Ward's Book of Days.
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On this day in history in 1613, The Globe Theatre burned down.
The Globe was an Elizabethan theatre noted for its performances by Shakespeare and his associates, until it was reduced to ashes in 1613.
The famous Globe Theatre was built in 1599, by the brothers Cuthbert and Richard Burbage, who had inherited its predecessor, a theatre called The Theatre. This building had closed in 1597, when the owner of the land on which it stood, threatened to pull it down for non payment of rent. The Burbages and their associates dismantled The Theatre and carried the materials to Southwark, on the south bank of the Thames, where the Swan and the Rose theatres already stood. They reassembled the timbers and called the new building the Globe Theatre, on account of its circular or octagonal shape.
The actual shape of the Globe is disputed by historians. Some presume that it was circular, due to a line in Shakespeare's Henry V, which reads 'within this wooded O'. Others say that it was octagonal in line with other theatres of the day. Archaeological evidence suggests the playhouse had twenty sides. We do know that it was cylindrical in shape, with a thatched gallery roof, three stories tall, with a 100-foot wide open-air amphitheatre that could house around 3,000 spectators. Under the stage was a trapdoor, where supernatural beings, like the ghost in Hamlet, could make their appearance. A balcony housed the musicians, and the higher priced ticket holders, and could be used for scenes requiring an elevated place, such as the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet.
The Globe Theatrewas organised like a modern day limited company. The Burbage brothers were assigned half the shares on account of their contribution of the timber. Other shares were paid for by Shakespeare and his company, The Chamberlain's Men. Shares could be bought and sold and records show that Shakespeare sold most of his shares during the course of his career.
In 1613, during a performance of Henry VIII, a cannon was used to mark the king's entrance, which fatefully set fire to a beam, which in turn ignited the thatch of the roof, and so set alight the entire theatre, which was destroyed within an hour.
The American actor Sam Wanamaker has established the Shakespeare Globe Playhouse Trust, an organisation which has rebuilt The Globe Theatre, near to its original site, using traditional methods and materials, reproducing a replica, exact in every detail, except where building and fire regulations prevent. A regular season for the Shakespeare's Globe, was inaugurated in 1996. [Shakespeare's Globe, 21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, London, SE1 9DT]
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