In 1599, Philip Henslowe, theater producer, and Edward Alleyn, actor and
founder of Dulwich College, contracted with Peter Streete, carpenter, to build a
theater north of Aldersgate on Golden (formerly Golding) Lane in London. Streete
had been the contractor for the Globe Theatre that had opened in late 1599.
Henslowe paid £520 for the Fortune, opened in 1600, and almost twice as much to
have it rebuilt of brick after it burned in 1621.
The wording of the Fortune contract was exact enough to enable
reconstructions to be made. This one was made by James P. Maginnis of London,
under the direction of Walter H. Godfrey, for Columbia professor and theater
history pioneer, Brander Matthews. The scale is 3:100. It became part of his
Dramatic Museum, a vast collection of books, manuscripts, prints, photographs,
recordings, puppets, masks, set models, theater models, and other museum
objects, that he began in 1912.
The Fortune Theatre was to be three stories high, on a low wall foundation
of brick "underpinning"). An open stage 43 feet by about 27 feet was to be
surrounded by galleries, including four "gentlemen's rooms" and other "twopennie
rooms." The stage, modeled on that of the Globe in Southwark, would have its
pillars "wroughte plasterwise [i.e.strapwork pilasters], with carved proporcions
called satiers to be placed and set on the top of every of the same postes." The
reconstruction shows how the gallery, the essential feature of the new theatres,
was copied from the coaching inns (such as The George Inn, still partly standing
in Southwark), which in turn had adapted it from the large house. The Fortune
was located only a few blocks away from what is today the Barbican Arts Centre.