10 Facts To Celebrate Shakespeare’s 400th Anniversary

By Brooke April 22, 2016

This year marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and the weekend of 23 and 24 April will see numerous celebrations across London and the world to celebrate our most famous bard. In fact, Stratfords’ across the world are uniting in celebration of this special anniversary. Recently Dan and I headed to The Globe and discovered some interesting facts about the theatre and Shakespeare himself. Read on to find out what we learnt!

Dan and I went on The Globe exhibition and tour and discovered some hidden secrets about Shakespeare’s life, era and theatre at the time. (Last year on the blog we discussed the release of Bill the film which looked into the life of the bard.) Here are 10 facts we discovered during our visit.

Shakespeare's 400th anniversary - The Globe's stage

  • After many years of fundraising by the pioneering American actor and director Sam Wanamaker to build the newly reconstructed Globe, the theatre finally opened in 1997 with Henry V. The prologue to the play was read by Sam’s daughter Zoe Wanamaker as a tribute to her father.
  • Have you seen the engraved stones around The Globe and wondered what they were? The stones were purchased for £300 each when Sam and his team were fundraising for the building and are engraved with the names of contributors. Work took 23 years in total but the dream was finally realised.

Shakespeare's 400th anniversary - The Globe

  • The layout of The Globe was designed to offer audiences an immersive experience, allowing them to become subjects of the play. The theatre layout and seating hierarchy ensured it was the peasants who would stand and watch from ground level while the more affluent sat comfortably in the heavens for all to see.
  • Back in Elizabethan times, theatre crowds could be quite unruly, especially at The Globe. Those who stood in the yard were called Penny Stinkards as they often paid a penny. Workers such as fish mongers and butchers would bring their strong odours with them. Nowadays audiences can still stand for performances at The Globe and tickets cost £5.

Elizabethan theatre costumes for women

  • Back in Elizabethan England, the more robust a woman was, the more affluent she would be. Women who wore the most padding and appeared to have the biggest behinds, would usually be the talk of The Globe when in attendance.
  • It took 1000 English oak trees and 9,000 wooden pegs to create the replica Globe. The Globe was designed to be as close and similar to the original playhouse as possible.

Shakespeare's 400th anniversary - Shakespeare

  • All 37 of Shakespeare’s plays have been turned into short films to mark this anniversary. During the anniversary weekend, each of them will be shown on screens along the banks of the Thames. Screens stretch for 2.5 miles from Westminster Bridge to Tower Bridge and the 10 minute films will play on loop. It’s the best opportunity you will ever have to watch all of Shakespeare’s works one after the other. Check out the map here if you are interested in doing the walk!
  • The 2016 theatre season at The Globe is called Wonder, led by new Artistic Director, Emma Rice. Emma is The Globe’s first ever female Artistic Director and her season opens with A Midsummer Night’s Dream on 30 April 2016.

Shakespeare's 400th anniversary - print press

  • The style of printing press used to make copies of Shakespeare’s earliest manuscripts made for a very manual process. Individual plates contained letters, those housed in upper case were capitalised, while those housed in the lower case were smaller. This is where the terms upper case and lower case originated.
  • The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse is an indoor theatre on the site of The Globe that opened on 15 January 2014. The atmosphere is made magical by authentic full candle lighting, but can be problematic for the actors who are hit by dripping wax!

Shakespeare's 400th anniversary - shake

Please note: if you are planning on visiting The Globe during the anniversary weekend, the exhibition and tour opening hours will differ. Opening hours for 23 April are 10.30am – 5pm for the exhibition but there will no Globe Tours. On Sunday 24 April the exhibition is open 9am – 5pm but there will be no globe tours.

After checking out The Globe why not head to The Globe’s bar and restaurant – The Swan and enjoy a Globe Ale on draught! If you are heading down to the anniversary celebrations, don’t forget to tag Red Letter Days on TwitterFacebook or Instagram.

Images: RLD
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