The Globe Theatre London, England

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The Globe Theatre, London.

To call the Globe Theatre, Shakespeare’s Globe theatre is not far from the truth. In 1599 William Shakespeare had been working for playhouse company The Lord Chamberlin’s men for five years, with no theatre to call home. The London based troop needed somewhere they could guarantee exhibitions of their plays without competition from other theatre companies. To remedy their need, Shakespeare himself paid almost 13% of the total cost toward building the Globe theatre. Aside from being an actor and playwright, Shakespeare’s donation to the Globe Theatre’s construction ensured him a position as chief stakeholder in the new playhouse, alongside fellow actor Richard Burbage, on behalf of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, netting them a share of the theatre’s profits. It was the first time that an Elizabethan acting company had involved themselves in the building and running of a playhouse in this way, and the rise of Shakespeare’s Globe theatre began a surge of competition among London playhouses to ensure proprietary rights to acting companies and their exhibition.

An engraved vintage illustration image portrait of the Elizabethan playwright William Shakespeare, from a Victorian book dated 1847.

History of the Globe

The Globe Theatre that stands on London’s south bank today is not the same theatre that stood in Shakespeare’s time. The original Globe Theatre was destroyed in 1613 by a misfiring canon during a performance of Shakespeare’s Henry VIII, and burnt to the ground. One Elizabethan theatre-goer had his breeches catch alight, but was saved by a neighbouring playhouse occupant, who doused the flames with his bottle of ale. With the destruction of the original globe, the Globe theatre was rebuilt the following year on the same London site. But this playhouse, too, was not to last. The theatre was pulled down thirty years later by the puritans, who objected to theatres and public spectacle. The foundations of the original Elizabethan playhouse were not discovered until 1989, when a disused carpark was excavated, reavealing the original globe beneath. These were subsequently used as a model for the replica theatre, which opened in 1997 under the name Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. The new Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre was built only 230 meters from the site of the original London playhouse under the direction of american actor Sam Wanamaker, for whom the 2014 Sam Wanamaker Playhouse was named. The Sam Wanamaker playhouse is adjacent to the Globe theatre, situating both Elizabethan theatre’s on the River Thames, within easy walking distance of such famous landmarks as St Paul’s Cathedral, the tower of London, the tate modern, London Bridge, and the London Eye.

Today’s Globe Theatre

Although it supports only half the occupancy of its Elizabethan predecessor, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is built with the same amphitheater layout as the original open air theatre. It’s belly has uncovered standing room, called the groundlings, and three tiers of covered seating. In Shakespeare’s day, entry to the standing-room cost only a single penny. The most expensive seats were in the Lord’s Rooms, which allowed discerning Elizabethans to sit on stage and be a part of the action. Today, tickets to the Globe theatre might not include entry to these privileged spots, but an Odessy guided tour still allows visitors to step onto Juliet’s balcony, explore the playhouse backstage, and take in the season’s exhibitions. Odyssey’s London walking tour allows operates with a small groups of travellers, visiting many of London’s cultural sites along the bankside, while their premier guided tour of the globe exhibition and Shakespeare’s globe theatre tour lets discerning visitors experience all that London’s globe theatre has to offer.

William Shakespeare Globe Theatre which is situated beside the River Thames on London’s South Bank opposite St Paul’s Cathedral and next to the Tate Modern in England

Shakespeare and the Globe

Of all the playhouses that Elizabethan London was home to, only the Globe still holds our imagination in the way it does. It’s not possible to talk about the Globe theatre without talking about Shakespeare. He was the businessman who helped to finance it, the playwright who helped to popularize it, and the actor who helped to bring its stage to life. But it was not just the playwright who influenced the theatre. Traces of the Globe Theatre’s impact on Shakespeare are everywhere in the bards works: whether it’s Hamlet declaring ‘all the world’s a stage,’ or in the prologue to Shakespeare’s Henry V, the play with which the new Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre opened, asking its audience to look about ‘this wooden O.’ Stepping into the Globe Theatre is to step into Shakespeare’s London, with all his famous works from Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar and the Winter’s Tale. It allows modern audiences to experience an Elizabethan playhouse as it was, and Shakespeare as it should be.

Head from a terracotta bust dating from 1730 of the Elizabethan playwright William Shakespeare

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