In December 1598
was an actor and playwright with the Lord Chamberlain's
Men based at The Theatre. The Theatre was near Finsbury Fields
in Shoreditch nearly a mile north of the City of London, and
was in fact the first durable building designed
for presenting plays in London. It had been built by James Burbage
in 1576, and when he died he left it to his sons Richard
and Cuthbert. The land on which the Theatre was built had been leased
for twenty-one years from Giles Allen. In 1598 Allen refused to renew
The Burbages leased some land on the other side of The River Thames at
Bankside. On the night of December 26th 1598 the Burbages, some
associates and about a dozen labourers dismantled The Theatre,
and transported the timber across the river to the Bankside site.
It was a particularly cold December, and The Thames was frozen over.
They may have slid the timbers across the river rather than facing
the expense of London Bridge tolls or hiring boats
Allen was furious and the ensuing court case went on for years.
Meanwhile the timber was used to build a brand
new theatre called the Globe playhouse.
To help finance the construction, the Burbages sold shares in the
building to members of the company, and Will Shakespeare was one
of the five sharers.
It was here that Shakespeare's greatest plays
and King Lear
and many more were performed for the first time. Richard Burbage,
the greatest actor of the age played
the lead in most of them.
In 1613 during a performance of
Shakespeare and Fletcher's
the firing of a stage cannon caused the thatched
roof to catch fire, and the playhouse was burned to the ground in less than an hour.
Nevertheless no one was hurt except for one man whose breeches caught fire
and he was saved by someone who put out the fire with a bottle of ale.
The Globe was rebuilt the following year (with a tiled roof) on
the same foundations as the original building, and continued in use until 1644.
It was this second Globe that Wenceslas Hollar drew in 1634.
The drawing at the head of the page is adapted from Hollar's.
Professor Andrew Gurr was the senior advisor to the Shakespeare Globe Trust
which rebuilt the Globe.
He has written a number of
about theatres and playgoing in Shakespeare's time which I recommend
to anyone interested in this subject.