2016 marked the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, with numerous celebrations across London and the world to celebrate our most famous bard. But we remember him every year, on National Shakespeare Day. A couple of us recently headed to The Globe and discovered some interesting facts about the theatre and Shakespeare himself. Read on to find out what we learnt!
We went to The Globe’s exhibition and tour and discovered some hidden secrets about Shakespeare’s life, era and theatre at the time. Here are 10 facts we discovered during the visit.
- 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.
- 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 fishmongers and butchers would bring their strong odours with them. Nowadays audiences can still stand for performances at The Globe and tickets cost £5.
- 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.
- All 37 of Shakespeare’s plays were turned into short films for his landmark 400th anniversary. During that anniversary weekend, each one was shown on screens along the banks of the Thames. Screens stretched for 2.5 miles from Westminster Bridge to Tower Bridge and the 10-minute films were played on a loop. It was surely the best (and only) opportunity ever to watch all of Shakespeare’s works, one after the other.
- Emma Rice was The Globe’s first ever female Artistic Director and she opened with A Midsummer Night’s Dream on 30 April 2017. She quit after just two seasons, citing disrespect for her working-class background and ‘creative differences’ with the board. Another woman, Michelle Terry, takes over April 2018 – good luck to her!
- 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!
However you choose to celebrate our most famous playwright, we hope we’ve inspired you. And if you have never visited The Globe, we highly recommend it as an experience like no other.
After checking out The Globe why not head to The Globe’s bar and restaurant – The Swan and enjoy a Globe Ale on draught!