NAMED for the famed playwright, William Shakespeare, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is only an approximation of the building in which the Bard’s plays were originally performed. Excavations of the original Globe Theatre’s foundations reveal that the building, built in 1599, was located 230m away from the present site; on the bank of the now much-narrower Thames river. Despite its slightly altered location (necessitated also by the presence of Heritage buildings on the original site), every effort was made to ensure that the new theatre was as close to a replication of the original as possible.
Initially proposed by American filmmaker, Sam Wanamaker, in 1949, there had not been a Globe Theatre in existence for more than 300 years and the documented evidence of the original’s appearance and construction was limited. Over the next 40 years, however, the funds were raised to erect a new Globe, and plans were developed through comparisons of written accounts, evidence from Shakespeare’s text, archaeological discoveries, and plans, images and other documents relating to other Elizabethan era theatres. Aside from some concessions to safety regulations, such as the reduction in audience capacity from 3000 to 1400, enlarging the doors, and using fire retardant materials, Shakespeare’s Globe is the best guess at what an Elizabethan theatre would have been like – even down to the thatched roof, which is the only one to have been approved since the Great Fire of London in 1666.
Visitors to the Globe can take a theatre tour year-round, and performances during the summer months provide opportunities to see Shakespeare’s work in its original setting. Patrons can opt to sit under cover in the wooden seating (holding with tradition, cushions cost extra) or stand in the pit around the thrust stage, taking advantage of the cheaper “groundling” tickets. During winter, the indoor Jacobean style theatre, the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, replaces the Globe for theatregoers and provides a different experience.
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