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JAMES BURBAGE

The following article is reprinted from A Dictionary of the Drama. W. Davenport Adams. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1904.

Actor and theatrical manager James Burbage died in 1597. He appears to have been originally a joiner. In a list of the Earl of Leicester's players, dated May, 1574, his name stands first. In April, 1576, he secured a twenty-one years' lease of some ground lying a "little to the North of Holywell Lane" between Finsbury Fields and the Bishopsgate and Shoreditch road. Hereon he erected "the first building in this country specially intended for theatrical performances" (S.L. Lee). This he called, simply, The Theatre. His son Cuthbert describes him as "the first builder of playhowses, and himselfe in his younger yeeres a player." "The Theater," he adds, "hee built with many hundred poundes taken up at interest." Here Burbage produced the old play of Hamlet and Marlowe's Faustus, and was altogether financially successful. In February, 1595-6, he acquired part of a large house in Blackfriars, and in November, 1596, opened it as the Blackfriars Theatre. He next tried to secure a prolongation for ten years of his lease of the ground in Shoreditch, but, the landlord being willing to concede five years only, Burbage was drawn into legal proceedings, which were still in progress when he died. Besides Cuthbert, he had another son, Richard, whose fame as an actor has greatly outshone his own.

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