The Globe Playhouse: Its Design and Equipment

By John Cranford Adams | Go to book overview

Chapter VI
THE TIRING-HOUSE: FIRST LEVEL

I. INTRODUCTION

ONCE those in charge of designing the Globe tiring- house broke with the past and installed stage doors in the flanking bays of the scenic wall, they were tree to expand the opening of the inner stage up to 23 feet in width -- the distance between the fixed corner posts of the playhouse frame. The effects of this expansion were revolutionary. What in earlier playhouses had been essentially an appendage to the outer platform became an entity. What had been an alcove became a full stage. In all playhouses before 1599 action in the inner stages had been limited by reasons of size, shape, and sight-lines to such effects as a handful of actors could achieve who were constrained to avoid up-stage corners and to keep as much as possible in the middle fore-front of the alcove. In so small a recess only the middle portions of the rear wall could be seen by the majority of the audience; thus there was little incentive to develop interior settings or to explore the opportunities for realistic stage business at interior doors, windows, and hangings. Prior to 1599 the inner-stage setting -- as: a "tent" for a king, a "study" for Friar Bacon or for Doctor Faustus, a "tomb" for Juliet, a "bower" for Titania, and so forth -- was in effect hardly more than a habitation and a name; the setting itself played little or no part in the action. A property or two and dialogue would set the stage.

The need to enlarge so cramped an inner stage and to multiply its usefulness was uppermost, I believe, in the minds of those who saw in the transformation of the The-

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