Before I ever went to Stratford-Upon-Avon, I studied Shakespeare for part of a summer in London in 2007. During our first week we went for a tour of the Globe Theatre on the South Bank and I fell in love with it. I ended up seeing two plays there that summer as a groundling (the SRO tickets were 5 pounds!). The first was Othello and the second I believe was The Merchant of Venice. The following summer I saw King Lear, again as a groundling.
As I was reminiscing going through my photos from the day we toured the Globe, I remembered just how much of that area is dedicated to Shakespeare still to this day. The church where Shakespeare’s brother is buried is nearby, as is the Shakespeare’s Head, which distant relatives of Shakespeare’s opened. There are also sites made famous in many of his plays nearby.
(L-R: A plaque on the site of the original theatre; the ring that represents the original outline of the original theatre; what the theatre looks like today.)
However the Globe Theatre that stands on the South Bank in London today isn’t the original. In 1613, during a production of Henry VIII, a canon misfired and the roof, which was covered in flammable materials, caught fire and the entire theatre burned to the ground. The site of the original theatre is just a few hundred yards from the replica. An American actor named Sam Wanamaker created what would be called the Shakespeare Global Trust in 1970 and tirelessly worked to raise money to rebuild the Globe where it stands today. Wanamaker unfortunately died before the completion of the Globe but it was finally finished in the mid-90’s.
In 1989, the Rose Theatre, another Elizabethan theatre, and the original Globe were excavated and they found that both theatres had 20 sides and were 100 meters in diameter. This helped the architect of the new Globe, Theo Crosby, with his blueprints (since there were no original blueprints or anything of the sort left from the original building). From the Globe’s website: “The reconstruction is as faithful to the original as modern scholarship and traditional craftsmanship can make it, but for the time being this Globe is – and is likely to remain – neither more nor less than the ‘best guess’ at Shakespeare’s theatre.”
If you ever have a chance to be a groundling, I’d high suggest it. The shows at the Globe are interactive and immensely fun. You almost feel as though you’re back in Elizabethan England. Except for the indoor plumbing and all.
Photos from before King Lear started when I was there in 2008.