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The Globe Theatre Old and the New.

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The original Globe opened in 1599. It burned down in 1613 and was immediately rebuilt. It was closed by the Puritans in 1642. Now, 200 yards from its original site, after almost 400 years, the Globe Theatre has been opened to the public again. Her Majesty the Queen officially inaugurated the rebuilt playhouse on Thursday 12 June 1997, its Opening Season ran from 29 May to 21 September 1997, and every summer it now offers performances of plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries on the type of stage they were written for, many of them in authentic clothing. The Globe Theatre presents a lavishly painted stage with trompe l'oeil decoration, in the heart of the 'Wooden 'O' '. The playhouse is made up of 20 bays constituting a nearly circular structure. They are built with oak beams and goat and lime plaster. The roof is thatched. In Elizabethan times, the building would have been rendered, i.e. the timber would not have been visible. The outside would have been white. The original Globe was surrounded by trees, whereas the new Globe is right by the bank of the Thames. ...read more.


Behind the wall, the Tiring House is the part of the playhouse where Elizabethan actors would get dressed. In the Renaissance, the surface of the stage would have been strewn with rushes, which acted as an insulant, and were also used in London homes. The stage is 5 feet high, which makes quite difficult to climb onto or jump from, but ensures that most groundlings (standing audience) see the action. It is believed that Elizabethan actors would not have left the stage to play in the yard because of the risk it presented to their persons and their clothing. In the original Globe, you could sit on the wooden benches of one of three galleries when it rained or if you could afford to pay two pence rather than the one-penny groundlings paid to stand in the yard. Your padded clothes would have provided some comfort, but as there was no limit on the number of people, it probably got rather cramped. The original Globe could house up to 3000 playgoers, whereas the new Globe has a limit of 1700, of which 1000 are seated in the galleries. ...read more.


Early Modern patrons probably had to go though the Tiring House to access these seats, but in the new Globe there are also communication doors between the Tiring House (backstage area) and the galleries. The yard is the most original part of the Globe: up to 700 people can stand in it, huddling around the stage, some watching the action from closer than any theatre can offer. They are free to move around, though on very busy days it can be rather difficult. In the original Globe, 1000 people could stand in the yard, and it got so smelly and hot that they were also nicknamed "stinkards". Food and drink can be bought in the yard, or just outside, and consumed during the performance. But the groundlings are the audience members who make performances at the Globe so memorable: they mediate between stage and galleries, they have an immediate response to jokes, they are made part of the action, both imaginatively by the actors who see them as an army, a forest or a court, but also by their own verbal and physical participation. An Elizabethan groundling would pay one penny to see a 2-hour performance without intervals. In 1999, you would pay 5 pounds and most performances have 1 or 2 intervals. ...read more.

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