History has a habit of repeating itself. The building preparations for a new theater in Shoreditch, East London, have revealed the remains of the Globe Theater’s predecessor.
This is an important find because many of Shakespeare’s early plays would have been performed there, including Romeo and Juliet, Richard III, A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Merchant of Venice.
But what’s the story behind this newly discovered theater and how does the Globe fit into all this?
Well, Shakespeare worked for the Burbage family’s theater company, who owned a theater building in Shoreditch (simply called The Theatre). After many successful years, they ran into trouble when the lease on the land expired. The Burbage family was soon locked into a tenancy dispute and the landowner threatened to pull the building down.
In 1598, the Burbage family rallied together a group of friends and stole the entire building! Remarkable, but true. They quickly dismantled the theater during the night, rowed the timber across the Thames, and reconstructed it on the other side of the river. This “new” theater reopened as the famous Globe. So what has actually been discovered is the original site of the Globe Theater building.
Although the Burbage family was accused of stealing the building, they claimed that they were the rightful owners because only the land was in dispute.
I think it’s an amazing coincidence that a new theater for the 21st century will be built on the site of one of London’s first permanent theaters – a real case of history repeating itself. I also hope that they will preserve the remains for all to see.