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Globe Theatre
The second Globe, from Hollar's 1638 Long View of Southwark.
Maiden Lane (now Park Street) Southwark[1][2]
Country England
Designation Demolished
Architect Peter Street (carpenter)
Owned by Lord Chamberlain's Men
Capacity 3,000–seated and standing
Type Elizabethan theatre
Opened 1599
Rebuilt 1614
Closed 1642
Coordinates: 51°30′24″N 0°05′42″W / 51.506770°N 0.094943°W / 51.506770; -0.094943

The Globe Theatre was a theatre in London associated with William Shakespeare. It was built in 1599 by Shakespeare's playing company, the Lord Chamberlain's Men, and was destroyed by fire on 29 June 1613.[3] A second Globe Theatre was built on the same site by June 1614 and closed in 1642.[4]

A modern reconstruction of the Globe, named "Shakespeare's Globe", opened in 1997. It is approximately 230 metres (750 ft) from the site of the original theatre.[5]



Site of the Globe Theatre, from Park Street; the dark line in the centre marks the foundation line. The white wall beyond is the rear of Anchor Terrace.

Examination of old property records has identified the plot of land occupied by the Globe as extending from the west side of modern-day Southwark Bridge Road eastwards as far as Porter Street and from Park Street southwards as far as the back of Gatehouse Square.[1] The precise location of the building however, remained unknown until a small part of the foundations, including one original pier base, was discovered in 1989 beneath the car park at the rear of Anchor Terrace on Park Street.[6] The shape of the foundations is now replicated on the surface.[7] As the majority of the foundations lies beneath Anchor Terrace itself, which is a listed building, no further excavations have been permitted.


The Globe was owned by actors who were also shareholders in Lord Chamberlain's Men. Two of the six Globe shareholders, Richard Burbage and his brother Cuthbert Burbage, owned double shares of the whole, or 25% each; the other four men, Shakespeare, John Heminges, Augustine Phillips, and Thomas Pope, owned a single share, or 12.5%. (Originally William Kempe was intended to be the seventh partner, but he sold out his share to the four minority sharers, leaving them with more than the originally planned 10%).[8] These initial proportions changed over time as new sharers were added. Shakespeare's share diminished from 1/8 to 1/14, or roughly 7%, over the course of his career.[9]

The Globe was built in 1599 using timber from an earlier theatre, The Theatre, which had been built by Richard Burbage's father, James Burbage, in Shoreditch in 1576. The Burbages originally had a 21-year lease of the site on which The Theatre was built but owned the building outright. However, the landlord, Giles Allen, claimed that the building had become his with the expiry of the lease. On 28 December 1598, while Allen was celebrating Christmas at his country home, carpenter Peter Street, supported by the players and their friends, dismantled The Theatre beam by beam and transported it to Street's waterfront warehouse near Bridewell. With the onset of more favourable weather in the following spring, the material was ferried over the Thames to reconstruct it as The Globe on some marshy gardens to the south of Maiden Lane, Southwark.[10]

On 29 June 1613 the Globe Theatre went up in flames during a performance of Henry the Eighth. A theatrical cannon, set off during the performance, misfired, igniting the wooden beams and thatching. According to one of the few surviving documents of the event, no one was hurt except a man whose burning breeches were put out with a bottle of ale.[11] It was rebuilt in the following year.

Like all the other theatres in London, the Globe was closed down by the Puritans in 1642. It was pulled down in 1644, or slightly later—the commonly cited document dating the act to 15 April 1644 has been identified as a probable forgery—to make room for tenements.[12]


Exterior of the modern reproduction of the Globe

The Globe's actual dimensions are unknown, but its shape and size can be approximated from scholarly inquiry over the last two centuries.[13] The evidence suggests that it was a three-storey, open-air amphitheatre approximately 100 feet (30 m) in diameter that could house up to 3,000 spectators.[14] The Globe is shown as round on Wenceslas Hollar's sketch of the building, later incorporated into his engraved "Long View" of London in 1647. However, in 1988-89, the uncovering of a small part of the Globe's foundation suggested that it was a polygon of 20 sides.[15][1]

At the base of the stage, there was an area called the pit,[16] (or, harking back to the old inn-yards, yard[17]) where, for a penny, people (the "groundlings") would stand on the rush-strewn earthen floor to watch the performance.[18] During the excavation of the Globe in 1989 a layer of nutshells was found, pressed into the dirt flooring so as to form a new surface layer.[6] Around the yard were three levels of stadium-style seats, which were more expensive than standing room.

Interior of the modern reconstruction

A rectangle stage platform, also known as an 'apron stage', thrust out into the middle of the open-air yard. The stage measured approximately 43 feet (13.1 m) in width, 27 feet (8.2 m) in depth and was raised about 5 feet (1.5 m) off the ground. On this stage, there was a trap door for use by performers to enter from the "cellarage" area beneath the stage.[19]

Large columns on either side of the stage supported a roof over the rear portion of the stage. The ceiling under this roof was called the "heavens," and was painted with clouds and the sky.[1] A trap door in the heavens enabled performers to descend using some form of rope and harness. The back wall of the stage had two or three doors on the main level, with a curtained inner stage in the centre and a balcony above it. The doors entered into the "tiring house" (backstage area) where the actors dressed and awaited their entrances. The balcony housed the musicians and could also be used for scenes requiring an upper space, such as the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet. Rush matting covered the stage, although this may only have been used if the setting of the play demanded it.[11]


  1. ^ a b c d Mulryne, J R; Shewring, Margaret (1997). Shakespeare’s Globe Rebuilt. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521599881.  
  2. ^ Wilson, Ian (1993). Shakespeare the Evidence. London: Headline. xiii. ISBN 0747205825.  
  3. ^ Nagler 1958, p. 8.
  4. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica 1998 edition.
  5. ^ Measured using Google earth
  6. ^ a b Simon McCudden 'The Discovery of The Globe
  7. ^ "125 Park Street Camberwell". Google Street View. Google. 2009.,-0.094653&spn=0,359.999427&z=21&layer=c&cbll=51.506994,-0.094664&panoid=RjGQclW0qqkyh03ekpex-A&cbp=12,178,,2,9.59. Retrieved 2009-06-29.  
  8. ^ Gurr (1991: 45-46)
  9. ^ Schoenbaum, pp. 648-9.
  10. ^ Shapiro, James (2005). 1599—a year in the life of William Shakespeare. London: Faber and Faber. pp. 122; 129. ISBN 0-571-21480-0.  
  11. ^ a b Wotton, Henry (2 July 1613). "Letters of Wotton". in Smith, Logan Pearsall. The Life and Letters of Sir Henry Wotton. Two. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press. pp. 32–33.  
  12. ^ Mulryne; Shewring (1997) p. 75
  13. ^ Egan, Gabriel (1999). "Reconstructions of The Globe: A Retrospective". Shakespeare Survey 52 (1): 1–16. ISBN 0521660742. Retrieved 2007-07-25.  
  14. ^ Orrell, John (1989). "Reconstructing Shakespeare's Globe". History Trails. University of Alberta. Retrieved 2007-12-10.  
  15. ^ Egan, Gabriel (2004). "The 1599 Globe and its modern replica: Virtual Reality modelling of the archaeological and pictorial evidence". Early Modern Literary Studies 13: 5.1–22. ISSN 1201-2459. Retrieved 2007-07-25.  
  16. ^ Britannica Student: The Theater past to present > Shakespeare and the Elizabethan Theater
  17. ^ Dekker, Thomas (1609), reprinted 1907, ISBN 0781271991. The Gull’s Hornbook: “the stage…will bring you to most perfect light… though the scarecrows in the yard hoot at you”.
  18. ^ Dekker (1609)
  19. ^ Nagler 1958, pp. 23-24.


  • Gurr, Andrew (1991). The Shakespearean Stage 1574-1642. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Press. ISBN 052142240X.  
  • Nagler, A.M. (1958). Shakespeare's Stage. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. ISBN 0300026897.  
  • Schoenbaum, Samuel (1991). Shakespeare's Lives. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0198186185.  

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