You ever just put together the puzzle pieces of a few historical fun facts that you already know and suddenly, they mean much more than they did independently?
Theatre history/ Shakespeare geeks out there probably know that Richard Burbage was the actor who originated almost all of Shakespeare’s greatest leading roles. He was also a co-owner and -founder of the Globe Theater. But not everyone knows how the Globe came to be.
Burbage’s dad, James Burbage, was a carpenter by trade, but his passion was theatre. He built the first theater in London, appropriately named The Theater, and got involved in running a few others. He was an actor, businessman, architect- he did it all.
When he died in 1597, there were disputes over the land where the Theater was built, and the owner wanted to tear it down. Richard Burbage and his brother owned the Theater, but not the land. So the Burbage boys and more actors of the Lord Chamberlain’s men (probably including Shakespeare), pulled down the timbers of the Theater overnight and rowed them across the Thames River to construct a whole new theater, the Globe, on the south bank. Talk about actors taking part in striking and loading in sets!
The Globe took a while to complete, but one of the first shows performed there was Hamlet. Much has been said about the fact that Shakespeare had lost his own son, whose name was Hamnet, a few years earlier and many people believe that Shakespeare played the Ghost of the King, separated from his son by the veil of life and death.
But I have never seen anyone mention before that the original actor to play Hamlet, Richard Burbage, had lost his father, the man who had doubtless been his reason for getting into both show business and business, period. Performing those lines on a stage built out of the timbers his father had first assembled, continuing an industry his father had started with a hand in all facets of the trade… Wouldn’t he feel a bit like the ghost of his father lived on in the Globe?