We’re learning more about Shakespeare’s rivals in the Elizabethan Theatre:
Before 1594, the kaleidoscope of acting companies was becoming impossible for the City authorities to control. Then deals were done, and for six years, from about 1594 to 1600, a monopoly – or duopoly – was granted to two companies only, the Admiral’s and the Chamberlain’s. The Chamberlain’s (the King’s Men) had Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon as patron, and Shakespeare as writer. The patrons of the Admiral’s Men were Charles Howard and later Prince Henry, then Lord Palsgrave, Earl Palatine. Only in the late 1590s was the duopoly encroached on by the companies of three earls – Worcester, Oxford and Derby – and by the Paul’s Boys and Blackfriars Boys. There were five competitors by 1602; but even then the duopoly companies continued to dominate.