Thursday, August 22, 2013

Shakespeare's Globe

I have an English B.A. which means that I have read a TON of Shakespeare. I'd been chomping at the bit to visit Shakespeare's Globe! On our way to it, we came across The Golden Hinde, a full-size replica of the galleon belonging to Sir Francis Drake. Just FYI: Drake spent three years in the late 1500s circumnavigating the globe on his galleon.
We also came across this. Who knew there is such a thing as a prison museum? Supposedly, the Clink Prison is the oldest prison in England. It was originally surrounded by various "entertainment" venues (think venues you would never patronize). Torture devices are among the museum's artifacts. Since we had already seen torture devices at the Tower of London's Bloody Tower, we decided not to tour this museum. Still, I thought the sign was kind of funny in a weird sort of way.
On to

we go! First, a bit of background about the original Globe, which I am quoting from
"During the first years of Elizabeth’s reign, the English playing companies used inns, inn yards, college halls and private houses for their performances. It was not until 1576 that the actor-manager James Burbage built the Theatre in Shoreditch, the first purpose-built playhouse in London. Shakespeare joined the resident troupe at the Theatre in the 1580s and the company (later known as the Chamberlain’s and then the King’s Men) flourished there for 20 years.

In 1596 a dispute arose over the renewal of the lease and negotiations were begun to acquire a disused hall in the precincts of the old Blackfriars priory to use as an indoor theatre. James Burbage died in February 1597; in April the lease expired, but the dispute continued for two years, during which time the company performed at the nearby Curtain playhouse. In Christmas 1598 the company sought a drastic solution: they leased a plot near the Rose, a rival theatre in Southwark, demolished the Theatre and carried its timbers over the river. To cover the cost of the new playhouse, James Burbage’s sons Cuthbert and Richard, offered some members of the company shares in the building. Shakespeare was one of four actors who bought a share in the Globe. By early 1599 the theatre was up and running and for 14 years it thrived, presenting many of Shakespeare’s greatest plays. 

In 1613, during a performance of Henry VIII, wadding from a stage cannon ignited the thatched roof and the theatre burned to the ground ‘all in less than two hours, the people having enough to do to save themselves’. The theatre was quickly rebuilt, this time with a tiled roof. Shakespeare may have acted in the second Globe, but he probably never wrote for it. It remained the home for Shakespeare’s old company until the closure of all the theatres under England’s Puritan administration in 1642. No longer of use, it was demolished to make room for tenements in 1644." 

And now for the scoop on the rebuilt Globe, quoted from 
"The project to rebuild Shakespeare’s Globe was initiated by the American actor, director and producer Sam Wanamaker after his first visit to London in 1949. Twenty-one years later he founded what was to become the Shakespeare Globe Trust, dedicated to the reconstruction of the theatre and the creation of an education centre and permanent exhibition. After 23 years spent tirelessly fundraising, advancing research into the appearance of the original Globe and planning the reconstruction with the Trust’s architect Theo Crosby, Sam Wanamaker died in 1993, the site having been secured, the exhibition undercroft structurally complete and a few timber bays of the theatre in place. Three and a half years later the theatre was completed. 

What did the first Globe look like? Nobody knows for sure. Printed panoramas, such as those by John Norden and Wenceslaus Hollar, give some idea of the theatre’s exterior; written accounts, usually by visitors from overseas, building contracts and one sketch (of the Swan theatre) tell us something about the interior. In addition, there are suggestive descriptions included in the plays themselves, such as the famous Chorus which begins Henry V: ‘And shall this cockpit hold the vasty fields of France / Or may we cram within this wooden ‘O’...’ 

All the same, the Globe itself was not a truly circular building. The archaeological excavation of the Rose Theatre in 1989 revealed what most scholars had long suspected, that the Elizabethan playhouses were polygonal buildings. In the same year, a small portion of the Globe itself was excavated, from which two important inferences were drawn: that it was a 20-sided building with a diameter of 100 feet. 

Techniques used in the reconstruction of the theatre were painstakingly accurate. ‘Green’ oak was cut and fashioned according to 16th-century practice and assembled in two-dimensional bays on the Bankside site; oak laths and staves support lime plaster mixed according to a contemporary recipe and the walls are covered in a white lime wash. The roof is made of water reed thatch, based on samples found during the excavation. 

The stage is the most conjectural aspect of the reconstruction. Almost nothing survives from the period to suggest the appearance of this part of the theatre. Its design was drawn from evidence provided by existing buildings of the period and practical advice offered by the actors and directors who participated in the 1995 ‘Workshop’ and 1996 ‘Prologue’ seasons. 

Other than concessions to comply with modern day fire regulations such as additional exits, illuminated signage, fire retardant materials and some modern backstage machinery, the Globe is as accurate a reconstruction of the 1599 Globe as was possible with the available evidence. 

The reconstruction is as faithful to the original as modern scholarship and traditional craftsmanship can make it, but for the time being this Globe is – and is likely to remain – neither more nor less than the ‘best guess’ at Shakespeare’s theatre. 

Sam Wanamaker 
Sam Wanamaker was born in Chicago on 14 June 1919. 

His first job in the theatre was acting in Shakespeare, ironically in a representative Globe which was one of the highlights of the Great Lakes’ World Fair in Cleveland, Ohio. This early experience significantly influenced his entire career. 

After a period in the Army in the South Pacific during World War II, Sam returned to the US where he received his ‘big break’ on Broadway at the age of 27 playing opposite Ingrid Bergman in Joan of Lorraine. Within two weeks he took over direction of the play and became a huge success. After producing, directing, and acting in several Broadway plays, he moved to Hollywood where he directed and acted in a clutch of films. 

In 1949 Sam paid his first visit to the UK to star in the film Give Us This Day. He returned in 1951 for another film and stayed to produce, direct, and star in Clifford Odets' Winter Journeywith Sir Michael Redgrave. He decided to remain in Britain. Sam had his own theatre company in Liverpool, taking over the Shakespeare Theatre. There, he created the first arts and performance centre in Britain. He also continued his acting career, performing as Iago with the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Othello opposite Paul Robeson. 

In 1960, Sam returned to the US to star in Macbeth in Chicago, and on Broadway in A Far Country, a play about Sigmund Freud. He then acted in, and directed, over a dozen television shows for major US networks, as well as acting and directing in over 50 films including The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, Superman IV, Baby Boom and Guilty by Suspicion opposite Robert De Niro. He also participated in two long-running TV series, Holocaust and his own series, The Berengers. 

Sam also directed opera, notably War and Peace for the opening of the Sydney Opera House, two new Sir Michael Tippett operas at Covent Garden (King Priam and Icebreak), as well asForza del Destino. He directed Pavorotti’s debut in Aida in San Francisco and Tosca in San Diego, as well as staging the 25th Anniversary Gala of the Lyric Opera House in Chicago. 

In 1970 Sam founded the Shakespeare Globe Trust, and International Shakespeare Globe Centre - the final attempt to build a faithful recreation of Shakespeare’s Globe close to its original Bankside, Southwark location. He also established the Shakespeare’s Globe Museum. 

While many had said that the Globe reconstruction was impossible to achieve, he had persevered for over twenty years, overcoming a series of monumental obstacles. At the Royal unveiling of two sections of the Globe in June 1992, Sam saw clearly that his life had come full circle. 

In July 1993, Sam Wanamaker was made an Honorary Commander of the British Empire (CBE) by the Queen, in recognition of the remarkable contribution that he had made to relations between Britain and the United States and, of course, for all he has done on behalf of the Shakespeare Globe project. 

He died in London on 18 December 1993. 

The Globe was opened by Her Majesty the Queen in June 1997."

I took these photos from inside the museum.
Drum roll,'s the theatre!

The columns look like marble but are actually made of wood.
There's even moss on the thatched rooftop! (No worries~it's fire retardant and equipped with a sprinkler system just in case.)
I'm in love. Sigh.

Since I'm a nerdy English major and am proud to be (or not to be, that is the question ha ha) one, I thought I'd pass along this cool  poem by Bernard Levin:

"If you cannot understand my argument, and declare 'It's Greek to me'', you are quoting Shakespeare; if you claim to be more sinned against than sinning, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you recall your salad days, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you act more in sorrow than in anger; if your wish is farther to the thought; if your lost property has vanished into thin air, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you have ever refused to budge an inch or suffered from green-eyed jealousy, if you have played fast and loose, if you have been tongue-tied, a tower of strength, hoodwinked or in a pickle, if you have knitted your brows, made a virtue of necessity, insisted on fair play, slept not one wink, stood on ceremony, danced attendance (on your lord and master), laughed yourself into stitches, had short shrift, cold comfort or too much of a good thing, if you have seen better days or lived in a fool's paradise -why, be that as it may, the more fool you , for it is a foregone conclusion that you are (as good luck would have it) quoting Shakespeare; if you think it is early days and clear out bag and baggage, if you think it is high time and that that is the long and short of it, if you believe that the game is up and that truth will out even if it involves your own flesh and blood, if you lie low till the crack of doom because you suspect foul play, if you have your teeth set on edge (at one fell swoop) without rhyme or reason, then - to give the devil his due - if the truth were known (for surely you have a tongue in your head) you are quoting Shakespeare; even if you bid me good riddance and send me packing, if you wish I was dead as a door-nail, if you think I am an eyesore, a laughing stock, the devil incarnate, a stony-hearted villain, bloody-minded or a blinking idiot, then - by Jove! O Lord! Tut tut! For goodness' sake! What the dickens! But me no buts! - it is all one to me, for you are quoting Shakespeare." Bernard Levin

Enough for today. Ta ta!

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