Behind the curtain: What are fascinating Globe Theatre facts?

Ever wondered about the secrets of the Globe Theatre? We’re here to share some cool and quirky facts you might not know! 

From the confusion between the Old and New Globe to Shakespeare’s beginnings in London’s Shoreditch, it’s all part of the story. So, join us as we uncover fascinating Globe Theatre facts that bring Shakespeare’s legacy to life.

The original Globe Theatre was built in 1599 in London’s Bankside district

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1599 was no ordinary year. It was the very year that William Shakespeare and a group of his fellow actors decided to take matters into their own hands, quite literally. 

Now, the location they chose was quite clever. The Bankside district was not exactly prime real estate at the time. It was, in fact, on the south bank of the River Thames, a bit away from the bustling heart of London. 

This strategic move allowed them to escape the strict regulations of the city and establish a theatre that could cater to the masses.

The theatre can hold up to 3,000 spectators

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You’ve got to remember that this was an era long before mega cinemas and stadiums. Having a venue that could accommodate 3,000 people was nothing short of groundbreaking.

But why was this size such a big deal? Well, think about it. The Globe was a social hub. People from all walks of life flocked to this wooden wonder to witness the timeless works of William Shakespeare and other playwrights of the time. 

The Globe has a library and archive containing a wealth of resources related to Shakespeare and early modern theatre

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The Globe has an impressive collection of texts from the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras. Think of plays, poems, and other writings that give you a glimpse into the world that Shakespeare inhabited. It’s like having a backstage pass to history.

But it doesn’t stop there. The Globe’s library is a treasure chest of information about early modern theatre practices. You can dive into manuscripts that detail the nitty-gritty of how these productions came to life.

The theatre’s motto is “Totus mundus agit histrionem”, which means “All the world’s a stage” 

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“All the world’s a stage” is a snippet from one of Shakespeare’s most famous monologues, found in his play “As You Like It”. In this monologue, the character Jaques waxes poetic about the different stages of life, comparing them to roles in a play. 

It’s a profound meditation on the human experience, suggesting that life itself is a grand performance.

The Globe Theatre’s stage roof is supported by a pair of tree trunks

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In Shakespeare’s time, they didn’t have the fancy steel beams and advanced construction methods we have today. 

Nope, it was a world of simplicity and ingenuity. So, when they rebuilt the Globe Theatre in the 1990s (a labour of love, I might add), they decided to do it the old-school way.

These sturdy tree trunks serve as the main support for the stage roof, just as they did in the original Globe. 

The theatre has a “Globe to Globe” festival 

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The Globe to Globe festival is a celebration of the universal language of the stage. Imagine Shakespeare’s plays performed in different languages, from Mandarin to Swahili, Russian to Arabic. 

Each year, the festival invites theatre troupes from around the globe to perform one of the Bard’s plays in their native tongue. It’s a whirlwind tour of culture and creativity, all under the iconic roof of the Globe.

The theatre had no female actors

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During Shakespeare’s time, women were prohibited from taking to the stage. Instead, male actors (often young boys) donned elaborate costumes and wigs to portray female characters. It was a theatre convention of the era, and everyone just went along with it.

So, the next time you watch a Shakespearean play at the Globe and see Juliet or Lady Macbeth portrayed by a man, you’ll understand the history there.

The Globe Theatre has a unique “tiring house” at the rear of the stage

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In those days, actors didn’t have the luxury of spacious dressing rooms with vanity mirrors and comfy chairs. Instead, they had the tiring house, a small structure at the back of the stage where they could change costumes, apply makeup, and prepare for their entrances.

Now, here’s where it gets fascinating. The term “tiring” doesn’t mean the actors were exhausted (although, let’s be honest, they probably were after all that dramatic emoting). “Tiring” is an old English word for dressing or attire.

Success at The Globe led to Royal approval

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The Globe’s success wasn’t just a hit with the masses, it caught the eye of none other than King James I. The Bard and his company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, were invited to perform at the royal court. 

This royal nod of approval was a game-changer for the Globe and for Shakespeare himself. It meant they had the official stamp of excellence, a golden ticket to perform for the monarch and his court. It was like winning an Oscar in the world of Elizabethan theatre.

The Globe’s main stage has a trapdoor

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The trapdoor was like a hidden gateway to a world of surprises. Actors could disappear through it, creating dramatic entrances and exits. Imagine a character vanishing into the floor, only to pop up somewhere else on stage – it was like a 17th-century teleportation trick.

But the trapdoor also served practical purposes too. Trapdoors allowed for quick scene changes and the appearance of supernatural beings like ghosts and spirits. It added an element of surprise and wonder to the performances.

Actor Sam Wanamaker was responsible for the reconstruction of the Globe

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Sam Wanamaker is the unsung hero behind the Globe Theatre’s reconstruction in London. His relentless passion for Shakespeare’s legacy brought the iconic theatre back to life. 

Wanamaker’s remarkable story is a testament to the transformative power of one person’s vision and determination to rewrite history.

The theatre has an “Adopt a Slat” program

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The “Adopt a Slat” program allows you to symbolically adopt a piece of the Globe’s roof, complete with a personalised message engraved on a brass plaque. It’s like putting your name in the annals of theatre history.

it’s a way to connect with the Globe on a personal level. It’s like becoming a patron of the arts, a steward of this cultural treasure. Your support helps maintain the Globe, ensuring that future generations can bask in its wooden wonder.

The Globe’s “Juliet Balcony” is used for characters to address the audience from a higher point

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This balcony lets characters soar above the action and speak directly to you, the audience. It’s Shakespeare’s version of breaking the fourth wall.

Whether it’s star-crossed lovers whispering sweet nothings or a character pouring their heart out, the Juliet Balcony is their perch of choice. From this elevated stage, they connect with you, their words carrying through the open air, forging an intimate bond.

The reconstruction of the Globe Theatre used over 1,000 English oak trees

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Oak was the wood of choice back in Shakespeare’s time. It’s sturdy, durable, and as English as tea and crumpets. Those timber beams and planks you see at the Globe? Yep, they’re made from oak trees that were carefully selected to recreate the look and feel of the original theatre.

Now, let’s talk numbers. 1,000 oak trees might sound like a forest, but it was all necessary to build this iconic playhouse. These trees were transformed into everything from the main stage to the seating galleries, creating the wooden wonderland that stands today.

The Globe’s stage has a decorative “hut” that extends above the balcony

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This hut is known as the “heavens”, and it’s like the epicentre of theatrical magic.

Enter the heavens – that decorative hut above the balcony was where it all happened. 

Actors could descend from the heavens on ropes and harnesses, creating the illusion of flying or divine intervention. 

But it wasn’t just for aerial acrobatics. The heavens also served as a hiding spot for actors, allowing them to eavesdrop on scenes or make surprise appearances. 

The theatre has a replica of an Elizabethan cannon, known as a “falconet”

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The falconet is a small but mighty cannon that was commonly used for theatrical effects back in the day. It could mimic the sounds of thunder or signal the start of a play with a bang. 

It was like the special effects department of Elizabethan theatre, bringing that extra dose of drama to the stage.

Its first-ever production in 1993 was in German

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So, why the German debut? Well, it all goes back to the Globe’s mission to be a global stage. They wanted to prove that Shakespeare’s magic transcends language barriers and that his timeless tales can touch hearts in any tongue.

The play they chose for this groundbreaking moment was “Hamlet”, and it was performed by a German theatre company. Imagine the Ghost of Hamlet’s father spouting his iconic lines in German – “Du bist ein Mörder!” It was a bold move that shook up the theatre scene.

But here’s the kicker – it worked. Audiences from all walks of life embraced the German production, proving that Shakespeare’s genius knows no linguistic bounds.

The original Globe Theatre’s stage was about 43 feet wide and 27 feet deep

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The dimensions of 43 feet by 27 feet might not sound colossal by today’s standards, but it was perfect for its time. The compact stage meant that actors and audiences were intimately connected. 

There was no need for microphones or giant screens, it was pure, unadulterated theatre in its rawest form.

The reconstructed Globe was officially re-opened in 1997 with a production of Shakespeare’s “Henry V.”

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What better way to christen the Globe’s reincarnation than with the very play that was on stage when the old Globe met its fiery fate? “Henry V” became the symbol of resurgence, a phoenix rising from the ashes.

Opening the doors in 1997 was a theatrical triumph. It was a declaration that Shakespeare’s legacy would endure, that his words would once again echo within the hallowed wooden walls of the Globe.

The yard area of the Globe can accommodate up to 700 standing groundlings during performances

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A groundling is not a type of fish, but rather an enthusiastic theatregoer who prefers to stand in the yard, right in front of the stage, to get up close and personal with the action.

In Shakespeare’s day, groundlings were the rowdy, boisterous bunch who paid a pittance to catch a play. They stood shoulder to shoulder, soaking in every word and swordfight. It was an immersive theatre experience like no other.

And even today, the Globe keeps this tradition alive. During performances, you can opt to be a groundling and stand in the very spot where audiences of yore revelled in the drama. 

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