In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Globe Theatre

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Origins
  • Playing Companies

British and Irish Literature Globe Theatre
Michael Hattaway
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 June 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 February 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846719-0086


The Globe was a purpose-built playhouse, erected for a new company of players, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, which William Shakespeare had joined as a “sharer” (shareholder) in 1594. Before that he had worked as an actor and playwright with other groups, notably Strange’s Men, based at the Rose, owned and managed by Philip Henslowe. At first the Chamberlain’s Men had worked at the playhouse in Shoreditch that was called the Theatre, and at the nearby Curtain from 1597. Late in 1598 the Theatre was demolished and its timbers were transported south of the river to Southwark, to be used in a new playhouse, the Globe, which opened in 1599. In 1613 the Globe was destroyed by fire, which started during a performance of Shakespeare and John Fletcher’s Henry VIII. A new playhouse, the “second Globe,” was immediately constructed on the foundations of the first. The theater was closed, along with all other playhouses, in 1642. A replica of the second Globe, now named “Shakespeare’s Globe,” was built on the south bank of the Thames, a couple of hundred meters from the original site, and opened in 1997. That site now includes the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, a theater designed to resemble an early-17th-century indoor or “private” playhouse.

General Overviews

The three magisterial surveys and analyses of evidence regarding early British playhouses, Greg 1931, Chambers 1923, and Bentley 1941–1968 (the latter two of which cover documentary evidence pertaining to the earlier and later halves of Shakespeare’s career), have been complemented by recent work that not only examines material evidence of playhouse construction but also offers fresh accounts of conventions for theatrical representation. These three studies are revised and supplemented in Wickham, et al. 2000 and in Stern 2009, and by detailed accounts of the playhouses and composition of playing companies (see Gurr 2009). Kinney 2003 and Dutton 2011 offer convenient and succinct handbooks, and the ongoing Records of Early English Drama gathers records from all over the country that enable the tours of the London playing companies to be plotted—along with much else beside.

  • Bentley, Gerald Eades. The Jacobean and Caroline Stage. 7 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1941–1968.

    A standard reference book (modeled on Chambers 1923), and a magisterial analysis of material concerning dramatic companies, playhouses and the plays presented in them, and their authors.

  • Chambers, E. K. The Elizabethan Stage. 4 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1923.

    A standard account of court performances, struggles to control the stage, playing companies, players, playhouses, staging, printing of plays, and playwrights. Many of Chambers’s findings have been revised, but the synthesis he provided remains invaluable.

  • Dutton, Richard, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern Theatre. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199697861.001.0001

    International scholars explore the plurality of playing spaces in Renaissance England, the fortunes of playing companies and those that supported them and the patrons who lent their names to them, the opposition of the city authorities, as well as playing styles and material components of the scene. They also review the theories that have shaped conclusions from such evidence as stage directions or visual records.

  • Greg, W. W. Dramatic Documents from the Elizabethan Playhouses: Stage Plots, Actors’ Parts Prompt Books. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1931.

    Collotype facsimiles along with transcriptions and analyses of essential documents that cast light on performances and performance conditions in Shakespeare’s England until the closing of the playhouses.

  • Gurr, Andrew. The Shakespearean Stage: 1574–1642. 4th ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

    A standard and concise account of the period’s companies, players, playhouses, staging conventions, and theater audiences. An appendix matches a good selection of plays to the companies that first performed them and to the playhouses where they were first performed, and there is a full bibliography.

  • Kinney, Arthur F. Shakespeare by Stages: An Historical Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell, 2003.

    DOI: 10.1002/9780470775813

    An introduction for students to the stages, players, and playgoers of Shakespeare’s London; to the theatrical equipment that was used; and to the reactions generated.

  • Records of Early English Drama. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1979–.

    An ongoing project that serves “to locate, transcribe, and edit historical surviving documentary evidence of drama, secular music, and other communal entertainment and ceremony from the Middle Ages until 1642, when the Puritans closed the London theatres.” Volumes of this multivolume series are devoted to counties or particular institutions such as London’s Inns of Court.

  • Stern, Tiffany. Documents of Performance in Early Modern England. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511635625

    A vital study of the processes of running a performance and the implications for the consideration of play-texts.

  • Wickham, Glynne, Herbert Berry, and William Ingram, eds. English Professional Theatre, 1530–1660. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

    Gathers edited documents of control (1530–1660), accounts of players and playing, and then of all the London playhouses, including the first and second Globe.

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