We have two performance spaces here at Shakespeare’s Globe – the Globe Theatre and the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. Now 23 years old, the Globe Theatre remains one of the most unique, remarkable and breathtaking theatrical spaces in London.
A 1,570 capacity open-air theatre.
Bankside, London, UK, SE1 9DT.
Opened in 1997, still open today.
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 candle-lit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, and we perform plays and readings in other spaces on site and and even outside by the River Thames. 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.
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.
Built from oak beams, lime-plaster walls and a water-reed thatched roof.
The twelve signs of the zodiac are painted on this roof over the stage (which we call ‘The Heavens’).
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!
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. Find out more about how today’s theatre was built below.
UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENT 'GLOBE'S
Our company name today and the name for our site in London, which is home to our two theatre venues – the Globe Theatre and the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.
The name used to refer to the two previous Globes… the originals, as it were!
Our reconstruction. The current venue that you see here today on Bankside.
DID YOU KNOW?
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.
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 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.
‘Sam’s vision and his single-minded commitment was undoubtedly the driving force that kept the project on track through the decades.’
– Barry Day, The legacy of Sam Wanamaker
Find out more about the construction of the Globe Theatre.
This video shows a bird’s-eye view of the Globe Theatre, and how the shape of the building is the basis of our logo.
This short animation was made to showcase the story of our logo and how it was influenced by the building of the theatre – from acorn, to tree, to wood, to Globe Theatre, to logo.
This film from Superunion shows some examples of the Shakespeare’s Globe branding.
Below is an example seating layout for a typical performance in the Globe Theatre.
The entire venue can welcome approximately 1,570 people, 700 of those in the yard standing and the rest seated across three gallery levels. The theatre’s shape and the presence of pillars means that your view will be slightly different depending on where you sit (or stand).
YARD & LOWER GALLERY
In 2018, we had a complete rebrand as a company. Our new logo, a circular symbol, mirrors the Globe Theatre’s shape.
Have you ever noticed that our logo has ‘cracks’ in it? This isn’t a computer-designed effect, but an imprint of the oak beam that was used to construct the logo itself. The design was created through an intricate hand-crafted carving and printing process.
Devised by international branding agency The Partners, our new ‘circular’ logo is in fact, not a circle at all, but has twenty sides – just like the Globe Theatre.
SAM WANAMAKER PLAYHOUSE