So they are excavating the Curtain, Burbage’s “other” Shoreditch playhouse, where the Chamberlain’s Men played for a couple of years between the Theatre and the Globe. The place was thought to have been Shakespeare’s “Wooden O” in the prologue to Henry V, and there was much rejoicing when in 2012, its remains were found… Except, earlier this year, the excavations found good evidence that the Curtain was rectangular.
No wooden O, then, it seems – but there is ample consolation in the fact that plenty of interesting things keep surfacing. The latest, less than two weeks ago, was a large fragment of a pottery whistle, probably what remains of a piece of Elizabethan special effects. You know the bird singing in Juliet’s garden around dawn? Lark or nightingale? Actually, a fellow whistling backstage – with this thing that just resurfaced after being buried for centuries.
Don’t you love it when these everyday bits are found, to give us a new little piece of the picture – in this case the picture of how an Elizabethan theatre worked backstage? I do, very much. I like to think of the hired man or boy – or maybe the tireman – not the bookman, I’d think, lest he become distracted – whistling away while the Star-cross’d Lovers coo onstage… Or was it something a musician did, from up on high?
Ah well, here you can read about the Curtain and the whistle on the BBC News website.
Last week, on Twitter, @ChaucerDothTweet had a series of hilarious tweets about the whistle-fellow pestering Shakespeare for more birds, more birds, more birds in the next play. I couldn’t help thinking of Shakespeare in Love, and the company repairing to the tavern after the play, and a girl asking our Whistle Man what was it about?
“Ay well, you know, there is this bird…”