In a very exciting moment for Shakespeare fans everywhere, archaeologists at the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) have just announced that they are currently performing excavations on a new building that was just discovered outside The Theatre in London, where Shakespeare himself once performed and also had his own plays staged and debuted in the 16th century.
As Heritage Daily reports, Shakespearean playhouses attracted theatergoers from all echelons of society, and even if the seating inside the theaters showed how divided the different classes were, it was a different story completely for those who chose to revel outside the theaters with their drinks and food.
At the moment, MOLA is busy excavating one of the buildings that was constructed around The Theatre that would have held all of the theatergoers before and after these plays. Complexes like these were very necessary as Shakespeare plays were notorious for their length, with many of them lasting for as many as four hours. Buildings outside theaters gave theatergoers a chance to unwind and socialize with friends and family, as well as meet people from different parts of society that they may not have normally encountered in day-to-day life.
Just like The Theatre, the building that is being excavated outside of it was also designed by James Burbage. Burbage is the man who was responsible for helping to construct purpose-built playhouses like this one and making them wildly popular with Londoners, and MOLA has described “how the area was remodeled by James Burbage, from buildings that belonged to the earlier Holywell Priory, to create an Elizabethan theater complex,” as the Smithsonian reports.
Incredible new evidence is emerging of how the area around @TheTheatre1576 was remodelled by James Burbage, from buildings that belonged to the earlier Holywell Priory, to create an Elizabethan Theatre Complex. Read all about it here https://t.co/tgfyicmBR4— MOLA (@MOLArchaeology) August 29, 2018
Heather Knight, who is the lead archaeologist working with MOLA on the excavations outside The Theatre, explained that archaeologists, historians, and lovers of Shakespeare alike are all delighted that there is something new to discover at this site.
“It’s incredible to be back on site at The Theatre, it’s an internationally significant and iconic archaeological site and a really special place for archaeologists, historians, thespians and Londoners but especially for Shoreditch, London’s first theatreland. It was the discovery of The Theatre that gave Hackney its first Scheduled Ancient Monument, hopefully this dig will bring more amazing discoveries to light.”
The Theatre was first constructed in 1576 at a time when Shoreditch was considered to be one of the many outlying areas of the City of London itself. And while William Shakespeare was just a young child at the time of its construction, as an adult he performed here himself and also had some of his most important and famous plays staged at this site.
Even though the complex outside The Theatre is still not fully excavated as of this writing, MOLA will have a new exhibition in 2019 that will give Shakespeare lovers everywhere a chance to visit this historic site 400 years after the very last play was held here.