The Globe Playhouse: Its Design and Equipment

By John Cranford Adams | Go to book overview

Chapter I
THE GLOBE PLAYHOUSE

1. THE SITE AND SHAPE OF THE GLOBE

THE shapes, sizes, and interrelationships of the many parts of the Globe stage and auditorium were determined, or at least strongly influenced, by the shape, size and structure of the playhouse as a whole. I shall begin, therefore, by presenting evidence from contemporary maps and views that the Globe was a three-story, octagonal structure surrounding an unroofed, octagonal yard. Then, after a brief survey of the Globe site, I shall analyze the builder's contracts which show that the playhouse measured 83 feet between outside walls, 34 feet high to the eaves-line, and 58 feet across the interior yard.

A popular resort of Londoners in the sixteenth century was the Liberty of the Clink across from the City on the Southwark bank of the Thames. This Liberty consisted of a strip of land some 200 yards wide extending half a mile from the Clink Prison on the east to Paris Garden on the west. In the Liberty, behind a row of dwellings and taverns bordering the river, lay gardens, open fields, and arenas for the baiting of bulls and bears. This area is pictured in two early maps of London. The first, traditionally ascribed to Hoefnagel, was published in Civitates Orbis Terrarum, 1572 (the Bankside portion of this map is reproduced as Plate 1). The second, a conventionalized copy of Hoefnagel traditionally ascribed to Agas, was drawn before 1590 but not published until 1633 (Plate 2). The arenas in both views are of interest because they are forerunners of Elizabethan public theatres.

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