The Globe Theatre

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Image of The Globe
The Globe Theatre


The Original Globe

The Globe Theatre in London, England, was the first theater venue erected during the Elizabethan era. Prior to the building of the playhouse, a variety of locations were utilized including inns, large public gathering halls, and open green space. [1] However, after Richard Burbage and James Burbage constructed the Globe in 1597 in Shoreditch, audiences of 3,000 were able to join in watching performances by notable playwrights of the time, including William Shakespeare.[2]Although utilized by various producers and actors, the theatre, also known as Shakespeare’s Globe, is widely known for housing the work of the famous playwright.

Sketch of the Swan Theatre
Sketch of the Swan Theatre

Location, History, and Layout

While the original Globe Theatre was first located in Shoreditch, the structure was relocated within the next year. Even though the Burbage family owned the theatre itself, the brothers did not have full ownership of the property in which it stood. Learning that their lease would expire and the Globe would be demolished, the company argued the issue with their landlord for two years and relocated the performances to the Curtain playhouse. The Burbage brothers were then able to purchase land in London’s Bankside district, where they decided to rebuild the Globe after disassembling the structure. The new area proved to be a well-suited location in which to attract Globe patrons. Throughout the Bankside area, individuals participated in activities such as bull-baiting and bear-baiting, which occasionally occurred within the theatre setting. [3]Although the type of space that would have been needed for these activities is known, the actual layout of the original Globe theatre can only be speculated. Written descriptions, building contracts, and stage directions have given limited insight into the design of the theatre. While this is true, a sketch that was drawn of the Swan Theatre during the Elizabethan era is the main tool that is used to make inferences about the space. [4] By combining these resources, it can be suggested that the Globe would be somewhat similar to the Swan theatre space.


While the destruction of the Globe had been avoided in 1598, the rebuilt Globe theatre was eventually burned down. During a performance of Henry VIII, a cannon shot that that was purposefully used as a special effect failed and ultimately set the materials in the thatched roof into flames. The Globe was once again reconstructed and operated until 1642. As Puritans were closing down playhouses, the Globe was not in use and was eventually replaced by tenements on the property. [5]

The Renovated Globe

Sam Wanamaker
Sam Wanamaker

Building the New Globe

Due to the efforts of Sam Wanamaker over a period of twenty years, the Globe Theatre was restored in 1997 at its second location. Wanamaker, an actor, producer, and director, had connections to the work of William Shakespeare throughout his career, taking part in a great number of his plays. After extensive research, planning, and development along with the creation of the Shakespeare Globe Trust, International Shakespeare Globe Centre, and Shakespeare’s Globe Museum, Wanamaker was able to begin the three year process. Because of his efforts and publicizing of the endeavor, he was able to create the support that was needed to fund and inform individuals of the historic project. In 1993, the Queen of England pronounced Wanamaker as an Honorary Commander of the British Empire for his influence that he was able to make through the undertaking and in 1997, the Globe reopened to the public. [6]

Logistics and Criticism

While reconstructing the Globe Theatre, Sam Wanamaker and the architects that were included in the project went to great lengths to ensure that the integrity of the theatre remained intact and the overall essence was captured. For example, oak woods along with certain spackling techniques on the walls were implicated. Although the small details of the theatre remained the same, several more prominent aspects of the Globe were modernized. In order to fit modern safety precautions, doors and lighting were required to be throughout the space in addition to technologically advanced equipment for the crews. [7] The major change to the theatre, however was the transformation from a platform stage to a picture stage. While the Elizabethan theatres included seating surrounding the stage in a more circular formation, the modernized theatre simply views the play directly in front of their seats. [8]

Shakespeare's Connection to the Globe

William Shakespeare’s connection to the Globe Theatre originated from documents that labeled him as a member of The Chamberlain's Men a troupe that performed at the theatre. However, once he relocated, he would continuously rotate between the Globe and Blackfriars Playhouse. [9] After Shakespeare became a shareholder in the Globe however, all of his works were produced in the playhouse. [10] A great deal of the Globe Theatre’s success could possibly be attributed to the work and presence of William Shakespeare as an actor within the theatre and a playwright. Although an accurate representation of the original Globe, the modernized renderings receive various criticisms. Some maintain that when the new theatres advertise to bring the audience “closer to the stage”, their efforts in creating that certain atmosphere do not qualify the space to be fitting for Shakespeare’s work. Instead, it is argued that the smaller details, such as the lack or simplicity of backdrops and scenery in a smaller setting would be more effective. Producers, directors, and actors are now developing their own imitations of the Globe theatre all around the globe. [11]


  1. "Shakespeare's Globe."
  2. Pressley
  3. Ward & Trent
  4. "Shakespeare's Globe."
  5. Pressley
  6. Pressley
  7. Pressley
  8. Ward & Trent
  9. "Shakespeare's Globe."
  10. Ward & Trent
  11. Brown


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