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Shakespeare's Curtain theatre unearthed in east London | Culture | The Guardian -
June 8, 2012
"Well preserved remains of Shakespeare's original "wooden O" stage, the Curtain theatre where Henry V and Romeo and Juliet were first performed, have been discovered in a yard in east London. The Curtain theatre in Shoreditch preceded the Globe on the Thames, showcasing several of Shakespeare's most famous plays. But it was dismantled in the 17th century and its precise location lost. Now part of the gravelled yard in Shoreditch where the groundlings stood, ate, gossiped and watched the plays, and foundation walls on which the tiers of wooden galleries were built have been uncovered in what was open ground for 500 years while the surrounding district became one of the most densely built in London. Experts from Museum of London Archaeology (MoLA) have found two sections of exterior wall, crucial for giving the dimensions of the theatre, and are confident of revealing more as the site is cleared for redevelopment. An outer yard paved with sheep knuckle bones could date from the theatre or slightly later housing. It has long been known that the Curtain – named after the ancient road it fronted – was in the area, but its exact site was lost after the building fell into disuse in the late 1620s. The site in Hewett Street is only a stone's throw from a remarkably accurate plaque marking the best guess for its location. The Curtain, built in 1577, was only a few hundred yards from another theatre further along Curtain Road, imaginatively named the Theatre, whose foundations were discovered in 2008, also by MoLA. Both were among the earliest purpose-built theatres in London, and intimately connected with Shakespeare. When the actor-manager James Burbage fell out with his landlord at the Theatre, the company – according to cherished theatre legend – dismantled the timbers overnight and shipped them across the river to build his most famous theatre, the Globe, on Bankside. Until the new theatre was ready, his company used the Curtain for at least two years from 1597, where...
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