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A History of The Globe Theater

History of the Globe Theater Header

The live theater has long been an important source of entertainment, where people can witness and experience the joy, drama, and excitement of performances and plays. Perhaps no single building in the history of theater has quite the significance as the famous Globe Theater in London, England. In 1599, William Shakespeare’s group of actors and stagehands called Lord Chamberlain’s Men built The Globe Theater in London. The Globe Theater was located near Park Street and Southwark Bridge Road, not far from London Bridge. It was built on the Thames River, which added to the theater’s beauty and mystique.

Portrait of William Shakespeare

The Globe Theater stood three stories tall and was an open-air theater, meaning that the stage was located in the middle of the theater with no roof over it. The theater was built with wood taken from an older theater simply known as The Theatre, which was constructed in 1576. The Globe was approximately 100 feet around in diameter, and could hold close to 3,000 people seated. There were stadium seats located inside as well as standing room. During the height of Shakespeare’s career, it was only the wealthy elite who could afford seated tickets, while the less fortunate would have to stand in areas closer to the stage and watch the plays. The Globe also had large columns on both sides of the stage which supported a roof, although it was still considered to be open air since there was no attached roof to the actual structure. Underneath this roof was a painting of clouds and sky, which people referred to as “the heavens.” In June of 1613, The Globe caught fire during a performance of Shakespeare's Henry the Eighth. The cause of the fire was a prop canon which had been brought in for a scene in the play. When the canon was fired, it accidentally hit the wooden beams and straw thatching of the Globe, causing it to catch fire. While no one was hurt in the fire, The Globe was greatly damaged, and needed to be rebuilt, with the process taking over a year to complete.

William Shakespeare did not design Globe Theater, nor did he build it, but he was a shareholder in it and had been living in London during its construction. He did contribute to some of the details within the theater. Once completed, many of his plays were performed there. It has also been said that Shakespeare wrote some of his plays while spending time at the Globe. The Globe Theater met its demise in 1642 when Puritan English rule declared that all theaters must be destroyed. Sadly, this included the Globe Theater. The Globe was demolished in 1644. However, in 1949, an actor by the name of Sam Wanamaker was determined to rebuild the once famous Globe Theater. Wanamaker’s motives were for it not only to serve as a tribute to William Shakespeare, but also as a testament to the importance of live theater. The new Globe was built very close to the site of the original theater, and it took Wanamaker twenty three years to raise enough funds and get enough interest in rebuilding it. It was not until 1996 that it was officially built, which unfortunately occurred after Wanamaker’s death. While he did not live to see his vision come to fruition, Wanamaker’s efforts brought back to life a relic from the past and ensured that audiences of today can enjoy the same theater experience as those of Shakespeare's time.