Shakespeare Globe Theatre: Experience Theatre the Authentic Way!
Updated On: November 10, 2023
What is your version of the Roman Empire? Our version of the Roman Empire is always dreaming about watching a Shakespearean play in The Globe Theatre. What do you think it feels like to watch the original works of the master of theatre at the place he helped create? (Or at least its modern replica). Shakespeare Globe Theatres has been a beacon of art and performance for hundreds of years, starting from the days of William Shakespeare until this very current age.
Despite all the changes The Globe Theatre has gone through, from fire damage to being closed down by Puritans, the Globe always managed to come back stronger and better than before. We are lucky that, to this day, we can still watch plays by Shakespeare and other playwrights while getting the same authentic experience they did in the 1600s. If you’re interested in learning more about Shakespeare Globe Theatre and how it’s —kind of— still standing to this day, then keep on reading because we have a lot of history to get into!
Shakespeare Globe Theatre: From the 1600s to Today
The Globe Theatre is known to all as the place where Shakespeare’s plays were performed at his time. Men and women from all social classes would flock to The Globe to watch performances of plays by William Shakespeare, Ben Johnson, Thomas Dekker, and more. The theatre was open to the public from 1599 to 1642, where it presented the audience with some of the best theatre performances in history!
Technically, there have been three Globe Theatres throughout history. Due to accidents and political events, the theatre would close down and reopen as new multiple times. Let’s learn more about the three versions of the Globe Theatres.
The Globe Theatre (1599-1613)
The original Globe Theatre was built in 1599 by Lord Chamberlain’s Men. Lord Chamberlain’s Men were a group of six shareholders who owned the theatres together. Those men were Richard and Cuthbert Burbage (owned 25% each), William Shakespeare, John Heminges, Augustine Phillips, and Thomas Pope (owned 12.5% each).
The Globe Theatre was built using timber from an older theatre that was owned by the Burbages. It was built to resemble the Colosseum in Rome, with its open space in the middle for performances and the seating that surrounded the whole open area. Many Elizabethan theatres used the amphitheatre design at the time.
The first play to ever be performed in The Globe Theatre was Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Shakespeare went on to write almost all of his most famous plays for The Globe, including King Lear, Othello, and Macbeth. The last play to be performed at The Globe Theatre was Henry VIII, co-written by Shakespeare and John Fletcher. A prop cannon was misfired, causing the thatcher roof to catch on fire and burn the whole place to the ground! Thankfully, no one was hurt except a man whose trousers caught on fire briefly.
The Second Globe Theatre (1614-1642)
After the whole building was destroyed in a fire in a matter of two hours, The Globe Theatre was rebuilt a year later in 1614. It was rebuilt in its exact same location on the current Park Street in Southwark, London. It operated for twenty-eight years until it was closed down by the Puritan government decree that closed all theatres in London in 1642.
Obviously, Shakespeare was long dead (died in 1616) when The Globe Theatre closed down. However, his plays were still being performed until the very last days of the original Globe Theatre.
Shakespeare Globe Theatre (1997-Current)
In 1970, American actor and director Sam Wanamaker visited London on a mission to see the original site of The Globe Theatre. He was surprised only to find a plaque in its location commemorating the long-lost building. Having always had great respect and admiration for Shakespeare, he decided to rebuild The Globe Theatre in London!
It was no easy job as Wanamaker wanted the new building to be an authentic replica of the original Globe Theatre. He wanted it to look exactly the same as the one Shakespeare wrote his plays for and wanted the audience to feel like they had been transported in time to the Elizabethan Era.
After twenty years of research, hard work, and trying to transform the original design into something suitable to the safety regulations of the 21st century, Shakespeare Globe Theatre was opened in London (again!). Unfortunately, though, Sam Wanamaker did not live long enough to make his dream come true. Wanamaker died in 1993, and Shakespeare Globe Theatre was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1997.
The new theatre is located in Bankside, around 240 metres away from the original location of The Globe Theatre. It hosts plays and theatre performances all year round but is primarily active during the summertime. It can take up to 1,500 audience members, divided between the upper balcony seating areas and the yard.
The Show Must Go On at the Shakespeare Globe Theatre
Since its grand opening in 1997, the new Shakespeare Globe Theatre has provided a stage for all kinds of performances, from classic plays to music concerts to film screenings and much more! The new theatre is a community space where people from all over the world come to watch performances and learn.
As we previously mentioned, Shakespeare Globe Theatre is built in the exact same shape as the original theatre, with some minor tweaks here and there for better safety. No one wants to relive the misfired canon incident! Audiences get to choose to sit either on the upper balconies that provide wooden benches for seating or stand in the yard close to the stage. Groundlings tickets, aka yard tickets, are much cheaper, just like back in Shakspear’s days.
While the balconies have a roof to protect them from the weather, the yard is an open space with no roof overhead. Audiences are always advised to dress for the weather as the show will always go on rain or shine!
What Can You Watch at Shakespeare Globe Theatre?
Most people think that Shakespeare Globe Theatre only has Shakespeare plays performed. However, that cannot be further from the truth! Not even back in the original Globe Theatre days were only Shakespeare plays performed there. The Globe has always been open for different playwrights and artists to showcase their work to audiences.
Nowadays, Shakespeare Globe Theatre has a complete programme of many Renaissance playwrights, new playwrights, music concerts, film screenings, readings, family events, and more. Even their vast collection of Shakespeare plays is performed in a wide range of styles besides the classic way. Modern twists on classic tales and musicals based on famous Shakespeare plays are always in demand in the theatre.
Here are some of the events that took place this summer at Shakespeare Globe Theatre:
The bloody story of a couple’s thirst for power takes over Shakespeare Globe Theatre this summer! You can experience the classic tragedy of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s power-hungry exploits and political schemes right on the stage of The Globe Theatre. It’s an experience like nothing before to be able to see Shakespeare’s masterpiece played in front of you just like it used to play in his time.
Directed by Abigail Graham and starring Max Bennett and Matti Houghton, Macbeth will be performed on the main stage of Shakespeare Globe Theatre from 25 September 2023 to 28 October 2023.
As You Like It
If you’re in the mood for a more positive, happy, and joyous tale, then As You Like It will also be performed at the Globe Theatre this summer! The play is a celebration of love, friendship, and freedom in a colourful world full of endless possibilities. Directed by Ellen McDougall and starring Nina Bower, Isabel Adomakoh Young, and Emmanuel Akwafo, As You Like It will be performed at Shakespeare Globe Theatre from 27 September 2023 to 29 October 2023.
You can book your tickets for both events through the Shakespeare Globe Theatre website, or you can make use of the Friday Rush and get £5 tickets for the yard every Friday from 11 a.m.!
A Night in Sign
Shakespeare Globe Theatre prides itself on being accessible to all community members. From low-stimulated events to relaxed evenings, the Theatre always provides experiences that suit all its audience members. A Night in Sign is only one of those events!
A Night in Sign is a BSL-led cabaret event of music, dance, comedy, poetry, and spoken word that will take place in Sam Wanamaker’s Candle-lit Playhouse this summer. The Playhouse is part of the Shakespeare Globe Theatre, but unlike the open theatres, this area is closed and designed in the Jacobean architecture style.
The gorgeous playhouse will host A Night in Sign, where you can enjoy several different performances, all performed using BSL. The event is led by some of the UK’s leading and emerging Deaf and hard-of-hearing actors and performers.
A Night in Sign is a one-night-only event that will take place on 8 October 2023. Get your tickets before they sell out!
Even if you miss out on any of these beautiful events, don’t worry at all! Shakespeare Globe Theatre has other performances just as great as these all year long. Whether you decide to go during the summertime and attend performances out in the open theatre or go during winter for indoor performances, your experience will be just as spectacular!
Shakespeare Globe Theatre Around the World
Even though London is the original home of the Globe Theatre, many organisations worldwide have created their own version of the iconic theatre in their countries. Since the goal of the Globe has always been to make plays and performances available to as many people as possible from different backgrounds, the existence of Globe Theatres around the world fits right into that agenda.
Here is a list of Globe Theatres around the world that you can visit until you get the chance to see the London one!
- Teatro Shakespeare in Argentina
- Globe Neuss in Germany
- Globe Theatre in Rome, Italy
- Panasonic Globe Theatre in Tokyo, Japan
- Pop-up Globe in Auckland, New Zealand
- Old Globe Theatre in Dallas, Texas, USA
- Globe Theatre in Virginia, USA
There are also many more Globe Theatres and Pop-up theatres around the world that celebrate the legacy and works of William Shakespeare and similar playwrights. London’s Shakespeare Globe Theatre itself does tours with its performances around the world, so you can even catch the London events in other countries! Even if that is hard as well, or they just simply don’t touch down in your country, you can always watch the excellent performances online through their on-demand service.
It’s a rare occasion to get to experience history in such a near-authentic way. Shakespeare Globe Theatre offers theatre nerds, literature lovers, and history enthusiasts a unique opportunity to see the world from the eyes of one of literature’s most significant figures. Even if you’re not one for plays and musical performances, visiting the Globe Theatre and getting a tour inside is worth your time and energy! Make sure to look at it whenever you’re in a city with a Globe Theatre.