Little Bits of History

Globe Gone

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 29, 2012

Drawing of London’s Globe Theatre

June 29, 1613: London’s Globe Theatre burns to the ground. The theater is associated with William Shakespeare and was built by his playing company in 1599 on Maiden Lane (today called Park Street) in Southwark, London. Lord Chamberlain’s Men was a playing company established around 1594. They performed at The Theatre in Shoreditch until problems with the landlord forced a move to Curtain Theatre close by. The company worked there from 1597 until December 28, 1598 when The Theatre in Shoreditch was dismantled. The beams were transported to Southwark and used in building the new venue, Globe Theatre.

The Globe Theatre was owned by the actors of the troupe, Lord Chamberlain’s Men as well as six other shareholders. Richard and Cuthbert Burbage, brothers, each owned double shares or 25% each. The remaining 50% was divided between John Heminges, Augustine Phillips, Thomas Pope, and Shakespeare. The Burbage family had owned the previous theater dismantled to construct the newer one after a dispute over the land lease where the previous theater was built.

The Globe was a grand building built by Peter Smith. It could hold several thousand people. However, the great building didn’t just host plays, but was also a brothel and a gambling den. Maps of the day clearly show the huge building included in drawings of the area around the Thames River. In an illiterate society, flags placed atop the theater alerted people to what was going on inside. Black flags indicated a tragedy was being performed that day while a white one indicated a comedy and a red flag meant a history was the day’s selection. With the much larger building available, with a greater stage area, more elaborate or sophisticated plays could be offered.

Special effects were the cause of the fire. A canon was fired to herald great entrances. It was loaded with gunpowder and when fired, it lit the thatched roof and the blaze spread, consuming the building. There is no record of casualties. Immediate reconstruction began and the new Globe Theatre opened in 1614, often called Globe 2. It remained open until 1642 when Puritans were able to pull support from the arts, as they might be damaging to the moral and ethical well being of the citizenry. A modern replica of what we assume the theater looked like was built in 1997. Shakespeare’s Globe was built just 750 feet away from where the original stood.

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.

Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.

Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.

But O, how bitter a thing it is to look into happiness through another man’s eyes.

Everyone ought to bear patiently the results of his own conduct. – all from William Shakespeare

Also on this day:

I Love You Lighthouse – In 1860, the last stone to the I Love You lighthouse was placed.
Sound Recording – In 1888, a wax cylinder was used to record music.
Pygmy Mammoth – In 1994, the first near-complete pygmy mammoth fossil was found.