The Globe Theatre - History and Facts | History Hit

The Globe Theatre

London, England, United Kingdom

Peta Stamper

14 May 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About The Globe Theatre

The Globe Theatre in London is a theatre famous for its association with England’s best-known playwright, William Shakespeare. Built in 1599 by Shakespeare’s Elizabethan playing company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, The Globe was destroyed by a fire in 1613. The theatre’s remains were found in 1989, lying underneath a listed building on Anchor Terrace.

A modern reconstruction of the Globe opened in 1997 only 230 metres from where the original theatre stood and today, continues to hold productions of Shakespeare’s best known plays over 400 years later.

The Globe Theatre history

The Globe Theatre was built in 1599 using timber from another theatre which had been built by actor Richard Burbage’s father in Shoreditch. This earlier theatre, called ‘The Theatre’, was claimed by the landowner when the Burbage lease ran out. However, Burbage had the materials taken to a new spot across the Thames reconstructing the theatre as ‘The Globe’.

A 3-storey, open-air amphitheatre, The Globe could hold an audience of up to 3,000. The theatre had a large area at the base of the stage known as the pit where members of the audience referred to as ‘groundlings’ could pay a penny to see the performance.

Larger and constructed as a wooden ‘O’, The Globe’s first performance starring the Lord Chamberlain’s Men was either ‘Henry V’ in the summer of 1599 or ‘Julius Caesar’ in September of the same year. The theatre was partially owned by Richard Burbage and his brother, while William Shakespeare and other actors from his company all had shares.

During a performance of Henry VIII on 29 June 1613, The Globe went up in flames. A theatrical canon has misfired and set alight to the wooden beams and thatched roofing. Surviving documents of the event describe how no-one got hurt besides a man whose engulfed breeches were put out with some ale.

The theatre was rebuilt the next year but was closed under the Puritans in 1642 and pulled down between 1644 and 1645 for tenements. However, in 1997 a modern reconstructed theatre called ‘Shakespeare’s Globe’ opened – as its predecessor likely did – with a production of ‘Henry V’.

The Globe Theatre today

Today, with its 20 sides, green oak pillars and thatched roof, you can visit Shakespeare’s Globe in its modern incarnation besides the River Thames. The new theatre puts on regular performances of Shakespeare’s classic plays, such as ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and ‘As You Like It’, with the cheapest tickets being those in the pit or ‘yard’.

Besides the new theatre, Shakespeare’s Globe, you can visit the original site of The Globe marked by a dark line in the paving stones beside Anchor Terrace. You can see this marker from Park Street, behind Shakespeare’s Globe.

Getting to The Globe Theatre

Located along the banks of London’s River Thames, you can easily find The Globe or Shakespeare’s Globe when walking through Southwark. Otherwise, Southwark Bridge Stop BC on bus line 344 is only 3 minutes walk to the theatre or the Thames ferries RB1, RB2 and RB6 all stop just outside at Bankside Pier.

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