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The Only Surviving Stage Where Shakespeare Performed

William Shakespeare famously wrote “All the world’s a stage” and now, researchers at a theatre in Norfolk, England - that dates back to 1445 - claim they’ve found the only surviving stage where the Bard once performed.


St. George’s Guildhall in King’s Lynn, England
The interior of St. George’s Guildhall in King’s Lynn, England

During recent restorations, the boards were discovered under layers of flooring at St. George’s Guildhall in King’s Lynn, the UK's oldest working theatre. The large oak boards are 12 inches wide and 6 inches thick - held together by wooden pegs instead of nails.


Archaeologist Jonathan Clark, an expert in medieval buildings who’s leading the research, has been trying to date the floor by examining the construction methods used to build it, as well as the growth rings that can be seen in the surviving wood. Based on these details, he says the floorboards date to the early 15th century, likely between 1417 and 1430.


Tim FitzHigham, the guildhall’s creative director, told the New York Times that the discovery was “really, really exciting and pretty mind-blowing.”


FitzHigham believes that Shakespeare must have performed on them, as documents indicate that the Bard acted at the venue in the late 16th century, reports the BBC. At the time, acting companies left the capital when theatres in London were closed due to the plague. The Earl of Pembroke's Men - thought to include Shakespeare - visited King's Lynn.


“We have the borough account book from 1592-93, which records that the borough paid Shakespeare’s company to come and play in the venue,” says FitzHigham. Since the floorboards were installed long before the 1590s, “this is likely to be the surface that Shakespeare was walking on,” Jonathan Clark told the BBC.


Michael Dobson, director of the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon, says: "The uncovering of the actual boards really trodden by Shakespeare's troupe during their tours of East Anglia should be far more significant to archaeologists of the Elizabethan theatre than is the conjectural replica of the Globe theatre erected near the real, long-demolished Globe's foundations in central London in the 1990s."


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