the Bull, Bell, Cross Keys, and Bell Savage (see Kathman, below). Starting in Christmastide 1583-4, the Queen's company dominated the performances at court given by adult players until 1588-89 when their hegemony in other areas was also breaking down. Their last performance at court was 6 January 1594.


Nine extant plays have trustworthy claims to ownership by the Queen's men: Clyomon and Clamydes (Q1599), The Famous Victories of Henry V (Q1598), Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay (Q1594), King Leir (Q1605), The Old Wives Tale (Q1595), Selimus (Q1594), The Troublesome Reign of King John (Q1591), Three Lords and Three Ladies of London (Q1590), and The True Tragedy of Richard III (1594). There are also five lost plays (see below). Except for Three Lords and Three Ladies of London, which was published comparatively soon after its composition (based on its post-Armada material and the elegy for Tarlton), the printing dates are poor indicators of the maiden runs of these plays. However, they do suggest a continuing currency either for plays by the Queen's men, or plays with these subjects and genres, or both.


One or more configurations of the Queen's men continued to perform into 1603, at which time the crown assumed patronage of several companies. The former Queen's company became the duke of Lennox's players.


When the Queen's men reorganized in May 1594, Francis Henslowe was certainly one of the players; at that time his uncle loaned him £15 to become a sharer (8 May 1594 [1593?]). John Towne of the original company, along with Richard Alleyn and Hugh Davis, witnessed the loan, from which fact scholars deduce that these men were also company members. On 1 June 1595 Francis received a second loan from his uncle of £9 for a half-share, and witnesses to this transaction were Robert Nichols, William Smith (or Smyght), and George Attewell (or Ottewell), apparently also company members. In York in 1598, Smith and Garland (from 1583), along with John Cowper, are named as Queen's men in a payment of 40s. not to play REED York; also. Other possible company players post-1594 include Robert Moon and John Shank.

Venues and Repertory

The Queen's men continued to tour vigorously in the provinces, and their receipts remained high; yet there was diminishment after 1598, perhaps reflecting a shrinking company as well as increasing "local resistance" to playing companies (McMillin and MacLean 66). They probably played in London also. Their previous venues, the inns, were officially closed in 1594-5, but a new option existed. This option was the Swan playhouse, built by Francis Langley and open for business by the summer of 1595. Ingram locates Attewell and Francis Henslowe in lodgings in the vicinity of the Swan (116-19). It is therefore possible to conjecture that the newly reorganized Queen's men, with Henslowe and the signees of his loans, leased the Swan at its opening. Nothing is known of their repertory, but perhaps some of the Queen's old plays—perhaps those still to be printed?—were revived by this troupe and offered at the Swan.


Ingram, William. A London Life in the Brazen Age: Francis Langley, 1548-1602. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1978.

Kathman, David. "London Inns as Playing Venues for the Queen's Men," in Helen Ostovich, et. al. (eds.) Locating the Queen's Men, 1583-1603. Aldershot, Hampshire: Ashgate, 2009. 65-75.

McMillin, Scott and Sally-Beth MacLean. The Queen's Men and their Plays. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
Queen's Men Editions Texts

Lost plays