The Globe Playhouse: Its Design and Equipment

By John Cranford Adams | Go to book overview

Chapter VIII
THE TIRING-HOUSE: SECOND LEVEL

1. THE TARRAS

THE second level of the Globe tiring-house contained four stages: a long narrow balcony stage in the middle, projecting forward over the study opening; a curtained inner stage behind the balcony and directly over the study; and a flanking pair of window-stages over the outer-stage doors. Of these four stages the balcony had been most often used throughout the years 1576-1599. Its size and disposition in the Globe will be more readily understood if I summarize its history.

A useful and distinctive adjunct of the inn-yard stage had been that section of railed gallery (galleries in Elizabethan inns encircled the yard as a means of access to upper rooms) which projected over the stage. Upon it actors appeared as if upon the battlements of a castle or walled city, or in the upper story of a house. When, therefore, in 1576 James Burbage designed the first permanent playhouse, he reproduced in the second level of his tiring-house a section of open gallery. This gallery was fronted by a balustrade or solid parapet; it probably was enclosed at the back by curtains, for actors needed ready, unobtrusive access to it from the rear (furthermore the dressing room which lay behind it had to be screened from view). The depth of this actors' gallery may have been as much as 5 or 6 feet; its width was probably that of the study opening immediately below (a matter of 14-15 feet), for the gallery was flanked at both ends by stage windows -- all constructed in the flat scenic wall between corner posts of the frame -- precisely as the study was flanked by stage doors.

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