James Burbage, or
Burbadge (1531 – 1597) was an English actor,
theatre impresario, and theatre builder
in the English Renaissance
theatre. He built The Theatre, the facility famous as the first permanent
dedicated theatre built in England since Roman times.
seems also to have been involved in the erection of the Curtain Theatre, and, later, the Blackfriars Theatre, built in 1596 near the old Dominican friary.
Edmund Malone was the first person to suggest
that James Burbage was connected with the Burbage family of
Warwickshire: a forged letter of the nineteenth century
maintained that Burbage and William
Shakespeare were from the same county and were "almost of one
town" — though there is in fact no valid evidence of this.
Trained as a joiner
, Burbage took up acting
and was a member of Leicester's Men
by 1572; he appears to have been a leader of that company by 1574.
In 1576, Burbage partnered with his brother-in-law John Brayne
(Burbage was married to Brayne's sister Ellen) to erect The
brother-in-law John Brayne was also the man responsible for an
earlier attempt at building a permanent theatre, the Red
Lion in Mile
End in 1567.
That enterprise apparently did not
survive its first year. The implication is that Burbage's
experience as both actor and builder helped to make the second
venture a success where the first had failed.)
Burbage and his family were settled in St. Leonard's parish in
Shoreditch by 1576, with residence in Halliwell Street or Holywell
Lane. Records list the baptism of a daughter, Alice (1576), and the
burial of another daughter, Joan (1582). A third daughter, Helen,
was buried at St. Anne's in Blackfriars (1595).
James Burbage's son Richard Burbage
became one of the most celebrated actors of his era. Cuthbert Burbage
, Richard's elder brother,
followed in his father's footsteps as a theatre manager.
James Burbage was buried in Shoreditch on 2
; his widow Ellen was buried
there on 8 May 1613
- Chambers, Vol. 2, p. 305.
- Chambers, Vol. 2, p. 306.
- Chambers, E. K. The Elizabethan Stage.
4 Volumes, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1923.
- Halliday, F. E. A Shakespeare Companion 1564–1964.
Baltimore, Penguin, 1964.