William Shakespeare - How The world’s Greatest Playwright Found Fame
Updated: May 15
In our latest British history podcast,we tell the story of William Shakespeare's life in London.
In the 1580s, William Shakespeare left his birthplace of Stratford-Upon-Avon, and came to London. The journey from the small market town to London took around four days on foot.
Elizabethan London was a city of some 150,000 people. Home to theatres that had brought spectacular and popular entertainment to the capital.
William headed to the north east edge of the city. To Shoreditch, home to the first purpose-built theatre in London named The Theatre.
Located just outside the city walls, it was not subject to the strict regulations of the City of London. Built in 1576 by James Burbage, the leading actor and theatre manager of the time.
William worked as an actor, then writer for the Burbage's company, known as The Lord Chamberlain's Men.
The actors company became his friends, including fellow writer Ben Jonson.
When the lease ran out on The Theatre in 1599, the players took apart The Theatre and rebuilt it on the Bankside.
Their new theatre, The Globe, was located in the Southwark area of London, on the south bank of the River Thames.
The Globe was known for its elaborate productions and special effects, with trap doors, smoke machines, and fireworks.
It was the where of many of Shakespeare's most famous plays were performed, including Julius Caesar, Macbeth, and Hamlet.
The Globe was destroyed by fire in 1613 during a performance of Henry VIII. It was rebuilt the following year, but by this time Shakespeare had returned to Stratford, and retired from theatre.
Willliam Shakespeare died in Stratford in 1616.
Our podcast tells the story of the Bard’s life in London: about how we very nearly lost half his plays forever. And how - in 1623 - friends saved his works for posterity by creating the First Folio - a book including 36 plays written by Shakespeare.
Listen to the podcast here: