Shakes and Peers

a guide to the world of Early Modern drama


London Theatre Map colored wMTH.png



1576-84, 1596-1655, 2014-

It was built on a formerly Dominican monastery, hence the name “Blackfriars” for the monks’ black hoods.

Blackfriars had a complicated legal history.

“the great advantage, given the vagaries of English weather”, of being  roofed  and enclosed” 367,8 The other advantages were full seating for which they could charge prices, higher ticket prices, lighting that allowed for afternoon and evening performances, and more exclusive clientele given its location in a more upscale neighborhood.

James Burbage purchased the space in 1596 for the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, but performance was halted by a petition from local residents that forbade its use as a playhouse.  The property was leased in 1599 to the Henry Evans and the Children of the Chapel, under whom it flourished as an innovative dramatic centrepiece hosting such playwrights as Thomas Middleton and Ben Jonson.

Bought by the King’s Men in 1608. The King’s Men then performed summers at the Globe and winters at Blackfriars, with winters bringing in approximately twice the revenue.

A recreation of Blackfriars adjacent to Shakespeare’s Globe was erected in 2014. It’s called Sam Wanamaker’s Playhouse.


The Curtain 


300px-curtain_theatreFew records concerning The Curtain remain. In existing texts, Henry Lanman appears too have been the proprietor. The reason for The Curtain’s closure and the contents of its stage are largely a mystery. Romeo and Juliet and Henry V (in which it’s described as “this wooden O” ) were originally performed there. The owner of the Theatre, Richard Burbage, and Lanman pooled the profits of their theatres for seven years which implies that revenue from the two was approximately the same. There is evidence that both owners had shares in each other’s companies.

Home to: The Chamberlain’s Men, The Queen’s Men, Prince Charles’ Company

The Fortune

1600-1620, 1621-1660

Modelled after the Globe, but square in shape and unpainted

Admiral’s Men

burnt down in 1620. Henslowe paid double for rebuilding in brick the next year. was probably round.

post mortem: actors were arrested for putting on a show in 1643, almost a full year after all playhouses were shut down.

The Globe

1599-1613; 1614-1642; 1997-


Middle Temple Hall 


Middle Temple Hall, 2008

Middle Temple was one of the four “Inns of Court”, the spaces that served as law schools. Middle Temple was established in the 13th century as a student hostel and law school. It also served as a headquarters for the Knights Templar before their dissolution in 1312.

Middle Temple’s hall has long been used as a venue for banquets, weddings, receptions, and performances. Twelfth Night is the only  Shakespeare play known to have been performed here. According to the Temple, the interior of the Hall remains largely unchanged since the 16th century.



Red Bull


The Rose



Established by Philip Henslowe in 1587, The Rose was the first of many Elizabethan theatres located on South Bank. South Bank was, at that time, an infamous home to such pastimes as brothels and bear-baiting.

Home to:  Lord Strange’s Men, Sussex’s Men, Queen’s Men, Admiral’s Men, Worcester’s Men


Henslowe’s lease expired in 1605, and although he expressed intention to renew it, the parish from whom he was renting it expressed unreasonable new demands, to which Henslowe replied,  he “wold [r]ather pulledowne the playehowse then . . . do so.” And indeed, that was the end of the Rose.  It is assumed to have been pulled down over the next couple years.

Source: Rutter, Carol Chillington. Documents of the Rose Playhouse. Manchester University Press: Manchester, 1984.

Salisbury Court


The Swan



The Theatre


Established by James Burbage, The Theatre (or, The Great Theatre), was Elizabethan London’s first public playhouse. Although no sketches exist, it is believed that the theatre had three stories, was polygonal and had three galleries surrounding an open yard and thrust stage.

Home to: Leicester’s Men, Admiral’s Men, Lord Chamberlain’s Men (the primary performers) 

The Theatre was shut down after producing Thomas Nashe’s “seditious play” The Isle of Dogs,  in 1597, and dismantled on the night of December 28, 1598. The Burbage brothers illegally took custody of the dismantled pieces of The Theatre and with the help of the original carpenter ferried them across to Thames to become what would later be The Globe theatre.

Source: Berry, Herbert, ed. The First Public Playhouse. Queen’s University Press: Montreal, 1979.





Berry, Herbert, ed. The First Public Playhouse. Montreal: Queen’s University Press, 1979.

Rutter, Carol Chillington. Documents of the Rose Playhouse. Manchester: Manchester UP, 1984.


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