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Friday, June 28, 2013

Shakespeare's New Globe Built


In June 1614, the Globe theatre -- which had burned down on 29 June 1613 -- was finally rebuilt.

The new theatre was located on the exact same site, and was built with the same design.

The biggest difference was the new use of tiles for the roof, instead of thatch, to hopefully prevent another fire. It was the thatched roofing that had caught fire the year before.






It must have been a very busy and difficult year indeed for Richard Burbage, Henry Condell, the other shareholders in the company, and the actors. They needed to get back to business, and every day they didn't have a theatre was another day without income.

I think Shakespeare had been retired, and was living in Stratford-upon-Avon, before the Globe burned down, and would have taken it very hard when it was destroyed by fire.

But what did he think of the new Globe?

I like to imagine that Shakespeare made a rare and special journey back to London to see the new Globe.

Perhaps he was there to open the doors to the new Globe for the first time to the public.

I even like to think that he would have been celebrated on the stage of the new Globe itself! 

His return to London might have been newsworthy, and the audience, many of whom had seen Shakespeare on stage over the years, would have wanted to applaud him once again.

So, perhaps at the beginning, or at the end of a play, Shakespeare would walk on stage to a crowd that must have clapped their hands, stomped their feet, and cried his name so loudly that the whole theatre was shaking.

What was the first play to be performed in this new Globe?

I can't find the answer.

So, was it something funny and whimsical like A Midsummer Night’s Dream? Was it something funny and bloody like Richard III? Was it Henry V, the first play that was performed in the old Globe in 1599?

I happen to think it was The Tempest, which may have been the last play that Shakespeare wrote and performed in, probably in the role of Prospero.

It seems fitting that Shakespeare would want to see this play again, his personal farewell to his life on stage.



Sir Ian McKellen as Prospero, in 1999

But the more I think about it, he would have wanted to sit in the Lords’ Rooms, above and behind the stage, where he could hear the dialogue better.

And more importantly than watching the actors, he would have wanted to see the faces of the crowd, and he could take delight in watching them take delight in the characters and words he had created for them.

If Shakespeare was there, then I would imagine that every last seat in the galleries was taken, and the yard was completely packed.

So, it may very well be that Shakespeare's last sight of a stage and an audience, and the last time he saw many of his dearest friends, was in June 1614.

Cheers,

David B. Schajer

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