Globe Theatre Opens
Shakespeare scholar Steve Sohmer in 1999 provided us with what he argues is the date for the opening of the original Globe Theatre , namely June 12 1599; the first play to be performed there according to that same author being Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.
In a way this was a re-opening, given that the materials from the first theatre built in the capital – imaginatively named The Theatre – were shifted across London from Finsbury to Southwark (via a period of storage in Bridewell) to build The Globe. A dispute over the lease of The Theatre (the building was owned by actor Richard Burbage, but not the ground on which it stood) meant it proved necessary to dismantle it surreptitiously, as the landowner Giles Allen argued that when the 21-year lease had expired in 1597 whatever stood there became his property.
The Globe’s stage was roughly 43 feet wide by 28 deep, jutting out into the space occupied by the groundlings, with three balconied sides of three storeys facing it (modelled after the courtyards of the inns which provided makeshift theatres up and down Britain). Burbage’s company, The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, included William Shakespeare , whose involvement with the new project and financial participation in it led to his 12.5 per cent share in The Globe’s profits.
A fire destroyed this first incarnation of The Globe on June 29 1613 . The rebuilt version was closed by Puritans in 1644. Happily for us American actor Sam Wanamaker drove the recreation of this iconic playhouse in the last decade of the 20th century, so since 1997 we have been able to enjoy a time-trip back to sample something of the atmosphere and theatre style the Bard himself would have known.
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