The Globe

The Globe is the one theatre that has come to be most associated with William the-globe-stichShakespeare. It was built in 1599, with among other material, beams from The Theatre on land belonging to Thomas Brend.

The building itself would however come to belong to the company The Lord Chamberlain´s Men, with an part ownership which meant that Richard Burbage and his brother Cuthbert had 25 per cent each while Shakespeare, John Heminges, Augustine Philips and Thomas Pope owned 12,5 per cent each.

Even though it´s been known that the theatre was situated on Bankside and contemporary blue prints existed, it wasn´t until 1989 the exact location became known as parts of the foundations was found below a car park in proximity of Anchor Terrace. These parts are marked out above ground today, but as the major parts of the remains of the old theatre are below a listed house of historical significance, no further excavations have been permitted.

Because of this the exact dimensions of The Globe isn´t known, but from the findings that has been made, it´s estimated that the original building was a three stories high amphitheatre with room for 3 000 seated spectators and an unknown number of standing audience.

While drawings from the late 17th century implies that the building was round, the excavations that has been made gives at hand that it was a question of a polygon building with 20 sides.

Just as The Rose, The Globe seems to have had a dirt floor with nutshells stomped down in it to create a smooth surface that stayed ”in place”. A roof, which was held up by two pillars, covered the rear of the stage and its inside painted to resemble a cloudy sky, fittingly called ”The Heavens”. In the roof there was also a trap door, which made it possible for the actors to lower themselves down on the stage, using a rope and harness.

The_Swan_croppedAround the open yard three balconies rose, to which the tickets would have been more expensive than the standing spots around the stage itself. The stage would have been 5 meters high, 13,1 meters wide and 8,2 meters deep. Here another trap door made it possible for the actors to emerge on stage from below.

There exist no information as to which play would have been the very first to have been performed at The Globe, but it may have been Henry V during the summer of 1599 or Julius Caesar in September that same year. The first play, which is properly documented, to have been performed at The Globe is Every Man Out of His Humour by Ben Johnson towards the end of that same year.

The Globe burned to the ground on June 29th 1613, three years before William Shakespeare passed away. The cause was a theatre cannon fired wrongly during a performance of Henry VIII, which set fire to the thatched roof and wooded beams of the theatre. According to the few documents that exist, no one was injured even though man´s trousers caught fire and had to be put out with beer. The theatre was rebuilt during 1614, somewhat grander than the first construction and equipped with a tile roof.

Like all London theatres, The Globe was closed down by the Puritans in 1642 and demolished two years later, allegedly to give space for housing.

In 1997 The Globe rose from the proverbial ashes 230 metres from its original location, now with the name ”Shakespeare’s The Globe”. The reason for the slight 98_fullchange in location was that an approach to the Southwark Bridge was simply in the was.

The building bears as much resemblance to the original theatre that has been possible to achieve from estimations of descriptions remaining from 1599 and 1614. The first play staged at the new Globe was Henry V.

The stage and seating’s are constructed in the same way as in the original theatre, with the difference is that today´s Globe only has 857 seating’s and an additional 700 places for a standing audience, changes that are adaptions both to modern safety rules and the fact that modern day individuals are believed to be somewhat bigger than they would have been in Elizabethan times. Estimates has been made that the average seat was only 15.24 centimeters deep with a width of 45 centimeters and only around 30 centimeters leg space, which may have been a bit tough on modern day spectators.

Something, which would not have been found in the days of William Shakespeare and The Lord Chamberlain´s Men, is a visitor’s centre – a result of the American actor/director/producer Sam Wanamaker´s long ambition to create a Shakespeare museum, a project which was already on the way when the idea to re-create The Globe was born – , a gift shop and a restaurant.

No steel has been used in the construction of The Globe, and the building is the first one in London to have been allowed to have a thatched roof since the Great Fire of London in 1666.

Copies of  The Globe can be seen in Argentina, Italy, Germany, Japan and USA.


London, the illustrated history – Museum of London, Simon Hall, John Clark, Cathy Ross.

Reconstructing Shakespeare´s Globe – John Orrell, University of Alberta

The 1599 Globe and its modern replica: Virtual Reality modelling of the archaeological and pictorial evidence – Gabriel Egan; Kings College and Shakespeare´s The Globe London

Images: Wikimedia Commons

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