The Globe Theatre, Bankside London
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London today, is not the original theatre but actually the third Globe in its place. When Sam Wannamaker, an American actor and director visited London wanting to see the Globe Theatre, he was extremely disappointed that all he saw in it’s place was a car park. Although there was a black shiny plaque saying ‘Here was the Globe Theatre’ it did not even have the correct date on it. Through his disappointment he was inspired to build another one.
When Sam Wannamaker planned the third Globe Theatre he wanted to make sure that it looked exactly the same as the first one. Made sure all the measurements were the same and that it had 20 sides. It had an open roof and no lighting as they did not have electric circuits to power the lighting in 1558.
Two large ‘marble’ pillars line either side of the stage and they are reference to the Hercules pillars. These pillars are made from oak and painted to look like marble. On the stage, the roof was painted with the zodiac style and had a trap door, which functioned as ‘heaven’ (in the roof) and a trap door (in the floor of the stage), which worked Hell and both allowed actors in their respective roles to appear on stage. When the trap doors were first used, it was so ‘state of the art’ that members of the audience fainted in surprise.
The matinées would start at 2:00pm so if people left work early to watch a performance. Performances only happened in the day as they did not have sources of light.
The performances were rough and they used real swords for fighting so there were a few injures, as they were not all highly trained actors as they are today. Sometimes even members of the audience were killed accidentally.
The audience would shout insults or bad swear words and throw things at the actors. There were ladies selling garlic to chew on and snacks such as nuts, chips and biscuits.
The atmosphere in the theatre was not very good. It was not a clean place as people in those times, did not bathe; and if they did, it was only once a year. There were also people chewing on garlic everybody was sat/standing shoulder to shoulder and jaw to jaw.
Compared to theatre ticket prices today, it seems extremely cheap to have visited the theatre in Shakespeare’s time. Tickets started at 1 penny, for the standing spaces at the front of the stage, and varied from 2 to 6 pennies for seated places.
For an extra cushion, you would pay 3 pennies, and generally the higher the seating position the more expensive the ticket. The very most expensive ticket were the 6 penny seats on the stage balcony itself. In that position, although you would only see the actors backs, it would be easier to hear their lines, but ultimately people sat on the stage balconies in order to be seem by the public.
Table of seating
Standing at the front:
Sitting on a cushion:
Sitting on chairs:
Sitting high up:
Sitting on the stage:
The ladies at the theatre doors would collect pennies in a pot the size of a fist with a tiny slot to put the coin in. Then after they finished collecting they would take the pot to the ‘box office’ and smash it open to get to the money. The name stuck and to this day, the Box Office remains the place to go to, to purchase tickets for the theatre.
The Globe Theatre was not the only theatre in that location. Prior to the Globe being built there was also The Swan and The Rose. The Globe Theatre’s location (Bankside London) was a rough place then as there are loads of drunk people and brothels. It was a dirty place, there were rats and mice and a bad atmosphere especially at night.
Outside the London Mile:
No entertainment was allowed inside the London mile as that was where the Queen lived and the financial and government areas were, so much of the entertainment for the city occurred outside the London Mile.
Bankside was conveniently located across the river from St Paul’s cathedral. This meant that with the many boatmen ploughing the Thames in those days, the theatre was in a very easily accessible location.
The original Globe Theatre burnt down during a performance of Henry the VIII.
During this performance, they decided to fire a cannon when Henry VIII walked onto stage. The thatched roof caught on fire as the cannon was fired but luckily none of the estimated 3000 people were hurt. All of them managed to escape except for one man whose britches caught on fire. His quick thinking friend put it out with glass of ale, which he had in his hand.
The next Globe Theatre was rebuilt at a cost of £700 and this time they had a tiled roof to ensure that it would not burn down again.
Today, the current Globe Theatre is the only thatched roof building in London. This is only possible because of the extensive sprinkler system built in to the thatch.
Overall I think that The Globe Theatre is definitely worth visiting and is a great learning experience for children. Georgia gives The Globe Theatre: