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Intriguing Facts About Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

Renuka Savant
Shakespeare's Globe Theatre refers to the modern reconstruction of what used to be called 'Globe Theatre' back in the Bard's time. Here we present a collection of interesting facts about Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.

Shakespeare's legacy lives beyond England...

This post tells you all about the Globe Theatre in London; however, there are scores of replicas of the legendary playwright's theatre all over the world, including Germany, Italy, Japan, and Argentina, along with five in the United States.
Londoners, roughly throughout the course of 400 years, have witnessed three Globe theatres. The original existed in Southwark on the south bank of the River Thames, and was built in 1599. This theatre was reduced to ashes in 1613 following a fire. It was rebuilt almost immediately in 1614, only to be demolished 30 years later in 1644.
The current structure which stands in London was the brainchild of actor and director Sam Wanamaker. It can be called the third reconstructed Globe, and has been named Shakespeare's Globe.
We will be listing out some fun and little-known facts about the original Globe Theatre, as well as the modern Shakespeare's Globe, which stands in London today.

The Original Globe Theatre

◾ The first Globe was built by the company William Shakespeare worked for, called Lord Chamberlain's Men. The theatre was owned by shareholders who included actors working in the company. Richard Burbage was the company's leading actor.
◾ Although several of Shakespeare's plays were indeed performed at the Globe, they also featured in other theatres. Accordingly, other writers besides the Bard also wrote for the company, including Ben Jonson, Thomas Dekker, and John Fletcher.
◾ Southwark was chosen to be the site of the theatre after careful consideration. First and foremost, it was outside the limits which came under the control of the city officials, many of whom were not what we'd call pro-theatre.
◾ Southwark had an established reputation as an area where the general public went to be entertained. It already had two theatres, the Rose and the Swan, along with animal baiting arenas, taverns, and brothels.
◾ The builders comprised the people who worked for Lord Chamberlain's Men, and therefore, struggled with finances. This led to several compromises during the construction, a prominent example being the roof which was thatched with reef, instead of being tiled.
◾ The Globe was built as a large, round, open-air theatre. It had three stories of seating able to hold an estimated 3,000 spectators. At the base of the stage was an area where people could stand and watch the play, and it only cost them a penny.
◾ The Globe opened to great fanfare in 1599, and it is speculated that the first Shakespearean play to be staged there was Julius Caesar in the same year. Other works of the Bard performed at the theatre were: As You Like It, Hamlet, Measure for Measure, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra.
◾ The Globe's motto was "Totus mundus agit histrionem"―Latin for "The whole world is a playhouse", inspired from "All the world's a stage" from Shakespeare's As You Like It.
◾ On June 29, 1613, disaster struck during a performance of Shakespeare's Henry VIII, when a few cannons were fired. Actual cannon balls weren't used, but they did use gunpowder. It took a few sparks to set fire to the thatch, and in about an hour, the entire theatre was gutted down.
◾ Thankfully, no loss of life was recorded in the fire, but a story goes that a man's breeches got caught up in flames. A bystander promptly doused them with his bottle of beer!
◾ Soon enough, the company began the work of rebuilding the Globe at the same site. Although the basic structure remained the same, this one was posher in comparison, all thanks to the company's new-found riches. This time, they thoughtfully chose to tile the roof.
◾ Unfortunately, the Globe (considered to be the second one) didn't last long either. It was pulled down in 1644 by the Puritans to make room for building tenements.

Shakespeare's Globe, Southwark, London

◾ The idea of reconstructing the Globe came to an American actor and director, Sam Wanamaker.
◾ In 1970, Wanamaker set up the Shakespeare's Globe Trust, which helped him to actively pursue his long-cherished dream of reconstructing the original Globe.

◾ It took the Trust almost 23 years to find land, obtain requisite permissions, and raise funds for the work.

◾ Shakespeare's Globe is built close to the site of the original―it's just 230 meters away.
◾ Shakespeare's Globe Trust invested a huge chunk of their finances towards research in order to make the structure look as close to the original as possible.

◾ They went out of their way to use the same kind of materials, tools, and construction techniques which were prevalent during the Elizabethan era―this included recreating the thatched roof.
◾ Recreating the thatched roof required special permission, since it is a fire hazard in our times. Indeed, the structure has the only thatched roof in London ever since the Great Fire of 1666. It is, of course, protected with fire-resistant material, and has the additional safety of sprinklers.
◾ According to current standards of safety, the theatre also has more exits than the original, with separate fire exits as well. It also only seats around 1,500 people―about half of the original's capacity. Times have changed, and so have the general expectations of comfort and safety.
◾ Interestingly, the first performance at the recreated Globe was not in English, but in German. It took place in 1993 while the building was being constructed.
Shakespeare's Globe stands testimony of the legendary playwright's enduring legacy. The next time you're in London, do make time to spend an evening at this iconic landmark.