Shakespeare's Globe Center--USA:
Center for Globe Research
History of Globe reconstruction attempts
Part of a theatre historian's job is to reconstruct performance conditions
for past historical eras in order to understand how theatre evolved to where
it is today. The reasoning behind reconstructing Shakespeare's Globe is
so we can get a better knowledge of Shakespeare's plays and their importance
to literary and dramatic history. Shakespeare never intended for his plays
to be published, writing them solely for performance. He had his troupe
and his stage (the Globe being one of several where his plays were initially
performed) in mind when he created them. Understanding the dynamics of an
actual Elizabethan performance space is crucial to the understanding of
the plays themselves.
- 1767 -- Edward Capell, seventh editor of Shakespeare's Works,
is the first scholar to call for an investigation into "the stage
he appear'd upon, its form, dressings, actors . . . as every one of those
circumstances had some considerable effect upon what he compos'd for it."
- 1790 -- Edmond Malone, in his The Plays and Poems of William
Shakespeare, includes the contract Phillip Henslowe and Edward Allen
used for carpenter Peter Streete to build the Fortune Theatre. Streete
had built the Globe, and the Fortune contract instructs Streete to base
the Fortune on the same dimensions. Maddeningly, the contract refers to
an accompanying sketch, which has been lost.
- 1817 -- German novelist and scholar Ludwig Tieck visits London
to research Shakespeare.
- 1836 -- Tieck and theatre architect Gottfried Semper convert
their analysis of the Fortune contract into architectural drawings.
- 1881 -- William Poel begins staging Shakespeare, experimenting
with the relationship of play texts to their original performance context.
- 1888 -- William Archer publishes his report on
Karl T. Gaedert's discovery of the de Witt/van Buchel drawing of the interior
of the Swan Theatre, c. 1596 (right). It is the only pictorial evidence
of what the stage in an Elizabethan public playhouse looked like.
- 1893 -- Poel constructs a portable stage, "the old Fortune
Theatre," based on the Swan drawing.
- 1902 -- The London Shakespeare Commemoration League displays
a model for a proposed Globe Theatre reconstruction, at the urging of Poel.
The plans later develop into a state-of-the-art theatre for Shakespeare's
plays rather than a faithful reconstruction.
- 1907 -- Archer and architect Walter H. Godfrey draw up their
own plans based on the Fortune contract. They went an extra step and converted
their plans into a scale model.
- 1912 -- A "Shakespeare's England" exhibition at Earl's
Court features a working Globe Theatre.
- 1921 -- Nugent Monck builds the Maddermarket Theatre, an 18th
century chapel converted into and approximation of Shakespeare's Blackfriars
(the smaller, indoor theatre they used).
- 1934 -- At the Chicago World's Fair, Thomas Wood Stevens builds
a working (though smaller--the third gallery was strictly decorative) Globe
Theatre reconstruction for the English Village portion of "A Century
of Progress." Stevens staged mostly 30-40 minute versions of Shakespeare,
with an occasional longer performance. It is this Globe that first drew
a young Sam Wanamaker's attention to Shakespeare.
- 1935 -- The San Diego Globe is built from the same plan as the
Chicago Globe, but without a roof over the yard. Other fairs in Cleveland,
Dallas, and numerous other (and more loosely interpreted) adaptations.
The impact of these reconstructions and interpretations helps stimulate
the rise Shakespeare festivals in America.
||Here is an example of one such theoretical reconstruction, done
by G. Topham Forrest in an appendix to William Westmorland Brane's, The
Site of the Globe Playhouse, Southwark, London: London City Council,
1921. His reconstruction was conjectural only, and was never built (nor
meant to be built). Forrest meant the designs, based on a reconstruction
project done in 1912, to serve as an approximation of the Globe to give
scholars as well as directors an idea of how the performances might have
The dimensions depicted here would result in a much smaller Globe than
the discovered remains indicate.
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updated on: 15 May 1998