The First Globe Theater
The Globe Theater was built around 1598 in London’s Bankside district. It was one of four major
theaters in the area - the others were the Swan, the Rose, and the Hope. It was an open air
octagonal amphitheater that could seat up to 3, 000 spectators. The theater was three stories
high, with a diameter of approximately 100 feet. The rectangular stage platform on which the plays
were performed was nearly 43 feet wide and 28 feet deep. The staging area housed trap doors in
its floorings and primitive rigging overhead for various stage effects.
The original Globe theater was constructed by the Lord Chamberlain’s men, the acting group to
which Shakespeare belonged. Before the Globe was constructed, they performed at the Blackfriar
Theater in the heart of London. But having a theater in the heart of London ...view middle of the document...
The Globe was destroyed by fire in 1613 when , during a production of Henry VIII, a cannon was
fired above the stage to signal some important business of the play. The wadding that stuffed the
cannon, which was some form of heavy cloth, was ignited by the explosion and shot up out of the
auditorium and landed on the dry thatch roof. The straw caught fire and in only minutes the entire
building was consumed in flame. But amazingly, not one person was killed. Here is the first verse
from a sonnet about the fire that destroyed the Globe Theater-
“A tearful fire began above,
A wonder strange and true,
And to the stagehouse did remove,
As rouns as tailor’s chew;
And burnt down both beam and snag
And did not spare the silken flag,
O sorrow, pitiful sorrow,
And yet all this true.”
The second Globe theater, which was rebuilt to be the most expensive and complicated in
England ever built, was completed before Shakespeare’s death in 1616. But then in 1642, a new
Puritan Government decided plays were immoral and banned them all over England. In 1644, the
Globe Theater vanished, “pulled down to the ground to make tenements in the room of it.”
The New Globe Theater
In 1970, the American actor Sam Wannamaker established the Shakespeare Globe Playhouse
Trust. Seventeen years after the Trust was started, a ceremony was held on a site near the where
the original Globe Theater stood to welcome the new Globe Theater to London.
In 1989, the foundations of the original building were discovered. The discovery of the small
percentage of the foundation helped scholars make certain design adjustments. Using other
Elizabethan buildings to help with the structure, style, interior, and roofing, scholars and architects
finished the design of the new Globe Theater. Using the same methods and materials as they
would have in Shakespeare’s time, builders completed work on the new Globe in the mid 1990s.
A regular season was inaugurated at the new Globe Theater in 1997.