This week, archeologists of the Museum of London, have possibly and quite serendipitously found the foundations of The Theatre on a building site for a new theatre. The Theatre was one of the first purpose-built theatre in London, located in Shoreditch. Shakespeare’s Lord Chamberlain’s men performed at this theatre until a dispute with the landlord forced them to dismantle the theatre and transport it across the Thames to build the Globe in Southwark. Jo Lyon, a senior archeologist at the site, says that there is a “pretty high possibility” that these are indeed the foundations of The Theatre, since they are in the right place, and have a polygonal shape.
CBC News spoke to Martin Wiggins of the Shakespeare Institute:
“The first thing I want to know it is what the foundations can tell us about the architecture,” Wiggins said. “How big was it? How does it compare with the Rose? How does it compare with the Globe? How similar are they?” Wiggins said an understanding of what the theatre looked like could help Shakespearean scholars understand more about this period in the playwright’s history. “The size of the theatre will have an impact on the way the play is written,” he said.
The Theatre opened its doors in 1576. Nine years earlier, in 1567, a grocer named John Brayne had already built a theatre in the garden of his farm, called The Red Lion, but not much is known about this theatre, and it probably did not survive long. In his biography of Shakespeare, Stephen Greenblatt writes that The Theatre was attacked from the pulpit for being made “after the manner of the old heathenish Theatre at Rome.” Since the structure was stood on the land of a former priory of Benedictine nuns, the liberty of Holywell, the city authorities could not obstruct the building work (Will in the World, 183).
- See the 24Hour Museum for more photos.