The Globe Theatre on London's Bankside is a faithful reconstruction of the theatre built in 1599 by a group of shareholders, which included William Shakespeare. At this time purpose built theatres were still something of a novelty in London. Up until the mid 1570s actors had been putting on their plays wherever they could, often using inns. Audiences would watch the action from galleries surrounding an inn's central courtyard, which served as a makeshift stage. The architecture of the Globe clearly mimics a galleried inn, with its own galleries arranged around a circular central courtyard. Some of Shakespeare's most famous plays were first performed at the Globe. Plays were produced here until 1613, when during a production of Shakespeare's last play, Henry VIII, canon fire used in the performance set fire to the original straw roof. The theatre was rebuilt with a slate roof, and survived until 1642. By then, however, English government was under the sway of the dour and fundamentalist influence of puritanism. The puritans did not approve of theatres, and all theatres in London, including the Globe were demolished. Theatre as an art form was forced into hiding, and did not emerge again until theatre loving Charles II succeeded to the throne in 1660. The Globe did not reappear until 1997, following reconstruction near the original site, directed with great energy and vision by Sam Wannamaker.
The "heavens" at the Globe
It's a strange experience sitting in the Globe's galleries. There is the sense of leaving the present and being transported to a different world. Indeed Elizabethan playhouses aimed to symbolise no less than the world, and its surrounding universe. The theatre is round, like the world, and on a canopy above the stage are painted the twelve signs of the zodiac around a central sun. Hell lies beneath the stage. In Elizabethan England most people believed that this was an accurate description of the universe.
The Globe also commemorates the nearby Rose Theatre where Christopher Marlowe's plays were performed. It was the foundations of the Rose Theatre, found by accident during excavations for an office building, that gave guidance to designers of the reconstructed Globe.
Opening Times: Please use contact details below.
Tours of the nearby Rose Theatre are offered during the afternoon, and of The Globe during the morning.
Address: Shakespeare's Globe, 21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, London SE1 9DT
Directions: The Globe is on Bankside, close to London Bridge Station. Walk west along the Thames Path after coming out of the station. Click here for an interactive road and satellite map centred on the Globe.
Access:There is a dedicated telephone line for full access information. Ring 020 7902 1401. There are ramps to reception and to the exhibition. In the theatre itself five wheelchair spaces are provided in the yard where people stand, (views might be poor) and three in the Gentlemen's Room. There is an adapted toilet on the ground floor, and a lift to the galleries for those who can walk but have mobility difficulties. A wheelchair is available to assist patrons to their seats. A hearing loop is available, although being an open air theatre, the sounds of passing aircraft, or boats on the Thames will be amplified along with that of the performance. A touch tour is povided for blind or visually impaired people. In the Exhibition there are Braille panels at intervals on the walls.
telephone: 020 7902 1400 for enquiries
telephone: 020 7902 1500 for exhibition and theatre tour
telephone: 020 7401 9919 for box office
fax: 020 7902 1475
telephone: 020 7902 1433 for education enquiries
web site: www.shakespeares-globe.org