Essay, Research Paper: Globe Theater


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“A seventeenth century English theatre in Southwark, London”(). Also known,
as an Elizabethan theatre was most notable for the initial and contemptuous
productions of the dramatic works of English writers, William Shakespeare, Ben
Johnson, Beaumont and Fletcher, and others. “In 1576, a carpenter named James
Burbage built the first theatre in England, which he called, simply, The
Theatre, the first time the word was used to refer to a building specifically
designed for the staging of plays”(). It was built in partnership with
Shakespeare and others. It was constructed in the Renaissance era, and drew very
large crowds. Due to its advancements in technology, props, and its use of
music, the Globe always packed in very large crowds of people, even royalty. The
Globe was built by James Burbage in 1576, and rebuilt in 1598, by his sons.
James built the “The Theatre,” and it prospered for nearly twenty-one years.
In 1597, James Burbage died, leaving the Theatre to his two sons. Things began
to get rough for the Theatre after James died. “The landowner Giles Allen
caused an unexpected problem”(). Giles raised the rent and refused to renew
the lease, so one cold night in December 1598, with much assistance from others,
the Burbage brothers disassembled the “Theatre,” and piece by piece they
took it by ferry across the Thanes River to the opposite shore. In a short
period of time the Theatre was rebuilt, only now it was to be called the Globe
theatre. The original “Theatre” stood approximately forty-feet tall, and was
said to be more than one-hundred feet in diameter, built in a circular shape
with twenty-four sides. The yard went seventy feet between post centers. The
stage was forty-nine feet six inches across, and was about five feet tall. The
overall gallery depth was fifteen feet six inches; overall floor height from one
floor to another was fifteen feet six inches. The balcony floor was eighteen
feet six inches, above the yard, and thirteen feet six inches above the stage.
And the doors stood eleven feet tall”(). The stage was quite large, and its
exterior definitely displayed its great immensity. After the “Theatre” was
built the, and became established, “it became known as the “Wooden O
Playhouse,”() because of its twenty four sided shape and its open roof, from
the top it had the appearance of an “O”. After the opening of the
“Theatre”, many people were excited to have a new place to go and be
entertained, however, many people were unhappy with the establishment. Many of
the locals were outraged, calling it a “public nuisance”— a disturbance!
The churches thought that the company-players were just that, players, because
they did not create a usable product, one that one could put their finger on,
like the blacksmiths ironworks, or the cobblers shoes. Granted, the Globes plays
did lure play goers away from their work, but it was not their fault that they
had such loyal, and royal fans. People became outraged for whatever reason, and
the playhouse’s future was up in the air. Soon the “Theatre” was shut
down, the land that the “Theatre” was built on belonged to the most
rehensable man, he raised the rent to a very unfair amount and they were forced
to shutdown. Although they were forced to close, they had plans to reopen soon.
In late December 1598, the Burbage sons had the “Theatre” unassembled and
being that it was December, it was very cold outside. The Thames River was
frozen, which made it easier on the haul, because they could use sleds to get
the “Theatre” across piece by piece. It took four days to accomplish, but
eventually they had the entire theatre across the Thames. The timbers,
framework, and anything of value that could be saved were. The “Theatre” was
rebuilt in quite a timely manner. The new theatre was a sight to see it was
quite beautiful. The seating capacity was some where between two and three
thousand. Under the gallery was special seating where royalty and nobles sat in
chairs. Most people were in the “pit,” in the front of the stage, they had
to stand, and visibility was poor due to the rather tall stage. To be a
groundling and stand in the yard, it cost a penny. The people that stood in the
yard or in the pit consisted of apprentices and servants, or anyone who had a
penny to spare. For a penny more (two cents) one could sit in a chair or on a
bench, and watch the play. And for yet another penny, (three cents) one could
sit under the gallery on a cushioned chair (usually only royalty). Just outside
the gates to the playhouse, there were many stands. “Bawdy houses, pubs, and
taverns that did booming business” (). Pimps and prostitutes plied their
trades, venders hawked their wares, and pickpockets, and thieves, and swindlers
thrived. “Hazelnuts, ale, apples, beer, water, oranges, nuts, gingerbread, and
such were hawked as refreshments, or as a token of disapproval”(). Audiences
would not hesitate to loudly criticize players, but they would be just as quick
to attentively listen to a great performance. Since all of the Southwark’s
property belonged to the Bishops of Winchester, the church profited greatly,
pocketing the revenue from the pimps and brothels. “Since the Fathers
considered play going immoral, they prohibited the theatre managers from luring
customers through advertising. But the managers ingeniously triumphed over
Puritan strictures; as two o’ clock neared, a raised flag and a trumpet
fanfare proclaimed that the performance was about to begin”(). The flag
indicated the day’s feature. For example, black signified tragedy, white
signified comedy, and red signified history. If one wanted to go to a show but
were on the opposite shore, wherry boats transported patrons across the Thames
to Southwark. Shrewdly the wherry men would withhold the price of transport
until they were halfway across the river, and were unable to escape the fare.
There is said to be a time when the playhouses were so popular, that over two
thousand wherry boats traveled to and from the theatre district. Once one got
across the Thames, then one would walk to the entrance, where then one would
drop their admission into a box (hence box office). Ticket prices varied,
depending on the location of ones seat. The most exclusive of guests would sit
on the stage. The players were called the Chamberlain’s men, later known as
the King’s men. The cast consisted of all males, males of all age were allowed
to perform, however, no females were allowed to perform. Males played all
characters, male and female. Because of this, the cast became known as the
Chamberlain’s men. After much trouble with the plague (Black Death) the
Chamberlains became known as the King’s men. The plague was a very devastating
problem among the theatre. The Black Death spread so quickly through the
country, that throughout the reign of Queen Bess and even King Henry the VIII,
at first wind of the plague, theatres were to close, for it was law. This hurt
business greatly, because they could be closed for several months at a time.
Other than the plague, the Globe theatre had other hard times as well. Since the
Globe was a twenty four sided circular shaped structure, with only a minimal
thatched grass roof, and an open center, any time that the weather was adverse
they would be forced to close down. They would have to stay closed for as long
as the weather persisted. This could go on for sometimes months. The only other
times that the theatre was not open was in the winter when the weather was too
cold to bear, and on Sundays. The theatre in general was a “fair weather”
only operation. The Globe was forced to close for many various reasons. None
quite spelled disaster like the time that the Globe burned to the ground.
Trouble came in 1613, during a performance of Shakespeare’s Henry the VIII
play. A fire started when a cannon discharged, and the thatched grass roof
caught on fire. The whole building burnt down in less than an hour. The
surprising fact is that, ”every person, all three thousand, got out safely. No
one was injured”(). Almost a year later in 1614, the theatre was rebuilt. It
stood for another thirty years, until 1644, when the Puritans “razed” it.
The Puritans took it over because they believed that the theatres were evil, and
should not exist. They took it over and tore it down. Now that’s all that
stands in its place is a small pub. What started out to be a small time theatre,
was nothing of he sort. James Burbage built the “Theatre,” after he passed
his sons rebuilt it and called it the “Globe,” they later had to rebuild
after a fire, and finally many years the Puritans took it over, putting an end
to the legend of the Globe theatre. The Globe was a well-known theatre where
many famous play writers like Ben Johnson and William Shakespeare put on
performances. It was infamously associated with William Shakespeare, however,
the Globe was popular for many reasons. The Globe was the first theatre of its
type. It was very advanced for its time; the Globe would captivate audiences
with the use of a wide variety of props and music, when such things were not
readily available. The Globe drew large crowds of people from all over, it was
not uncommon to see famous people and even royalty at performances. The Globe
was a special theatre with lots of memorable attributes, and none of it would
have been possible if it were not for the loyal/ royal fans. Thanks to them,
both the myth and the legend of the Globe theatre will live on.
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