Category:Richard Burbage

Richard Burbage, son of James Burbage and younger brother of Cuthbert Burbage, was the leading player of the Chamberlain's men as constituted in 1594; at his father's death (February 1597), Richard became the leading businessman with the company as well, having the Globe playhouse and later also Blackfriars Playhouse under his control (along with his brother Cuthbert).


1589-94: Richard Burbage first appears in theatrical records not as a player but as a brawler. The records are depositions by John Alleyn (brother of Edward Alleyn) in a 1589-90 lawsuit filed in the Court of Chancery concerning business at the Shoreditch playhouse, the Theater. Alleyn said that Burbage hurled abuse at two complainants in the suit (Margaret Brayne, Robert Myles) and threatened them with a broomstick. Theater historians have deduced from this testimony that Richard was "probably playing with the Admiral's men" at the time (Nungezer, p. 68). Burbage does not appear in theatrical records again until 1594, when he is named in the Declared Accounts of the Treasurer of the Chamber for March 1594 along with William Kempe and William Shakespeare as payees of £20 for performances at court by the Lord Chamberlain's men on the previous holidays of St. Stephen's Day and Holy Innocents (26, 27 December 1594). In the absence of evidence for 1591 to mid-1594, theater historians have found it appealing to consider him with the earl of Pembroke's men (1592-3) partly because that company had versions of several plays in which William Shakespeare had a hand including The First Part of the Contention betwixt the Two Famous Houses of York and Lancaster and The True Tragedy of Richard, Duke of York, and the Death of Good King Henry VI.
An anecdote that probably belongs to Burbage's early years as a Chamberlain's man, and which displays a different kind of confrontational behavior, was recorded in 1602-3 by John Manningham, a student of Middle Temple in his 1602-3 diary: "Vpon a tyme when Burbidge played Richard III. there was a citizen grone soe farr in liking with him, that before shee went from the play shee appointed him to come that night vnto hir by the name of Richard the Third. Shakespeare ouerhearing their conclusion went before, was intertained and at his game ere Burbidge came. Then message being brought that Richard the Third was at the dore, Shakespeare caused returne to be made that William the Conqueror was before Richard the Third. Shakespeare's name William" (Manningham, 13 March 1601).
1594-99: As lead player with the Chamberlain's men, Richard Burbage presumably took part in the decision to move to the playhouse at Newington in early June and to join (in some sense) the Admiral's men for a run of seven plays. Four of these plays do not show up in records of the Admiral's men (Foakes) and thus might reasonably be assumed to belong to the Chamberlain's repertory post-June 13, with Burbage maintaining his accustomed parts. The company performed at some venues in the provinces during the summer; by fall they were most probably back in London at the Theater. As both lead player and member of the family with financial interests in both the Theater and Curtain, Burbage would have managed business decisions as well as performances in the coming years. The most serious of these decisions concerned the Theater (for details, see Berry, "The Theatre," Wickham, et. al., pp. 330-32). Giles Allen owned the property on which the Theater stood. The Burbages owned the playhouse. In 1598 Alleyn failed to come to terms about the lease, and Burbages acquired property south of the Thames on Maid Lane. Over Christmas of 1598, they dismantled the Theater, carting the pieces to their new site where they reassembled the playhouse with new parts and a new name: the Globe. In the months between a breakdown in talks and the opening of the new playhouse, Burbage and his company played at the Curtain (autumn 1598-May 1599).
1599-1619: Theater historians assume that Burbage continued to play leading roles in the Chamberlain's -King's men into the last year of his life, and the elegies written at his death reinforce that assumption (see Munro for post-1603 roles, p. 16-17). As a result of his father's death (burial, 2 February 1597), Richard assumed a larger share of business decisions (with his brother, Cuthbert). The evidence of his influence on the repertorial choices of the company has not survived, but it is fair to assume he had some influence over his roles. See below, "Businessman," for the stages on which those roles were performed.

For What It's Worth: :Burbage appeared as himself (as does William Kempe) in the play, 2 Return from Parnassus (1603). He appears as himself (as do William Sly, John Sincler, Henry Condell and John Lowin) in the Induction to The Malcontent, newly written in 1604 to advertise the circumstances behind their acquisition of the play from the Children of the Chapel (at Blackfriars).

Presumably, Burbage was the lead adult male player in the Chamberlain's men after its formation by June 1594 as well as in the King's men; a list of those roles being lengthy, the focus here is on his roles in lost plays.

?Urganda ?King Egereon, ?Eschines, "The Dead Man's Fortune" (Guesses: Greg, "Urganda," pp. 102-3, note to ll. 34-6; McMillin, King Egereon, p. 239; Bradley, Eschines, p. 97).
King Gorboduc ("Envy"), Tereus ("Lechery"), "The Second Part of the Seven Deadly Sins"

Lucy on his playing "Richard II" in the lost 1611 play; does she guess about "Gowrie," "Spanish Maze" etc??


The Theater: Richard was still a teenager when his father fought with ——Berry, pp. 320-387
The Curtain —— Berry, pp. 404-18
The Globe —— Berry, "The first Globe," pp. 493-500; second Globe, 607-22; Munro on the company's decision to stay where they were
"The second Blackfriars," Berry pp. 501-30.

Closeness with brother Cuthbert: bought houses together in 1608, also 1617 (Eccles, 43)

St. Leonard's Shoreditch

Julia (?Juliet), christened 2 January 1603; buried 12 September 1608
Frances, christened 16 September 1604; buried 16 September 1604
Anne, christened 8 August 1607
Richard, buried 16 August 1607
Winifred, christened 10 October 1613; buried 16 October 1616
Julia, christened 27 December 1614; buried 15 August 1615
William, christened 6 November 1616
Sara, christened 5 August 1619; buried 29 April 1625
Richard (himself) buried 16 March 1618/9. Numerous elegies and elegiac references followed Richard Burbage's death for years afterwards; the most succinct: "Exit Burbage" (Nungezer, p. 73).

Works Cited

Berry, Herbert. "Aspects of the Design and Use of the First Public Playhouse." In The First Public Playhouse: The Theatre in Shoreditch 1576-1598. Ed. Herbert Berry. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1979. pp. 29-45.
———. Shakespeare's Playhouses, with illustrations by C. Walter Hodges. New York: AMS Press, 1987.
———. "Part Three: Playhouses, 1560-1660." In English Professional Theatre, 1530-1660. Ed. Glynne Wickham, Herbert Berry, and William Ingram. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000. pp. 287-674.
Bradley, David. From Text to Performance in the Elizabethan Theatre. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1992.
Eccles, Mark. "Elizabethan Actors I: A-D," Notes and Queries 236.1 (1991): 38-48.
Greg, W. W. ‘’Dramatic Documents from the Elizabethan Playhouses’’. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1931, rpt. 1969.
Honigmann, E. A. J. and Susan Brock. Playhouse Wills 1558-1642. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1993.
Kathman, David. "Reconsidering The Seven Deadly Sins," Early Theatre 7.1 (2004). 13-44.
Manley, Lawrence and Sally-Beth MacLean. Lord Strange's Men and Their Plays. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2014.
Manningham, John. "Diary of John Manningham." The Project Gutenberg EBook of Diary of John Manningham, by John Manningham. (Web)
McMillin, Scott. "The Plots of The Dead Man's Fortune and 2 Seven Deadly Sins: Inferences for Theatre Historians," Studies in Bibliography 26 (1973): 235-43.
Munro, Lucy. Shakespeare in the Theatre: The King's Men. The Arden Shakespeare. London: Bloomsbury, 2020.
Nungezer, Edwin. ‘’A Dictionary of Actors’’. New York: Greenwood Press, 1968 (orig. Yale University Press, 1929).


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Pages in category "Richard Burbage"

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