Shakespeare at the Globe, 1599-1609


From 1599 to 1608 or 1609 the Globe playhouse was the home of the Chamberlain-King's company and the only theater where it publicly presented its plays in. London. The Globe was imitated by Henslowe, the theater magnate, and lauded by Dekker, the playwright. Upon its stage Shakespeare's major tragedies enjoyed their first performances. Located among the stews and marshes of the Bankside, it drew across the Thames its audience, men and women, gentlemen and journeymen, sightseeing foreigners and native playgoers.

Yet for us the playhouse signifies more than a physical structure for the presentation of plays. It has become the symbol of an entire art. Its construction initiated a glorious decade during which the company achieved a level of stability and a quality of productivity rarely matched in the history of the theater. So rich was the achievement that virtually all interest in the Elizabethan drama radiates from the work of these years.

Circumstances attendant on the building of the Globe playhouse were instrumental in developing the distinctiveness of this endeavor. The new playhouse itself was regarded as the last word in theaters. Alleyn and Henslowe modeled the Fortune upon it. Dekker, in a widely known paragraph from The Gull's Hornbook, praised the wonder of it. In the design of the Globe there were significant changes from former playhouses. It was a theater built by actors for actors. To subsidize it a new financial system was instituted which more fully than heretofore interrelated theater and actors.

Furthermore, young men had recently taken over the entire enterprise, playhouse and company. Until 1597 James Burbage had maintained some connection with the Lord Chamberlain's men. Builder and owner of the Theatre, lessor of Blackfriars, he had exercised a strong influence on the course the company took.


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