Richard Burbage was the son of businessman John Burbage and born in 1567. Not much is known about Burbage’s early life or career as an actor but we can assume that it was likely he acted in both the Admiral’s Men and Lord Strange’s Men as they regularly performed in his father’s theatre in the early 1590’s. We know that Burbage performed with the Lord Chamberlain’s Men and remained with them after they became the King’s Men and beyond. He would have performed many times in front of Queen Elizabeth I and King James I.
Upon the death of his father, James, Richard and his brother Cuthbert took over running the two family theatres; Blackfriars Theatre and The Theatre. Blackfriars was leased out to new tenants and the income they received from that helped them dismantle The Theatre after their land lease ran out and transport it across the Thames to build a new theatre called the Globe Theatre (see wp.me/p5LWKn-j for more information).
The Burbage’s along with William Shakespeare and three other men bought back the lease on the Blackfriars Theatre in 1608 after their tenants could no longer make the payments each month. They turned it into an indoor theatre for the King’s Men for use when the Globe was not a suitable venue or if they were commissioned to perform for a private audience.
Richard Burbage was the lead actor for the majority of William Shakespeare’s plays playing iconic roles such as Hamlet, Othello and King Lear. Burbage continued performing until he died on 13th March 1619. He was buried in St Leonard’s church in Shoreditch, unfortunately his grave location is now lost.