Picture of the Fortune Playhouse

Fortune Elizabethan Theatre

  • Interesting Facts and information about Fortune Elizabethan Theatre
  • Fortune Elizabethan Theatre named after the Roman Goddess Fortuna
  • Originally located in a North London Liberty
  • First Elizabethan Theatre to be re-built in stone

Picture of the Fortune Playhouse


Fortune Elizabethan Theatre

Fortune Elizabethan Theatre
The Fortune Theatre was built in 1600 by theatrical entrepreneur Philip Henslowe and his partner Edward Alleyn following their success and profits made from the Rose Theatre. The Fortune Theatre was so named for the Roman goddess “Fortuna”. The Roman Goddess Fortuna promised riches and abundance rewarding those with joyful intentions with success and prosperity.


The Roman Goddess Fortuna promised riches and abundance rewarding those with joyful intentions with success and prosperity. A  statue of Fortuna graced the entrance of the Fortune. The location of the Fortune Theatre was in Golding Lane in Cripplegate in the Liberty of Finsbury, North of London, which was outside the jurisdiction of the City, its Lord Mayor and the Corporation of London. The Fortune Theatre was built by the builder Peter Street, who had also built the Globe Theatre for the Burbages. The Fortune was built to compete with the Globe as the most luxurious public playhouse ever built. The building contract still survives and details the following:

  • Features to be built "according to the manner and fashion of the said house called the Globe”
  • The shape of the Fortune Elizabethan Theatre was to be rectangular
  • Specifications also included, perhaps reflecting the actor Edward Alleyn's wishing to improve the actors working conditions.
    • a circular, open yard
    • the rectangular stage was to be covered with a roof
    • the dimensions of the stage were 43 feet wide by 27.5 feet
    • a 'tiring house'
    • gentlemen's rooms
    • twopenny rooms
    • the original Fortune cost £520
    • the second, brick built Fortune Theatre cost £1100

The Fortune Amphitheatre - Elizabethan Theatre
The other known facts about the Fortune, which was used as one of the massive amphitheatre venues for early English Elizabethan Theatre, are as follows:

  • London Location of the Fortune - Golding Lane, Cripplegate
  • The Fortune was opened in 1600
  • The theatrical entrepreneur involved with the Fortune was Philip Henslowe and Edward Alleyn
  • The Admiral's men acting troupe played at the Fortune theatre
  • Destroyed by fire in 1621
  • Rebuilt in brick (first brick-built theatre ever constructed) and re-opened in 1623
  • Fortune Theatre was closed by Puritans in 1642
  • Fortune was demolished in 1661
  • The Fortune was one of the 12 massive amphitheatres, including the Globe Theatre, which were built around the City of London
  • the site of the old Fortune Theatre is now marked by Playhouse Yard (Central Street)

Facts and Information about the Amphitheatre styled Elizabethan Theatres
Interesting general facts and information about the amphitheatre venue such as the original Fortune:

  • Audience capacity of an Elizabethan amphitheatre was between 1500 and 3000
  • Building materials used in the construction of early Elizabethan Theatres were timber, nails, stone (flint), plaster with thatched roofs
  • The 'Box ' and the 'Box Office' - Playgoers put 1 penny in a box at the Elizabethan theatre entrance. At the start of the play the admission collectors put the boxes in a room backstage called the box office.
  • The Entrance to the theatre - Usually one main entrance. Some later theatres had external staircases to access the galleries 
  • The owners of the theatre were called the 'Housekeepers'
  • There was no heating in the Elizabethan Theatre. Plays were performed in the summer months and transferred to the indoor playhouses during the winter
  • Lighting in the Elizabethan Theatre - Natural lighting as plays were produced in the afternoon. However there was some artificial lighting mainly intended to provide atmosphere for night scenes
  • Toilet Facilities? None . People relieved themselves outside. Sewage was buried in pits or disposed of in the River Thames
  • Size of Elizabethan Theatre - Up to 100 feet in diameter
  • Only very rich women, who often wore masks, or women of dubious morals attended the amphitheatres
  • Musicians - Music was an extra effect added in the 1600's
  • A selection of ropes & rigging would allow for special effects, such as flying or dramatic entries
  • The floor of the Stage was made of wood, sometimes covered with rushes. Trap doors in the floor would enable some additional special effects such as smoke

Fortune Elizabethan Theatre Location - the Liberties


The City of London Authorities had imposed strict regulations on the Inn-yards which provided venues for theatrical productions in 1574. Moving just outside the city boundaries to the Liberties allowed unregulated activities. The 'Liberties' were areas outside the City of London  notorious for rogues, vagabonds, thieves, brothels, stews, taverns and bear and bull baiting pits. The Liberty of Southwark was extremely popular  where the city quarantined, but also permitted, these dubious pursuits of pleasure. The Elizabethan theatres were therefore viewed as subversive institutions which were linked by a disregard for laws and regulations  together with their close proximity to the forbidden pleasures of the Liberties.

The Fortune
The Fortune was used as a venue for Elizabethan plays, replacing the Inn-yard venues. The  purpose built Elizabethan Amphitheatres in London such as the Fortune were used during the summer months and transferred to the indoor playhouses during the winter.

Map View
The picture of the map by Claes Van Visscher clearly shows the architecture and location of the old Globe Theatre and its close proximity to the Bear Garden ( later replaced by the new Fortune Theatre).


Engraving from Map Picture by Claes Van Visscher
London 1616


Queen Elizabeth's Coat of Arms


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Fortune Elizabethan Theatre


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