James Burbage

James Burbage
  • Interesting biography about James Burbage
  • Facts and information about James Burbage and the first Theatre
  • People and events relating to the Theatre Construction and the life of James Burbage
  • Interesting Facts and information about James Burbage and John Dee
James Burbage

Interesting information and biography of James Burbage an important man in the life and times of William Shakespeare and the Globe Theatre of Elizabethan London, England The influence of James Burbage on the English theatre of the Elizabethan era

Biography of James Burbage (1531-1597)
James Burbage was an Elizabethan entrepreneur. He realised considerable profit by staging plays at Elizabethan Inn-yards and had the vision to build the original 'Theatre' and later the 'Globe' Theatre. James Burbage was born in 1531 and is said that he was born at Stratford-upon-Avon - the same birthplace as William Shakespeare.

Biography of James Burbage (1531-1597)
The biography of James Burbage details the life of the man who was was at the forefront of the Elizabethan commercial theatre and played an important part in the history of the Globe Theatre and William Shakespeare.  James Burbage started his career as a joiner and was experienced in carpentry.  At some point in his career he changed to acting - an extremely unusual choice as in the early Elizabethan era actors were viewed as nothing better than rogues and vagabonds. Licenses were granted to the aristocracy for the maintenance of troupes of players, who might at any time be required to show their credentials. James Burbage became a member of Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester's players - an acting troupe referred to as Leicester's Men which was established in 1572. James Burbage became the head of this acting troupe. In 1574, James Burbage became the first Englishman to obtain a theatrical license - he had become very serious about his role as a theatrical entrepreneur and manager.

James Burbage and The Theatre
James Burbage built the very first theatre with his brother-in-law John Brayne, appropriately named 'The Theatre'. The original meaning of the word “theatre” referred to the platforms used for the temporary stages erected in Elizabethan inn-yards. James Burbage borrowed 1000 marks (£666. 13s. 4d.) from his father-in-law, John Brayne, with which to build his theatre. It was built in 1576 on land which was leased from Giles Allen who was a staunch puritan. Giles Allen was opposed to all theatrical activities on the land but was unable to stop James Burbage from building 'The Theatre' on the site.

James Burbage and Dr John Dee (1527-1608)
James Burbage was intent on making money from his idea to build a theatre. He also wanted to 'legitimise' the reputation of actors and their plays. He knew that if he could use the design of classical Greek and Roman  architecture that people would wonder at the building and also associate it with the acceptable, classical plays. James Burbage had a head start on the building of the Globe Theatre from his experience as a carpenter. But he need the knowledge of classical and Greek Architecture. The man who could help him was John Dee. John Dee was a brilliant scholar. Interested in Mathematics, physics and astrology which he studied at Cambridge and in Europe. The Elizabethan era was the age of the Renaissance and new thinking and ideas. John Dee was well travelled and was obsessive about collecting books and manuscripts. He collected so many books that he created the greatest personal library in England, which he housed at his mother's residence at Mortlake. John Dee and his extensive library attracted visits from the foremost scholars in England and James Burbage. James Burbage consulted Dr. John Dee on the design and construction of The Theatre. The notorious Dr. John Dee, renowned as a magician and alchemist, was also extremely knowledgeable about architecture. James Burbage relied on John Dee's extensive architectural library to design the plans for the construction of The Theatre.

James Burbage and The Theatre
The reputation of Elizabethan theatres was extremely bad. Theatres not only acted as a venue for plays but also supported gambling and blood sports. Plays attracted hundreds of people who unfortunately included undesirables, including thieves, harlots and pickpockets. Not surprisingly there were disturbances and fights. James Burbage was in the Theatre business with his two sons Cuthbert Burbage and Richard Burbage.
The main rivals of James Burbage was Philip Henslow, who built the Rose and Fortune theatres which were used by the acting troupe called the Admiral’s Men. After the death of James Burbage the lease of 'The Theatre' expired and Puritan Giles Allen stubbornly refused to renew the lease. A clause was found in the lease which allowed the Burbage's to dismantle the building on the site and use any materials which were recovered. Richard and Cuthbert Burbage with their troupe, including William Shakespeare, some labourers and carpenters all went to the Theatre under cover of night and demolished the Theatre. They used the timber in the construction of the Globe Theatre on Bankside, Southwark.

James Burbage Biography - the Blackfriars Theatre
The Blackfriars Theatre was a disused Dominican priory which had been confiscated in 1538 when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries. The Blackfriars indoor playhouse was originally established as a theatre in 1576 for the children of the Chapel Royal. In 1596 James Burbage purchased the property. He immediately began to convert it into an indoor hall playhouse for the Lord Chamberlain’s Men - a good venue for winter productions. But following local opposition, it was re-leased to a company of boy players, bringing an abrupt halt to the plans of James Burbage for the Blackfriars Theatre.

The Death of James Burbage
James Burbage died in the bitterly cold winter of 1597. The Theatre was  just a few hundred yards from St Leonards Church ( the actor's church ) in Holywell Street, Shoreditch. It is in the church grounds that James Burbage along with other actors of note from the era are buried.

Globe Theatre Construction
Interesting Facts and information and biography of James Burbage. Additional details, facts and information about the Elizabethan and Globe Theatre can be accessed via the Globe Theatre Sitemap.

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