Internet Shakespeare Editions


Edward Alleyn (1566-1626)

This nineteenth century engraving is based on the
portrait of Alleyn at the Dulwich Gallery.

Edward Alleyn was the leading player in the Admiral's Men, and was considered by many to have been the greatest actor* of his time. His credits include the title roles in Tamburlaine and Dr. Faustus, and Barabas in The Jew of Malta.

In 1592 he married Phillip Henslowe's stepdaughter, Joan, and formed a profitable business relationship with his father-in- law. Alleyn retired from acting in 1604 to pursue his business interests. When his wife died in 1623, he married John Donne's daughter, Constance. Alleyn died three years later, on Christmas Day.

Did acting pay him well?*


  1. Praise for Alleyn

    Thomas Nashe gave Alleyn high praise:

    "Not Roscius nor Aesope, those admyred tragedians that have liued ever since before Christ was borne, could euer performe more in action than famous Ned Allen" (Pierce Penilesse, 1592).

  2. A star's fortune

    Whether or not Alleyn was the greatest actor, he was by far the wealthiest, with shares in the Bear Garden and the Fortune and leasehold investments in London and Sussex. In 1604, jointly with Philip Henslowe, he bought the lucrative office of Master of the Royal Game of Bears, Bulls, and Mastiff Dogs. On Henslowe's death, Alleyn inherited and administered most of his partner's estate.

    Alleyn was generous with his wealth, founding the College of God's Gift at Dulwich, in 1613, at an original cost of £10,000. The college is still supported by his endowment.

    There is a legend that while playing Faustus in Dulwich, Alleyn was so frightened by an apparition that he vowed to build a college there and to call it the College of God's Gift.