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410th Anniversary of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre Fire

On 29 June 1613, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre burned to the ground. The thatched roof caught on fire after a theatrical cannon misfired during a production of Henry VIII. Only one man was hurt; his breeches caught on fire, but the quick-thinking fellow put them out with a bottle of ale.

The Globe had been the home of Shakespeare’s company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, since 1599; previously, his plays had been performed in a house known simply as The Theatre, but their lease expired in 1598. The troupe found a loophole: the lease was for the land only, and the company owned the building, so the Lord Chamberlain’s Men dismantled the old theater while the landlord was away for Christmas and brought it with them across the Thames from Shoreditch to Southwark. They used its timbers to build the framework of the Globe, which was also unique in being the first theater built to house a specific theatrical company, and to be paid for by the company itself.

After the fire, the Globe was rebuilt in 1614, and it was in use until 1642, when the Puritans closed all the theaters in London. The building was pulled down two years later to make room for tenements. It was rebuilt in the 1990s, and except for concessions made for fire safety, it is as close to the original Globe as scholars and architects were able to make it.

Have you seen a performance in this recreated Globe? How about the clone of it in San Diego?
I've been to both, and frankly the Nat'l Theatre facility there is Southwark is a better experience - it has all the mod cons.

Posted by
3799 posts

It's on my list of "if I have time" next time I'm in London, but I'm not sure if I'd see a play there. My motivation to see it was from the 1998(?) movie Shakespeare in Love. I still snicker over the clever script. Also a good book is Bernard Cornwell's Fools and Mortals where the main character is Shakespeare's younger brother.

Posted by
4066 posts

This documentary series from 2004 with Michael Wood and BBC was shown on PBS , and is a MUST SEE , for anyone with an interest . Here is episode one on you tube . it will hook you if you have an innate curiosity , - The whole series is available on Amazon at an extremely low price ( four episodes )

Posted by
1075 posts

We did the Globe tour last month (did not see a show) and loved it! I am not a Shakespeare fan, but I found the history of the place super interesting. Highly recommend!

Posted by
422 posts

Thanks for the excellent history. I didn't know the bit about The Theatre nor that on the dismantling of it to create the original Globe.

I saw a performance at the Globe -- formally, Shakespeare's Globe -- in 2010. It was definitely worth the visit. I took a tour of the theater and visited the excellent museum. Later that day, I saw a performance of Henry IV, Part 2, which I read as a graduate student in English literature. I stood in the Yard to watch the play, like a real devotee of Shakespeare should.

It was also heartening to see Shakespeare's Globe in part because it might not be there were it not for a fellow Chicagoan, Sam Wanamaker. An actor, Wanamaker was essentially chased out of the US because of his politics. He settled in London and spearheaded the resurrection of the Globe. Here's some background:'s%20Globe,%20with%20a%20little%20help%20from%20Joe%20McCarthy

I also saw three other sites in Southwark associated with Shakespeare: the site of the original Globe, the Bear Garden and the site of Rose Theater.

Posted by
4490 posts

Sadly, in recent years both these London theatres have become woke in
their productions and moved away from the initial idea of recreating
authentic presentations.

I would dearly love to know how you define a "woke" theatre production. This summer the Globe is doing A Comedy of Errors, Midsummer Night's Dream, Macbeth, and As you like it. All Shakespeare. As for the Sam Wannamaker theatre, they are still doing the Read Not Dead plays, but this was never their sole raison d'etre. If even the very august Royal Shakespeare theatre can put on non Shakespeare plays, I personally see nothing wrong with these theatres doing the same, if they so choose.

Posted by
2348 posts

Well CJean, with all the cross-dressing and the blaspheming those Shakespeare plays would certainly not be welcome in today's Florida, where woke goes to die. Let's be generous and just say that what Nick meant to put was 'contemporary'.
[I may need to delete or edit this comment pretty quickly]

Thanks for the pointer to more info about the Globe --
I do agree that both physical and cultural context matters a lot -- the one in San Diego is situated very differently in more ways than one.

Posted by
6103 posts

We have attended two performances at Shakespeare's Globe: A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2016, and The Winter's Tale this past February. I must say the Midsummer Night's Dream was one of the best productions we've ever seen.

Both were done in modern dress, and the MND was hilariously updated to reflect London "hipster" culture. If this is what Nick meant by "woke," then I'm for it, although I do think it would be fascinating to see one of these plays as it would have been produced originally. Of course, as I understand it, many of the jokes and other references were distinctly topical, to the point that without a crib sheet, the vast majority of us would not understand them.

We enjoyed both productions so much that when we knew we would be in London later this summer, we booked seats for Macbeth, as well. We'll only be in London a few days this trip, so the production at Shakespeare's Globe promises to be the highlight of our short visit.

Posted by
113 posts

I saw the same production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Shakespeare’s Globe in 2016 that Jane did, and I agree. It was absolutely wonderful.

When I first found out that this would be the play on the dates I would be in London, I was a little disappointed, as it has never been one of my favorites. How wrong I was! (What fools we mortals be!)

I’ve seen a number of Shakespeare’s plays on stage in other theatres, some performed “as written” (as much as one can), others updated or placed in different time periods. This production surpassed them all.

Posted by
6103 posts

samatudd, Hi! I remember when you and I met and discovered we had both been to the same play, darned nearly on the same day! What fun! And yes, the play was "absolutely wonderful!"

Good to see you again a few months ago; Kansas City next time maybe?

Posted by
6103 posts

Nick, thanks for your comments. Now I'm intrigued. We have tickets to Macbeth in a couple of months; I'll look out for trigger warnings. I will say that I do think reading the play and being familiar with the story ahead of time is a great idea; we read Macbeth in high school, and of course I knew the basic plot, but I had forgotten the horrendous Macduff family incident, although it mercifully occurs offstage. The scene afterward with Macduff is heartbreaking.

Back to updating: a favorite scene in A Midsummer Night's Dream was when Hermia and Lysander (please forgive me if I got the names wrong) have run away together. Lysander suggests they share a tent that night, and Hermia breaks into "Put a Ring on It."

Posted by
548 posts

At the risk of "oh not him again", I'll add that William Strachey sailed for Virginia in 1609 aboard the Sea Venture, was shipwrecked on Bermuda for 9 months and arrived in Virginia in 1610. He would serve as the secretary for the colony.

Strachey apparently moved in the same circles as many of London's writers and playwrights and often found at the Mermaid tavren. Strachey wanted to be a writer, but in his own time he was only known for putting the Virginia Colony's Laws Devine Moral and Martial to pen. after his death is 1621 "A true reportory of the wracke, and redemption of Sir Thomas Gates Knight; vpon, and from the Ilands of the Bermudas: his comming to Virginia, and the estate of that Colonie then, and after, vnder the gouernment of the Lord La Warre, Iuly 15. 1610." was published in 1625 and in 1849 his "The Historie of Travaile Into Virginia Britannia" was published.

And while "A true Reportory" was published after his death, is is believed that the manuscript was passed around in 1610 and the description of the storm that wrecked the Sea Venture and the St Elmo's fire that he described may have been used by or at least inspired Shakespeare's lines in the Tempest.
Strachey family signet ring excavated by the Jamestown Rediscovery Project --