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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Shakespeare-Global Theatre

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“Although Shakespeare’s plays were performed at other venues during the playwright’s career, the Globe Theatre in the Southwark district of London was the venue at which the Bard’s best known stage works were first produced” (Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, 1). What a remarkable place. Just think about all of the talent and famous works that came out of this historical theatre. To think that William Shakespeare and all of his associates once performed at this, living-day, theatre excites me enough to share with you some history behind the Globe Theatre. The purpose of this essay is to illustrate and educate some important facts about the Globe Theatre.


The Globe Theatre “was the first London playhouse, built in 1576 by the English and entrepreneur James Burbage, father of the great actor and friend of Shakespeare, Richard Burbage. It was located in a northern suburb of London (north of London Wall which bounded the city proper); on the edge of Finsbury Fields, just past Bishopsgate Street, where Shakespeare called home up to 157” (The Great Theatre, 1).


The building has been described as a “polygonal, three-story timber building opened to the outside. Its outer surface consisted of lime and plaster. It had galleries, upper rooms, a tiring house, and trap doors in the stages floor. All of which were characteristics of playhouses during that era. There were two external staircases on each side of the building which led up to the galleries. (The Great Theatre, 1) According to the article, Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, the total occupancy was between ,000 and ,000 people. There was no lighting and acoustics were poor. As a result, all performances were conducted only if weather permitted.


The audience consisted of both the elite and underprivileged. It was located in what some called the “sporting district”, which meant “cock-fighting, bear-baiting, and the bawdy attractions of taverns outside the legal reach of the City’s officials. (Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, ) This type environment attracted some wicked people both rich and poor. The poor people usually stood and the wealthy didn’t. The “Globe Theatre constituted a ‘little world’ in which the social elite rubbed up against a cross-section of common vulgarians, drunken idlers, and other shady, street-wise sorts. Yet, at the same time, the Globe was grand even in the eyes of Elizabethan society’s most powerful and prosperous leaders” (Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, ).


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“A total of 6 names are recorded as the ‘Principal Actors’ of Shakespeare’s company at the Globe” (Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, ). Three of these names are Richard Burbage, Will Kemp, and Robert Armin, the first two being shareholders in the Globe. Richard Burbage was “best known for his naturalistic style of acting”. Will Kemp and Robert Armin were known for their comedy. (Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, 4) Even though the theatre was home to many acting companies, Shakespeare’s, the Chamberlain’s Men, were its primary candidates. It’s important to remember that during this time period, most of the actors were part owners which meant not only were they in it for the acting, but they were in it for the money. In fact, “Shakespeare made most of his fortune from his ‘share’, first in his company and later in its two playhouses” (The Norton Shakespeare, 7).


“Unfortunately, the Theatre fell victim to government censorship, due to the production of Thomas Nashe’s ‘seditious’ play, Isle of Dogs, that prompted all of the London theatres to be closed for the summer of 157. The Theatre did not reopen, and was dismantled by the carpenter Peter Street in 158, forcing the Chamberlain’s Men to find another home” (The Great Theatre, ). In June of 161, the Globe caught fire and was burnt to the ground. Three years later, Shakespeare dies. Since then the Globe as been reconstructed and to this day is still in use.





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