the Theatre



  • Britain's first public theater, built in Shoreditch,London, in 1576 (sometimes called "the most significant datein the history of English drama"). It was situated just outsidethe City limits, a little to the north of the present London Wall.This was to avoid the jurisdiction of the Puritan authorities, whowere strongly opposed to the project. The Theatre was constructedby the actor James Burbage and played host to such earlytheatrical companies as Leicester's Men, the Queen'sMen, and the Chamberlain's Men (which included RichardBurbage and Shakespeare amongst its members). The audience, who paidone penny for standing room, had a wide choice of entertainments ondifferent nights. Straight theatrical performances had to competewith swordplay, athletics, and bear-baiting.

    In 1597 the lease on the land on which the Theatre stood ranout and the landlord, Giles Alleyn, refused to grant a new one. Accordingly,on the night of 28 December 1598, a number of conspirators led byRichard Burbage dismantled part of the building and carried the timbersacross London to a new site on Bankside, south of the Thames. Relyingon an obscure clause in the lease to protect themselves from the remonstrancesof the irate Alleyn, they used these timbers to build the largestplayhouse in Elizabethan England, the Globe Theatre.

    The Theatre, or what remained of it, was never used againfor drama; it was eventually pulled down.