William Shakespeare's Globe Theatre is world renowned, but until recently few, if any, knew of the theatre in Shoreditch that was host to many of Shakespeare's early shows.

 

 

William Shakspeare's First Theatre Uncovered



The Cobbe Portrait was not the only thing to be unveiled on Monday 9th March 2009. Archaeologists from the Museum of London have also discovered what they believe to be Shakespeare’s first theatre in Shoreditch, London. Built in 1576, the theatre would have been home to several tragedies, with plays such as ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘Hamlet’ staged here.

The theatre didn’t last long, though. About twenty five years after it was built, it was dismantled and moved timber by timber across the river Thames to build the new, and more popularly known, Globe Theatre.

Taryn Nixon, from the Museum of London, said her team had found part of the original curved wall of the playhouse, which was believed to be polygonal in shape. A metre and a half below street level, it has also uncovered the gravel surface, gently sloping down towards the stage, where the bulk of the audience would have stood.

But the archaeologists fear the stage itself may be buried underneath a housing development. Ms Nixon told the BBC the theatre was built in what were known as "the suburbs of sin" just outside the city.

"The Lord Mayor actually passed a decree that there shouldn't be any theatrical performances in the city... so just on the edge of the city is actually, classically, where you find all the slightly wilder, slightly more fun activities going on," she said.

Finds made within the gravel yard include a fragment of 16th-century pottery featuring the image of a man with beard and ruff.

The theatre was constructed by James Burbage, possibly using bricks from an old priory. It is thought to have played host to Shakespeare's theatre company, the Chamberlain's Men. About 25 years after it was built, it was dismantled and moved timber by timber to construct the Globe Theatre on the South Bank of the Thames.

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The big question at the end of all these discoveries is would Shakespeare have approved of these findings? For a man who gave little of himself away, the unveiling of the picture, if it is believed to be him, takes away some of the mystery shrouding Britain’s greatest playwright. I have to say I do agree with Jonson that we should perhaps ignore our desires to know what Shakespeare looked like and concentrate solely on the brilliant descriptions, imagery and metaphors used in his literature. It only seems to me that Shakespeare would have been incredibly annoyed by this hype. After all, it is on his grave that the words ‘Curst be he that moves my bones’ appear. Sorry Will.
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