Shakespeare's Globe is the complex housing a reconstruction of the Globe Theatre, an Elizabethan playhouse associated with William Shakespeare, in the London Borough of Southwark, on the south bank of the River Thames. The original theatre was built in 1599, destroyed by fire in 1613, rebuilt in 1614, and then demolished in 1644. The modern Globe Theatre reconstruction is an academic approximation based on available evidence of the 1599 and 1614 buildings. It is considered quite realistic, though contemporary safety requirements mean that it accommodates only 1400 spectators compared to the original theatre’s 3000.
Shakespeare's Globe was founded by the actor and director Sam Wanamaker, built about 230 metres (750 ft) from the site of the original theatre and opened to the public in 1997, with a production of Henry V. The site also includes the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, an indoor theatre which opened in January 2014. This is a smaller, candle-lit space based on the indoor playhouses of Jacobean London. The Sackler Studios, an educational and rehearsal studio complex, is situated just around the corner from the main site. There is also an exhibition about Shakespeare's life and work, and regular tours of the two theatres.
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. This inspired the founding of a number of Shakespeare's Globe Centres around the world, an activity in which Wanamaker also participated.
Multiple experts maintained that a faithful Globe reconstruction was impossible to achieve due to the complications in the 16th century design and modern fire safety requirements; however, Wanamaker persevered in his vision for over twenty years, and a new Globe theatre was eventually built according to a design based on the research of historical adviser John Orrell.
It was Wanamaker's wish that the new building recreate the Globe as it existed during most of Shakespeare's time there; that is, the 1599 building rather than its 1614 replacement.
A study was made of what was known of the construction of The Theatre, the building from which the 1599 Globe obtained much of its timber, as a starting point for the modern building's design. To this were added: examinations of other surviving London buildings from the latter part of the 16th century; comparisons with other theatres of the period (particularly the Fortune Playhouse, for which the building contract survives); and contemporary drawings and descriptions of the first Globe. For practical reasons, some features of the 1614 rebuilding were incorporated into the modern design, such as the external staircases. The design team consisted of architect Theo Crosby of Pentagram, structural and services engineer Buro Happold, and quantity surveyors from Boyden & Co. The construction, building research and historic design details were undertaken by McCurdy & Co.
The theatre opened in 1997 under the name "Shakespeare's Globe Theatre", and has staged plays every summer. Mark Rylance became the first artistic director in 1995 and was succeeded by Dominic Dromgoole in 2006. In January 2016, Emma Rice began her term as the Globe's third Artistic Director, but in October 2016 announced her decision to resign from the position in April 2018. On 24 July 2017 her successor was announced to be the actor and writer Michelle Terry.
The theatre is located on Bankside, about 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 on the riverbank, though that site is now far from the river, and the river-side site for the reconstructed Globe was chosen to recreate the atmosphere of the original theatre. In addition, listed Georgian townhouses now occupy part of the original site and could not be considered for removal.
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. Some productions are filmed and released to cinemas as Globe on Screen productions (usually in the year following the live production), and on DVD.
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 Rose Theatre, a nearby neighbour to the Globe, as final plans were being made for the site and structure.
The building itself is constructed entirely of English oak, with mortise and tenon joints and is, in this sense, an "authentic" 16th century timber-framed building, as no structural steel was used. 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 has a concrete surface, as opposed to earthen-ground covered with strewn rush from the original theatre. The theatre has extensive backstage support areas for actors and musicians, and is attached to a modern lobby, restaurant, gift shop and visitor centre. Seating capacity is 857 with an additional 700 "Groundlings" standing in the yard, making up an audience about half the size of a typical audience in Shakespeare's time.
For its first eighteen seasons, performances were engineered to duplicate the original environment of Shakespeare's Globe; there were no spotlights, and plays were staged during daylight hours and in the evenings (with the help of interior floodlights), there were no microphones, speakers or amplification. All music was performed live, most often on period instruments; and the actors and the audience could see and interact easily with each other, adding to the feeling of a shared experience and of a community event.
Typically, performances have been created in the spirit of experimentation to explore the original playing conditions of the 1599 Globe. Modern, conventional theatre technology such as spotlights and microphones were not used during this period. Beginning in the 2016 season, the new Artistic Director, Emma Rice, began experimenting with the theatre space by installing a temporary lighting and sound rig. The Globe operates without any public subsidy and generates £21 million in revenue per year.
Adjacent to the Globe is the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, an indoor theatre modelled after a Jacobean-era theatre and used for performances during the winter months when the main theatre cannot be used.
Read Not Dead is a series of play readings, or staged “performances with scripts” that have been presented as part of the educational program of Shakespeare’s Globe since 1995. The plays selected are those that were written between 1576 and 1642 by Shakespeare’s contemporaries or near contemporaries. These readings are performed at Shakespeare’s Globe Sackler Studios as well as other theatres, halls, festivals and fields nationwide.
In 2013 there were Read Not Dead performances at the Wilderness Festival and at Glastonbury Festival. In 2014, the final production in Read not Dead’s first season was performed at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, which is the indoor Jacobean style theatre. The play selected for that occasion was Robert Daborne’s A Christian Turn'd Turk.
The original Globe Theatre was a wood-framed building with plastered outside walls joining at angles to form a circle or an oval. The interior resembled that of a modern opera house, with three galleries protected from rain and sunlight by a roof. Between 2,000 and 3,000 playgoers paid two or more pennies to sit in these galleries, depositing them in a box. The stage was raised four to six feet from ground level and had a roof supported by pillars. In front of the stage was a roofless yard for up to 1,000 "groundlings" or "stinklings," who paid a "gatherer" a penny to stand through a performance under a hot sun or threatening clouds. Playgoers could also sit on the stage if their wallets were fat enough to pay the exorbitant price. It is unlikely that the uneducated groundlings who huddled in the yard understood the difficult passages in Shakespeare’s plays. Shakespeare himself belittled them in Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, calling them (through lines spoken by Hamlet) incapable of comprehending anything more than dumbshows. But because the groundlings liked the glamor and glitter of a play, they regularly attended performances at the Globe. When bored, they could buy food and drink from roving peddlers, exchange the news of the day, and boo and hiss the actors.
There was no curtain that opened or closed at the beginning or end of plays. At the back of the stage, there was probably a wall with two or three doors leading to the dressing rooms of the actors. These rooms collectively were known as the "tiring house." To tire means to dress–that is, to attire oneself. Sometimes, the wall of the tiring house could stand as the wall of a fortress under siege. Props and backdrops were few. Sometimes a prop used for only one scene remained onstage for other scenes because it was too heavy or too awkward to remove. Peter Street was the carpenter/contractor hired to construct the Globe. The main rival of the Globe in the first years of the 17th Century was the Fortune Theatre, constructed in 1600 (also by Peter Street).
In Shakespeare's time, males played all the characters, even Juliet, Cleopatra and Ophelia. Actors playing gods, ghosts, demons and other supernatural characters could pop up from the underworld through a trap door on the stage or descend to earth from heaven on a winch line from the ceiling. Off the stage, the ripple of a sheet of metal could create thunder. Stagehands set off fireworks to create omens, meteors, comets, or the wrath of the Almighty. Instruments such as oboes and cornets sometimes provided music. If an actor suffered a fencing wound, he simply slapped his hand against the pouch (perhaps a pig's bladder) beneath his shirt to release ripe red blood signaling his demise.
The gallery had a thatched roof. (Thatch consists of straw or dried stalks of plants such as reeds.) During a performance of Henry VIII on June 29, 1613, the Globe Theatre burned down after booming canon fire announcing the entrance of King Henry at Cardinal Wolsey's palace ignited the roof.
Although the second Globe had a non-flammable tile roof, it was torn down in 1644 after a fire of another sort, Puritan zeal, closed all theatres. Puritans were strict Protestants who favored strait-laced living and opposed theatre performances. After the Globe was razed, tenements replaced it. Between September 2 and 5, 1666, the Great Fire of London–which destroyed more than 13,000 dwellings and more than 80 churches–consumed the foundations and whatever else was left of the Globe. Not a stick of wood from it was left. Modern recreations of the first and second Globe theatres are based on 17th Century descriptions and drawings. No one knows the exact dimensions or appearance of the second Globe or its predecessor. Globe Theatre recreations are based on educated guesses and on a surviving drawing of a rival theatre.
The Globe was built west of London Bridge on the south bank of the Thames River in an area known as Bankside. It was the seedy section of town, frequented by prostitutes, pickpockets and other unsavory people. Not far from the Globe were "bear gardens," where Londoners attended entertainments in which a bear chained by the neck or a leg was attacked by dogs, including mastiffs. The sport was known as bearbaiting. More than two decades before the first Globe Theatre was built, Queen Elizabeth herself attended an entertainment involving 13 bears. Bankside residents also enjoyed bullbaiting. In this entertainment, a bull’s nose was primed with pepper to excite it. Dogs were then loosed one at a time to bite the bull’s nose.
Richard Burbage and his brother, Cuthbert, inherited a playhouse called "The Theatre" from their father, James. The Theatre, which opened in 1576, stood in the Shoreditch section of London. It resembled a miniature U.S. baseball park in that it had a circular seating area surrounding an open area. Unlike a baseball park, however, the open area had a stage. In front of the stage was a yard in which playgoers unable to afford seating could stand.
When the owner of the land on which The Theatre stood threatened to demolish the building after the lease expired, Richard and Cuthbert dismantled the playhouse and reassembled it, timber by timber, on the south bank of the Thames in a district where two other theatres, the Rose and the Swan, were already competing for the coins of London playgoers. The reconstruction was completed in 1599.
Richard Burbage was an actor in a company called The Lord Chamberlain's Men, which Shakespeare had joined in 1594. (The name of this company changed several times. Burbage was the first actor in history to play Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, King Lear, Romeo, Henry V and Richard III. Cuthbert Burbage did not act, although he was interested in drama. The Lord Chamberlain's men was the most prestigious acting company at the time. However, another company known as the Admiral's Men (which featured the works of Christopher Marlowe, among others) also enjoyed wide popularity and respect.
The Burbage Brothers owned a 50 percent interest in the Globe. William Shakespeare and four other investors–John Heminges, Augustine Phillips, Thomas Pope and Will Kempe–owned the remaining 50 percent in equal shares.
William Shakespeare was, of course, the main dramatist. But other authors also debuted plays there. They included Ben Jonson, Thomas Dekker and the writing team of Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher. Fletcher and Shakespeare teamed up to write The Two Noble Kinsmen.
All actors at the Globe and other theatres were males, even those who played Juliet and Cleopatra. It was forbidden for a woman to set foot on an Elizabethan stage. This proscription against females meant that Romeo probably recited his lines to a fuzzy-faced boy and that Antony may have whispered sweet nothings to a gawky adolescent male. However, because of wigs, neck-to-toe dresses and makeup artistry, it was easy for a young male to pass for a female. After an actor reached early adulthood, he could begin playing male parts. Shakespeare himself sometimes performed in his plays. It is said that he enjoyed playing the Ghost in Hamlet. All actors had to memorize their lines exactly; if they forgot their lines, they had to improvise cleverly or watch or listen for cues from an offstage prompter.
Highly skilled actors, such as Richard Burbage, earned more money, and received more praise, than Shakespeare and other playwrights. Actors who played clowns and jesters were celebrities, much as today's television and movie comedians.
The acting company to which Shakespeare belonged established itself in 1590 as the Lord Chamberlain's Men, also called simply the Chamberlain's Men. Shakespeare joined the company about 1594. After the company's patron, Henry Carey, First Lord Hunsdon, a first cousin of Queen Elizabeth, died in 1596; Carey's son, George (Second Lord Hunsdon), assumed the patronage of the company. It then adopted a new name, Hunsdon's Men. However, the company reverted back to its old name, Lord Chamberlain's Men, in 1597. It retained that name until the death of Queen Elizabeth I in March 1603 and the accession of James I as King England. At that time, James became the company's patron, and its name changed to the King's Men.
Shakespearean and other Elizabethan actors had to perform their own stunts, such as falling or tumbling. They also had to wield swords and daggers with convincing skill. In addition, most actors had to know how to perform popular dances of their era and earlier eras, depending on the time and place of the play. Finally, actors had to have a voice of robust timbre. After all, there were no microphones or megaphones in Shakespeare's day. Several thousand noisy people, sometimes cheering, sometimes booing, had to hear every line.
Because settings on an Elizabethan stage were spare, Shakespeare had to write descriptions of them into his dialogue. This handicap proved to be a boon, for it motivated Shakespeare to write some of his best descriptions. Whenever place or time mattered [in a Shakespeare play], some references to them could be introduced into the dialogue, and if special atmospheric or dramatic effects were needed, they could be created by the poet's pen. Hence, it is to the Elizabethan stage that we are indebted in great measure for the exquisite descriptive poetry of Shakespeare. Such conditions, moreover, encouraged a greater imaginative cooperation on the part of the audience in the production of a play, and this active participation was further increased by the informality of the platform stage. With such intimacy, soliloquies, asides, and long set speeches are natural and not absurd as they are in modern theatre.
Before performing a bloody play such as Titus Andronicus, actors in Shakespeare's day filled vessels such as pigs' bladders with blood or a liquid resembling blood and concealed them beneath their costumes. Onstage, they had only to pound a fist against a bladder to release the blood and die a gruesome death. Stagehands in the wings simulated thunder by striking a sheet of metal or pounding a drum. They also sometimes set off fireworks during battle scenes and lit torches during night scenes. The imagination of the audience was called upon to provide other special effects, as the prologue to Henry V suggests.
Productions of Shakespeare's plays often included vocal and instrumental music, especially in plays performed on special occasions before royalty. Minor characters usually sang the vocal selections. Instruments used included the trumpet, the oboe, called an hautboy or hautbois (pronounced O bwa), and stringed devices such as the viol and the lute. The plays also included dancing. In fact, Romeo and Juliet met at a masked dance. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the fairy king, Oberon, dances with his queen, Titania, after inviting her to “rock" with him, so to speak. Oberon says, “Sound, music! Come, my queen, take hands with me, and rock the ground whereon these sleepers be." Shakespeare’s popular comedy As You Like It ends with a dance. Other plays with dancing include Henry V and Love’s Labour’s Lost. In The Two Noble Kinsmen, co-authored by Shakespeare and John Fletcher, the Schoolmaster and the jailer’s daughter speak of a dance called the “morris."
Actors at the Globe and other London theatres generally wore clothing currently in fashion. Thus, the characters in plays set centuries before the age of Shakespeare dressed in Elizabethan or Jacobean apparel. For example, the characters in King Lear and Cymbeline, both set in ancient Britain, wore clothing popular at the time of Shakespeare. Presumably, it would have been too costly and time-consuming to research and make costumes of another era.
Sound quality in the Globe Theatre was poor, and spoken lines did not carry unless actors bellowed them viva voce. Consequently, actors had to recite their lines with boom and thunder while helping to convey their meaning with exaggerated gestures.
Elizabethan actors had to know all of their lines word for word. In a day when their were no cue cards and no intermissions–and actors had to perform in many plays each year instead of the one or two that occupy modern actors in New York and London–such a task surely was Herculean for the major actors playing Hamlet, King Lear, or Macbeth. However, acting companies did post a person offstage to prompt actors who forgot their lines.
In an age when royals and nobles held full sway over commoners, the Globe Theatre was a democratic institution, admitting anyone–whether a baron, a beggar, a knight, a candlemaker, an earl, a shoemaker, or a strumpet–if he or she had coin of the realm to drop in a box before entering. The viewers of a play could be noisy and rowdy, and they could deliver an instant review of an acting performance in the form of a rotten tomato colliding with the forehead of an offending actor.
The Shakespeare’s Globe site includes an outdoor and indoor Theatre, Exhibition space and Swan Bar and Restaurant. The entrance to the Exhibition is accessed via a ramp on Bankside. They aim to be welcoming and accessible to all and are continually updating and improving our provisions for diverse audiences. A dedicated Access Information Line operates from 10.00am – 5.00pm, Monday to Friday, offering advice on specialised services for disabled people at Shakespeare’s Globe: Access Information Line - Tel: 020 7902 1409 ; Email: email@example.com
Mental Health. Some mental health conditions can make it difficult for people to attend performances, take part in their activities or join the tours. If, for whatever reason, you feel that there is something they can do to make your visit to Shakespeare’s Globe easier, please contact them and let them know.
All tickets for Globe Theatre and Globe Education events can be collected from the Box Office desks, adjacent to the Welcome Desk on the right of the foyer. The sides of the Welcome Desk and Box Office desks are 77cm high. A lift located to the right of the Welcome Desk holds six people or one person in a wheelchair and an attendant. The opening is 81.5cm wide; its internal width is 109.5cm; its internal depth is 179.5cm. It gives access to: the piazza level (marked P); Swan Bar (P); Restaurant (1); and hospitality areas, such as the Upper Foyer (1) and Balcony Room (2). The Globe Theatre is on the piazza level.
Stairs to the Globe Theatre are directly ahead. There are 15 steps up to the piazza level. There is a handrail on both sides. Glass doors open onto the piazza which surrounds the Globe Theatre. On the piazza level of the main foyer, there are two accessible toilets in a corridor along the south side of the Globe Theatre: one immediately after the shop, and another about 10 metres away, at the end of the corridor, beyond the gentlemen’s toilets. There is one accessible toilet on the west side of the piazza next to the First Aid room.
The Globe Theatre is entered and exited through large, heavy wooden doors, staffed at all times. There is provision for one wheelchair user in the yard, and three (with one companion each) in ‘Gentleman’s Box P’. The Gentleman’s Box is accessible by lift, and patrons are accompanied by the Duty House Manager.
The yard accommodates up to 700 people standing. The stage is 152cm above ground level so sight lines can be limited. One wheelchair ramp that slightly elevates users is available: please advise the Box Office when booking. There are 28 steps to the Middle Gallery and 50 steps to the Upper Gallery.
Staff are on hand to help patrons transit to and from their seats and can provide a wheelchair for the purpose of escorting people. The wheelchair cannot be used for the entirety of the performance. There is a First Aid room on the piazza level. If you expect to need access to the first aid room on your visit, please inform the Duty House Manager on arrival.
A hearing induction loop is available at all performances; please switch hearing aids to the T or 3 position. They do not provide hearing aids. Please note that the Globe Theatre is an openair building and the loop will amplify all sounds. The hearing loop works best when seated in the Lower Gallery. Please inform the Box Office when booking and they can advise further. If a hearing aid proves incompatible with theirr system please inform the Duty House Manager. They have a small number of hearing induction loop enhancers which patrons may find helpful: these are located at the Welcome Desk in the main foyer.
Audio-described performances are provided by VocalEyes. For the dates and times of these performances, please telephone the Access Information Line on 020 7902 1409 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Each year there are several British Sign Language interpreted performances by THEATRESIGN. The interpreter usually stands stage-right. Patrons can enjoy a good view from the yard, and from bays L and N in the Lower Gallery. For the dates and times of these performances, please telephone the Access Information Line. Captioned performances are provided by Stagetext. For the dates and times of these performances, please telephone the Access Information Line.
Enabling dogs are welcome at Globe Theatre performances, subject to where the owner is sitting. Please advise the Box Office if you intend to bring a dog. During performances dogs can be looked after by staff, but you must inform the Box Office when booking if this will be necessary. Please contact the Duty House Manager upon arrival. Note that performances can involve loud noises.
Patrons with access requirements are eligible for discounts, but are required to join their free Access Scheme, which has been designed to help us to better understand your needs. Concessions are not available online.
The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse is accessible via the Main Foyer and Upper Foyer. A lift, located to the right of the Welcome Desk, holds six people or one person in a wheelchair and attendant. The opening is 81.5cm wide; its internal width is 109.5cm; its internal depth is 179.5cm. It gives access to: the playhouse’s Lower Gallery and Swan Bar at piazza level (P); the playhouse’s Upper Gallery, Swan Restaurant and Upper Foyer (1), and the Balcony Room (2).
In the foyer, at piazza level, there are two accessible toilets in a corridor along the south side of the Globe Theatre: one immediately after the shop, and another about 10 metres away, at the end of the corridor, beyond the gentlemen’s toilets. There is one accessible toilet by the Bullring: please refer to the plan of the level below ground on page 35. Staff can provide a wheelchair to help patrons transit to and from their seats. The wheelchair cannot be used for the entirety of the performance. There are no handrails, and we only recommend a transfer into aisle seats on the back row of the Lower Gallery.
The playhouse is entered and exited through heavy red doors which are staffed at all times. There is provision for two wheelchair users in the Lower Gallery Lords’ Box A, with their carers seated in the row in front. Patrons are accompanied to and from the spaces by the Duty House Manager via a door at piazza level, near the Globe Shop.
A hearing induction loop is available at all performances; please switch hearing aids to the T or 3 position. We do not provide hearing aids. Please inform Box Office when booking and they can advise further. If a hearing aid proves incompatible with our system please inform the Duty House Manager. We have a small number of hearing induction loop enhancers which patrons may find helpful: these are located at the Welcome Desk in the main foyer. Audio-described performances are provided by VocalEyes. For the dates and times of these performances, please telephone the Access Information Line on 020 7902 1409 or email email@example.com.
Captioned performances are provided by Stagetext. For the dates and times of these performances, please telephone the Access Information Line on 020 7902 1409. firstname.lastname@example.org
They advise that hearing and guide dogs are not taken into the Playhouse except during Touch Tours for Audio-described performances, due to limited space. Please advise the Box Office if you intend to bring a dog. During performances dogs can be looked after by staff, but you must inform the Box Office when booking if this will be necessary. Please contact the Duty House Manager upon arrival. Note that performances can involve loud noises. Patrons with access requirements are eligible for discounts, but are required to join their free Access Scheme, which has been designed to help us to better understand your needs. Concessions are not available online.
Bankside Pier is 10 metres from the theatre and is served every 20 minutes throughout the day by MBNA Thames Clippers, with the last boat leaving Bankside at 23.22 each evening. MBNA Thames Clippers serve 21 piers throughout London, including Embankment, London Eye, London Bridge, Tower, Canary Wharf and Greenwich.
Location : Shakespeare's Globe, 21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, London SE1 9DT
Transport: Blackfriars (National Rail) then 10 minutes. Underground: Blackfriars (District Line, Circle Line) then 10 minutes. London Buses routes : 45, 63, 100 to Blackfriars Bridge, 15, 17 to Cannon Street; 381 , RV1 to Southwark Street or 344 to Southwark Bridge Road. Boat : MBNA Thames Clippers (see above).
Access Line : 020 7902 1409
Tel: 020 7902 1400