Monday, May 19, 2014

Day 2 (part 1): The Globe

Easter morn dawned, well, not all that bright. There was rain on the forecast and sure enough, rain it did!
After a delicious breakfast, we headed out for the day's adventures: The Globe Theater, and an Easter service at Westminster Abbey.
We decided to take the bus (yes, one of the amazing red, double-decker ones!) instead of the tube. Oh! It was so much fun!! And you really do get to see so much. It's really amazing. If you ever go to London, take the buses! The tube is fun too, but with the bus you get to see so much more.
We got off near St. Paul's Cathedral

and then walked over the Thames via the Millennium Bridge.

(Parents and grandma)

(Me, with the London and Tower bridges in the background. Do you know which is which? It's not what you may think!)


And then, there it was!

THE GLOBE!! AHHHH!!! So exciting!! 
This is actually the 3rd Globe theater. The first was built in 1599. For fourteen years, until 1613, it entertained the people of London with Shakespeare's plays. One of which was Henry VIII. In this play, a cannon goes off near the end. Well, one night, all was well, the cannon was fired... and it lit the thatched roof on fire! The theater burned to the ground in two hours. At the time, about 3000 people were packed into the theater, and there were only two exits. 
Do you know how many casualties there were?
No one got hurt! Well... almost no one. One man's breeches caught fire, but he doused the flames with his mug of ale and got out safely.
The second Globe theater was built very shortly after the first had burned and was open for business once again. 
In 1642, however, another tragedy befell the Globe, and all the other theaters. The Puritans closed and/or tore down all the playhouses. 
But that's not the end of the story! 
In 1970, a man named Sam Wanamaker founded a Trust, with the intent of getting enough money to reconstruct Globe, near it's original location. He wanted it to be as accurate as possible to the original. Eventually he raised enough money (getting donations from such people as Patrick Stewart [all of whom have their names in cobblestones in the courtyard]) and the Third Globe opened for business in 1997!

The fabulous stage.

To the left of the stage, you can see three different levels of seating - four, if you count the standing-only room in front of the stage.
The very top level was where disreputable women (dressed in white of all things! to distinguish them from others) would entertain men, because the upper most level was the darkest.
Right behind the pillar, on the second level, you can see a box that looks different from the boxes next to it. It has a bit more color, some paintings on the wall. Even though that seat, and it's twin on the other side of the theater, is probably the worst in the whole theater, that is where the rich would sit. They didn't come to see the play; they came to be seen. The "gentleman's boxes" were the best places to be seen. Sometimes, rich men would even pay to sit on the stage, or in the orchestra balcony above the stage!
On the bottom level, there are more seats, for commoners, I believe...
You only had to pay one penny if you wanted to stand in front of the stage. I've been told that these are the best and most sought-after seats in present day. However, if you were in Shakespeare's time, you may not want to stand here. There is a drain in the middle of the floor. I'm sure all of you can guess what it was for.
People were allowed - and are still allowed - to bring their own food and drink (usually beer or ale, because water wasn't safe to drink) to the play. There were no intermissions, and no bathrooms, so if had to go, you just went, and it would drain out of the theater via the hole in the middle of the floor. 
It smelled horrible. In addition to the open waste, and smell of food and drink, there was the smell of unwashed bodies (because they bathed maybe once or twice a year), and garlic (worn around the neck to ward off evil).

Now, if you to see a Shakespeare play, the audience is quiet (*groan* unless you go on the "homeschool special" day which also happens to be the day when all the 6th grade teachers decide to take their students out for some culture). Partly out of respect for the actors who have worked so hard, and partly because they probably don't understand half of what is being said. There is little to no interaction with the audience. The actors have a fourth wall, and they maintain it.
(Haha, a short aside here... Once my mom and I saw Love's Labour's Lost and one of the characters came in reading the poem he had written for the woman he loved. He was reading his poem in Iambic Pentameter [which is a type of verse that Shakespeare wrote much of his work in]! I nearly DIED laughing! But no one else got it.)
In Shakespeare's day, there was no fourth wall. The rich people in the audience would "say something clever" to the actors, and the actors would "say something clever" right back (staying in character). 
If you saw your friend across the theater, you would call to him and maybe even start up a loud conversation. 
It was a time for socializing, a time for relaxing, a time for entertainment. 

Another different between Shakespeare's time and now... Now, when a company rehearses a play, it goes on for weeks, with multiple performances a week, before they start work on another play.
In in the 1600's, people payed to see something different. There would be a different play nearly every day. Sometimes, the actors in a company would go twenty days without repeating a play! That's a lot of memorization!

Something that I found very interesting, that I didn't know before, was that if a playhouse (such as The Globe, or it's rival, The Rose) owned a play, they were the only ones who could preform it.
For example, The Rose theater owned Romeo and Juliet. They were the only ones who could put on that play. The Globe couldn't, even though Shakespeare sold most of his others plays to them. 
However, some theater owners would come up to the actors in the public house and say, "Hey, I'll give you 20 ducats for the script of Hamlet." The actor would then proceed to write down as much of Hamlet as he could remember. Let's say the actor played King Claudius (Hamlet's uncle) was asked to sell the play. In the copy that the actor would write, all of Claudius' lines and cues for coming onto the stage would be perfect. But, if Claudius wasn't in a scene, the actor would have to remember everything he had seen and heard from backstage. Thus, we get the "bad folios," where scenes are missing, or monologues are paraphrased, or words are changed around. (I believe one of the bad folios of Hamlet is completely missing the "to be, or not to be" line.)
Later in the 1600's, Shakespeare's plays began to be published (an amazing feat considering that the only things in the 1600's that were being printed were Bibles and pamphlets, and that the general unwashed [literally] masses couldn't read). This caused a problem, because it made them available for all playhouses. Soon, that rule absolved.

Here's a question for evolutions: If evolution means to "become better," why was it that in Shakespeare's day, the common laymen was able to understand every single word of Shakespeare's plays, whereas today, Shakespeare is only understandable for the learned or the Shakespearean? 
And these common men in Shakespeare's day didn't read. Most of the society was illiterate. Yet they were able to catch all the hidden meanings and inside jokes in the plays, that only a scholar of Shakespeare would be able to pick out today.

Next to The Globe is an Exhibition on Shakespeare, detailing the theater of the day, from costumes to music to stage fighting. It was highly enjoyable and very interesting!

Below the Exhibition is a room where they do demonstrations stage fighting and clothing of the times. We went to sit in for the clothing demonstration. The man and lady up on stage welcomed the audience and then said, "Alright, we need a volunteer!" With nary a thought, I raised my hand and said, "I'll do it!" They invited me up on stage, directed me behind a curtain and told me to strip (and then put on stockings and a shift).

They were to dress me as Ophelia, from one of their productions of Hamlet. 
First, of course, it the stockings, and the shift, or, undergarments.

Next they tied on some shoes. The shoes back then didn't have any soles, so when it was muddy, they would stick their shoes in some sort of weird wooden overshoe-thing that protected them from the elements (we saw this in Holland too, and never got a picture, for some reason...). Evidently in China, it became a fashion trend!
As well as putting on shoes, they cross-gartered my legs! 
Anyone familiar with Twelfth Night knows exactly who this is:

Malvolio! In an attempt to please Lady Olivia, he dons yellow stockings, and cross-garteres his legs. In Shakespeare's day, men would cross-garter their legs to show off their calves (that's why pictures from back then always show men with their legs sticking out at funny angles). If a man didn't have a nice calf, he would stuff his stocking to look like it!
Cross-gartering showed off the calf nicely. It also held the stocking up, to some degree.

She did commend my yellow stockings of late, she did praise my leg, being cross-gartered...
Malvolio, Act II, Scene V.

After the shoes, they put on a corseted bodice, laced tightly to inspire good posture. 

While men flaunted their calves, it was all about the hips and the behind for the woman. If a woman had large hips, it meant she would be a good bearer of children. Therefore, women would wear a "bum-roll."

It would be worn around the waist, and the dress, draped over it, made the female appear very hippy.

Then came a farthingale. See the ropes hanging down from the bodice? They would be looped through the farthingale and the skirt and tied to keep everything from falling down.

Overtop of the farthingale comes the actual skirt:

After that, a "partlet" (a part-shirt):

And finally, a jacket!

Don't forget about your lacy cap!

After that, a very happy me raided the gift shop and came out with rather a nice pillow of Shakespearean insults (which, unfortunately, has not yet been pillowfied):

I love Shakespeare.
If you love Shakespeare - even if you only like Shakespeare - GO FORTH AND VISIT THE GLOBE! You will come out loving Shakespeare.

Stay tuned for the second part of Day 2!

Out of my sight! Thou dost infect mine eyes!
Richard III, Act I, Scene ii.


  1. Wow, so cool! And I loved reading all the history! It reminded me of the book, a The Shakespeare Stealer, by Gary Blackwood. Have you read it? It's really good!

    1. I've heard of it, and I think I got it out of the library once... but I never got around to reading it. Maybe I'll have to now!

  2. That is SO AWESOME that you got to dress up as if you were part of a Shakespearian play yourself.

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  4. That looks so fun! I thought that dressing up in period clothes was fun when we did our Shakespeare plays, but that looks even better! I will definitely visit the Globe some day!

    The comment that says deleted is from me trying to comment and realizing that my mom was signed in. :)

    1. Yes, I agree! I was saying to one of the people there that I had been in a Shakespeare play, but the costumes were very different from actual period clothes. ("They were just made to look like them?" the lady asked. "Yup," I replied.) Goooo to the Globe! You won't regret it!

  5. I love it that you got to try out cool Shakespearean clothing. The names are as intriguing as the clothes themselves.