As a playwright and an actor Shakespeare was heavily involved with a number of London theatres. Read an overview of Shakespeare’s theatres below.

Shakespeare’s Theatres 1: The Theatre

Shakespeare’s earliest plays were performed at The Theatre. When the company moved to the Globe Shakespeare became a partner in the company and eventually became wealthy partly as a result of that.

The Theatre was one of the first public theatres in England since Roman times just outside London, in modern day Shoreditch. It was in this theatre that Shakespeare began his acting and writing career with The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, a theatre company.

The Theatre, designed by Burbage

The Theatre, designed by Burbage

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Shakespeare’s Theatres 2: The Curtain

The Lord Chamberlain’s Men move to The Curtain theatre in 1597 until The Globe theatre opened in 1599.

Sketch of The Curtain Theatre

Sketch of The Curtain Theatre

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Shakespeare’s Theatres 3: The Globe

The Globe is the theatre most commonly associated with the performance of Shakespeare’s plays. It was erected in 1599 on the south bank of the Thames by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, and it became their main performance space until it was destroyed by a fire on June 29, 1613. A reconstruction of the Globe is a popular tourist attraction in London today.

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

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Shakespeare’s Theatres 4: Blackfriars Theatre

Blackfriars Theatre was built by Richard Burbage in on the north bank of the Thames in 1596 as a private theatre. There were strict regulations on public playhouses within the bounds of the city wall, but the private theatres in London were built upon grounds that belonged to the church – grounds that had been appropriated by Henry VIII and were therefore not under the control of the Lord Mayor.

Interior sketch of Blackfriars Theatre

Interior sketch of Blackfriars Theatre

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Shakespeare’s Theatres 5: The Royal Court, the Inns of Court and the Houses of the Nobility

Members of the royal family did not attend the playhouses, and so Shakespeare and the Chamberlain’s Men and later, the King’s Men would, on occasion, be requested to perform at court.

The main London residence of the Monarch was at Whitehall during the reigns of both Elizabeth I and James I. But the court was constituted wherever the monarch happened to be staying.

During Christmas, 1594, Shakespeare acted before Queen Elizabeth I in her palace at Greenwich in two separate comedies, and during Christmas, 1597, the Chamberlain’s Men performed Love’s Labour’s Lost before the Queen in her palace at Whitehall. In 1603, Shakespeare plays were performed several times before King James I at Hampton Court, when the company had changed their name to The King’s Men.

Like the royal families the noblemen did not attend theatres. Shakespeare and the Chamberlain’s Men would accept invitations to perform at the country houses and estates of the nobility. Among many performances in the houses of noblemen, Shakespeare performed at the house of the Earl of Pembroke in 1603, and in 1605 he performed at Lord Southampton’s London house.

The Royal Palace Whitehall

The Royal Palace Whitehall


15 replies
  1. Mark Howell
    Mark Howell says:

    A very poor copy of the SAME image the author claims to show both The Curtain (1578) and The Theatre (1576). Which playhouse does the “View of London from the North” show? MoLA excavations suggest The Curtain’s plan might have been rectangular, not circular, in which case the North View of London more likely shows The Theatre (1576). Shakespeare’s theatres included every Great Hall (in aristocrat’s homes) &”Merchant’s Guildhall (in every Town centre where the Lord Chamberlain’s Men (later the King’s Men) performed.


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