Shakespeare: Globe Theatre

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The Globe Theatre

In 1594, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England, Shakespeare needed a playing company to perform his plays to the public.  So it was, that the “Lord Chamberlain’s Men” were born with him being one of the owners.

Richard Burbage would play most of the leading roles, which would have included; Hamlet, Othello and Macbeth to name just a few, whilst Shakespeare himself would have performed many of the secondary parts.

Shakespeare wrote most of his plays to be performed by the “Lord Chamberlain’s Men,” and they played to their audience at “The Theatre” in Shoreditch, then in 1597 they moved to the “Curtain Theatre,” following a dispute with their landlord.

His need for larger premises saw the ambitious construction of the “Globe Theatre” in Southwark, built in 1599.

For it was on the 29thDecember 1598 that “The Theatre” in Shoreditch was dismantled, and the main beams moved to south of the River Thames: “The Globe Theatre,” in Southwark.

The original Globe Theatre was a three-storey open-air amphitheatre, some 100 feet in diameter, and easily capable of housing 3,000 spectators.

Located at the base of the stage, we find an area referred to as the pit, which was for standing room only.  It was common practice in this design, to locate larger columns on either side of the stage as support for a roof over the rear area of stage.  The ceiling area would be painted with what appeared to be sky and clouds, representing the heavens.  A trap door would be located in the heavens, allowing performers to descend using a harness.

The Globe became a joint venture, as in the “Lord Chamberlain’s Men” sharing in profits and debts: Richard Burbage – Cuthbert Burbage – William Shakespeare – John Heminges – Augustine Phillips – Thomas Pope.

With its first performance being held on the 21stSeptember 1599 in their new playhouse: Julius Ceasar.

William Shakespeare’s wealth grew, with each and every production drawing in the crowds to witness the plays of this man.  He who had no formal training according to a critic of his work; Robert Greene, yet he was popular.  Many of his plays were being published, and his name attracted many to read his works.

In 1603, Queen Elizabeth I died, and King James I ascended to the English throne, and became their new patron.  They changed their name to the “King’s Men” in response.  The company then held exclusive rights for the performances of William Shakespeare plays.

The “Globe Theatre” was destroyed by fire on 29thJune 1613, during a performance of Henry VIII. It is said a theatrical cannon misfired setting the wooden beams and thatched roof into a blazing inferno. She was rebuilt by June 1614.

“The Globe” suffered the same fate as many other London theatres in 1642; being closed, and demolished in 1644, making way for tenements, by order of the Puritans.  Thankfully, William Shakespeare had not been alive to see his dream torn down.

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