Last summer, about a year ago, I decided to pack it all up and head to Europe solo for a month. While there, I finally checked off an item that has been on my bucket list for year: a Shakespeare show at The Globe.
The Globe is a famous theatre on the river Thames, smack in the middle of history. I remember learning about The Globe in eight grade English, and now I am lucky enough to teach all things Shakespeare to mostly unwilling students. However, perhaps, and hopefully, some will have the same interest that I did all those years ago.
Shakespeare’s Globe, the one that we know today, opened in 1997. Not as old as you would expect! In fact, Shakespeare’s Globe is a replica that stands closer meters away from where the original was built. The theatre now is not just a theatre, it is also an educational center and museum.
I visited the museum about two years ago. Inside you will find documents and guides to the original construction, as well as costumes and memorabilia from modern movies and other adaptations. After visiting the inside of the museum, you get to tour the outside theatre. Our tour guide took us up to the third story and, while peering out over the open stage, told us the history behind the beautiful building.
Seeing a play at The Globe is an amazing experience. There are two types of tickets: standing or sitting. If you weren’t sitting in the wooden stalls, you were a “groundling” that crowded the stage and looked up at the actors. There are still groundling tickets that sell for as low as £5. Surrounding the stage while standing is more interactive and engaging, but I wasn’t so sure that I would get a good spot and, as I was traversing international waters to see a play, I wanted to make sure that I would see all of it without someone’s head blocking my view. I ended up purchasing a stall ticket on the ground floor. Personally, it was definitely worth the added expense.
The stage is a wide square that allows the audience to crowd three sides. In the center of the groundling pit is a ramp to the stage. Sometimes the actors used the pit to blend in with the audience until emerging upon the ramp. Voices came from everywhere and the actors used the unique space to their advantage. As an audience member, you weren’t really sure who was going to pop up and where. Remember, the whole world is a stage.
The stage is separated into generally three parts. Anything that rises from below the stage comes from hell and ethereal actors or props speak or fall from the painted heavens above. The stage itself is the world of men.
While visiting, the company was performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream. While a comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream deals with love and betrayal. Two couples find themselves hopelessly in love with the wrong person thanks to the mischievous fairies that live in the magical forest outside of Athens. Oh, and someone gets turned into a donkey.
While we were sitting in the historic Shakespeare’s Globe, the play itself proved to be anything but. Costumes had modern twists and psychedelic colors. There was modern music, a bit of rapping, and witty ad-libbing. If Shakespeare’s plays were anything, they were a commentary, and changing allusions to fit modern challenges surely have the poet applauding from beyond the grave.
Despite hard times and closures due to COVID19, Shakespeare’s Globe is still doing a lot. There are virtual events and even past recorded favorites. Currently, while schools in the UK are still closed, they providing the infamous tragedy of Macbeth to stream directly to your home. Witches, plotting, and murder – on my! While the idea of reading or watching Shakespeare can be initially daunting, his characters have timeless qualities that have and will always entertain audiences from all over the world.
Haven’t had the time to see a Shakespearean play before? Why not now? If you have, what is your favorite? Personally, I’ll always love Hamlet and Macbeth.
“Whilst our doors are closed, we are still very much open, online, providing Shakespeare for all.” Click here to go directly to the Shakespeare’s Globe website.