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The Globe Theatre. Some information to help in understanding the stage for which William Shakespeare wrote his plays. The Globe Theatre.

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the globe theatre

The Globe Theatre

Some information to help in understanding the stage for which William Shakespeare wrote his plays

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The Globe Theatre
  • Theaters in Shakespeare’s time were modeled directly from the inn yards where plays had been performed in England before professional stages were built and used. Examples of such theatres are the Globe, the Rose, the Curtain and the Theatre. Plays were performed by day, and the open-roof structure allowed light in for that purpose. Because Shakespeare worked primarily at the Globe, we will focus our attention on this theatre.
the globe theatre3
The Globe Theatre
  • The Globe Theatre was built in 1599 in the city of London. It was the first professional theatre ever built in England.
  • London city council opposed the running of professional theatres because the theatres were unsafe, and because of law-breaking activities that went on there, such as pick-pocketing and prostitution.
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The Globe Theatre
  • As well, the church opposed the running of theatres. Church leaders claimed that because theatre going had become so popular, people were more likely to gather there than at church.
  • Also, they claimed that the passionate subject matter found in plays contributed to the breakdown of wholesome family values and moral behaviors in the public (similar suggestions are leveled at movies and TV these days).
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The Globe Theatre
  • For these two reasons, the decision was made to move the Globe, by tearing down the structure piece by piece (the wood was very expensive), and moving it across the Thames River, outside the walls of London, and therefore, outside its jurisdiction.
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The Globe Theatre
  • The public who came to the theatres paid accordingly for where they were during the play. In the yard or pit, customers paid a penny. Seats in the gallery were higher priced, perhaps two pennies for the first level, three pennies for the second and so on. It was customary to charge an extra penny when a new play was being presented.
the globe theatre the yard or pit
The Globe Theatre: the yard or pit
  • This is the area directly in front of the stage.
  • This area was used by the common people, referred to as groundlings, who came to the plays. They would stand for the performances, or in some theaters, sometimes sit on the edge of the stage.
  • They would be very vocal and demonstrative during the plays, hissing and booing the villains and cheering for the hero. If they thought the play were bad, they would let their feelings known by throwing garbage at the stage and the actors; if they thought it were good, they would cheer loudly.
the globe theatre the galleries
The Globe Theatre: the galleries
  • To sit here was more expensive than in the pit, so the audience who chose to watch from here was more wealthy, consisting of shop-keepers or merchants. They would often rent straw pillows sold at the theatre to use on the rough wooden benches used for seating in these areas. There were middle and upper galleries, and the higher in these you sat, the larger the fee to sit there.
the globe theatre the trapdoor
The Globe Theatre: the trapdoor
  • Situated near the center of stage, this was used for the appearance or disappearance of ghosts or witches.
the globe theatre the playing flag
The Globe Theatre: the playing flag
  • The god Hercules carrying the globe on his shoulders graced the top of the Globe Theatre. Other theatres’ playing flags had similar depictions from mythology on them. The purpose of the playing flag was to announce to the community that there was to be a play performed that day.
the globe theatre the stage
The Globe Theatre: the stage
  • Theatres of this era had what is known as a thrust stage, described this way because it would project out into the yard, and the audience was able to surround it on three sides.
the globe theatre the lords room
The Globe Theatre: the lords’ room
  • This was situated above the stage and the balcony. This was used by the very wealthy to watch the plays from above. There would be a relatively large fee charged to use this, and only the very well-to-do were allowed in.
the globe theatre the balcony
The Globe Theatre: the balcony
  • This was situated above the stage. Scenes were often performed here, such as the famous balcony scene from Romeo & Juliet. Perhaps it may have been used by actors as a lookout.
the globe theatre the discovery space
The Globe Theatre: the discovery space
  • This acting space was situated at the rear of the stage, and was used as an inner chamber or some other space needed to present the play. When not being used, it was covered by a curtain to hide it from the audience. This space is sometimes called the rear curtained enclosure.