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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VI. The Drama to 1642, Part Two.

X. The Elizabethan Theatre

§ 13. The Globe

Though the Blackfriars was the next playhouse to be built, it is more convenient to consider first the most important of Elizabethan playhouses, the Globe. The reason why the Chamberlain’s men left the Curtain for the other side of the river is not clear. There may have been some decline in the attractiveness of Finsbury fields as a holiday ground; or the common council may have protested with effect against the usual procession through the city. Bankside was certainly a popular resort, and Southwark the district where pleasure-seekers went to see bull-baiting and bear-baiting, to the public gardens and to the stews. Unable to come to terms with the landlord of the Theater, Richard and Cuthbert Burbage, as we have seen, pulled down their old playhouse and used the materials in building the Globe, which stood, as is commonly supposed, to the south-west of Paris garden and to the south of what was then Maiden lane and is now the east-to-west part of Park street, on ground at present occupied by a brewery. This was the house, from its opening till 1642, of the Chamberlain’s and King’s company; here Richard Burbage acted, and here Shakespeare’s greatest plays were produced. Our knowledge of the appearance and construction of the Globe is chiefly derived from the contract for the building of the Fortune, which was to be made like it, specifically in certain details, as well as generally, with certain minor exceptions. The contract will be quoted in connection with the Fortune theatre. Shops, stews and playhouses all had signs at that time, and the earliest Globe was so called from its sign of Atlas bearing the globe on his shoulders. It appears in a drawing of 1610 as a round structure, rising above a larger round substructure of some considerable height, which, it has been suggested, enclosed a passage leading from the entrance door (or doors) to various entrances to the “yard.” Structure and substructure were, almost certainly, of wood, resting on a foundation of bricks and cement. Its interior arrangements will be discussed later. On Tuesday, 29 June, 1613, a new play on the history of Henry VIII called All is True was being performed, and, when the king entered the masque at cardinal Wolsey’s, certain “chambers” were shot off. “Some of the paper or other stuff,” is Sir Henry Wotton’s account, “wherewith one of them was stopped, did light on the thatch” (on the roof over the galleries). The house was burned to the ground within less than an hour. “Yet nothing did perish but wood and straw, and a few forsaken cloaks.” Another contemporary statement says that the escape of the audience was marvellous, “having but two narrow doors to get out.” Whether these two include the door by which the players entered the tiringhouse, or whether they were both for the use of the audience, cannot now be determined. The usual practice appears to have been to have one entrance door only to the body of the house. A contemporary ballad advises “stage-strutters” to give up their dissipations and spend their money on tiles for the roof. This advice, or the latter part of it, seems to have been taken when the playhouse was rebuilt in the following year, more handsomely than before, its “thatched hide” being then a thing of the past. The cost of the new playhouse was £1400, and it was the “fayrest that was in England.” Its shape on rebuilding was octagonal outside, and, apparently, inside also.

It has been supposed that, after the King’s company began to act at the Blackfriars, the Globe became their summer playhouse, the Blackfriars being used in winter. Further evidence is needed before this question can be determined, though we have seen that the situation of the Rose was considered inconvenient in winter; the Globe is found in use in February.