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PlayShakespeare.com: The Ultimate Free Shakespeare Resource
PlayShakespeare.com: The Ultimate Free Shakespeare Resource
PlayShakespeare.com: The Ultimate Free Shakespeare Resource

Shakespeare's Players

Richard Burbage (6 January 1567 – 12 March 1619) was an English stage actor and theatre owner. He was the younger brother of Cuthbert Burbage. They were both actors in drama.
 
The son of James Burbage, a joiner who became a theatrical impresario, Burbage was a popular actor by his early 20s. His early acting career is poorly documented. As many young actors of his time, he may have played the part of women in productions before taking any of the roles he is known for. It has been suggested that he spent time working with the Earl of Leicester's company, but there is no good evidence for this. He probably was acting with the Admiral's Men in 1590, with Lord Strange's Men in 1592, and with the Earl of Pembroke's Men in 1593; but most famously he was the star of William Shakespeare's theatre company, the Lord Chamberlain's Men which became the King's Men on the ascension of James I in 1603. He played the title role in the first performances of many of Shakespeare's plays, including Hamlet, Othello, Richard III, and King Lear. But he was in great demand and also appeared in the plays of many of the great contemporary writers, such as Ben Jonson (the title role in Volpone, and Subtle in The Alchemist), John Marston (The Malcontent), John Webster (The Duchess of Malfi) and Beaumont and Fletcher (The Maid's Tragedy).
 
Burbage's power and scope as an actor is revealed in the sheer size of the roles he played. Of the hundreds of plays and thousands of roles for actors that date from the 1580–1610 era, there are only twenty or so roles that are longer than 800 lines. Edward Alleyn was the first English actor to manage such roles, in Marlowe's Tamburlaine and The Jew of Malta; but the majority of these star roles, thirteen of the twenty, were acted by Burbage.
 

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