Shakespeare's Globe

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Coordinates: 51°30′29″N 0°5′50″W / 51.50806°N 0.09722°W / 51.50806; -0.09722

Shakespeare's Globe
Southwark reconstructed globe.jpg
Shakespeare's Globe in May 2003
Address 21 New Globe Walk
City Southwark, London
Country England, United Kingdom
Architect Pentagram
Owned by The Shakespeare Globe Trust
Opened 1997
Other names The Globe

Shakespeare's Globe is a reconstruction of the Globe Theatre, an Elizabethan playhouse in the London Borough of Southwark, on the south bank of the River Thames that was originally built in 1599, destroyed by fire in 1613, rebuilt in 1614, and then demolished in 1644. The modern reconstruction is an academic approximation based on available evidence of the 1599 and 1614 buildings. It was founded by the actor and director Sam Wanamaker and built about 230 metres (750 ft) from the site of the original theatre and opened to the public in 1997, with a production of Henry V. The site also includes the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, an indoor theatre which opened in January 2014. This is a reconstruction of the Blackfriars Theatre, another Elizabethan theatre.

The original Globe[edit]

The original Globe Theatre, was built in 1599 by the playing company, Lord Chamberlain's Men, to which Shakespeare belonged, and was destroyed by fire on 29 June 1613. The fire was caused by an accident with a cannon during a production of Henry VIII.[1] The theatre was rebuilt by June 1614 (the exact opening date is not known), but was officially closed by pressure of Puritan opinion in 1642 and demolished in 1644.[2]

Planning and construction[edit]

Stage and galleries

In 1970, American actor and director Sam Wanamaker founded the Shakespeare Globe Trust and the International Shakespeare Globe Centre, with the objective of building a faithful recreation of Shakespeare's Globe close to its original location at Bankside, Southwark. This inspired the founding of a number of Shakespeare's Globe Centres around the world, an activity in which Wanamaker also participated.

Many detractors maintained that a faithful Globe reconstruction was impossible to achieve due to the complications in the 16th century design and modern fire safety requirements; however, Wanamaker persevered in his vision for over twenty years, and a new Globe theatre was eventually built according to a design based on the research of historical adviser John Orrell.[3]

It was Wanamaker's wish that the new building recreate the Globe as it existed during most of Shakespeare's time there; that is, the 1599 building rather than its 1614 replacement.[4] A study was made of what was known of the construction of The Theatre, the building from which the 1599 Globe obtained much of its timber, as a starting point for the modern building's design. To this were added: examinations of other surviving London buildings from the latter part of the 16th century; comparisons with other theatres of the period (particularly the Fortune Playhouse, for which the building contract survives); and contemporary drawings and descriptions of the first Globe.[5] For practical reasons, some features of the 1614 rebuilding were incorporated into the modern design, such as the external staircases.[6] The design team consisted of architect Theo Crosby of Pentagram, structural and services engineer Buro Happold, and quantity surveyors from Boyden & Co. The construction, building research and historic design details were undertaken by McCurdy & Co.[7]

The theatre opened in 1997[8] under the name "Shakespeare's Globe Theatre", and has staged plays every summer. Mark Rylance became the first artistic director in 1995 and was succeeded by Dominic Dromgoole in 2006.[9]

The modern Globe from the River Thames

The theatre is located on Bankside, about 230 metres (750 ft) from the original site—measured from centre to centre.[10] The Thames was much wider in Shakespeare's time and the original Globe was on the riverbank, though that site is now far from the river, and the river-side site for the reconstructed Globe was chosen to recreate the atmosphere of the original theatre. Like the original Globe, the modern theatre has a thrust stage that projects into a large circular yard surrounded by three tiers of raked seating. The only covered parts of the amphitheatre are the stage and the seating areas. Plays are staged during the summer, usually between May and the first week of October; in the winter, the theatre is used for educational purposes. Tours are available all year round. Some productions are filmed and released to cinemas as Globe on Screen productions (usually in the year following the live production), and on DVD.

The reconstruction was carefully researched so that the new building would be as faithful a replica of the original as possible. This was aided by the discovery of the remains of the original Rose Theatre, a nearby neighbour to the Globe, as final plans were being made for the site and structure. Performances are engineered to duplicate the original environment of Shakespeare's Globe; there are no spotlights, plays are staged during daylight hours and in the evenings (with the help of interior floodlights), there are no microphones, speakers or amplification. All music is performed live; the actors and the audience can see each other, adding to the feeling of a shared experience and of a community event.

The building itself is constructed entirely of English oak, with mortise and tenon joints[11] and is, in this sense, an "authentic" 16th century timber-framed building, as no structural steel was used. The seats are simple benches (though cushions can be hired for performances) and the Globe has the first and only thatched roof permitted in London since the Great Fire of 1666.[11] The modern thatch is well protected by fire retardants, and sprinklers on the roof ensure further protection against fire. The pit has a concrete surface,[11] as opposed to earthen-ground covered with strewn rush from the original theatre. The theatre has extensive backstage support areas for actors and musicians and is attached to a modern lobby, restaurant, gift shop and visitor centre. Seating capacity is 857[12] with an additional 700 "groundlings" standing in the pit,[13] making up an audience about half the size of a typical audience in Shakespeare's time.

Sam Wanamaker Playhouse[edit]

The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, the Globe's replica Jacobean theatre

As the modern Globe was under construction, the shell for an indoor theatre was built next door, to house a "simulacrum" of the sixteenth-century Blackfriars Theatre from the opposite side of the Thames. It was initially used as a rehearsal space, and for education projects.[14]

Although the original Blackfriars building was erected in 1566, during Elizabeth's reign, local residents had successfully petitioned against it and the Lord Chamberlain's Men, Shakespeare's playing company, did not begin to use it until 1608, five years into the Jacobean era.[15]

As no reliable plans of the Blackfriars Theatre are known, the plan for the new theatre was based on drawings found in the 1960s at Worcester College, Oxford, at first thought to date from the early 17th century,[16] and to be the work of Inigo Jones. The shell was built to accommodate a theatre as specified by the drawings, and the planned name was the Inigo Jones Theatre.[17] In 2005, the drawings were dated to 1660 and attributed to John Webb.[16] They nevertheless represent the earliest known plan for an English theatre, and are thought to approximate the layout of the Blackfriars Theatre.[14] Some features believed to be typical of earlier in the 17th century were added to the new theatre's design.[16]

On 24 February 2012 it was announced that the new theatre would be named the Sam Wanamaker Theatre, after the trust's founder, and work on it would commence in October that year. It was also announced that the total cost would be £7 million, and that an anonymous donor had pledged £1 for every £1 the theatre itself raised, up to a maximum of £3 million.[18]

The theatre was completed at a cost of £7.5 million.[19] Designed by Jon Greenfield, in collaboration with Allies and Morrison, it is an oak structure built inside the building's brick shell.[20] The thrust stage is surmounted by a musicians' gallery, and the theatre has an ornately painted ceiling. The seating capacity is 340, with benches in a pit and two horse-shoe galleries,[19] placing the audience close to the actors.[21] Shutters around the first gallery admit artificial daylight. When the shutters are closed, lighting is provided by beeswax candles mounted in sconces, as well as on six height-adjustable chandeliers and even held by the actors.[19] The design incorporated extensive fire precautions.[20]

Under the slightly revised name of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, the theatre's first production The Duchess of Malfi opened on 15 January 2014.[19]

Other replicas[edit]

Globe-Theater, Schwäbisch Hall, Baden-Württemberg, Germany

Replicas and free interpretations of the Globe have been built around the world:

Teatro Shakespeare (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
United States


  1. ^ Nagler 1958, p. 8.
  2. ^ Gurr, Andrew (2008). Encyclopædia Britannica: Globe Theatre. 
  3. ^ Martin, Douglas (2003-09-28). "John Orrell, 68, Historian On New Globe Theater, Dies". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-12-11. 
  4. ^ Gurr, Andrew (1997). "Shakespeare's Globe: a history of reconstruction". In Mulryne, J. R.; Shewring, Margaret. Shakespeare's Globe Rebuilt. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. p. 38. ISBN 0-521-59988-1. 
  5. ^ Greenfield, Jon (1997). "Timber framing, the two bays and after". In Mulryne, J. R.; Shewring, Margaret. Shakespeare's Globe Rebuilt. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. pp. 102–3. ISBN 0-521-59988-1. 
  6. ^ Bowsher, Julian; Miller, Pat (2010). "The New Globe". The Rose and the Globe — playhouses of Shakespeare's Bankside, Southwark. Museum of London. p. 162. ISBN 978-1-901992-85-4. 
  7. ^ McCurdy & Co website
  8. ^ Phelan, Peggy (2006). Hodgdon, Barbara; Worthen, William B, eds. A Companion to Shakespeare And Performance. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers. p. 14. ISBN 1-4051-1104-6. 
  9. ^ "Dominic Dromgoole appointed Artistic Director". The Shakespeare Globe Trust. Retrieved 2007-03-19. 
  10. ^ Measured using Google Earth.
  11. ^ a b c McCurdy, Peter. "The Reconstruction of the Globe Theatre". Reading, England: McCurdy and Company. Retrieved 19 December 2009. 
  12. ^ This number can be derived by counting all seats on the detailed seating plans that are shown after selecting an event and start the booking procedure at "Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, London". online. Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, London. 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-29.  and adding another 20 for the "Gentlemen's Rooms" ("Shakespeare's Globe". Gentlemen's Rooms. Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, London. 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-29. )
  13. ^ "Shakespeare's Globe :: Seating Plan and Ticket Prices". Shakespeare's Globe. 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-02. 
  14. ^ a b "Shakespeare’s Globe Announces Plans to Build an Indoor Jacobean Theatre" (Press release). Shakespeare's Globe. 20 January 2011. Retrieved 24 October 2011. 
  15. ^ Bowsher; Miller (2009: 19)
  16. ^ a b c Williams, Holly (22 June 2013). "All the world's a stage (or two): Shakespeare's Globe to be joined by a candlelit indoor theatre". The Independent. Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
  17. ^ "Innovation in the theatre: Old spaces and new globes". The Economist. 19 May 2005. Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
  18. ^ Louise Jury (24 February 2012). "Globe theatre appeal … stage two". Evening Standard. Retrieved 24 February 2012. 
  19. ^ a b c d Coveney, Michael (16 January 2014). "The Duchess of Malfi (Sam Wanamaker Playhouse)". What's On Stage. Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  20. ^ a b Moore, Rowan (12 January 2014). "Sam Wanamaker Playhouse – review". The Observer. Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  21. ^ Spencer, Charles (16 January 2014). "The Duchess of Malfi, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, review". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  22. ^ Teatro Shakespeare
  23. ^ Globe Theatre Neuss
  24. ^ Italy gets Globe Theatre replica.
  25. ^
  26. ^ The Globe Theatre, 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition at State Fair Dallas
  27. ^ The Old Globe, San Diego.
  28. ^ [1]



  • Carson and Karim-Cooper 'Shakespeare's Globe: A theatrical Experiment' Cambridge University Press, 2008, 9780521701662
  • Day, Barry: This Wooden 'O': Shakespeare's Globe Reborn. Oberon Books, London, 1997. ISBN 1-870259-99-8.
  • Rylance, Mark: Play: A Recollection in Pictures and Words of the First Five Years of Play at Shakespeares's Globe Theatre. Photogr.: Sheila Burnett, Donald Cooper, Richard Kolina, John Tramper. Shakespeare's Globe Publ., London, 2003. ISBN 0-9536480-4-4.

External links[edit]