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Shakespeare's Globe Theatre: History, Facts & Quiz

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Shamekia Thomas

Shamekia has taught English at the secondary level and has her doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

The Globe Theatre is one of the most popular theatres in the world. There have been a number of plays performed at The Globe Theatre, including many of the plays written by William Shakespeare. Learn more about the theatre and test your knowledge with a quiz.

We also recommend watching Richard III: Fact and Fiction in Shakespeare's History Plays and Julius Caesar: Shakespeare's Play vs. History

Introduction

They say, All the world's a stage. At least that's what William Shakespeare believed. During the 15th century in London, stage plays and performances were very popular forms of entertainment. You couldn't have a play without a place to perform it, and when the Globe Theatre was built it became one of the most popular theatres in the world. William Shakespeare was and still is one of the most popular and influential writers of all time. His plays were often performed at The Globe Theatre; when many people think of the Globe Theatre, they think of William Shakespeare.

The Globe Theatre

The Globe Theatre

The Globe Theatre (Shakespearean Globe Theatre) is one of the most recognized theatres in the world and was built in 1599. It was one of four major theatres in London, including the Swan Theatre, the Rose Theatre, and the Hope Theatre. The original Globe Theatre was surprising to most people because it was much smaller than anyone would expect; it held around 3000 people and was made from oak. It was designed as a three-story, open-air, circular amphitheater built near the Thames River on the outskirts of London.

Despite class divisions in British society, The Globe Theatre became a place where poor and wealthy people could enjoy entertainment together. The groundlings, people who paid a penny to stand to see a performance, stood in an area called the pit while the wealthy occupied the main seating areas. All female roles were performed by young boys because theatres were considered improper for ladies. During each performance, flags were used to advertise the type of play being performed; for example, a white flag depicted comedy shows, a black flag was used for tragedies, and a red flag for historical plays. Above the entrance to the theatre there was an inscription, Totus mundus agit histrionem, which means, the whole world is a playhouse.

The Lord Chamberlain's Men

Globe Theatre

The Lord Chamberlain's Men was a group of stage performers. William Shakespeare wrote many plays that were performed by The Lord Chamberlain's Men. When the lease ended on the building where they'd previously performed their plays, The Globe Theatre was constructed to give The Chamberlain's Men a new place to perform their acts.

The Lord Chamberlain's Men each paid for the construction of The Globe Theatre. James and Richard Burbage, two members of The Lord Chamberlain's Men were wealthy and each paid for 25% of the construction of the theatre. The remaining five members of the playgroup (Will Kempe, Augustine Phillips, John Heminge, Thomas Pope, and William Shakespeare) shared 50% of the fees for the construction of the theatre and owned 12.5% each.

The first play performed in The Globe Theatre was William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. To advertise for the play, The Lord Chamberlain's Men used a flag with Hercules carrying a globe on his shoulders.

Tragedy and Rebirth

Unfortunately in 1613, tragedy struck The Globe Theatre when it burned to the ground. During a performance of Henry VIII, a cannon that was shot started a fire in the roof. A new Globe Theatre was built and used for plays until it was closed by the Puritans, a conservative religious group. For hundreds of years, The Globe Theatre was closed and replaced with houses. In 1997, the new Globe Theatre, named Shakespeare's Globe, was opened with a performance of Henry V. Queen Elizabeth II was there to officially announce the theatre as opened. The New Globe Theatre was built to resemble the original model but only seated around 1,500 people.

Lesson Summary

The Globe Theatre is one of the most popular and recognizable facilities in the world. There have been a number of plays written by the popular writer William Shakespeare performed at the Globe Theatre. In fact, William Shakespeare owned a portion of the facility along with several other members of The Lord Chamberlain's Men, a group of stage performers. Over the course of several years, the Globe Theatre went through many changes and was eventually shut down. In 1997, a replica was built in the same place the original once stood.

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