Audience members sit on an outdoor balcony watching a play in the Globe Theatre

GLOBE THEATRE.

Everything you need to know about the Globe Theatre at Shakespeare’s Globe

We have two performance spaces here at Shakespeare’s Globe – the Globe Theatre and theSam Wanamaker Playhouse. Now 23 years old, the Globe Theatre remains one of the most unique, remarkable and breathtaking theatrical spaces in London.

Use the page below to find out more about the Globe Theatre – explore fun facts, history, construction, photos and more.

WHAT

A 1,570 capacity open-air theatre.

WHERE

Bankside, London, UK, SE1 9DT.

WHEN

Opened in 1997, still open today.

OVERVIEW

Shakespeare called his theatre a ‘wooden O’ and like his historic playhouse our Globe Theatre is a 360° auditorium. With no roof over the central yard, the theatre is open-air and audiences who attend performances and tours are told to dress for the weather! Events will go ahead in rain, shine and snow.

Seats are arranged in galleries all around the wide, open stage, so spectators and performers can see each other at all times. The Globe Theatre is a space where the audience has always been a vital component of the performance.

The Globe Theatre officially opened in 1997, although workshops and performances had taken place on the stage since 1995.

It also isn’t our only performance venue. Shakespeare’s Globe is home to the candlelit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse and we perform plays and readings in other spaces on site. We also tour around the world!

And we don’t just stage the works of Shakespeare. We programme a range of Renaissance playwrights, as well as new writing, music concerts, film screenings, family events, educational workshops, community projects, guided tours and more.

Don’t get your ‘Globes’ mixed up! ‘Shakespeare’s Globe’ is our company name and how we refer to our entire site, ‘The Globe’ is how we talk about the original theatres from Shakespeare’s time, and the ‘Globe Theatre’ is the name of today’s reconstruction.

Did you know that we aren’t the only living ‘Globe’? There are many replicas and pop-up venues all across the world that seek to recreate Shakespeare’s original performance space.

The open-air Globe Theatre filled with people watching a show

After being closed for the majority of 2020 due to the Coronavirus outbreak, the Globe Theatre reopened in 2021 for tours and performances.

FUN FACTS

A ‘roofless’, open-air theatre (bring your coats!).

Shape is an icosagon, a 20 sided polygon.

Can hold 1,570 people, 700 standing and the rest seated.

The twelve signs of the zodiac are painted on this roof over the stage (which we call ‘The Heavens’).

Built from oak beams, lime-plaster walls and a water-reed thatched roof.

The only thatched-roof building in London.

We had to fight for special permission to have our thatched roof, as there has been a law against thatched buildings in London since the Great Fire of 1666!

HISTORY

A black and white illustration of the Globe Theatre

We think that the first Shakespeare play to be performed at the original Globe was Julius Caesar, in 1599. Other playwrights wrote for the Globe too, including Ben Jonson, Thomas Dekker and John Fletcher.

The Globe Theatre you see today in London is the third Globe.

The first opened in 1599 and was built by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, the company that William Shakespeare wrote for and part-owned.

We think that the first play Shakespeare wrote for the original Globe was Julius Caesar in spring 1599. Later that year he also wrote As You Like It and made a start on Hamlet. Over the next fourteen years Shakespeare wrote some of his greatest plays, including Twelfth Night, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra. Other playwrights wrote for the Globe during this time too, including Ben Jonson, Thomas Middleton and John Fletcher.

In 1613, during a performance of Shakespeare’s Henry VIII (co-written with Fletcher), a mis-fired prop canon caused the thatch roof to catch fire. The entire theatre burnt down within two hours, according to eyewitness reports (miraculously, no one was killed). The company rebuilt the Globe in a year – with a tiled roof. The second Globe operated until it was closed down by parliamentary decree in 1642.

In 1609 Shakespeare’s company started performing in the indoor Blackfriars playhouse as well as the Globe. It was here that Shakespeare conceived his final great plays, including The Tempest.

The current Globe Theatre opened in 1997, after many years of campaigning by the founder of the Shakespeare’s Globe Trust, Sam Wanamaker.

CONSTRUCTION

In 1949 our founder Sam Wanamaker visited London with a mission to find the site of the original Globe, and was surprised to find only a small plaque commemorating the site (which got some details wrong!).

In 1970 Sam set out to build a reconstruction of Shakespeare’s original Globe on Bankside. He founded the Shakespeare Globe Trust in 1971 with a mission to recreate the 1599 amphitheatre as accurately as he possibly could.

Despite many obstacles, Sam persevered with his ambition for two decades. Sadly, he did not live to see the theatre’s completion. He died in 1993, and in 1997 the Globe Theatre was opened by Her Majesty the Queen.

Find out more about the construction of the Globe Theatre.

PHOTOS

DISCOVER