Globe TheaterTheaters in the time of Shakespeare are quite different from those we have today. The plays had to be performed during daylight hours only and the stage scenery had to be kept very simple with just a table, a chair, a throne, and maybe a tree to symbolize a forest. What the theater today can show us visually, with intricate scenery and electric lighting, Shakespearean playgoers had to imagine. This made Shakespeare have to write in a vivid language so the audience could understand the play. Shakespeare had to indicate whether it was dawn or nightfall by using a speech rich in metaphors and descriptive details. Shakespeare’s theater was far from being bare, for the playwright did have some valuable technical sources that he used to the best of his ability. The costumes the actors wore were made to be very elaborate. Many of the costumes conveyed recognizable meanings for the audience such as a rich aristocrat wearing silk clothes with many ruffles. Many times there were musical accompaniments and sound effects such as gunpowder explosions and the rolling of a cannonball to simulate thunder. The stage itself was also remarkably versatile. Behind it were doors for exits and entrances and a curtained booth or alcove for actors to hide inside. Above the stage was a higher stage area which symbolized a porch or balcony. In the stage floor was a trap door which was said to lead to “hell” or a cellar, this was especially useful for ghosts or devils who had to appear and disappear throughout the play. The stage itself was shaped in a rectangular platform that projected into a yard that was enclosed by three story galleries.
The building was semi-round in shape, as Shakespeare called it a “wooden O.” The audience sat in the galleries or they could stand in the yard in front the stage. A roof and awning protected the stage and the high-priced gallery seats. For the privilege to view the play from the yard, the peasants only had to pay one penny. The Globe theater was built by a theatrical company in which Shakespeare belonged. The Globe theater was not in the city itself but on the south bank of the Thames River. This location had been chosen because in 1574 public plays had been banished from the city by an ordinance that blamed them for corrupting the youth and promoting prostitution. The Globe Theater is quite a beautiful and popular place to visit now, having just been rebuilt about one year ago. Though Shakespeare is long gone, his plays and the spirit of the Renaissance live on inside the theater.