The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.200  Tuesday, 22 April 2014


From:        Julia Crockett <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         April 21, 2014 at 3:51:50 PM EDT

Subject:    The Battle to Build Shakespeare’s Globe


Interesting article in The Financial Times


Julia Crockett



The battle to build Shakespeare’s Globe

By Chris Laoutaris


The revealing story of the battle behind the creation of Shakespeare’s Globe


This week marks the 450th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth. Yet the way we remember history’s most renowned playwright might have been very different had it not been for a formidable foe.


In November 1596 a woman named Elizabeth Russell declared war on Shakespeare and his theatrical troupe, in the process nearly destroying the dramatist’s career. Russell rarely features in accounts of Shakespeare’s life, yet her actions determined how we think of him today: as the Shakespeare of the Globe Theatre.


In the National Archives in Kew there is a bundle of curious papers, identified by the prosaic reference number SP 12/260. The documents include two petitions to Queen Elizabeth I’s Privy Council. The first is headed by Lady Russell and records her endeavour to block the opening of a spectacular new theatre which Shakespeare was about to occupy less than a two-minute walk south of her home in Blackfriars, London. This unassuming manuscript discloses a scarcely believable act of betrayal, for among its 31 signatories are Shakespeare’s publisher, Richard Field, and his patron, George Carey, the Lord Hunsdon.


Two folios on from this, another document, apparently in answer to the first, bears the name “Will[ia]m Shakespeare” and is a counter-plea by the playwright and his fellow actors to allow the theatre to open, complaining that the Blackfriars inhabitants’ mission to “shut up” the playhouse has left them with “no other means whereby to maintain their wives and families”. This counter-petition caused a sensation when it was revealed in 1860 to be an elaborate hoax, fabricated some 30 years previously by the notorious forger John Payne Collier. Touched with infamy by association, Russell’s influential petition dropped out of public consciousness, along with her extraordinary story.


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