The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0454 Wednesday, 13 August 2008
From: Hardy M. Cook <
Date: Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Subject: The Theatre at Shoreditch Discovered
[Editor's Note: Last week, many print and online newspapers reported on the
discovery of remains of The Theatre, "the first substantial purpose-built London
playhouse in England since Roman times, built in 1576 by James Burbage."
(Gabriel Egan, _The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare_, eds., Michael Dobson and
Stanley Wells, Oxford UP, 2001.). Here are excerpts from two of those reports
that appeared in _The Times_ and _The Guardian_. --Hardy]
From The Times
August 6, 2008
Dig reveals The Theatre - Shakespeare's first playhouse
Fiona Hamilton, London Correspondent
Every year hundreds of thousands of visitors make their way to
Stratford-upon-Avon and the Globe Theatre, on the Thames, to explore
Shakespeare's intriguing past.
Not surprisingly, an unremarkable plot of land on New Inn Broadway, just north
of London's medieval City wall, does not rate a mention on the Shakespeare
tourist trail, since before now only the most fervent history buffs were aware
of the site's significance in the playwright's life.
However, that history can be laid bare after an archaeological dig at the
Shoreditch site uncovered the remains of The Theatre -- one of the capital's
first playhouses -- where Shakespeare's works were first performed in the 16th
In what the Museum of London Archaeology has described as "one of the most
exciting finds of recent years", an excavation last month uncovered a large
section of what is believed to be the original brick foundations of the theatre.
Jo Lyon, a senior archaeologist at the museum and the dig's project manager,
told The Times yesterday that one of London's most enduring secrets had been
[ . . . ]
An archaeological evaluation report for the borough of Hackney concluded that
the remains were of "national, if not international, importance".
Julian Bowsher, a senior archaeologist at the museum, said that there could not
be 100 per cent certainty about the remains. However, he said it was very
likely, because the bricks form a polygon, which documentary evidence suggests
was the shape of the theatre. "It's certainly in the right area and it's
certainly very important," he said.
[ . . . ]
The Tower Theatre Company, which performs a Shakespeare work every year, will
design its modern playhouse around the remains of the original. Jeff Kelly, the
chairman of the company, said: "We're thrilled. It's an incredible coincidence
that we want to build our theatre on the site of Shakespeare's first playhouse.
It unveils a secret past."
[ . . . ]
Shakespeare's Shoreditch theatre unearthed
Archaeologists have discovered Shakespeare's lost theatre in east London
Thursday August 07 2008 14:02 BST
A shiver of excitement rippled around the theatrical globe as news spread of
some grubby red bricks uncovered in a muddy pit off a nondescript street in east
Sir Ian McKellen will be making his way to New Inn Broadway in Shoreditch, one
of many theatre luminaries impatient to see the site where his hero William
Shakespeare learned his trade not just as a playwright but an actor.
The rows of Tudor brickwork uncovered by archaeologists from the Museum of
London are believed to be the foundations of The Theatre, lost for more than 400
years since the building was dismantled in a stunt worthy of a Shakespeare comedy.
[ . . . ]
It was undoubtedly on the road and in Shoreditch, with Burbage's son and star
actor Richard, that the upstart crow learned his trade, what worked and what
bored the groundlings so that they started cracking walnuts and gossiping, how
many kickshawses Andrew Aguecheek could dance across the thrust stage before he
fell off into the pit, and what carried to the top gallery of The Wooden O: the
famous phrase from Henry V almost certainly refers to The Theatre and was first
The team from the Museum of London has been re-drawing the theatrical map of
Shakespeare's London, working on the sites of the Rose, the Hope, and the Globe
itself - still buried under a modern building.
Usually they are racing ahead of the piledrivers for towering blocks of offices
and flats. This time the site was being cleared for a new theatre -- like the
original, a first permanent home for a touring company, the 75-year-old Tower
Theatre Company, one of the great survivors of the amateur theatre world.
[ . . . ]
The crook-of-an-elbow-shaped angle of red brick uncovered is believed to be the
north-east corner of the building -- an important discovery that will help
calculate the exact shape and dimensions of the theatre. Archaeologists will now
be working with architects to see if any of the remains can be preserved on
display in the new building.
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook,
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>
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