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Globe Playhouse

Image of the second Globe, built to replace the playhouse burnt down in 1613, as drawn by Wenceslaus Hollar

The Story

In December 1598 William Shakespeare was an actor and playwright with the Lord Chamberlain's Men based at The Theatre. The Theatre was near Finsbury Fields in Shoreditch nearly a mile north of the City of London, and was in fact the first durable building designed for presenting plays in London. It had been built by James Burbage in 1576, and when he died he left it to his sons Richard and Cuthbert. The land on which the Theatre was built had been leased for twenty-one years from Giles Allen. In 1598 Allen refused to renew the lease.

The Burbages leased some land on the other side of The River Thames at Bankside. On the night of December 26th 1598 the Burbages, some associates and about a dozen labourers dismantled The Theatre, and transported the timber across the river to the Bankside site. It was a particularly cold December, and The Thames was frozen over. They may have slid the timbers across the river rather than facing the expense of London Bridge tolls or hiring boats (wherries). Allen was furious and the ensuing court case went on for years. Meanwhile the timber was used to build a brand new theatre called the Globe playhouse.

To help finance the construction, the Burbages sold shares in the building to members of the company, and Will Shakespeare was one of the five sharers. It was here that Shakespeare's greatest plays Hamlet, Othello and King Lear and many more were performed for the first time. Richard Burbage, the greatest actor of the age played the lead in most of them.

In 1613 during a performance of Shakespeare and Fletcher's Henry VIII the firing of a stage cannon caused the thatched roof to catch fire, and the playhouse was burned to the ground in less than an hour. Nevertheless no one was hurt except for one man whose breeches caught fire and he was saved by someone who put out the fire with a bottle of ale. The Globe was rebuilt the following year (with a tiled roof) on the same foundations as the original building, and continued in use until 1644. It was this second Globe that Wenceslas Hollar drew in 1634. The drawing at the head of the page is adapted from Hollar's.

Professor Andrew Gurr was the senior advisor to the Shakespeare Globe Trust which rebuilt the Globe. He has written a number of books about theatres and playgoing in Shakespeare's time which I recommend to anyone interested in this subject.



Original Globe

Original Globe Playhouse


In 1598 Shakespeare's acting company carried the timbers from the dismantled Theatre across the Thames to Bankside. There they used the timbers as the frame of their new playhouse they called the Globe. In 1613 it burnt down but they again rebuilt it. For more details click on the link.

The building


What we believe the original Globe looked like

The excavation


In 1989 the Museum of London excavated a small section of the Globe's foundations. Here's what they found.

The Rose


The Globe's great rival playhouse, its star Edward Alleyn and owner Philip Henslowe


New Globe

New Globe Playhouse


The American actor Sam Wanamaker worked hard for decades to make the new Globe a reality, but he didn't live to see it built. Here's the story of how the new Shakespeare's Globe came to be built on London's Bankside in the 1990's

Mike's Views, Reviews and Previews


A list of links to details and my reviews of every season since 1997 at Shakespeare's Globe


Globe Main

Globe Old & New top page


Recommended Books

Well Furlong Book Shop


My list of recommended books about the Globe, the Rose and other playhouses of the time may be found in the Globe Playhouse section of the Well Furlong Book Shop . If you so wish, you may go on to buy many of the volumes in our Book Shop directly from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.



Shakespeare's Globe

  The official Shakespeare's Globe site
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