The Globe Theatre, London

The Globe Theatre, on the banks of the Thames at Southwark in London, is a faithful replica of the theatre of the same name which stood on the same site in Shakespeare's day. It was the 'wooden o' mentioned in the prologue to Shakespeare's King Henry V.

The original Globe was the venue for plays by Shakespeare, Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher and many others. It was destroyed by fire in 1613, when a cannon discharged during a performance of Shakespeare's Henry VIII set fire to the thatched roof. It was rebuilt the following year, but thirty years later, the Puritans, to whom theatre was synonymous with sin and debauchery, pulled it down completely.

In 1970 the American actor Sam Wannamaker launched a project to rebuild the Globe. There were a lot of planning and bureaucratic difficulties, but they were overcome and the new Globe opened in 1996. It is designed to be as exact a replica of its predecessor as possible. It is not a perfect circle, but a 20 sided polygon, with the audience seated in three tiers of galleries under the thatched roof. The centre of the theatre, the stage area, is open to the skies, although there is a canopy over the main part of the stage. It is built of timber and plaster as the original was, and it is the first thatched roof building built in London since the great fire of 1666.

It is designed to operate as much as possible as a 16th/17th Century theatre would have. Apart from some floodlights to simulate daylight for evening performances, there is no stage lighting. There are no microphones or scenery, only props and furniture. For the audience, the Globe gives an authentic experience of the theatre of Shakespeare's time.  

 

Return to the Panoramas Index