Edward Alleyn

Definition

Theater

  • (1566 - 1626) English actor and manager, who began histheatrical career with Worcester's Men in about 1583 before movingto the Admiral's Men in about 1587, both companies beingmanaged by the Elizabethan impresario Philip Henslowe. Alleynwas especially admired for his portrayals of Marlowe's DrFaustus and Tamburlaine.

    In 1592 Alleyn married Henslowe's stepdaughter Joan Woodward,being thereafter closely associated with Henslowe's business affairs.He became a part owner in both the Rose and Fortune Theatres, as wellas becoming involved in some of Henslowe's other enterprises (whichincluded bull-baiting arenas and brothels).

    It appears that Alleyn's fortunes prospered sufficiently forhim to be able to retire before the age of 40; thereafter he devotedhimself to charitable work, founding (1619) the College of God's Giftat Dulwich, which he later endowed with his personal papers, whichgive a unique insight into the business side of the Elizabethan theater.Following the death of Joan in 1623, Alleyn married Constance, thedaughter of the Dean of St Paul's, John Donne.

    Alleyn's fortune proceeded no doubt from marrying three wives,each of whom brought a handsome fortune, partly from the success ofhis theater, partly from his being keeper of the King's wild beasts,and master of the Royal Bear Garden, and partly from his being a mostrigid and penurious economist, which character he so strictly enjoinedhimself, that he was the first pensioner in his own charity.
    Charles Dibdin
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