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Declan’s Shakespeare Brick

Declan Donnellan

This is my Shakespeare brick…

Some years ago were uncovered the original foundations of “The Theatre”, which was The Lord Chamberlain’s Men’s first venue. Smaller than The Globe, it premiered Romeo and Juliet and many others.

In 1599, when the rent for the land went up the company took some of the structure, apparently by night (and stealth) across a frozen Thames and rebuilt it, renaming it the Globe.

The event was the last item on the radio news. And Nick and I went to see this extraordinary discovery.

We assumed there would be crowds but when we arrived only a few people were there under the plastic awning and builders were filling in the site as the archaeologists had recorded it.

There was a pile of bricks about to be covered, and asking why I was told that the positioning of the bricks had become arbitrary when the building was originally demolished and although these were probably contemporary with the original structure, they could not prove where they had been used in it.

The expression they used that burned into me was “these bricks have lost their architectural context and so are archaeologically valueless.”

It seemed so sad. So I asked if I could have one, and they said yes sure. So I jumped down into the mud and retrieved this. Wet with slime. At least I know it was somewhere within twelve metres of the first Juliet, astonishing the London audience with: “My bounty is as boundless as the sea, My love as deep; the more I give to thee, the more I have, for both are infinite”.

So I pack it in my luggage for the opening of every Shakespeare we do. The actors seem happy to pass it around. When our turn comes to lose our architectural context and so become archaeologically valueless, we will give it to a theatre.