Children of the Chapel

Definition

Theater

  • One of the famous boy companies of the Elizabethantheater. Its young actors, who included Ezekiel Fenn, Nathan Field,and Salathiel Pavy, gave the first performances of major works byJonson, Middleton, Beaumont, and Marston.

    The choirboys of the Chapels Royal of Windsor and London werefirst organized into an acting company by William Cornish (fl.1509 - 23) to amuse the young Henry VIII. A later master was theplaywright Richard Edwardes (c. 1523 - 66), who wrote thetragicomedy Damon and Pithias (1565). In 1576 Richard Farrant,deputy master of the Chapel Children, created an indoor theater forthe company in the ruins of the Blackfriars monastery (see BlackfriarsTheatre). Under the dramatist John Lyly, who took over in1580, the company performed several plays with the rival Boys of StPaul's, including Lyly's own Campaspe and Sapho and Phao.In 1601 the company was drawn into the so-called 'war of the theaters'on the side of Ben Jonson, when they performed in his play ThePoetaster, which ridiculed John Marston. The latter respondedwith satires performed by the Boys of St Paul's.

    The company began to fall out of favour with James I in 1605,after performing Jonson, Chapman, and Marston's Eastward Ho!,which contained some rude remarks about the Scots. The Children ofthe Chapel moved to the Whitefriars Theatre in 1609 before disbandingin 1615.

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