Friday, October 10, 2008

A Visit to William Shakespeare's (New) Place

When DH and I visited London recently, I just had to see the Globe Theatre, the home of William Shakespeare’s company. The Globe we visited is actually the third Globe Theatre, built a few hundred yards from the foundation of the original.

The current reconstruction of the Globe was the brainstorm of American actor/director Sam Wanamaker. On a visit to London in 1949, he was disappointed to find that there was no great memorial to Shakespeare at the site. He started a foundation and spearheaded the rebuilding of a new Globe. Sam Wanamaker died in 1993 while the construction was underway. The building was completed in 1997.

We enjoyed the play, The Merry Wives of Windsor from the upper balcony. We had great seats, facing the stage. In the lobby, theatre volunteers were renting seat cushions for one pound each. We decided it might be a good idea to rent them. Good move. The theatre is generally a historically-accurate recreation of the original Globe, which means you sit on tiny wooden seats in the open-air theatre. But it was worth it! The play was fantastic and a very fun experience.

Two school groups were sitting in the lower area near the stage. They looked like they had come straight from Hogwarts, minus the robes, but with navy blazers and ties for boys and girls.

Tours of the Globe are held in the morning, so DH graciously accompanied me back to the Globe (the only site we visited twice during our trip) for the next morning’s tour. The theatre is in the Southwark neighborhood, across the Thames River. I pronounced it South-wark (in my Southern accent) until I heard the message on the Underground announce we were approaching Southwark station (pronounced Su-therk as in Southern with a K at the end instead of an N).

The first Globe Theatre was built in 1599 and stood for 14 years until a fire started by a cannon fired during a production of Henry VIII caused the entire structure to burn to the ground. The second Globe was built in 1613 with a tiled roof. William Shakespeare died two years after this Globe was built. The Globe met its demise in 1642 when the Puritan government closed and demolished all theatres calling them “nests of the devil”.

I’ll stop for now, but more on the Globe’s original theatre patrons later.


Shauna Roberts said...

Fascinating post!

You should tell Travis Erwin at about it so he can list it on his My Town Monday posts. (They don't actually have to be about one's own town.)

One thing I regret about modern performances of Shakespeare's plays is that they leave out all the music. Did they have musicians for the play you saw, or was it done in the modern style?

It always reminds me how ancient place names in England are when I hear how far their pronunciations have mutated from their spellings.

Rae Ann Parker said...

Hi SHAUNA. The musicians were dressed in costume and played instruments that looked authentic to me. The program I purchased said the sounds produced by the musicians were very similar to those heard 400 years ago at the original productions. Very cool.

I do hope to do some My Town posts about Nashville. I have some ideas, just need to sit down and write them up. Thanks for the suggestion.