Original Globe Theatre Burns Down
The Globe in Southwark was built with the timbers from another theatre over the River Thames in Shoreditch , known simply as The Theatre as it was the first in London, or Burbage's Theatre, after its founder.
Shakespeare was one of the shareholders in the new venture, and many of his greatest works saw their first performance there. His troupe, The Chamberlain's Men, enjoyed great success, and some prosperity, there, but in 1614 disaster struck.
On the third night of the initial run of Shakespeare's retelling of Henry VIII 's story, then called by its original title All is True, a fire consumed the theatre. Early on in the play King Henry arrives at the house of Cardinal Wolsey , and it is thought that this was the moment when a sound-effects cannon was used to build the moment.
Unfortunately some smouldering wadding in the cannon was blown from it, caught by the breeze, and wafted up into the thatched roof above the better off audience members (the groundlings were in the open air in the middle of the amphitheatre). On a warm English summer's day the dry straw caught light, and the blaze spread uncontrollably. Within the hour the place had burned down.
Though (unusually for a theatre fire) there were no fatalities, one man was said to have had his breeches burned by flames which a considerate drinker put out with a container of beer, though that story has the hallmarks of fiction, or public relations, which are more or less the same thing.
Costumes and props were also lost in the fire, but happily for posterity none of Shakespeare's manuscripts were kept there.
Within the year (as was a condition of the lease for the land on which the theatre stood) the place was rebuilt, better than ever according to the company (who claimed to have spent about £1,500 on this compared to the original costs of £700), and the show went on again in the summer of 1614. But not with Shakespeare, who coincidentally or not retired from the world of drama at this time.
More famous dates here
9540 views since 29th June 2008
On this day: