Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 November 2007
The archaeological discovery of the remains of the Rose playhouse in 1989 was a momentous revelation for the world of Shakespearian theatre studies. For the first time concrete evidence for the plan and layout of an Elizabethan playhouse was revealed. This immediately belied the tired documentary evidence hitherto used to create the image of a ‘typical Shakespearian theatre’. A thorough study of those divergent documents should have revealed differences but the Rose remains forced the issue wide open: there was no ‘typical Shakespearian theatre’.
As scholars came to visit the excavations, two questions were paramount: how many sides did the Rose have and where and what shape was the stage. A fourteen-sided polygon did indeed ruffle some feathers but nearly every aspect of the stage, the one essential component in a theatre, caused a surprise. I shall not only examine all its physical aspects but also emphasize its function. In particular I want to examine the views of Andy Gurr and Jon Greenfield that the Rose might have been used as a venue for animal baiting before being converted into a playhouse. They acknowledge that their arguments were written before funding allowed a complete post-excavation analysis of the findings. This analysis is now virtually complete and should be referred to for full details on all aspects of the Rose (and Globe) but the arguments presented here will concentrate on correcting some of the misapprehensions and suppositions in the articles in question and will present an alternative reasoning.