Unearthed behind a pub: One of Shakespeare’s first playhouses
London is slowly rediscovering its past, one redevelopment project at a time. And now, archaeologists have dug up a real jewel
Last October, behind an old pub in London’s Shoreditch neighborhood, just east of the business district, archaeologists at the Museum of London Archaeology (MoLA) made a pretty startling discovery: One of William Shakespeare’s first theaters. (MoLA just went public with the discovery this week.) The 435-year-old Curtain Theatre was the longest-running Elizabethan theater, until it disappeared from the map about 370 years ago.
What exactly was the Curtain Theatre?
The Curtain opened in 1577, a few blocks from what’s believed to be London’s first dedicated theater, called, appropriately enough, The Theatre. The Curtain was used as a playhouse until at least 1622, when it drops from the record, though historians believe it may have been used for another 20 years past that, until the English Civil War broke out in 1642. The theater’s location was then lost to history, until developers uncovered it last October. MoLA immediately stepped in.
When did Shakespeare set up residency there?
The Bard and his Lord Chamberlain’s Men performed at the Curtain from 1597, when they lost their lease at The Theatre, until 1599, when the more famous Globe Theatre opened on the other side of the Thames River. According to Shakespearean lore, after the owner of The Theatre’s land refused to renew the lease, manager-actor James Burbage dismantled the structure one night, stored the lumber for a winter, then used it to build the Globe.
Here, a look at the newly unearthed theater, where Shakespeare fits in, and what we can expect for the Curtain’s future:
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