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Globe Theatre Notes
The Globe Theatre in London was where most of William Shakespeare's plays were first
presented. It was built in 1599 by two brothers, Richard and Cuthbert Burbage, who
owned its predecessor 'The Theatre' at Shoreditch in north London. Before 1599 the Lord
Chamberlain's Men performed in public primarily at The Theatre, which had been leased
by James Burbage, father of Richard.
In winter of 1598, “The Theatre” was dismantled piece by piece, the wood shipped
across the Thames to Southwark on the south bank and reassembled it there.
Opened in 1599
Shares of the new theatre were divided between the Burbage brothers, the land owner
Sir Nicholas Brend, and five members of the Lord Chamberlain's men: Shakespeare,
John Heminges, Augustine Phillips, Thomas Pope and William Kemp.
Located on the Thames River
Had raw sewage, dead dogs floating in it
Rise and lower with the tide
Also called “Wooden O”
octagonal in shape - open center
Accommodated about 3,000 people
On June 29, 1613, the Globe Theatre went up in flames during the first performance of
Henry the Eighth. A theatrical cannon, set off during the performance, misfired, igniting the
wooden beams and thatching. No one was hurt except, according to one of the few
surviving documents of the event, for a man who put out his breeches with a bottle of ale. [1]
Closed in 1642 by Puritans because they needed room for tenement dwellings.
Cost of Admission
Open to all for the modest fee of just one-penny (roughly 10 % of a worker’s daily wage), you could stand
in the yard at the center of the playhouse. Without an overhead roof, such a view was exposed, but with
the stage set at eye level some 5 feet off the ground, you got the closest view in the house. For a little
more (roughly two pennies), you could pay to sit in one of the playhouse's three circular galleries; the
gentry with time on their hands and comfort on the minds frequently paying more for the comfort and
status, the gallery seats conferred.
At the base of the stage, there was an area called the "yard," where people (the
"groundlings") would stand to watch the performance. Around the yard were three levels of
seating, which were more expensive than standing: the first two were called the Twopenny
Rooms and the top level was called the Penny Gallery.
The Groundlings
Paid 1 penny to get in -- no seats for them
Took their own lunches, got drunk, party atmosphere
Often threw food at actors
Not educated, no social graces, etc.
Shakespeare tried very hard to appeal to them
The Pit
Area in front of stage where groundlings stood to watch performances
Open air – unprotected from weather
Minimal scenery, natural lighting, words in play gave time of day and place of scene
Lots of action, duels, murders, clowns, ghosts, witches, noise, puns, with, asides, music, shouting, et
Length of play
Lasted about 2 – 21/2 hours
Usually began sometime from noon to 2 PM
Scene Ended by
Tapestry walked across the stage
Change of actors
No curtains to signify end of scene/act
NO female actresses
Apprentice actors (young males) played female parts
Announcement of Plays
Playbills were posted in the city
Flag was raised atop the theatre
Different color flag for different type of play (new play, comedy, tragedy, etc.)
Death / stabbing scenes – used pigs bladders filled with blood (worn under tunic costume)
Shakespeare starts almost every play with a fight
Minimal furniture props
<Continued on Back>
Elizabethans loved music
Every Shakespeare play had music in it somewhere
Used costumes authentic to the actor’s times (not accurate to the play’s setting)
Received costumes by buying them cheaply from servants who had inherited them
Colors were symbolic
Dark Blue – servant or apprentice
Scarlet – ruler
Yellow – jealousy
Orange – pride
Azure blue – honor
Rose – gallantry
In Elizabethan times, theatre was not appropriate for females
Only the really wealthy attended accompanied by a Lord
Ladies of the Evening often elicited their profession in the Pit before performances
Everyone who went in the front door to the pit paid 1 penny
The pay more to sit under a covered area – lower balcony -skilled worker, tradesman,
Box seats – upper balcony – near musicians – wealthy – Lords
Other forms of entertainment in theatres
Bear baiting – English bulldogs tormented a bear fastened to a stake by a chain
Cock fighting
Usually done on Sundays and holidays
London Bridge
Traitors’ heads (after executions) placed on stakes lining the bridge (to discourage disloyalty.)
Had to be able to fence, tumble, dance, sing, and play two roles in one play
Had to have strong voices with good elocution (no microphones)
Lord Chamberlain’s Men – original acting group Shakespeare belonged to
Later changed to King’s Men
Acting company consisted of 10-12 adults, 6 boy apprentices, and 2-3 stage hands
Globe moved once cross the river
Burned down once because of cannon pointed at thatched roof
Closed once because of the plague
Torn down due to the Puritan movement that plays were immoral
Renaissance – means rebirth - Queen Elizabeth’s reign
Motto of the Globe: All the world’s a stage