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The Renaissance Era and William Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

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Plays have always been one of the main attractions for entertainment throughout the centuries. The Renaissance era was a rebirth of European interest in the arts, exploration, and technology. The period was extremely important as it came at the best possible time in history for the rise of the Renaissance Theatres. Many amphitheaters’ traits have been imitated throughout the years. One of the greatest dramatists is William Shakespeare. He brought forth some of the most famous plays in all-time in the Globe Theatre. The development of plays and the structure of performances in the Renaissance amphitheatres, including Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, still continue to influence the modern day theater. The Renaissance was an artistic and scientific era sparking social, economic, and political changes in Europe that lasted from 1350 through the sixteenth century. Awakening of art led to the revival of dramatic literature for entertainment among the people. The first Globe theatre, established in 1599, was located on the bank of the Thames River. The river enhanced the compelling attractiveness of the theatre’s beauty. The building was constructed using timber from an earlier amphitheatre, simple named The Theatre, that was assembled in 1576. The Globe stood close to the London Bridge; near Park Street and Southwark.

Other major theatres such as the Swan, the Rose, and the Hope were also built around the area. The rise and development of theatrology has been linked to the Renaissance era due to the revival of arts and literature. These interests were centered on the Greek and Roman literature. On the other hand, Shakespeare’s popularity resulted in attracting a greater number of visitors at the Globe Theater and his occasional performances at court. As a result of his admiration, more people were introduced to the theatrical productions. The first theatres’ architecture were used to improve the newly designed playhouses. The details presented in the plays were very important to the quality of the show. Props in particular included crowns, banners, swords, organs of animals, and other realistic additions. The savage and visual experience created a warning of consequences from real scenes. Scenes of brutal entertainment and executions used organs from donated animals from the slaughterhouses to create a real-life experience for the onlooking crowd. The audience of the Globe consisted of groundlings, the middle-class, and the privileged.

The groundling stood in the yard of the amphitheater and lacked shelter against the sun, rain, and other natural occurrences. They were also at risk of muscle fatigue and having neck pain from the viewing angle of the stage. When the gallery was crowded, the playgoers would expect an area of two by two feet. People were much shorter, so today the amount of space would be very uncomfortable with such little leg room for anyone. The middle-class sat lower in the stands on the wooden benches. The wooden benches did not have wooden backs so they often had back pain after two to four hours of sitting through a performance. If those who paid two pennies for a middle-class seat arrived too late, they would have to stand in the yard along with the groundlings. The privileged paid top dollar to sit above or directly on the stage. The actors of the Elizabethan theaters were seen as unreliable and misgivings. They were often accused of being Rogues and Vagabonds. When the popularity of the theater grew over the years, many of the actors became very affluent in their career and were able to perform before royalty. The Globe was an open, three-story tall theater. The structure stood 100 feet in diameter with 3,000 seats available.

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre had columns that helped the roof. A painting of blue skies and clouds were on the roof. People called that painting “the heavens”. Many other theaters replicated the look of the theatre. Julius Pomponius focused on a wide but a slightly raised stage with curtains that fell behind it. Early professional playhouses adopted this system as well. By the 1540’s, three-dimensional paintings were used as backdrops creating a realistic experience for the audience. At the same time, the first usage of “upstage,” meaning farther away from the audience, and “downstage,” meaning toward the audience, was used in theatre history. In June of 1613, The Globe caught fire from a prop cannon that was fired which hit the wooden beams and straw thatching.

The Globe was later built taking over a year to finish. The building was rebuilt so quickly to avoid losing the playgoers’ interest. In 1642, the Puritans announced that every theater was to be destroyed, which included Shakespeare’s Globe. The Globe was demolished in 1644. However, in 1949, Sam Wanamaker was credited for the recreation of the new Globe Theater. Londoners have been reminiscing his works since the 1800’s, when 9% of his shows in London used his ideas. Even though he was down 17% from his peak of fame, he has much more than his opponents. Listings from the UK Theatre Web estimate that 5% of all the performances since 2000 are of Shakespeare’s. It is very striking to see Shakespeare impressively compete with thousands of modern writers. At the same time, the Renaissance era changed the traditional writings into a more accurate representation to the readers and viewers. Many factors of the Renaissance have enhanced the quality of today’s literature with humanistic and classical works. In the end these concepts have positively impacted socially, culturally, scientifically, and intellectually. The structure of a play has dramatically changed over the course of time. These ideas are currently modeling the future literature and how it will be presented.

Works Cited

  1. Allison, Amy. Shakespeares’s Globe. Lucent Books, 2000. Barker, Clive, and Howard Bay.
  2. “The Elizabethan Stage.” Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopœdie Britannica, Inc., 14 Nov. 2018, Accessed 7 November 2019.
  3. “Elizabethan Actors.” Elizabethan Actors, Accessed 7 November 2019.
  4. “Greatness thrust upon him; Shakespeare. The Economist, 26 Oct. 2019, #81.Gale One File:Business, Accessed 4 November 2019.
  5. Hildy, Franklin J. “Renaissance.” Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopœdia Britannica, Inc., 28 Nov. 2018, Accessed 7 November 2019.
  6. “How Has the Renaissance Influenced Modern Society” eNotes Editorial, 15 Feb. 2017, Accessed 7 November 2019.
  7. Jamieson, Lee. “The Influence of the Renaissance in Shakepseare’s Work.” Thought Co, 29 July 2019, Accessed 4 November 2019.
  8. Mcafarno.”Shakespeare’s Theater.” Folger Shakespeare Library, 23 Sept. 2019, Accessed 31 October 2019.
  9. “Renaissance and Reformation.” Gale In Context Online Collection, Gale, 2019. Gale In Context:High School, Accessed 6 November 2019.
  10. Smith, Nicole.”The Influence of the Renaissance on Modern Society, Culture and Art.” Article Myriad, 25 Apr. 2018, Accessed 7 November 2019.
  11. T., Bruce.”A History of the Globe Theater: Brought to You by Theater Seat Store.” TheatrerSeatStore Blog, 21 Mar. 2019, Accessed 4 November 2019.
  12. “The Globe Theater Burns Down.”, A&E Television Networks, 13 Nov. 2009, Accessed 31 October 2019.
  13. “The Globe Theatre.” Ultimate Free Shakespeare Resource, https://www, Accessed 30 October 2019.

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