All The World's A (Excavated) Stage

It is impossible to be a theater buff and not be a fan of Shakespeare.  It is even more impossible to be a fan of Shakespeare and not be excited about the recent news that they have found the theater where Romeo and Juliet and Henry V were first performed.

After a dispute with the landlord at their previous venue simply named The Theater, Shakespeare moved his company the Lord Chamberlain’s Men to The Curtain Theater north of the River Thames in Shoreditch, an area east of London’s business district.  The theater was the main venue for his plays for about two years until the Globe Theater opened across the river in 1599.  Ben Jonson’s work was also performed there.

Like the Globe, the Curtain was a polygonal structure and served as a venue for all sorts of Elizabethan pastimes such as bear baiting, sword fights and acrobatics.  Scholars were left with the impression that Shakespeare was never quite happy with the venue and found his real home at the Globe.

Nevertheless, the Curtain was one of Elizabethan London’s longest surviving theaters, functioning as a playhouse until the 1620s.  The discovery of the Curtain follows other recently significant Shakespeare-related archeological finds.  Remains of both The Theater and The Rose were discovered down the road from the Globe in 2008.

As someone who enjoys playing groundling at the Globe when I am in London, these archeological finds make me excited about what there is still left to learn and discover of Shakespeare’s world.

Kris Somerville is the marketing director of The Missouri Review