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Globe Theatre (London, 17th century)

Globe Theatre (London, 17th century)

One of the directors of the circular, open-air Renaissance theatre in London was William Shakespeare.



Globe, Shakespeare, theatre, Romeo and Juliet, Renaissance, London Bridge, drama, stage, dramatist, London, British Empire, England, 17th century, actor, performance, tragedy, building, comedy, Thames, auditorium, Great Britain, cultural history, modern history, Middle Ages, history, wooden structure

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  • When was the Globe Theatre in London built?
  • What was the theatre named after?
  • How much was the diameter of the Globe Theatre?
  • What did the theatre building resemble the most?
  • Why did the theatre burn down in 1613?
  • What was the roof of the original Globe Theatre made of?
  • Who was the director of the theatre between 1601-1607?
  • How many parts did the stage of Globe Theatre consist of?
  • Which was not one of the parts of the stage of Globe Theatre?
  • Is it true that the Globe was an open-air theatre?
  • What was used for lighting in the Globe Theatre?
  • When were performances held in the Globe theatre?
  • Is it true that there was no stage scenery in the Globe Theatre?
  • How was the location of the scenes described?
  • Is it true that women could not become members of the Globe Theatre’s company?
  • Who played female roles in the Globe Theatre?
  • How many members did the company of the Globe Theatre consist of?
  • Is it true that plays were performed without breaks?
  • What separeted the scenes in the performances of the Globe Theatre?
  • What was above the stage?
  • What scenes were played on the balcony?
  • How many spectators could the Globe theatre hold?
  • What determined where spectators were seated in the auditorium?
  • Is it true that the Royal Family frequently visited the theatre?
  • Where were the aristocrats seated in the theatre?
  • Is it true that the theatre was usually full?
  • Why was the Globe theatre almost always full?
  • How much did the cheapest tickets cost in the Globe Theatre?
  • In which city was the Globe Theatre built?
  • What was the population of London in the early 17th century?
  • In which style was the Globe Theatre built?


Globe Theatre

  • Globe Theatre
  • River Thames
  • St Paul’s Cathedral
  • London Bridge
  • Southwark Cathedral
  • Beargarden

The Globe

The Renaissance theatre was built in the Bankside district of London in 1599. The theatre was named after the globe decorating its façade.

The Globe Theatre is associated with the name of William Shakespeare, who was director of the theatre from 1601 to 1607. These were the Golden Years of the Elizabethan Theatre.

William Shakespeare


  • 1.5 m high wooden stage
  • trapdoor
  • back wall
  • balcony
  • roof
  • painted wooden posts

Stage structure

Stages in modern theatres are usually large platforms. In the Globe Theatre, however, the stage was divided into three parts (outer stage, main stage, inner stage), so it was easier to change the location of the scenes. The outer stage was a thrust stage, extending into the audience and thereby creating a special atmosphere.
There was no background scenery, instead, the narrator described the location of the scene.
The roof only partially covered the theatre, plays were performed in daylight (usually from 3 PM until dusk).

Top view

The building

The open-air building had 20 sides on the outside, it was circular inside and it was constructed from timber.
It was actually an amphitheatre, 30 m in diameter. The original theatre burnt down in 1613, after a cannon used in the play Henry VIII misfired. In the following year it was reconstructed and provided with a tiled roof instead of the thatched one. The theatre was closed down in 1642 by the Puritans; 2 years later the building was demolished.


The auditorium

The theatre could hold up to 3,000 spectators and it was usually full, as the entrance fee was only 1 penny.
The social rank of the spectators determined where they watched the plays from. Commoners stood in the ‘Pit’, while wealthier people and aristocrats were seated in the three levels of the galleries.
Members of the Royal Family were frequent visitors of the theatre. They got the best seats available in the theatre, naturally.


The company and the performance

The balcony was above the main stage. It was used for scenes requiring a height, such as a bastion or a mountain.
The company consisted of 6-10, later of 12-15 members. Female roles were played by young boys.
Plays were performed without breaks; scenes were separated by the exits and entrances of the characters. (Shakespeare’s dramas were only divided into acts in the second half of the 18th century.)


  • timber building
  • thatch roof
  • stage
  • ‘the Hut’
  • galleries
  • first level
  • second level
  • third level
  • pit
  • staircase



The Globe Theatre was built in the Bankside district of London, the capital of Renaissance England.
It was probably named after the globe decoration on its façade. The theatre opened in 1599 and had its Golden Age at the beginning of the 17th century. At this time - although only for a short period - William Shakespeare was its director.

The building's base was a polygon of 20 sides outside and a circle inside, measuring 30 metres in diameter. The Globe was the most popular theatre in London, the largest city of the age, with 400 thousand inhabitants. Its stage consisted of three parts. These, together with the balcony, allowed for quick scene changes. The theatre's company consisted of 12-15 members, all men. There was no background scenery; instead, the narrator described the location of the scene.

The theatre was usually full. As the cheapest tickets only cost 1 penny, even the poor could afford to watch plays there. The commoners, or ‘groundlings’, stood in the ‘Pit’, while wealthier people and aristocrats were seated on the three levels of the galleries, where tickets were a bit more expensive. The theatre could hold up to 3,000 spectators. Members of the Royal Family also frequently attended.

The original building burnt down in 1613. Later that century, the reconstructed theatre was demolished by the Puritans, strict Protestants who had long felt this new kind of entertainment posed a potential danger. The current Globe Theatre was rebuilt in the 1990s and opened in 1997. Today, it attracts a large number of visitors.

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