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Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, 21 New Globe Walk, Bankside

Also See - Theatres of Shakespeare's Time from the ERA, 1878 - The Curtain Theatre, Shoreditch - The St. Georges Theatre, Tufnell Park

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in June 2014 - Photo M.L.

Above - Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in June 2014 - Photo M.L.

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in June 2014 - Photo M.L. Shakespeare's Globe Theatre is situated on the Southbank of the Thames at Bankside in London and is approximately 230 metres, or 750 feet, from the site of the original Globe Theatre of the 16th century. The Theatre was the brainchild of Sam Wanamaker who wanted to recreate Shakespeare's original Globe Theatre of 1599 for a modern audience. Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, as it is known today, opened with a production of 'Henry V' in 1997 and was as faithful a reproduction of the Theatre of Shakespeare's time as could be achieved given the lack of plans of the original. The Theatre is a timber framed building equipped with a thrust stage which projects into the audience area, a circular yard for a standing audience, above which are three oak balustraded tiers with banked bench seating, with a circular thatched roof above the tiers and stage. Sadly Sam Wanamaker never got to see how successful his Globe Theatre would become as he died 4 years before it opened.

Right - Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in June 2014 - Photo M.L.

A later addition to the Globe project is an indoor Jacobean Theatre next to the Globe Theatre, named in honour of the Globe's creator, The Sam Wanamaker Theatre, which opened with a production of 'The Duchess of Malfi' in January 2014. The shell of the building was first constructed in 1995 but not fitted out as a Theatre at the time due to a lack of funds. The Sam Wanamaker Theatre is a reconstruction of the Elizabethan Blackfriars Theatre of 1566 which was originally situated on the other side of the river. The Theatre was designed by Jon Greenfield, in collaboration with Allies and Morrison. The Globe complex today also houses a museum and educational facilities.

The Box Ofice and Main Entrance to Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in June 2014 - Photo M.L.

Above - The Box Ofice and Main Entrance to Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in June 2014 - Photo M.L.

The Theatres Trust says of the recreation of the Globe Theatre - 'Until the foundations of the Rose were uncovered in 1989 (and, later, a corner of the Globe itself) there was no direct and unequivocal evidence of even their plan form. Wanamaker’s team included leading experts on Shakespearean theatre, architecture and timber construction and also, most importantly, actors, who could bring their practical insights to test the conclusions of the scholars. The resulting theatre (although a hybrid in some respects, incorporating characteristics of both first and second Globe) is as perfect a recreation as modern knowledge could make it and, as such, it has shed new light on the performance and stage techniques of the period.' - The Theatres Trust.

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre from the Millennium Bridge over the River Thames in June 2014 - Photo M.L.

Above - Shakespeare's Globe Theatre from the Millennium Bridge over the River Thames in June 2014 - Photo M.L.

The original Globe Theatre was built by James Burbage’s sons and a partnership of players, including William Shakespeare himself, and was originaly constructed in Shoreditch but then moved to a new site on the south bank of the Thames at Bankside, on a site which can now be found on Park Street under Anchor Terrace, a stones throw from the present recreation of the Theatre. A fire destroyed the original Theatre in 1613 and it was then rebuilt on the site of the first. The Theatre was closed in 1642 and demolished in 1644.

You may like to visit the present day Shakespeare's Globe Theatre's own Website here.

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in June 2016 - Photo M.L.

Above - Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in June 2016 - Photo M.L.

THEATRES OF SHAKESPEARE'S TIME

From the ERA, 20th of October 1878

Mr William Tegg, the well-known publisher, of Pancras-lane, Cheapside, has placed lovers of Shakespeare under a debt of gratitude to him by the production of one of the best little books about Shakespeare that we have ever read. Mr Tegg, within the limits of a most readable and attractive volume, supplies the reader with really all he needs to know respecting the famous poet and dramatist. A short sketch of Shakespeare's life, embodying the principal facts of the poet's career, opens the volume; and there is a capital chapter upon Shakespeare's contemporaries. Nothing is likely to give the reader a clearer idea of the greatness of Shakespeare than a glimpse of the authors who wrote for the stage in his day. Although the author of Hamlet, Macbeth, and Othello dwarfs them all, it is interesting to note how even the genius of Shakespeare is moulded and influenced by others. Shakespeare, as we are shown by another extremely attractive chapter in Mr Tegg's book, rarely invented a plot himself. As a rule he found some page of history, sonic poetical incident, some ancient legend, that suited his purpose, and at once by the magic power of his genius transformed the raw material into an imperishable work of art. But there were giants in those days, and Mr Tegg gives a list of forty-three dramatists of the Shakespearian era who at a later date, or even at the present day, would be considered men of mark in the literary world. In those times the book world, which is now so important, had but trifling influence, for the poorer classes could not read, and the higher classes sought their cultivated recreation in the Theatre. It is of importance to note the elevating influence of the Drama more than a couple of centuries ago, for it is certain that the noble plays of Shakespeare and others were chiefly instrumental in educating the masses at a period when books were scarce and dear, and the multitude could not have read them if they were cheaper. Mr Tegg's book is so good that we shall return to it again; our immediate purpose, however, is to turn to that very interesting chapter upon the Theatres of Shakespeare's time.

The first fact that meets us, showing the enormous increase of London, is that we have now four times the number of Theatres that existed in the days of Shakespeare. During the earlier career of the great poet, we find there were seven public and three private Theatres in London, the Globe, at Bankside; the Curtain Theatre, Shoreditch; the Red Bull, at the upper end of St. John-street, Clerkenwell; the Fortune, in Golden-lane; and the Rose, Swan, and Hope Theatres, also, like the Globe, at Bankside.

The Rose and the Swan went to ruin in the reign of James the First, while the Hope lost all hope for the dramatist, as it was converted, into a Bear Garden. Satirists say that many other Theatres were little better than bear gardens at a later date. The three private Theatres were at Blackfriars, Whitefriars, and Drury-lane, the latter being called the Phoenix, or the Cockpit.

The Blackfriars Theatre was erected in 1570, on the site of the King's Printing House, and close to Apothecaries' Hall. Here Shakespeare's plays were performed as well as at the Globe. From the description of this Theatre it appears to have been superior to the Temples of the Drama in vogue, and very grand personages honoured the performance of Shakespeare's plays there.

The Whitefriars Theatre was opened about 1580. It had originally been the hall of the monastery of Whitefriars. It was superseded by a new Theatre, erected in Salisbury-court.

The Cockpit or Phoenix Theatre in Drury-lane was in existence in 1637. The first play ever printed, which was Shirley's Wedding, was played here, and the actors received the special title of "The Queen's Servants" in the reign of James the First,

The Fortune Theatre, in Golden-lane, is memorable from being in 1539 associated with the fortunes of Edward Alleyne, the founder of Dulwich College. The building had originally been the nursery for the children of Henry the Eighth. A page of Alleyne's pocket book tells us what the Theatre cost him - altogether £1,320, a moderate estimate as contrasted with the cost of modern Theatres, when a similar sum is spent in the production of a Pantomime. The Fortune Theatre was a brick building, round, and of large size. Like so many Theatres, its fate was to be burned down.

The Red Bull Theatre in St. John-street, Clerkenwell, was originally an inn-yard covered over and used for dramatic purposes. The King's company, under Killigrew, played here while Drury-lane was being got ready for them.

The Globe Theatre was in the first instance a very primitive structure indeed. It was partly open to the sky, and the stage portion was thatched with reeds. We can better understand some of Shakespeare's allusions in his plays when we have read what kind of Theatres his masterpieces were acted in. The Globe shared the fate of nearly every Theatre in the world at some time or other, it was burned down, the accident happening in a rather curious way. A play was performed in which was a representation of a masque at Cardinal Wolsey's House in the reign of Henry the Eighth, and some cannons being fired, the wadding lodged in the reedy roof and set the house on fire. Sir Henry Wotton gives a quaint account of the fire. He says "only one man had his breeches set on fire that would perhaps have broiled him, but with a provident wit he put it out with a bottle of ale." This novel fire extinguisher would not, we fear, go far in the event of a modern Theatre taking fire during a performance.

The Curtain Theatre, Shoreditch, we may read of in 1576. This Theatre was in existence about a century ago, but the Curtain road, Shoreditch, is the only guide to the locality, for we believe the North London Railway extension to Broad-street passes over the actual site of the Theatre.

We have spoken of one Theatre as being improvised by covering over an inn yard, and the practice was by no means uncommon. In the neighbourhood of Bishopsgate streets may still be seen ancient inns where galleries run round three fourths of the court-yard. These galleries were utilised for the spectators, and the rooms behind these galleries were let out to the visitors in much the same fashion as private boxes are at the Present day. The area corresponding to the modern pit was devoted to the "groundhogs," but in private Theatres and houses of a permanent kind seats were provided in the pit, but they were by no means of a luxurious kind. The very roughest benches served the patrons of this portion of the Theatre. The stage was separated from the audience by wooden palings. A curtain hung upon an iron rod hid the stage until the performance commenced, and when the stage was revealed the audience saw not the brilliant landscapes of a Beverly or Grieve, but a floor, perhaps, covered with rushes, or it may be matted. The roller curtain as used at the present day is said to have been first introduced by Inigo Jones at a Court Masque. We may note as a singular example of appropriate decoration that during the performance of a tragedy the stage was hung with black. What is more remarkable still is the fact that, even in Shakespeare's time traps were used. Mr George Conquest would not have been altogether out of his element even in the days of Shakespeare, for in the stage directions to Macbeth the witches' cauldron sinks through a trap; and, in a piece played in 1578 the stage direction is "Here with some fine conveyance Pleasure shall arise from beneath." The footlights were not yet in vogue, and we find that the candles stuck in front of the stage greatly annoyed the audience at times and obstructed their view of the actors. Not until Garrick's visit to Paris in 1765 do we hear of the footlights. Some say that there was no attempt at scenery or stage decoration in Shakespeare's time, but from descriptions occasionally to be met with it seems that tapestry and articles of furniture were employed to ornament the stage in scenes of interiors, and some authorities go so far as to state that rude kinds of "flats," to give an idea, of landscape, were not uncommon. One writer speaks of pillars which would "turn about," and painted cloths which did "vary the stage three times in one tragedy;" and musicians, who announced the commencement of the play by " flourishes" on their instruments.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 20th October 1878.

Archive newspaper reports on this page were collated and kindly sent in for inclusion by B.F.