The Globe Theater changed the course of English Theater forever. The Globe broke rules of ownership, class standards, and promoted the greatest playwright ever, William Shakespeare. Throughout its history the Globe Theater has produced the best of Shakespeare and his amazing plays and when it was closed London never felt the same. But once again Shakespeare is upon us. The newly re-built Globe gives us one more chance to re-live Shakespeare?s plays. Through examining the history and collapse of the Globe Theater one can see how it has come to its recent re-birth, and that it is here to stay.
The Globe Theater was opened in London in 1599. James Burbage, half owner of the theater, built the Globe. The other half of the theater belonged to five men of Lord Chamberlain?s Acting Company. William Shakespeare was the most famous member and owner in the Company. During this time period, it was unusual for the players to actually be owners of the theater at which they performed (Miller-Schutz 1).
The Globe was a central feature of London life. It was the place of the first performances of Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth. The Globe Theater was a gathering place for all social classes. Normally it would be uncommon for the Queen or any other royalty to be in the presence of so many commoners, but at the Globe it was different. There were no social standards on admission, only on where you were able to sit.
The structure of the Globe was made out of timber and built in a round shape. The three-story theater had twenty wooden bays, oak pillars, a thatched roof, and a permanent stage. The Globe had an approximate diameter of a hundred feet, which allowed it to hold about three thousand spectators (Gurr 104).
In 1613, during a performance of Henry VIII the Globe accidentally burned down, luckily none of the thousands of audience members were hurt. John Orrell describes that day best in his book, Rebuilding Shakespeare?s Globe:
The text [in Henry VIII] calls for ?Drum and trumpet, Chambers discharged?, a ?warlike voice? to announce the arrival of ?a noble troop of strangers?. On the fatal day, however, the voice of the chambers, or cannon, accompanied a tongue of fire which accidentally caught the thatch. The wind rapidly fanned the flames all around the roof, and in an hour or two the house was in ruins.(93)
After the fire, the playhouse was immediately rebuilt on its original foundations, but this time the roof was tiled not thatched to prevent future fires. John Orrell believes ?There seems to be no doubt, then, that the second Globe was a more beautiful structure than the first, and more expensive despite the fact that it was no bigger in plan and may even have been built of inferior materials? (94).
From 1642 until 1660, the Puritans forbid theatrical performances in England. Because of this, the Globe was closed in 1642. Lord Chamberlain?s Men obeyed the law, sold their wardrobe and stopped acting, but later on actors began putting on secret performances in other locations. In 1644, the Globe Theater was torn down to build tenements, and its foundations were buried (Brockett 219).
In 1949, Sam Wanamaker comes to London to look for evidence of the Globe and is disappointed that all he can find is a plaque on a brewery wall. Twenty years later, Sam Wanamaker meets Theo Crosby who later becomes the architect for the Globe project.
Gurr, Andrew, and John Orrell. Rebuilding Shakespeare?s Globe. London: Weidenfield and Nicolson, 1989.
Smith, Irwin. Shakespeare?s Globe Playhouse. New York: New York University, 1964.
Timeline: 1599 to 1999. Ed. Chantal Miller-Schutz. Jul. 1999. Reading University. 25 Jan. 2000 .