10 Fascinating Facts About Londons Globe Theatre

Set on the South Bank amongt state-of-the-art museums and arts complexes, the Globe Theatre looks a little out of place with its Tudor style. This spiritual home of Shakespearean theatre is in fact the third incarnation of the original Globe, first built in 1599 – the current one was built in 1997. But there’s still plenty to learn about this fascinating attraction, a living monument to a giant of English culture.

globe theatre

-All the Globe Theatres were built along the riverbank in Southwark. The City of London (what is now known as the Square Mile) did not allow theatres within its walls, so the South Bank became a centre for entertainment and culture – as it still is today. This hub for the arts and history is easily accessible from hotels in Piccadilly London. The current Globe is about 750 feet away from the original site.

-The term “box office” comes from the seating arrangements in Tudor theatres. Standing on the ground in front of the stage cost one penny, then another penny to move up to the first gallery; three for the next highest gallery, four for the very top. At each level you would put your extra penny in a box, and the boxes were taken to a secure “box office” when the play began!

-The style of stage found at the Globe is known as an apron – referring to the front part of it which extends into the audience.

-Companies in Shakespeare’s day would advertise what kind of play they were performing that day using differently coloured flags. White meant comedy, red was for history and black, of course, meant tragedy.

-Women were not allowed to act in Tudor times, so men played all the roles and used stage makeup to get into character. Unfortunately, the white face powder they used contained high levels of lead and many an actor eventually sickened and died from lead poisoning. Queen Elizabeth I used the same white makeup to maintain her image as the Virgin Queen and suffered the same unpleasant effects.

-The original Globe was closed at least three times during its tenure because of the Black Death. The Plague was so contagious that large gatherings had to be prevented to try and stop the spread.

-Today’s Globe Theatre was open all year round, but the original was only in use during summer. When it became too wet and cold for al fresco theatre, the plays moved indoors to places like the Blackfriars Theatre.

-In Shakespeare’s day, the theatre was enormously popular and plays often performed to audiences twice as big as could reasonably fit. Other entertainment industries, like bull- and bear-baiting, had a law passed to close theatres on Thursdays so that they could get their share of audiences.

-The first Globe burned down in 1613 when a cannon used during a performance of Henry VIII lit the roof on fire. It burned down in just two hours. The next Globe was built in 1614 and survived until 1642, when the Puritans forced it to close; they demolished it in 1644.

-Queen Elizabeth I was famously a big fan of Shakespeare’s plays. After she died, her successor King James I became a patron of Shakespeare’s company and they were renamed The King’s Players. As thanks, Shakespeare wrote Macbeth, which threw positive light on one of the king’s ancestors: the character Banquo.

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