Shakespeare experts have hailed the “thrilling” discovery of remains of the predecessor to The Globe theatre.
Plays including Henry V were first performed at The Curtain Theatre – immortalised in that play as “this wooden O” – and Romeo & Juliet may also have premiered there.
Parts of the playhouse’s yard and gallery walls were excavated in Shoreditch, east London, by the Museum of London Archaeology as part of regeneration works.
It is hoped the site could be opened to the public and plays could be staged there in the future. Royal Shakespeare Company artistic director Michael Boyd said: “I look forward to touching the mud and stone, if not wood, and feeling the presence of that space where Shakespeare’s early work, including the histories, made such a lasting impact.”
The Curtain, which opened in 1577, was home to Shakespeare’s Company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, before The Globe opened. It was the main venue for the Bard’s plays from 1597 to 1599. It disappeared from historical records in 1622 but could have remained in use until the outbreak of the Civil War, 20 years later.
Plough Yard Developments, which owns the site, is planning to make The Curtain central to its redevelopment of the area. Further excavations are to take place of the remains, three metres below ground.
A spokesman for the developers said: “This is one of the most significant Shakespearean discoveries of recent years.”