Globe Theatre

Globe Theatre

Overview
The Globe Theatre was a theatre in London associated with William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

. It was built in 1599 by Shakespeare's playing company
Playing company
In Renaissance London, playing company was the usual term for a company of actors. These companies were organized around a group of ten or so shareholders , who performed in the plays but were also responsible for management. The sharers employed "hired men" — that is, the minor actors and...

, the Lord Chamberlain's Men
Lord Chamberlain's Men
The Lord Chamberlain's Men was a playing company for whom Shakespeare worked for most of his career. Formed at the end of a period of flux in the theatrical world of London, it had become, by 1603, one of the two leading companies of the city and was subsequently patronised by James I.It was...

, and was destroyed by fire on 29 June 1613. A second Globe Theatre was built on the same site by June 1614 and closed in 1642.

A modern reconstruction of the Globe, named "Shakespeare's Globe
Shakespeare's Globe
Shakespeare's Globe is a reconstruction of the Globe Theatre, an Elizabethan playhouse in the London Borough of Southwark, located on the south bank of the River Thames, but destroyed by fire in 1613, rebuilt 1614 then demolished in 1644. The modern reconstruction is an academic best guess, based...

", opened in 1997 approximately 230 metres (754.6 ft) from the site of the original theatre.

Examination of old property records has identified the plot of land occupied by the Globe as extending from the west side of modern-day Southwark Bridge Road
Southwark Bridge Road
Southwark Bridge Road is a road in Southwark, London, England, between Newington Causeway near Elephant and Castle and Southwark Bridge across the River Thames, leading to the City of London, in a meandering route...

 eastwards as far as Porter Street and from Park Street southwards as far as the back of Gatehouse Square.
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Encyclopedia
The Globe Theatre was a theatre in London associated with William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

. It was built in 1599 by Shakespeare's playing company
Playing company
In Renaissance London, playing company was the usual term for a company of actors. These companies were organized around a group of ten or so shareholders , who performed in the plays but were also responsible for management. The sharers employed "hired men" — that is, the minor actors and...

, the Lord Chamberlain's Men
Lord Chamberlain's Men
The Lord Chamberlain's Men was a playing company for whom Shakespeare worked for most of his career. Formed at the end of a period of flux in the theatrical world of London, it had become, by 1603, one of the two leading companies of the city and was subsequently patronised by James I.It was...

, and was destroyed by fire on 29 June 1613. A second Globe Theatre was built on the same site by June 1614 and closed in 1642.

A modern reconstruction of the Globe, named "Shakespeare's Globe
Shakespeare's Globe
Shakespeare's Globe is a reconstruction of the Globe Theatre, an Elizabethan playhouse in the London Borough of Southwark, located on the south bank of the River Thames, but destroyed by fire in 1613, rebuilt 1614 then demolished in 1644. The modern reconstruction is an academic best guess, based...

", opened in 1997 approximately 230 metres (754.6 ft) from the site of the original theatre.

Location


Examination of old property records has identified the plot of land occupied by the Globe as extending from the west side of modern-day Southwark Bridge Road
Southwark Bridge Road
Southwark Bridge Road is a road in Southwark, London, England, between Newington Causeway near Elephant and Castle and Southwark Bridge across the River Thames, leading to the City of London, in a meandering route...

 eastwards as far as Porter Street and from Park Street southwards as far as the back of Gatehouse Square. The precise location of the building however, remained unknown until a small part of the foundations, including one original pier base, was discovered in 1989 beneath the car park at the rear of Anchor Terrace
Anchor Terrace
Anchor Terrace is a large symmetrical building on the east side of Southwark Bridge Road in London, situated very close to the River Thames. It was built in 1834, and its original inhabitants were senior employees of the nearby Anchor Brewery, Southwark, which was then owned by Barclay Perkins &...

 on Park Street. The shape of the foundations is now replicated on the surface. As the majority of the foundations lie beneath 67—70 Anchor Terrace, a listed building, no further excavations have been permitted.

History



The Globe was owned by actors who were also shareholders in Lord Chamberlain's Men
Lord Chamberlain's Men
The Lord Chamberlain's Men was a playing company for whom Shakespeare worked for most of his career. Formed at the end of a period of flux in the theatrical world of London, it had become, by 1603, one of the two leading companies of the city and was subsequently patronised by James I.It was...

. Two of the six Globe shareholders, Richard Burbage
Richard Burbage
Richard Burbage was an English actor and theatre owner. He was the younger brother of Cuthbert Burbage. They were both actors in drama....

 and his brother Cuthbert Burbage
Cuthbert Burbage
Cuthbert Burbage was an English theatrical figure, son of impresario James Burbage and elder brother of famous actor Richard Burbage...

, owned double shares of the whole, or 25% each; the other four men, Shakespeare, John Heminges
John Heminges
John Heminges was an English Renaissance actor. Most noted now as one of the editors of William Shakespeare's 1623 First Folio, Heminges served in his time as an actor and financial manager for the King's Men.-Life:Heminges was born in Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire in 1556...

, Augustine Phillips
Augustine Phillips
Augustine Phillips was an Elizabethan actor who performed in troupes with Edward Alleyn and William Shakespeare. He was one of the first generation of English actors to achieve wealth and a degree of social status by means of his trade....

, and Thomas Pope
Thomas Pope (16th-century actor)
Thomas Pope was an Elizabethan actor, a member of the Lord Chamberlain's Men and a colleague of William Shakespeare. Pope was a "comedian and acrobat."-Beginnings:...

, owned a single share, or 12.5%. (Originally William Kempe
William Kempe
William Kempe , also spelt Kemp, was an English actor and dancer specializing in comic roles and best known for having been one of the original players in early dramas by William Shakespeare...

 was intended to be the seventh partner, but he sold out his share to the four minority sharers, leaving them with more than the originally planned 10%). These initial proportions changed over time as new sharers were added. Shakespeare's share diminished from 1/8 to 1/14, or roughly 7%, over the course of his career.

The Globe was built in 1599 using timber
Lumber
Lumber or timber is wood in any of its stages from felling through readiness for use as structural material for construction, or wood pulp for paper production....

 from an earlier theatre, The Theatre
The Theatre
The Theatre was an Elizabethan playhouse located in Shoreditch , just outside the City of London. It was the second permanent theatre ever built in England, after the Red Lion, and the first successful one...

, which had been built by Richard Burbage's father, James Burbage
James Burbage
James Burbage was an English actor, theatre impresario, and theatre builder in the English Renaissance theatre. He built The Theatre, the facility famous as the first permanent dedicated theatre built in England since Roman times...

, in Shoreditch
Shoreditch
Shoreditch is an area of London within the London Borough of Hackney in England. It is a built-up part of the inner city immediately to the north of the City of London, located east-northeast of Charing Cross.-Etymology:...

 in 1576. The Burbages originally had a 21-year lease
Lease
A lease is a contractual arrangement calling for the lessee to pay the lessor for use of an asset. A rental agreement is a lease in which the asset is tangible property...

 of the site on which The Theatre was built but owned the building outright. However, the landlord, Giles Allen, claimed that the building had become his with the expiry of the lease. On 28 December 1598, while Allen was celebrating Christmas at his country home, carpenter Peter Street, supported by the players and their friends, dismantled The Theatre beam by beam and transported it to Street's waterfront warehouse near Bridewell. With the onset of more favourable weather in the following spring, the material was ferried over the Thames
River Thames
The River Thames flows through southern England. It is the longest river entirely in England and the second longest in the United Kingdom. While it is best known because its lower reaches flow through central London, the river flows alongside several other towns and cities, including Oxford,...

 to reconstruct it as The Globe on some marshy gardens to the south of Maiden Lane, Southwark. The new theatre was larger than the building it replaced, with the older timbers being reused as part of the new structure; the Globe was not merely the old Theatre newly set up at Bankside. It was probably completed by the summer of 1599, possibly in time for the first production of Henry V
Henry V
Henry V may refer to:People* Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor * Henry V, Count of Luxembourg * Henry V of England * Henri, comte de Chambord, nominally Henry V of France, Entertainment...

and its famous reference to the performance crammed within a "wooden O". The first performance for which a firm record remains was Jonson's
Ben Jonson
Benjamin Jonson was an English Renaissance dramatist, poet and actor. A contemporary of William Shakespeare, he is best known for his satirical plays, particularly Volpone, The Alchemist, and Bartholomew Fair, which are considered his best, and his lyric poems...

 Every Man out of His Humour
Every Man Out of His Humour
Every Man out of His Humour is a satirical comedy written by English playwright Ben Jonson, acted in 1599 by the Lord Chamberlain's Men. It is a conceptual sequel to his 1598 comedy Every Man in His Humour...

—with its first scene welcoming the "gracious and kind spectators"—at the end of the year.

On 29 June 1613 the Globe Theatre went up in flames during a performance of Henry the Eighth
Henry VIII (play)
The Famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eight is a history play by William Shakespeare and John Fletcher, based on the life of Henry VIII of England. An alternative title, All is True, is recorded in contemporary documents, the title Henry VIII not appearing until the play's publication...

. A theatrical cannon, set off during the performance, misfired, igniting the wooden beams and thatching. According to one of the few surviving documents of the event, no one was hurt except a man whose burning breeches were put out with a bottle of ale. It was rebuilt in the following year.

Like all the other theatres in London, the Globe was closed down by the Puritan
Puritan
The Puritans were a significant grouping of English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries. Puritanism in this sense was founded by some Marian exiles from the clergy shortly after the accession of Elizabeth I of England in 1558, as an activist movement within the Church of England...

s in 1642. It was pulled down in 1644, or slightly later—the commonly cited document dating the act to 15 April 1644 has been identified as a probable forgery—to make room for tenement
Tenement
A tenement is, in most English-speaking areas, a substandard multi-family dwelling, usually old, occupied by the poor.-History:Originally the term tenement referred to tenancy and therefore to any rented accommodation...

s.

Layout


The Globe's actual dimensions are unknown, but its shape and size can be approximated from scholarly inquiry over the last two centuries. The evidence suggests that it was a three-storey, open-air amphitheatre
Amphitheatre
An amphitheatre is an open-air venue used for entertainment and performances.There are two similar, but distinct, types of structure for which the word "amphitheatre" is used: Ancient Roman amphitheatres were large central performance spaces surrounded by ascending seating, and were commonly used...

 approximately 100 feet (30.5 m) in diameter that could house up to 3,000 spectators. The Globe is shown as round on Wenceslas Hollar
Wenceslas Hollar
Václav Hollar , known in England as Wenceslaus or Wenceslas and in Germany as Wenzel Hollar , was a Bohemian etcher, who lived in England for much of his life...

's sketch of the building, later incorporated into his engraved "Long View" of London in 1647. However, in 1988–89, the uncovering of a small part of the Globe's foundation suggested that it was a polygon of 20 sides.

At the base of the stage, there was an area called the pit, (or, harking back to the old inn-yards
Inn-yard theatre
In the historical era of English Renaissance drama, an Inn-yard theatre or Inn-theatre was a common inn that provided a venue for the presentation of stage plays.-Beginnings:...

, yard) where, for a penny, people (the "groundlings") would stand on the rush-strewn earthen floor to watch the performance. During the excavation of the Globe in 1989 a layer of nutshells was found, pressed into the dirt flooring so as to form a new surface layer. Vertically around the yard were three levels of stadium-style seats, which were more expensive than standing room. A rectangular stage platform
Thrust stage
In theatre, a thrust stage is one that extends into the audience on three sides and is connected to the backstage area by its up stage end. A thrust has the benefit of greater intimacy between performers and the audience than a proscenium, while retaining the utility of a backstage area...

, also known as an 'apron stage', thrust out into the middle of the open-air yard. The stage measured approximately 43 feet (13.1 m) in width, 27 feet (8.2 m) in depth and was raised about 5 feet (1.5 m) off the ground. On this stage, there was a trap door for use by performers to enter from the "cellarage" area beneath the stage.

The back wall of the stage had two or three doors on the main level, with a curtained inner stage in the centre (although not all scholars agree about the existence of this supposed "inner below"), and a balcony above it. The doors entered into the "tiring house"(backstage area) where the actors dressed and awaited their entrances. The floors above may have been used to store costumes and props
Theatrical property
A theatrical property, commonly referred to as a prop, is an object used on stage by actors to further the plot or story line of a theatrical production. Smaller props are referred to as "hand props". Larger props may also be set decoration, such as a chair or table. The difference between a set...

 and as management offices. The balcony housed the musicians and could also be used for scenes requiring an upper space, such as the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy written early in the career of playwright William Shakespeare about two young star-crossed lovers whose deaths ultimately unite their feuding families. It was among Shakespeare's most popular archetypal stories of young, teenage lovers.Romeo and Juliet belongs to a...

. Rush matting covered the stage, although this may only have been used if the setting of the play demanded it.

Large columns on either side of the stage supported a roof over the rear portion of the stage. The ceiling under this roof was called the "heavens," and was painted with clouds and the sky. A trap door in the heavens enabled performers to descend using some form of rope and harness.

Motto


The name of the Globe supposedly alludes to the Latin tag totus mundus agit histrionem, in turn derived from quod fere totus mundus exerceat histrionem—"because all the world plays the actor"—from Petronius
Petronius
Gaius Petronius Arbiter was a Roman courtier during the reign of Nero. He is generally believed to be the author of the Satyricon, a satirical novel believed to have been written during the Neronian age.-Life:...

, which had wide circulation in England in the Burbages' time. Totus mundus agit histrionem was, according to this explanation, therefore adopted as the theatre's motto. It seems likely, however, that the link between the saying and the Globe was made only later, originating with the industrious early Shakespeare biographer William Oldys
William Oldys
William Oldys was an English antiquarian and bibliographer.The illegitimate son of Dr William Oldys, chancellor of Lincoln, London was probably his place of birth. His father had held the office of advocate of the admiralty, but lost it in 1693 because he would not prosecute as traitors and...

, who claimed as his source a private manuscript to which he once had access. This was repeated in good faith by his literary executor George Steevens
George Steevens
George Steevens was an English Shakespearean commentator.He was born at Poplar, the son of a captain and later director of the East India Company. He was educated at Eton College and at King's College, Cambridge, where he remained from 1753 to 1756...

, but the tale is now thought "suspicious".

External links