Son of James Burbage, who erected the first professional theater in England, Burbage inherited the Blackfriars Theatre and, with Shakespeare, John Heming, and Henry Condell as partners, erected the Globe Theatre, using the timber frame of his father's old playhouse, the Theatre. He became the leading actor for the Lord Chamberlain's Men, which was also Shakespeare's company, and besides creating, in all probability, all of Shakespeare's major tragic roles, he also played the leads in Ben Jonson's Every Man in His Humour, Volpone, and The Alchemist.
Shakespeare left Burbage a memorial ring in his will, and it is plain that the bond between the two men was close. It is probable that the playwright was guided in his choice of material and in his characterizations by Burbage's acting personality and talent. Burbage was a painter as well as an actor, and the Chandos portrait of Shakespeare is attributed to him. He died in London on Mar. 16, 1619.