Pre-Globe Shakespeare theater unearthed in London

Wed Jun 6, 2012 10:31am EDT
 
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By Philip Baillie

LONDON (Reuters) - Archaeologists in London have discovered the remains of an early playhouse used by William Shakespeare's company where "Romeo and Juliet" and "Henry V" were first performed.

Pre-dating the riverside Globe, the Curtain theater, north of the river Thames in Shoreditch, was home to Shakespeare's company - the Lord Chamberlain's Men.

Remains of walls forming the gallery and the yard within the venue have been discovered by archaeologists from Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA).

"This is a fantastic site which gives us unique insight into early Shakespearean theatres," said Chris Thomas from MOLA, who is leading the archaeological work.

The theatre was immortalized as "this wooden O" in the prologue of Henry V with the lines: "Can this cock-pit hold within this wooden O, the very caskes that did affright the Ayre at Agincourt?"

The discovery will delight historians and Shakespeare fans as excavations offer a picture of where the writer's early productions were performed, although little further detail is known about the early playhouse.

"This is an outstanding site - and a fortuitous find in the year of the worldwide celebration of Shakespeare," said Kim Stabler, Archaeology Advisor at English Heritage.

London has been celebrating its cultural heritage with a world Shakespeare festival taking place at the Globe theatre and across the UK, as part of a festival to coincide with the Olympics this summer and will last to November.   Continued...

 
A Museum of London archaeologist measures bricks of the foundation of the Curtain theatre which was unearthed in Shoreditch, east London October 7, 2011. REUTERS/Museum of London Archaeology/handout