Shakespeare’s Globe

Shakespeare’s Globe is a world-renowned theatre, education centre, and cultural landmark, located on the bank of the River Thames in London, UK. “Whilst our doors are closed, we are still very much open, online, providing Shakespeare for all.”

Step inside the Globe Theatre
Shakespeare’s Globe is now closed to the public, but you can still tour the Globe Theatre from the comfort of your own home with our interactive 360 degrees virtual tour, with photos, videos and audio to guide you along the way.

The Globe Theatre is a faithful reconstruction of the open-air theatre built in 1599, where many of Shakespeare’s greatest plays were first performed. It is situated across the river from St Paul’s Cathedral – on the south bank of the Thames, about 170 metres from the site of the original and has been constructed using as many Elizabethan building methods as possible. Opened officially in 1997, today’s Globe is a twenty-sided wooden structure made of oak and lime-plaster – with the first thatched roof permitted in London since the Great Fire in 1666.

During the first years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, the English playing companies used inns, inn-yards, college halls and private houses for their performances. It was not until 1576 that the actor-manager James Burbage built the Theatre in Shoreditch, the first purpose-built playhouse in London. Shakespeare joined the resident troupe at the Theatre in the 1580s and the company (later known as the Chamberlain’s and then the King’s Men) flourished there for 20 years. In 1596 a dispute arose over the renewal of the lease and negotiations were begun to acquire a disused hall in the precincts of the old Blackfriars priory to use as an indoor theatre. James Burbage died in February 1597; in April the lease expired, but the dispute continued for two years, during which the company performed at the nearby Curtain playhouse. In Christmas 1598 the company sought a drastic solution: they leased a plot near the Rose, a rival theatre in Southwark, demolished the Theatre and carried its timbers over the river. To cover the cost of the new playhouse, James Burbage’s sons Cuthbert and Richard offered some members of the company shares in the building. Shakespeare was one of four actors who bought a share in the Globe. By early 1599 the theatre was up and running and for 14 years it thrived, presenting many of Shakespeare’s greatest plays. In 1613, during a performance of Henry VIII, wadding from a stage cannon ignited the thatched roof and the theatre burned to the ground ‘all in less than two hours, the people having enough to do to save themselves’.

The project to rebuild Shakespeare’s Globe was initiated by the American actor, director and producer Sam Wanamaker after his first visit to London in 1949. Twenty-one years later he founded what was to become the Shakespeare Globe Trust, dedicated to the reconstruction of the theatre and the creation of an education centre and permanent exhibition. After 23 years spent tirelessly fundraising, promoting research into the appearance of the original Globe and planning the reconstruction with the Trust’s architect Theo Crosby, Sam Wanamaker died, the site having been secured, the huge undercroft structurally completed and a few timber bays of the theatre in place. Three-and-a-half years later – in 1997 – the Globe was completed.

The timber frame is made of ‘green’ oak, cut and jointed using 16th-century techniques; oak laths and staves support lime plaster mixed according to a contemporary recipe and the walls are covered in a white lime wash. The roof is made of water reed thatch. The new Globe is also designed with the 21st century in mind. An additional exit, illuminated signage, fire retardant materials and some modern backstage machinery are all concessions to our times. The reconstruction is as faithful to the original as modern scholarship and traditional craftsmanship can make it.

Add this to your Bucket List
Sitting, or standing, in Shakespeare’s Globe theatre and watching one of his extraordinary plays is a wonderful experience. “I highly recommend including this on any visit to London,” says travel writer Julie Kalan. “It really is the best place to enjoy Shakespeare.”

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