Archaeologists discover London’s oldest theatre in an excavation, London


Archaeologists discover London’s oldest theatre in an excavation

In a huge discovery, archaeologists have unearthed the oldest theatre of London, built back in the mid-16th century. According to an expert, this Elizabethan playhouse, also known as the Red Lion, is a major discovery in terms of missing link in the English drama history.

Archaeologists believe that it is one of the earliest purpose-built theatres to be constructed in east London Whitechapel. The director of the excavation, Stephen White told that he is 97% sure that the discovered site is The Red Lion, built somewhere around 1567.

What is The Red Lion?

The Red Lion used to be an Elizabethan playhouse in Whitechapel, London. It is the first known attempt to offer a purpose-built theater in the English city for the many Tudor age touring theatrical companies. Though the life of this playhouse was short, it’s quite crucial in terms of history of English theaters.

During the Tudor times, most of the theater performances were based primarily on Biblical subjects. On the other hand, during the time of Shakespeare, plays were more based on secular subjects. Artists would generally perform in the bar’s courtyards and university halls. So this new discovery in Whitechapel is crucial in filling the gap between these two eras and traditions. The first ever performance here was the drama called The Story of Samson, that narrated the tale of Biblical superman who sacrificed his life to oppose paganism. The drama is now long lost but it delivered a powerful message for its time.

In fact, it is believed that most or all the plays performed here are lost now. This is because any drama that was performed during the Tudor times was never published; possibly, because London’s organisation refused to print it which had a monopoly in printing.

Though the excavation was conducted last year, it took time to analyse the findings and it was only after being sure that the archeologists jumped to the conclusion that it is indeed London’s long-lost first theatre.

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