The Globe Theater, where most of Shakespeare’s plays debuted, burned down on this day in 1613.
The Globe was built by Shakespeare’s acting company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, in 1599 from the timbers of London’s very first permanent theater, Burbage’s Theater, built in 1576. Before James Burbage built his theater, plays and dramatic performances were ad hoc affairs, performed on street corners and in the yards of inns. However, the Common Council of London, in 1574, started licensing theatrical pieces performed in inn yards within the city limits. To escape the restriction, actor James Burbage built his own theater on land he leased outside the city limits. When Burbage’s lease ran out, the Lord Chamberlain’s men moved the timbers to a new location and created the Globe. Like other theaters of its time, the Globe was a round wooden structure with a stage at one end, and covered balconies for the gentry. The galleries could seat about 1,000 people, with room for another 2,000 “groundlings,” who could stand on the ground around the stage.
The Lord Chamberlain’s men built Blackfriars theater in 1608, a smaller theater that seated about 700 people, to use in winter when the open-air Globe wasn’t practical.