The Globe Theater (Shakespeare’s Theater)

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The Globe Theater (Shakespeare’s Theater)

William Shakespeare and his partners, the Burbage family and the player company, called the Chamberlain’s Men (later, the King’s Men), built the Globe Theater in 1599 in a London suburb named Southwark. Southwark was on the south band of the Thames River, just across the river from the center of the city. This was the major entertainment area of the time. The Globe was destroyed by a fire in 1613 but was rebuilt and survived until demolished in 1644.

The Globe was a three-storied building. It had a small hut on the top of the roof. The owners of the theater raised a flag from a flagpole on the top of the hut on the day of performances. Londoners could look across the river and see which theater would have a production that afternoon. The flag also signified the type of play that was being performed – black for tragedy, white for comedy, and red for history.

The Globe enclosed an open courtyard. The theater patrons named this courtyard the pit. People who paid the lowest ticket price stood in this area; they were referred to as the groundlings. Almost surrounding the pit were three seating galleries. Audience members who paid for more expensive tickets could sit in these galleries. In addition to being able to sit while watching the play, the audience members in the gallery were protected from the sun and rain by a thatched roof.

A large platform, called the main stage, protruded from one end of the pit. Most of the action of the play occurred here. The theater owners cut a trap door into the main stage floor. The trap door could be opened to allow scenes in which ghosts and demons would appear or disappear; it could also become a grave, as in the famous scene from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet.

A roof, supported by two large columns, covered the stage area. This roof protected the actors and their costumes from the rain. Paintings of the sun, moon, and the stars covered the underside of the roof. The roof area above the stage became known as the heavens because of this decoration. In some plays, technicians lowered actors portraying angels or spirits from the heavens on the main stage as if the actors were descending from Heaven.

In back of the main stage was a small room. A curtain hung between this room and the main stage. The name of this room was the inner below. The curtain was opened to reveal scenes to the audience. The inner below was the location of interior scenes in plays.

Above and to the rear of the main stage was a balcony that was used when actors needed to overlook some action on the main stage below. In back of this balcony was another small curtained room called inner above, that was used in much the same manner as the inner below. The theater also had two small balconies, one on each side of the main stage.

In Shakespeare’s time, the audience did not expect the plays to be realistic. Very little scenery was used. Since the crew did not need to move the scenery, the plays contained many short scenes and a variety of locations. Though the theaters of the time did not use scenery or special lighting, they did use colorful costumes, musical accompaniment, and special sound effects.

The Globe Theatre—Questions for Consideration Name___________________

1. – 3. In what year did Shakespeare and his partners build the Globe? In what year was it destroyed by fire? In what year was the Globe finally demolished?

___________________ ____________________ _____________________

4. – 5. What was the name of the London suburb in which they built the Globe? What river was the Globe near?
______________________________ _______________________________
6. From what part of the theater did technicians lower actors who were portraying angels and spirits?
7. - 9. What decoration gave the “heavens” its name?
___________________ ____________________ _____________________

10. - 11. What was the name of the player company associated with the Globe Theater? What was the name later changed to?

______________________________ _______________________________
12. What were the audience members called who stood in the “pit?”
13. What type of roof did the Globe have?
14. - 15. What did the owners of the Globe cut into the main stage floor? What was it used for?
______________________________ _______________________________
16. What was located above and on both sides of the main stage?
17. – 19. Theaters of the time did not use elaborate scenery: name three things that were used in place of scenery to enhance the plays.
___________________ ____________________ _____________________

20. – 21. How did London citizens know when and which theater would be giving a performance? How could they identify the type of play that was to be performed?

______________________________ _______________________________
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