As a Theatre Arts student you’d think that I’d have definitely gone to the Globe by this point, but life happens and I didn’t make it past the gates (one trip had time constraints, and another was cancelled due to a friend’s intense hang-over – drink responsibly, people!).
But I made it this time!
Shakespeare’s Globe is a recreation of the original Globe Theatre. The original theatre was built in 1599 by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, which was Shakespeare’s playing company.
I keep saying original because there were 2 Globe Theatres during Shakespeare’s time. The original burned down in 1613, after an accident with a cannon set fire to the beams and thatched roof. This happened during Henry VIII (which you’ll notice is not considered a cursed play…perhaps it should be? Also, cannons are cool). The theatre was rebuilt in 1614 and lasted about 30 more years before Puritans shut it down and then demolished it.
Sam Wanamaker (an American actor and director) is the person who founded the Shakespeare Globe Trust in order to re-create the Globe Theatre. He wanted it built as close to the original specifications as possible, and as close to the original location as possible. It’s only about 230 meters from where the original resided, so not bad.
There was a problem getting it built, since it involved building a thatched roof. Thatched roofs tend to go up in flames mighty easily, so they weren’t allowed on modern buildings. But they finally got to build the theatre – roof and all – just with a modern addition:
That’s one thing that I learned about Shakespeare’s Globe – they wanted to stay true to the original, except when it came to safety. Any modern adjustments were most likely made for safety reasons (like the sprinkler system, and the safety bars along the rails).
I wish I’d been able to see a play there, but the shows were all sold out. It would be interesting to stand on the floor level, like all the penny-groundlings (although I doubt my knee would be happy standing for 3+ hours, also I don’t think you get to throw fruit & veg anymore).
One of my favorite stories about the Globe Theatre is that it was built with wood from a previous theatre – The Theatre (it took some creativity to come up with that name, I tell you). There was a dispute about the ownership of The Theatre – the Burbages built the theatre on their own on leased land, and the lease owner said that the building became his when the lease expired, but the Burbages declined to agree. So on December 28, 1598 (while the lease owner was out of London), the players and their friends dismantled the building and transported it across the Thames.
The building was later rebuilt the following spring as The Globe – proving that theatre people can be very resourceful when they have to be.