“A seventeenth century English theatre in Southwark, London”(). Also known, as an Elizabethan theatre was most notable for the initial and contemptuous productions of the dramatic works of English writers, William Shakespeare, Ben Johnson, Beaumont and Fletcher, and others. “In 1576, a carpenter named James Burbage built the first theatre in England, which he called, simply, The Theatre, the first time the word was used to refer to a building specifically designed for the staging of plays”(). It was built in partnership with Shakespeare and others.
It was constructed in the Renaissance era, and drew very large crowds. Due to its advancements in technology, props, and its use of music, the Globe always packed in very large crowds of people, even royalty. The Globe was built by James Burbage in 1576, and rebuilt in 1598, by his sons. James built the “The Theatre,” and it prospered for nearly twenty-one years. In 1597, James Burbage died, leaving the Theatre to his two sons. Things began to get rough for the Theatre after James died. “The landowner Giles Allen caused an unexpected problem”(). Giles raised the rent and refused to renew he lease, so one cold night in December 1598, with much assistance from others, the Burbage brothers disassembled the “Theatre,” and piece by piece they took it by ferry across the Thanes River to the opposite shore. In a short period of time the Theatre was rebuilt, only now it was to be called the Globe theatre. The original “Theatre” stood approximately forty-feet tall, and was said to be more than one-hundred feet in diameter, built in a circular shape with twenty-four sides. The yard went seventy feet between post centers. The stage was forty-nine feet six inches across, and was about five feet tall.
The overall gallery depth was fifteen feet six inches; overall floor height from one floor to another was fifteen feet six inches. The balcony floor was eighteen feet six inches, above the yard, and thirteen feet six inches above the stage. And the doors stood eleven feet tall”(). The stage was quite large, and its exterior definitely displayed its great immensity. After the “Theatre” was built the, and became established, “it became known as the “Wooden O Playhouse,”() because of its twenty four sided shape and its open roof, from the top it had the appearance of an “O”.
After the opening of the “Theatre”, many people were excited to have a new place to go and be entertained, however, many people were unhappy with the establishment. Many of the locals were outraged, calling it a “public nuisance” a disturbance! The churches thought that the company-players were just that, players, because they did not create a usable product, one that one could put their finger on, like the blacksmiths ironworks, or the cobblers shoes. Granted, the Globes plays did lure play goers away from their work, but it was not their fault that they had such loyal, and royal fans.
People became outraged for whatever reason, and the playhouses future was up in the air. Soon the “Theatre” was shut down, the land that the “Theatre” was built on belonged to the most rehensable man, he raised the rent to a very unfair amount and they were forced to shutdown. Although they were forced to close, they had plans to reopen soon. In late December 1598, the Burbage sons had the “Theatre” unassembled and being that it was December, it was very cold outside. The Thames River was frozen, which made it easier on the haul, because they could use sleds to get the “Theatre” across piece by piece.
It took four days to accomplish, but eventually they had the entire theatre across the Thames. The timbers, framework, and anything of value that could be saved were. The “Theatre” was rebuilt in quite a timely manner. The new theatre was a sight to see it was quite beautiful. The seating capacity was some where between two and three thousand. Under the gallery was special seating where royalty and nobles sat in chairs. Most people were in the “pit,” in the front of the stage, they had to stand, and visibility was poor due to the rather tall stage. To be a groundling and stand in the yard, it cost a penny.
The people that stood in the yard or in the pit consisted of apprentices and servants, or anyone who had a penny to spare. For a penny more (two cents) one could sit in a chair or on a bench, and watch the play. And for yet another penny, (three cents) one could sit under the gallery on a cushioned chair (usually only royalty). Just outside the gates to the playhouse, there were many stands. “Bawdy houses, pubs, and taverns that did booming business” (). Pimps and prostitutes plied their trades, venders hawked their wares, and pickpockets, and thieves, and swindlers thrived. Hazelnuts, ale, apples, beer, water, oranges, nuts, gingerbread, and such were hawked as refreshments, or as a token of disapproval”(). Audiences would not hesitate to loudly criticize players, but they would be just as quick to attentively listen to a great performance. Since all of the Southwarks property belonged to the Bishops of Winchester, the church profited greatly, pocketing the revenue from the pimps and brothels. “Since the Fathers considered play going immoral, they prohibited the theatre managers from luring customers through advertising. But the managers ingeniously triumphed over
Puritan strictures; as two o clock neared, a raised flag and a trumpet fanfare proclaimed that the performance was about to begin”(). The flag indicated the days feature. For example, black signified tragedy, white signified comedy, and red signified history. If one wanted to go to a show but were on the opposite shore, wherry boats transported patrons across the Thames to Southwark. Shrewdly the wherry men would withhold the price of transport until they were halfway across the river, and were unable to escape the fare. There is said to be a time when the playhouses were so popular, that over two housand wherry boats traveled to and from the theatre district. Once one got across the Thames, then one would walk to the entrance, where then one would drop their admission into a box (hence box office). Ticket prices varied, depending on the location of ones seat. The most exclusive of guests would sit on the stage. The players were called the Chamberlains men, later known as the Kings men. The cast consisted of all males, males of all age were allowed to perform, however, no females were allowed to perform. Males played all characters, male and female.
Because of this, the cast became known as the Chamberlains men. After much trouble with the plague (Black Death) the Chamberlains became known as the Kings men. The plague was a very devastating problem among the theatre. The Black Death spread so quickly through the country, that throughout the reign of Queen Bess and even King Henry the VIII, at first wind of the plague, theatres were to close, for it was law. This hurt business greatly, because they could be closed for several months at a time. Other than the plague, the Globe theatre had other hard times as well. Since the
Globe was a twenty four sided circular shaped structure, with only a minimal thatched grass roof, and an open center, any time that the weather was adverse they would be forced to close down. They would have to stay closed for as long as the weather persisted. This could go on for sometimes months. The only other times that the theatre was not open was in the winter when the weather was too cold to bear, and on Sundays. The theatre in general was a “fair weather” only operation. The Globe was forced to close for many various reasons. None quite spelled disaster like the time that the Globe burned to the ground.
Trouble came in 1613, during a performance of Shakespeares Henry the VIII play. A fire started when a cannon discharged, and the thatched grass roof caught on fire. The whole building burnt down in less than an hour. The surprising fact is that, “every person, all three thousand, got out safely. No one was injured”(). Almost a year later in 1614, the theatre was rebuilt. It stood for another thirty years, until 1644, when the Puritans “razed” it. The Puritans took it over because they believed that the theatres were evil, and should not exist. They took it over and tore it down.
Now thats all that stands in its place is a small pub. What started out to be a small time theatre, was nothing of he sort. James Burbage built the “Theatre,” after he passed his sons rebuilt it and called it the “Globe,” they later had to rebuild after a fire, and finally many years the Puritans took it over, putting an end to the legend of the Globe theatre. The Globe was a well-known theatre where many famous play writers like Ben Johnson and William Shakespeare put on performances. It was infamously associated with William Shakespeare, however, the Globe was popular for many reasons.
The Globe was the first theatre of its type. It was very advanced for its time; the Globe would captivate audiences with the use of a wide variety of props and music, when such things were not readily available. The Globe drew large crowds of people from all over, it was not uncommon to see famous people and even royalty at performances. The Globe was a special theatre with lots of memorable attributes, and none of it would have been possible if it were not for the loyal/ royal fans. Thanks to them, both the myth and the legend of the Globe theatre will live on.