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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VI. The Drama to 1642, Part Two.

X. The Elizabethan Theatre

§ 10. The Curtain

The history of the Curtain is obscure. There is evidence that the Theater was the first playhouse to be built; but the Curtain is mentioned very shortly afterwards, and its opening may be dated in 1577. It stood near Finsbury fields, not far to the south of the Theater, within the precinct of the same priory of Holywell, and took its name from Curtain close, a meadow once in the possession of the priory on which, later, was built a house called Curtain house. The name survives in Curtain road, Shoreditch. Who built it and what it cost are points yet to be discovered; but that, like the Theater, it was round in shape and built of wood are suppositions that can hardly be controverted, even if reliance be not placed on the argument that Shakespeare’s King Henry V (the prologue of which refers to “this wooden O”) was acted here in the summer of 1599. It would be unsafe to deduce from the word “cockpit” in the same passage that the Curtain was unusually small. Its history was uneventful. On the closing of the Theater, the Chamberlain’s company seems to have removed there, and they kept it open during the early days of the Globe. When leave was sought to open the Fortune in Cripplegate, it was granted by the privy council on the understanding that the Curtain was to be closed; nevertheless, it remained open, and, after the accession of James I, became the home of queen Anne’s (lately the earl of Worcester’s) company. It is mentioned as in use in 1623, and as standing in 1627.