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Life at the Globe

Life at the Globe

12 January 2019

9:00 AM

12 January 2019

9:00 AM

 
IN ASSOCIATION WITH THE PRINCIPAL PARTNERS OF SHAKESPEARE’S GLOBE
Merian Global Investors

The Globe was the occasion of drama before the first line was even spoken from its stage. In the snowy winter of 1598, three days after Christmas, Shakespeare and his colleague Burbage resolved a falling-out with the landlord of their then Shoreditch theatre in the liveliest way possible. Noting that the landlord owned the ground on which the theatre stood but not, technically, the theatre itself, they showed up mob-handed with ‘swords daggers billes axes and such like’, pulled the theatre down beam by beam, loaded it on to wagons and headed south.


What they assembled from the bric-à-brac the next spring, on a soggy bit of ground in Southwark, was the stage on which Henry V, Julius Caesar, Hamlet and King Lear were to be performed — and which would stand there until it burned down in 1613 during a performance of Henry VIII. (It was rebuilt, but closed for good in 1642 thanks to the killjoy Puritans and pulled down a few years later.) It could accommodate about three times as many theatregoers as a modern theatre — tight-packed groundlings hollering, flirting, boozing, ‘mewing’, munching hazelnuts and picking one another’s pockets.

According to Peter Ackroyd’s biography of Shakespeare, ‘the atmosphere would have been more like a football stadium than a playhouse’ with ‘elements of the funfair’. The present theatre, a replica of the original built as near as possible to its site, has been in business since 1997 — and as to whether it faithfully recreates the ‘football stadium’ atmosphere, well, you be the judge.

In this new column, produced in association with Merian, which sponsors the modern-day Globe, I’ll be taking a regular look at the past and present of this most remarkable theatre — lighting on aspects of the plays and their performance with a view, I hope, to enriching readers’ enjoyment of the Globe and their understanding of the shows that are staged there over the weeks and months to come.
 
IN ASSOCIATION WITH THE PRINCIPAL PARTNERS OF SHAKESPEARE’S GLOBE
Merian Global Investors


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