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Allen v. Burbage
1602

STAC 5/A12/35, 1 recto

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STAC 5/A12/35, 1 recto
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Images reproduced by permission of The National Archives, London, England.

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The National Archives give no warranty as to the accuracy, completeness or fitness for the purpose of the information provided.
Images may be used only for purposes of research, private study or education.  Applications for any other use should be made to The National Archives Image Library, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU, Tel: 020 8392 5225   Fax: 020 8392 5266.

Document-specific information
Creator: Court of Star Chamber
Title: Alen v. Burbage
Date: 44 Eliz
Repository: The National Archives, Kew, UK
Call number and opening: STAC 5/A12/35
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Item Creator
Court of Star Chamber
Item Title
Alen v. Burbage
Item Date
44 Eliz
Repository
The National Archives, Kew, UK
Call Number
STAC 5/A12/35, 1r

STAC 5/A12/35, 2 recto

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STAC 5/A12/35, 2 recto
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Institution Rights and Document Citation

 

Images reproduced by permission of The National Archives, London, England.

Terms of use
The National Archives give no warranty as to the accuracy, completeness or fitness for the purpose of the information provided.
Images may be used only for purposes of research, private study or education.  Applications for any other use should be made to The National Archives Image Library, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU, Tel: 020 8392 5225   Fax: 020 8392 5266.

Document-specific information
Creator: Court of Star Chamber
Title: Alen v. Burbage
Date: 44 Eliz
Repository: The National Archives, Kew, UK
Call number and opening: STAC 5/A12/35
View online bibliographic record

Item Creator
Court of Star Chamber
Item Title
Alen v. Burbage
Item Date
44 Eliz
Repository
The National Archives, Kew, UK
Call Number
STAC 5/A12/35, 2r

STAC 5/A12/35, 3 recto

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STAC 5/A12/35, 3 recto
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Institution Rights and Document Citation

 

Images reproduced by permission of The National Archives, London, England.

Terms of use
The National Archives give no warranty as to the accuracy, completeness or fitness for the purpose of the information provided.
Images may be used only for purposes of research, private study or education.  Applications for any other use should be made to The National Archives Image Library, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU, Tel: 020 8392 5225   Fax: 020 8392 5266.

Document-specific information
Creator: Court of Star Chamber
Title: Alen v. Burbage
Date: 44 Eliz
Repository: The National Archives, Kew, UK
Call number and opening: STAC 5/A12/35
View online bibliographic record

Item Creator
Court of Star Chamber
Item Title
Alen v. Burbage
Item Date
44 Eliz
Repository
The National Archives, Kew
Call Number
STAC 5/A12/35, 3r

STAC 5/A12/35, 4 recto

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STAC 5/A12/35, 4 recto
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Institution Rights and Document Citation

 

Images reproduced by permission of The National Archives, London, England.

Terms of use
The National Archives give no warranty as to the accuracy, completeness or fitness for the purpose of the information provided.
Images may be used only for purposes of research, private study or education.  Applications for any other use should be made to The National Archives Image Library, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU, Tel: 020 8392 5225   Fax: 020 8392 5266.

Document-specific information
Creator: Court of Star Chamber
Title: Alen v. Burbage
Date: 44 Eliz
Repository: The National Archives, Kew, UK
Call number and opening: STAC 5/A12/35
View online bibliographic record

Item Creator
Court of Star Chamber
Item Title
Alen v. Burbage
Item Date
44 Eliz
Repository
The National Archives, Kew, UK
Call Number
STAC 5/A12/35, 4r

STAC 5/A12/35, 4 verso

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STAC 5/A12/35, 4 verso
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Institution Rights and Document Citation

 

Images reproduced by permission of The National Archives, London, England.

Terms of use
The National Archives give no warranty as to the accuracy, completeness or fitness for the purpose of the information provided.
Images may be used only for purposes of research, private study or education.  Applications for any other use should be made to The National Archives Image Library, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU, Tel: 020 8392 5225   Fax: 020 8392 5266.

Document-specific information
Creator: Court of Star Chamber
Title: Alen v. Burbage
Date: 44 Eliz
Repository: The National Archives, Kew, UK
Call number and opening: STAC 5/A12/35
View online bibliographic record

Item Creator
Court of Star Chamber
Item Title
Alen v. Burbage
Item Date
44 Eliz
Repository
The National Archives, Kew, UK
Call Number
STAC 5/A12/35, 4v

STAC 5/A12/35, 5 recto

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STAC 5/A12/35, 5 recto
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Institution Rights and Document Citation

 

Images reproduced by permission of The National Archives, London, England.

Terms of use
The National Archives give no warranty as to the accuracy, completeness or fitness for the purpose of the information provided.
Images may be used only for purposes of research, private study or education.  Applications for any other use should be made to The National Archives Image Library, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU, Tel: 020 8392 5225   Fax: 020 8392 5266.

Document-specific information
Creator: Court of Star Chamber
Title: Alen v. Burbage
Date: 44 Eliz
Repository: The National Archives, Kew, UK
Call number and opening: STAC 5/A12/35
View online bibliographic record

Item Creator
Court of Star Chamber
Item Title
Alen v. Burbage
Item Date
44 Eliz
Repository
The National Archives, Kew, UK
Call Number
STAC 5/A12/35, 5r

Institution Rights and Document Citation

 

Images reproduced by permission of The National Archives, London, England.

Terms of use
The National Archives give no warranty as to the accuracy, completeness or fitness for the purpose of the information provided.
Images may be used only for purposes of research, private study or education.  Applications for any other use should be made to The National Archives Image Library, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU, Tel: 020 8392 5225   Fax: 020 8392 5266.

Document-specific information
Creator: Court of Star Chamber
Title: Alen v. Burbage
Date: 44 Eliz
Repository: The National Archives, Kew, UK
Call number and opening: STAC 5/A12/35
View online bibliographic record

Following the expiration of the lease on the site of the Theatre in Shoreditch in 1597, Richard and Cuthbert Burbage, James Burbage’s sons, found themselves embroiled in a series of lawsuits with Giles Allen, who owned the land that their father had leased for his playhouse. Though William Shakespeare is not mentioned in any document from the extensive Allen v. Burbage lawsuits, including the 1597 Star Chamber case shown here, the expiration of the lease affected him as a leading member of the Lord Chamberlain’s players.

In 1635 Cuthbert Burbage described his father as “the first builder of playhouses.” Though this description is slightly exaggerated, James Burbage was chiefly responsible for the construction of the Theatre in Shoreditch in 1576, and the nearby Curtain in 1577. Because it was built on ground leased from Giles Allen for twenty-one years, the Theatre lost its ground-lease in 1597. James Burbage died this same year, leaving the fate of the playhouse to his two sons, Richard, who was a player, and Cuthbert, who, although not a player, took an interest in the financial success of his father’s and brother’s playing company, the Lord Chamberlain’s men. Though the Burbages tried to negotiate an extension of the Shoreditch lease, Giles Allen refused to cooperate. So Richard and Cuthbert found a hitherto undeveloped site for a new playhouse, across the River Thames on Bankside, Southwark. By hook or crook the brothers dragged out their occupation of the Shoreditch site for two additional years. Finally, in December 1598, they returned to the Theatre with a gang of men who tore off the thatch roof and the exterior walls, took apart the timbers, which would have been fastened together only by wooden pins, and hauled the used timbers across the river to the new site, where they were re-assembled into a new playhouse called the Globe.

Of the five documents gathered into the present lawsuit, shown here, the most colorful is the fourth, which chronologically came first. In this, his initial complaint, Giles Allen charged that on December 28, 1598 Richard Burbage gathered eleven men, and the twelve “armed themselves with divers and manye vnlawfull and offensive weapons, as namelye, swordes daggers billes axes and such like  And soe armed did then repayre vnto the sayd Theater  And then and there armed as aforesayd in verye ryotous outragious and forcyble manner and contrarye to the lawes of your highnes Realme attempted to pull downe the sayd Theater.”

While some scholars imagine the demolition of the Theatre as the furtive operation of a single night, the construction of the New Globe in the 1980s and 1990s took fifteen years and the use of heavy lifting equipment. Perhaps experienced Elizabethan carpenters could construct a playhouse in six months. Demolishing the same playhouse, including lowering heavy timbers from a third storey height to the ground, must have taken time and extreme care, especially as the timbers were later re-assembled into a new playhouse. The job must have taken at least a week, perhaps while Giles Allen was at his home in Hadleigh, Essex.

The Inquisition Post Mortem of Thomas Brend provides evidence that after the February 21, 1599 lease, construction on the Globe progressed quickly enough that the playhouse could be described as “newly constructed” - though not necessarily completed - by May 17.

Some scholars have described the demolition and removal of the timbers of the Theatre as illegal. Nevertheless, Giles Allen never prevailed against the Burbages.

 

Semi-diplomatic transcription

Elizabeth dei gracia Angliae ffrancie & hibernie Regina fidei defensor &c vic’ lincolniensis salutum  Precipimus tibi quod non omittitur propter aliquam libertatem Comitatu tui quod [...] capias Humfridum Allen nuper

de New Inne in Comitatu Midd’ generosum vtt’ [...] in London die Lune proxima ante festum Sancti Georgij Martirie Anno regni nostri xliiijo ad sectam Egidij Allen de placito debiti

si inuentum fuit in balliua tua  Et eum salue custodire Ita quod habeas corpus eius coram Iusticiariis nostris apud Westmonasterium in Crastine purificationis beate Marie ad faciendum & recipiendum quod Curia nostra de eo  

adtunc in hac parte  Et habeas ibi hoc brevem  Teste Edmundi Anderson apud Westmonasterium xxixo die Novembris Anno regni nostri Quadragesimo quinto  Newman per brevem       Coke

Written by Alan H. Nelson

Sources
Glynne Wickham, Herbert Berry, William Ingram, eds., English Professional Theatre, 1530-1660. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 376-7, 385-7.

Charles William Wallace, “The First London Theatre: Materials for a History,” Nebraska University Studies, 13 (1913), 276-83.

Last updated July 5, 2017