Monday, 10 November 2014


The Theatre (left, with the flag) and the Curtain (right), in 1598.

It was dawn on December 28th 1598 and through a great snowstorm that had blown up during the night a group of heavily armed (with "swords, daggers, bills, axes and such like") men, William Shakespeare among them, trudged through Shoreditch to the Theatre at the north-east of Finsbury Fields.

The Theatre, England's first purpose-built theatre, stood on land owned by Giles Allen (brother of a former Lord Mayor), the land being leased by Richard Burbage for the player's company the Chamberlain's Men. Burbage had died, the lease was expiring and Allen was not going to extend it, apparently intending to demolish the Theatre for the salvage value. The place had been vacant for two years and the company had been forced to move to a temporary home in the nearby Curtain.

So that day the Chamberlain's Men stole the Theatre - took the frame apart piece by piece, loaded the timbers onto carts and carried them away.

The next year a long cold spell delayed the completion of new foundations in Bankside, Southwark, on land the Chamberlain's Men had leased for thirty-one years from Sir Nicholas Brend. In late summer the Globe theatre opened for business, Shakespeare's new play Julius Caesar being among the first productions.

The Globe and the Bear Gardens in 1600.

I am not going to go into ecstasies about James Shapiro's book 1599, A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare, because I am lazy and dull.

If you have never read anything about Shakespeare, or have read everything except this, read it!