Category:James Burbage

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James Burbage may accurately be called the father of the early modern English playhouse. He was part of the project known as the Red Lion in 1567, but most famously with the Theater in Shoreditch in 1576.

Early Life

James Burbage was born in London c. 1531 in St. Stephen's Coleman Street, and he was a joiner by trade (Ingram, "Early Career," p. 21). He married Ellen Brayne (whose family also lived in St. Stephen's) on the 23rd of April 1559, and they had several children, the most well known of whom to theater historians are Cuthbert (1565-1636) and Richard (1568-1619). James and his brother-in-law John Brayne (a member of the Grocers),were engaged in some manner in an enterprise called the Red Lion in 1567. For reasons not explicit in surviving documents, Burbage and Brayne followed the Red Lion engagement in 1576 to partner in the building of a playhouse, the Theater. Ingram conjectures that the Red Lion experience led the men to believe "that there was a substantial audience ready to support such a playing establishment; and" that the location of the Red Lion "was the wrong place for such an enterprise" ("Early Career," p. 34). Worthy of note here is that the only play mentioned in conjunction with the Red Lion is lost ("The Story of Samson").

Theatrical Career

By 1572, James Burbage was a member of a playing company, the earl of Leicester's men. No surviving documents suggest when Burbage formally became a player, but his apparent role as spokesman for the company in a petitionary letter to the company patron suggests that he had taken to the stage some years before. Leicester's men were among the most prominent in the 1570s (their existence dates back to 1559, and they played frequently in the provinces and at court). Despite three of their members' joining the Queen's men in 1583, the company persisted, touring at home as well as on the continent as late as 1588 (Chambers, ES, 2.85-91). James himself perhaps left playing in conjunction with the erection of the Theater in 1576; it is certain that his later years were marked by the desire to acquire playing spaces.
The Theater and Globe
In 1635, in answer to the petition of several players with the King's men who wanted to extend their investment in the profession by adding shares in the company's playhouses to their shares in the company itself, Cuthbert Burbage, the sole surviving son of James Burbage, testified to his father's role in the venture known as the Theater: "The father of us, Cuthbert and Richard Burbage, was the first builder of playhouses, and was himself in his younger years a player. The Theatre he built with many hundred pounds taken up at interest. ... He built this house upon leased ground by which means the landlord and he had a great suit at law, and by his death the like troubles fell on us his sons. We then bethought us of altering from thence, and at like expense built the Globe, with more sums of money taken up at interest, which lay heavy on us many years ... . Thus ... as concerning the Globe, ... we ourselves are but lessees" (Ingram, "Players and Their Playing Places," #162, "The so-called 'Sharers' Papers', 1635" (p.226).
The Curtain
The key name in addition to "Burbage" that drives the story of the Curtain playhouse is that of Henry Laneman.
The Second Blackfriars

In 1635, in answer to several players with the King's men who wanted to extend their investment in the profession by adding shares in the company's playhouses to their shares in the company itself, Cuthbert Burbage, the sole surviving son of James Burbage, testified to his father's role in (Sharers' Papers)


Works Cited

Berry, Herbert. "Part Three: Playhouses, 1560-1660." In English Professional Theatre, 1530–1660. Ed. Glynne Wickham, Herbert Berry, and William Ingram. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000. 15–149.
Eccles, Mark. "Elizabethan Actors I: A-D," Notes and Queries 236.1 (1991): 38-48.
Ingram, William, "The Early Career of James Burbage," The Elizabethan Theatre X (Port Credit, Ontario, 1988), 18-36.
———. The Business of Playing. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1992.
Nungezer, Edwin. A Dictionary of Actors. New York: Greenwood Press, 1968 (orig. Yale University Press, 1929).




Subcategories

This category has the following 4 subcategories, out of 4 total.

B

L

R

T

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