Object of the month for November 2009

16th century shoe as worn on the stage of the Rose Theatre This shoe was recovered from the Rose Theatre site on the Bankside of the Thames in the late 1980’s by Museum of London Archaeology and is believed to have been worn during performances undertaken on this famous 16th century theatrical stage. The Rose was one of two key playhouses of Tudor London, the other being The Globe. The Rose was built in 1587, predating the building of its rival by 12 years. The timbers used to construct The Globe were themselves taken from The Theatre, in Shoreditch, where Shakespeare’s first plays were performed. The foundations of The Theatre were recently uncovered by Museum of London archaeologists. The Rose Theatre has long been associated with the works of Christopher Marlowe, with the first performances of plays such as the Massacre at Paris believed to have

been undertaken there, but Shakespeare’s also used the theatre. Performances of Henry VI and Titus Andronicus are believed to have graced the Rose’s stage in the early 1590’s. The shoe is one of many remarkable finds that have allowed Museum of London archaeologists to piece together the story of London’s Elizabethan playhouses. The shoe has a high ‘vamp’ or upper and the pink zig-zagged patterning can still be seen. The throat of the shoe is stitched with delicately holed and decorated scallops. The pressures on actors at the time are highlighted by the hole at the toe end - which was most likely to have been deliberately cut to accommodate a painful bunion. This shoe, along with three others from the Museum’s collections worn by later prominent Shakespearean actors, will be on display in the foyer of Museum of London Docklands from late November. The shoes will be surrounded by hazelnut shells found at the Elizabethan sites – an historical equivalent of cinema popcorn today. Dress pins, probably dropped during costume changes will also be on show. The display accompanies Museum of London Archaeology’s publication of The Rose and The Globe: Playhouses of Shakespeare’s Bankside, Southwark, the definitive book on the archaeology of these famous Elizabethan playhouses. Find out more on the work of Museum of London Archaeology

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