The Third Globe

The current Shakespeare’s Globe in London can be called the third (reconstructed) Globe. It is the work of many people; but it would never have been built without the persistence of the man who first had the idea – Sam Wanamaker.

Who was Sam Wanamaker?

Sam Wanamaker was an American actor and director whose first job (in 1936) was performing Shakespeare in an approximate reconstruction of the Globe theatre at the Great Lakes’ World Fair, Cleveland Ohio, USA. In 1970 Wanamaker set up the Shakespeare’s Globe Trust to actively pursue his long-term dream of building a reconstruction of the original Globe theatre. It took 23 years to find land, get planning permission and raise the money for the work. He died in 1993, while the building was still under construction.

Shakespeare’s Globe had to have special permission to have a thatched roof – there has been a law against thatched buildings in London since the
Great Fire in 1666.

How was this Globe built?

Shakespeare’s Globe was built as close to the site of the old Globe as possible – just one street nearer the river. Working with architect Theo Crosby, The Shakespeare’s Globe Trust did huge amounts of research to make the theatre as accurate a reproduction as possible. The builders, McCurdy and Co, began at the very beginning. They used the same kind of wood the original builders would have used: green oak. They went out and chose the trees for the stage pillars. They used the same techniques and tools to shape them as carpenters in Shakespeare’s time used. They couldn’t do everything in the same way. Safety regulations meant they had to use modern scaffolding and cranes. But they made every joint in the same way and fixed the timbers together using wooden pegs. Building regulations mean that they had to line the thatch with fire-retardant material.

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Just like the original Globe, the new Globe has a yard open to the sky. The stage covered with a roof sticks out into the yard. The audience stand in the yard, or sit in the three covered galleries that surround it.

Fire!

Modern health and safety regulation mean that the reconstructed Globe needs to have emergency fire exits. The original Globe didn’t have these. But it did have a fire. In 1613, it burned down. Can you find out more about what happened?

How is this Globe different?

Modern health and safety rules mean that the reconstructed Globe has to have more exits than the original and there have to be fire doors. There have to be stewards on duty to look after the audience. Modern ideas of comfort mean that the bench seating is numbered, rather than the audience crowding together.

Building the Globe timber frame

The timber frame of the Globe being built in the early 1990’s.

What plays are performed at this Globe?

The first performance at the Globe (in 1993) was in German, and was performed while the theatre was still being built. The Globe was completed and officially opened in 1997. It also puts on new plays each season, written for the Globe. After all, in Shakespeare’s time all his plays were new plays!