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Pay your rent

Charles Nicholl writes that having failed to establish a theatre in Blackfriars in 1596, Shakespeare’s company, the Chamberlain’s Men, were ‘evicted from the Theatre in Shoreditch the following year’ (LRB, 8 January). In fact although the lease on the site of the Theatre expired in March 1597, it was at least another year before the company moved out. In the court case against the Burbages arising from the players’ dismantling and taking away the theatre they had built on his land, Giles Allen agreed that he had allowed them ‘to enjoy the premisses after the first lease expired for the space of a year or two’, paying ‘only the old rent’. (Records of the case were found by C.W. Wallace and excerpted in his The First London Theatre in 1913.)

This was quite an admission by Allen, since his acceptance of the rent constituted an extension of the lease, which contained the crucial clause that the players could take away any buildings they erected on his land. If he wanted the players out, Allen ought not to have accepted the rent. (The same principle keeps the US government in possession of Guantánamo Bay. After the revolution the Americans wisely continued to send rent cheques and someone early on in Castro’s administration made the mistake of cashing one, thereby implying continued acceptance of the terms of the treaty of 1903.) Any renter whose relationship with a landlord is breaking down should draw a lesson from the history of Shakespeare’s company and carry on paying the rent while working on alternatives.

Gabriel Egan
De Montfort University, Leicester



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