Shakespeare tells us that life is ‘a poor player who struts and frets his hour upon the stage’- but which stage is that? The Globe Theater was the original site for a lot of Shakespeare’s most famous and influential plays. Shakespeare and his acting troupe, Lord Chamberlain’s Men, decided to build their own theater when they were refused access to the special roofed facility, Blackfriars Theater. The wealthy residents of the area had persuaded the government to block the theater’s use for plays. Theater was a bit taboo during this time period. In fact, Lord Chamberlain’s Men was one of two theater companies licensed to perform within the city limits of London.
The circular design of The Globe was meant to reflect the feel of crowds gathering around actors in a town marketplace, which is where all the players got their training during this period. In the original design, there were three levels of galleries and a platform mounted in the yard, similar to something a traveling company would set up in an inn yard.
Shortly after the Globe was built and their successes grew, the group gained permission to use Blackfriars Theater. They actually worked out of two theaters for a time- the Globe during the warmer months and Blackfriars during the winter. Unlike modern day productions, The Globe held all of their performances in the afternoons, using natural light.
The original Globe actually burned down in 1613, after it’s thatch was accidentally set on fire by a cannon during a performance of Henry VIII. An updated version of the structure was rebuilt in 1614, only to be torn down again in 1644 when the Puritans closed all theaters. It wasn’t until the 1990’s that a replica of the theater was rebuilt again nearby where the original was located. This replica can be visited in London today and productions of both Shakespearean plays and others alike are held here.
The Globe Theater is important because it allows us to have a better understanding of Shakespeare. While his plays can be performed anywhere from stage to screen, they were originally designed to be staged here.
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