How William Shakespeare May Have Helped Steal A Theater

William Shakespeare is known to the world as many things. Actor. Playwright. Poet. Wordsmith. But what if I were to tell you he was also quite possibly a thief? There is speculation that the Bard himself pulled off a brilliant heist with the help of his acting troupe, known as the Lord Chamberlain's Men. Now, what do you think a respected actor like Shakespeare could possibly want to steal? Why, a theater of course.

You heard that right. History tells us that Willie Shakes and his rogue band of actors actually stole a theater. According to Play Shakespeare, they managed to (literally) walk off with a building known as The Theatre. This was not just any old playhouse either. This structure was the first purpose-built early-modern playhouse in England per Shakespearean London Theatres. The Theatre opened in 1576 and was home to Shakespeare and his men for two years (1596-1598) before things inevitably went awry.

You may be wondering, what on earth could cause one of the most brilliant writers of all time to go to the dark side, even just for a night or two? According to Mental Floss, it was an expired lease that resulted in The Theatre closing its doors in 1598. Disputes with the landlords ensued and as a result, William and his acting troupe were forced to move their show elsewhere. The Chamberlain's Men then plotted to take back what they felt belonged to them, the actual theater itself.

Taking back what was theirs

Amusing Planet tells us that on the night of December 28, 1598, while the landlord, Giles Allen, was out of town for Christmas, The Lord Chamberlain's Men went to work. Under the cover of darkness, with axes and swords at their disposal, they began to dismantle and transport The Theatre. Though they broke the structure apart, they were careful not to destroy it. The stolen pieces were then placed into a warehouse for safekeeping until springtime. While no proof exists that Shakespeare himself was actually on-site that night, he definitely was in on the sneaky yet ambitious scheme.

Arguably the most fascinating thing about this story is what William and his friends did with the building they pilfered from their landlord. Remember the pieces that they initially stored in a warehouse? When spring arrived, the men reportedly enlisted the help of a carpenter named Peter Street, who recycled the wood for them to use for another project. These new parts were used to construct a brand new theater, where Shakespeare and The Chamberlain's Men performed and grew in their fame. That playhouse was The Globe Theatre. While the original burned down in 1613, a modern reconstruction near the original site exists today, renamed Shakespeare's Globe.