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In 1599, Shakespeare’s company began performing at their newly constructed theater, the Globe. They had previously performed at the Theatre, which they vacated and disassembled after a property dispute. They used the timbers to build a polygonal open-air playhouse, with multiple levels of seating, for up to 3,000 spectators. Several surviving accounts--by a famous astrologer, a baronet’s tutor, and a German prince’s secretary, among others--include descriptions of Shakespeare’s plays being performed there. In June 1613, the original Globe burned down during a performance of Shakespeare’s Henry VIII. A second Globe was built and reopened by June 1614.  

In 1596, the actor and theater builder James Burbage bought some property in Blackfriars, a London neighborhood on the site of a former monastery. He converted it into England’s first purpose-built indoor theater, the Blackfriars playhouse. Although it had fewer seats than an outdoor playhouse and needed artificial lighting, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men could perform there in winter and charge more for admission. The aristocratic neighbors in Blackfriars, however, did not want a rowdy playhouse next door. They petitioned to prevent Shakespeare’s company from performing there, and Burbage leased the newly-renovated theatrical space instead to a company of child actors. More than a decade later, in 1608, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, now the King’s Men, reclaimed the space. Shakespeare was one of the original seven shareholders of the reorganized Blackfriars playhouse, and in 1613 he purchased a house in Blackfriars, not far from the theater.

All Documents

November 1596
This undated petition to the Privy Council signed by neighbors of a prospective playhouse in Blackfriars is one of three related documents, all in the same hand, among the State Papers in The National Archives:
February 4, 1596
In 1596, the actor and theater builder James Burbage bought some property in Blackfriars, a London neighorhood on the site of a former monastery. His purchase included “seven great upper rooms as they are now divided” as well as some lower rooms and adjoining staircases and yards.
May 16, 1599
The Inquisition Post Mortem of Thomas Brend, shown here, is a near-contemporary witness of the lease for the site of the Globe on Maid Lane, Southwark, and a witness to the recent construction of the “house” itself.
October 10, 1601
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
June 26, 1601
James Burbage died in 1597. His sons Richard and Cuthbert, who were principal shareholders of the Globe, inherited Blackfriars Theater from their father. In 1601, they purchased rooms adjacent to it. Their signatures on the “bargain and sale” indenture appear in the photo above.
October 7, 1601
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
1602
Following the expiration of the lease on the site of the Theatre in Shoreditch in 1597, Richard and Cuthbert Burbage, James Burbage’s sons, found themselves embroiled in a series of lawsuits with Giles Allen, who owned the land that their father had leased for his playhouse.
November 11, 1608
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
February 8, 1610
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
February 12, 1610
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!

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