The Curtain Theatre was featured in the 1998 film 'Shakespeare in Love'
Most probably thought that Shakespeare’s Curtain Theatre, described in Henry V as the ‘wooden O’, would never see the light of day again. But thanks to a team of archaeologists, the remains of the beautifully preserved theatre where so many Shakespearian works were performed have risen up like a ghost from the past in a most exciting discovery for Shakespearian lovers and historical buffs everywhere.
The Museum of London led the excavation which took place in the east London area of Shoreditch, a poor but creative district in Shakespeare’s day. Although more excavations are planned for late 2012 until early 2013, the excavations have already uncovered part of the playhouse’s yard and gallery walls, which had been submerged three metres below the ground. Most excitingly, the site’s owners claim that they have plans to work closely with several organisations, including the Museum of London, in order to ensure that the public is given access to the theatre’s remains once the excavations are complete.
"We have done what's called an evaluation and come across the theatre which is absolutely beautifully preserved, better than any of the others of Shakespeare's theatres," a Museum of London spokesman said
"It's the last of Shakespeare's theatres to be excavated. It's such a significant site they will make efforts to preserve it in situ."
A true historical gem, the Curtain Theatre opened in 1577 under the operation of Renaissance theatre builder James Burbage. By 1597, the theatre was responsible for hosting several of Shakespeare’s plays and was the home of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, the theatre company Shakespeare worked with for most of his life. It is speculated that 'Romeo and Juliet' may have been performed at this venue, and has been confirmed that this was the first place that Henry V was performed for the very first time.
"It is inspiring that the Museum of London has unearthed the foundations of the Curtain Theatre," artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company Michael Boyd said
"I look forward to touching the mud and stone, if not wood, and feeling the presence of that space where Shakespeare's early work, including the histories, made such a lasting impact."
According to experts, although the general location of the theatre was known, the precise location was never clear – until now. The 435-year-old theatre is thought to have staged sword fights, acrobatics and bear-baiting in addition to plays, and is considered to have been the longest-running Elizabethan theatre in London.
As for Shakespeare and his company, their run at the Curtain is thought to not have been a particularly happy one, as its audiences were wildly demanding and were probably not as impressed by plays as they were by the other activities that the venue hosted. Eventually, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men relocated to the famous Globe Theatre, which they built using smuggled timber from The Theatre, the venue they performed at before their run at the Curtain.
Apart from hosting Shakespearean works, the newly rediscovered Curtain Theatre is also thought to have been the location where Ben Johnson’s ‘Every Man In His Humour’ made its debut.