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1577

The Curtain Playhouse

The Curtain Theatre is first recording as having opened its doors in 1577. It was located in Shoreditch, east London, an area that can lay claim to being the birthplace of modern theatre. Audiences flocked to the Curtain Theatre to enjoy theatrical performances and other entertainments until the 1620s, with a small break in the late 16th century as plague gripped the capital.

Historical records reveal little about the Curtain Theatre, and in particular about its construction, however like other London theatres at this time, it is thought to have been a timber building with three tiers of galleries that surrounded an open central yard, where audiences stood. According to an account from a Swiss theatregoer, it cost one penny to stand in the yard, two pennies to sit in the galleries, three pennies to sit in the galleries with a cushion, and six pennies for a seat in a box.

William Shakespeare’s acting troupe, The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, used the Curtain Theatre as their base from 1597-1599. In that time it is believed that Henry V debuted at the Curtain and that other famous plays were performed there, including Romeo and Juliet and Every Man in His Humour that starred Shakespeare himself.

As The Globe and other theatres opened on Bankside, the Shoreditch playhouses went out of use. By the 1630s the Curtain Theatre had been converted into tenements.