Archive for Thursday, August 7, 2008

What’s in a site? A heap of history, and likely a Shakespearean theater

August 7, 2008


The theater where "The Merchant of Venice" and "Romeo and Juliet" likely debuted and where William Shakespeare himself may have trodden the boards has likely been discovered in east London, archaeologists at the Museum of London said Wednesday.

The possible foundations of what is known as simply The Theatre were unearthed by builders excavating the site - a vacant garage - for another structure.

Archaeologists had known for a long time there was a high probability for The Theatre to be on this particular site. But there are no maps that show its location, no images to show what it might have looked like, and only a vague description of it.

The possible discovery of The Theatre, built in 1576 and where Shakespeare's troupe performed in the 1590s, could complete the set of open-air theaters where the Bard's plays were staged. The Rose theater's location was discovered in 1989 in Bankside, just south of the River Thames in central London, and the Globe theater is nearby. A replica of the Globe was built on a site close to the original and opened in 1997.

Shakespeare's company, the Lord Chamberlain's Men, only moved into The Theatre in the 1590s. Until then, they had been performing at the Rose, but a shake up in the London theater scene necessitated the move, said Martin Wiggins, a fellow at the Shakespeare Institute at the University of Birmingham.


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