The Globe was not circular, but had twenty straight sided bays. We have deduced this from the small section of
The playhouse was doughnut shaped. A yard open to the sky
surrounded by a thatched gallery ten feet wide. The outer wall
of the gallery was around a hundred feet across, and was three
storeys high. Two stair towers gave access to the upper storeys. Within
the inner wall was a yard where playgoers could stand to watch
the play. These members of the audience were called
groundlings by Shakespeare,
and paid a penny each. The stage of the Globe extended into the yard. The
groundlings stood in the yard on three sides of the stage looking up
at the actors. For an extra penny a playgoer
could sit in one of the three tiers of galleries around the yard.
The wealthiest were admitted to lords'
rooms closest to the stage, perhaps even in the gallery
overlooking the stage.
We know they existed, but not where they were situated.
The size of the stage and the entrances at the rear of the stage in
the drawing are conjectural. The evidence of
stage directions from plays by Shakespeare and many other plays
known to have been produced at the Globe lead experts
to these conclusions. The centre opening was known as
This would normally have been covered by a curtain, but could
be opened up to show a king's throne, or Desdemona's bed,
or the body of Polonius.
However some experts strongly believe that there was no
discovery space; the only drawing that survives of the
inside of an Elizabethan playhouse, The Swan, does not show such
an area. These writers say that no actor could have
held the attention of the audience from such a position on stage.
For me the inner stage is an obvious solution
to many staging questions, but does not explain others. For instance
Cleopatra and her ladies haul up the body of Antony
onto a platform. Where was that platform? It must have been a
temporary structure. So were there a series of temporary
structures built on the Globe stage for different productions?
There is considerable evidence that platforms supporting
thrones were lowered onto the stage from the area under
the stage roof known as the heavens.