The Globe Theatre
The Globe Theatre in London , where William Shakespeare's most famous plays premiered; Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, and Twelfth Night, was built in 1599 in Southwark on the south bank of London’s River Thames by Richard Burbage. It was co-owned by Shakespeare, with a share of 12.5%. The Globe was a large, open-aired, three-tiered theater made out of timber taken from the Theatre-– a former theatre owned by Richard Burbage’s father.
The Globe Theatre burned to the ground on June 29, 1613, during a performance of Shakespeare’s last history play Henry VIII: Or, All is True, when a special effect, a cannon set light to the thatched roof and the fire quickly spread. The Globe was rebuilt in 1614.
In 1997 a third version of The Globe Theatre was built as “Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre”, close to the original site in Southwark.
Shakespeare's Globe Theatre
Shakespeare refers to the Globe Theatre in several of his plays, describing it in the opening passage of Henry V as “this wooden O.” In one of Shakespeare’s last plays, his beloved romance, The Tempest (1611), Prospero abruptly ends his daughter’s wedding masque, claiming, “Our revels are now ended,” and continues “the great globe itself / …shall dissolve” (The Tempest 4.1.148, 153-154).1
The theatre was a sight of action. Because of no electricity, all performances were held during the afternoon. None of the props that we have today; the lights, speakers, or microphones, were present then. No play was repeated twice, all were performed at regular short intervals, in a repertory. The Elizabethan audiences were deprived of eye-catching background scenes and props. Thus emphasis was on the language and the costumes. The sumptuous, breathtaking clothes were the highlight of every performance. The materials were luxurious; velvets, furs, silks, lace, cottons and taffeta.
There were no actresses at that time; the male actors played the female characters, like Ophelia in Hamlet or Desdemona in Othello. The acting profession had a bad reputation, though it gained more respect during Shakespeare's time. Actors were seen by the Elizabethan audience as unruly, scruffy, rowdy and a threat to a peaceful society. But their popularity increased enormously. Some of the most famous Elizabethan actors were Henry Condell, Nathan Field, Richard Burbage, William Kemp and John Hemmings. Because of no mikes, the actors had to over-act to make themselves understood in the noisy, open-air theater, using exaggerated gestures of the arms and hands to portray the plot.
Even though the plays were often bawdy and despite the actor’s lack of good acting skills, Shakespeare's language made the plays unforgettable. He was a master of language, and his influence on English still remains strong today. He coined phrases since used so often that they have become clichés—"too much of a good thing,"2 "what's done is done,"3 "all's well that ends well,"4