Sunday, January 18, 2009

Around the Globe--Part 3 of 5

Part 1 of 5 is here, and 2 of 5 is here.

Sunday the 28th we visited the British Museum and the thing about the British Museum is that there is an awful lot of stuff in it. As fascinating as it all can be, you reach the point where your retinas simply can’t take looking at any more things.

After we were worn out by the British Museum, we sought lunch, the walked over the
Millennium Bridge again to the Globe Theater, where we took the tour.

Note that this is not Shakespeare’s original Globe Theater. His original was constructed, it is believed, in 1599 but was destroyed by fire in 1613 A second Globe Theatre was rebuilt on the same site a year later and closed in 1642. Over the years, it has vanished from the face of the Earth.

Fast forward more than 300 years. In 1949, as the story they tell on the tour has it, the American actor and director Sam Wanamaker, came to London for the first time and looked for the site of the original Globe. He was disappointed that all he could find was a beat-up plaque on the side of a building that was currently a brewery. He was chagrined to not to find a more lasting memorial to Shakespeare and his theatre.

Some years later, in 1970, Wanamaker founded what was to become the Shakespeare Globe Trust, and in 1987 building work began. In 1993, the construction of the Globe Theatre itself began. It was an uphill struggle, as the length of time the project took can attest. Wanamaker died on December 18, 1993 but the theater was completed in 1997.

It opened in 1997 under the name “Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre” and now stages plays every summer (May to October). It is a very faithful reproduction of a Tudor era theater, helped by the uncovering, during the building of the new theater, of remnants of the original, which aided in the design and construction. There is no roof or heating (which is why there are no plays in December as it was getting quite cold indeed). The point of contention was the thatched roof; it was one reason why the original burned down, and, in fact, after the Great Fire of 1666, thatched roofs were banned in London. However, it is a special fireproof material, not proper thatch, and there is an elaborate sprinkler system, so the city and theater are safe. The seating capacity is about 1,400, with standing room for about 500 “groundlings.” It is believed that this is about half the capacity that the original Globe would have had. There are no microphones, spotlights, or other modern theatrical technologies—just as it would have been in Tudor times. It’s rather cool; I will definitely have to come back when the theater is open and see a play there.

The next day we went to the source--that is, Stratford-Upon-Avon....

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