Playing Shakespeare with Deutsche Bank


Text in Performance

The History of the Globe

One of the first purpose-built theatres in London was called the Theatre, built in 1576 by James Burbage in Shoreditch. Its success sparked a flurry of theatre building between the 1570s and 1620s, while many inns were converted to playhouses.

In 1597, the lease on the land where Burbage's Theatre was built expired, allowing the landowner, Giles Allen, to force Shakespeare's company out. The case went to court after the company decided to sneak on to the property, dismantle the timbers and transport them accross the Thamess to the Southbank, where they spent months rebuilding it. The new theatre opened in the early summer of 1599, and was renamed the Globe.

In 1596 James Burbage had purchased part of an old monastery in Blackfriars and converted it into an indoor theatre. This was a small, candlelit space meant to entertain the wealthiest citizens and aristocracy, costing sixpence just to get in. Shakespeare's company didn't move into this theatre until 1609, but once they did, they may have performed exlusively there in the winter; and at the Globe in the summer. The Tempest and The Winter's Tale were perhaps written with this smaller, more intimate venue in mind.

In 1613, Shakespeare's company, the King's Men, were performing Henry VIII, when the wick from a cannon caught the thatched roof on fire and the whole playhouse burned down: 'As gold is better that's in fier try'd/ So is the Bank-side Globe, that late was burn'd' said John Taylor, the "water poet". Fortunately, the actors were able to save themsleves and their assets, including the plays of Shakespeare, some of which otherwise may have been lost forever. In 1614 the second globe was built, this time with a tiled roof.

By the time the theatres closed in 1642, public tastes had moved towards attending the indoor playhouses, and the large timber structures were a thing of the past, until 1997 when Sam Wanamaker's third Globe was completed.


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