Twenty-Five Years of Shakespeare's Globe

30 June 2022

History | Theatre

 

This blog includes temporary free access to Research bulletin for the Globe Opening Season, March 1998 and June Everett Artwork. Follow the image links to explore the documents for free until 28th July 2022.

 

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the opening of the iconic Globe Theatre. Exploring the rich collections available in Shakespeare’s Globe Archive: Theatres, Players and Performance unearths the pioneering work behind the theatre’s construction and the incredible painstaking methods involved in creating an authentic space for an audience to enjoy early modern plays as they were originally performed.

In 1971, Sam Wanamaker founded the Shakespeare Globe Trust with the aim of building a reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe. This was a challenging mission which took almost thirty years to become a reality. Oral histories and interviews in the collection describe the sacrifices made by everyone involved in Sam’s vision, and the tireless campaigning for funding to keep the dream alive. Finally, in 1997, the Globe Theatre opened to the public.


June Everett was an artist-in-residence at the Globe for eighteen years and recorded, through hundreds of sketches and illustrations, the construction of the theatre and the team of people who were working on the site. Dozens of skilled workers were involved in the project and these artworks recognise their talent and labour – each artwork often includes the name of the individual and some information about their work, celebrating their crucial role in the construction of the Globe where they may otherwise have remained unknown.


This collection also captures key moments in the Globe’s construction, for example the arrival of oak pillars which would form the basis of the timber frame structure. Each element of the construction was painstakingly researched and reconstructed to follow traditional methods, with pillars and thousands of wooden pegs hand-cut and fit together to form the iconic structure admired today.

 

 June Everett Artwork © Reproduced with kind permission of Shakespeare's Globe Archive. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

 

The attention to detail extends beyond the construction and into every element of each performance, from the costumes through to the meticulous edits seen in prompt books to adapt the scripts for different performances and audiences. A research bulletin exploring the findings from the Globe Opening Season describes the considerations on preparing and performing the play, including thinking about the influence of space, movement and sound on the performance. The bulletin includes details on the ‘authentic brief’, which allowed for an innovative theatrical experiment in recreating early modern playing conditions to discover more about Shakespeare’s works as they were originally performed.

No matter how many rehearsals are undertaken, the Globe Theatre continually highlights the influence of the audience in making each performance unique. The 1998 Research Bulletin gives some insights into the atmosphere on that opening night:


On the first public performance of Henry V, the empowerment of the audience and the energising of the actors seemed to make the atmosphere doubly-charged…At the time, it felt very much a manifestation of the feeling in the theatre of the excitement and celebratory spirit of the first public performance in a brand new theatre, the culminating moment of a long struggle that had been finally won.

 

Research bulletin for the Globe Opening Season, focussing on Henry V. Issue number 2, March 1998 Â© Reproduced with kind permission of Shakespeare's Globe Archive. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

While the audience is described as enthusiastically booing, hissing and cheering throughout, moment of silence allow for a feeling of quiet magic:


At moments when the audience is emotionally moved and goes quiet, its participation is as palpable in its still silence as in its animated noisiness. The vocalised response and the quiet response are essentially the same; in both, the audience can said to be ‘spell-bound’ by the story.

Shakespeare's Globe Archive: Theatres, Players and Performance is available now. For more information, including free trial access and price enquiries, please email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

About the Author

Natalie Dale

Natalie Dale

Since joining Adam Matthew in January 2018, I have worked on some fascinating collections, including Colonial America, Shakespeare's Globe Archive, Sex and Sexuality and Foreign Office Files for South East Asia. I have a Masters in Literature and Creative Writing from Aberystwyth University and my interests include gender studies, literature and theatre.