Shakespeare's Globe

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

Shakespeare's Globe is a reconstruction of the Globe Theatre, an Elizabethan playhouse in the London Borough of Southwark, located on the south bank of the River Thames, but destroyed by fire in 1613, rebuilt 1614 then demolished in 1644. The modern reconstruction, of the 1614 building, was founded by the actor and director Sam Wanamaker and built approximately 230 metres (750 ft) from the site of the original theatre. The theatre was opened to the public in 1997, with a production of Henry V. The site also includes a reconstruction of the Blackfriars Theatre.

The original Globe

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 June 29, 1613. The fire was caused by an accident with a cannon during a production of Henry VIII. 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 . The current theatre is based on the 1614 rebuilding, about which more information survives, but with a larger stage and broader staircases.


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. Many detractors maintained that a faithful Globe reconstruction was impossible to achieve due to the complications in the 17th century design and modern fire codes; however, Wanamaker persevered in his vision for over twenty years, and, eventually, a new Globe theatre was built according to a design based on the research of historical advisor John Orrell. The design team was composed of architect Theo Crosby of Pentagram, structural and services engineer Buro Happold, quantity surveyors from Boyden & Co. The construction was undertaken by McCurdy & Co.

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

The new theatre on Bankside is approximately 230 metres (750 ft) from the original site, measured from centre to centre. The Thames was much wider in Shakespeare's time, and the original Globe was also on the riverbank; however, the original site is now more than a block inland from the riverside. The site for the reconstructed Globe near the present bank of the Thames 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.

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 Globe Theatre 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 on period instruments; the actors can see the audience and the audience can see each other, adding to the feeling of a shared experience and community event.

The building itself is constructed entirely of English oak, with mortise and tenon joinery. - no structural steel was used. It is, in this sense, an "authentic" 16th century timber-framed building. 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. The modern thatch is well protected by fire retardants, and sprinklers on the roof ensure further protection against fire. The pit, however, has a concrete surface as opposed to the earthen ground covered with strewn rush in the original theatre. The "authentic" theatre has extensive backstage support areas for actors and musicians and is attached to a modern lobby, restaurant, gift shop and visitors' centre. Seating capacity is 857 with an additional 700 "groundlings" standing in the pit, making up an audience about half the size of a typical audience in Shakespeare's time.

Other replicas

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

  • Ashland, Oregon: OSF Elizabethan Theatre
  • Cedar City, Utah: Adams Shakespearean Theatre
  • Dallas, Texas: Old Globe Theatre
  • Odessa, Texas: The Globe Theatre of the Great Southwest
  • San Diego, CA: Old Globe Theatre
  • Williamsburg, Virginia: Globe Theatre, in Busch Gardens Williamsburg
  • Neuss am Rhein: Globe Neuss
  • Rust, Baden, Germany: Europa-Park
  • Schwäbisch Hall, Baden-Württemberg: houses a replica of the interior of the Globe Theatre.
  • Rome: Globe Theatre
  • Tokyo: Panasonic Globe Theatre
In popular culture

The theater was used as a stand-in for the original Globe in the Doctor Who episode "The Shakespeare Code".

  • Carson and Karim-Cooper 'Shakespeare's Globe: A theatrical Experiement' 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.


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