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Complaint of Giles Allen against Cuthbert and Richard Burbage, 1601

Complaint of Giles Allen against Cuthbert and Richard Burbage, 1601

In December 1598 one of London’s first purpose-built playhouses, the Theatre in Shoreditch, was dismantled by a group of 15 ‘armed’ men. The timbers from this venue were eventually used to build the Globe, which opened on the Southbank in 1599.

This document gives the view of Giles Allen, the owner of the land on which the Theatre stood. It is a bill of complaint and sets out his initial charges against the Burbage family, who had leased his land and constructed the Theatre. Allen accused the brothers Cuthbert and Richard Burbage of trespassing and theft; the Burbages argued that the timbers belonged to them.

The dismantling of the Theatre had far-reaching effects on Shakespeare’s professional life. To fund construction of a new playhouse, Cuthbert and Richard formed a consortium with the leading actors in the Chamberlain’s Men, including Shakespeare. No other early modern playing company owned shares in their own playhouse.

(The National Archives: STAC 5/12A/35)

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By me William Shakespeare © Crown copyright and King's College London. Images reproduced courtesy of The National Archives.
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