Elizabeth Ist coat of arms

Globe Theatre Design and Structure

Picture of the Globe Theatre

Picture of the Globe Theatre

What did the theater look like? How big was it? Why was the design based on the Roman Amphitheatre?
The section covering Globe Theatre Design includes the following subjects:

  • The Globe Amphitheatre - Structure & Dimensions - Up to 100 feet in diameter. The design of the Globe theater was based on the Roman Coliseum but built on a much smaller scale. An open arena design & structure. The designers believed that basing the look of the theatre on Classical Greek and Roman structures would give them an aura of respectability

  • The Stage Size and the Dimensions -   The Dimensions  of the Globe stage cannot be specified. Stage dimensions of Elizabethan theaters varied from 20 foot wide 15 foot deep to 45 feet to 30 feet . The stage was raised - 3 to 5 feet and supported by large pillars.
  • The Pit, the Yard, the Galleries - The Pit, or yard, was the area located around the stage. There was no seating - the cheapest part of the Globe Theater and the audience had to stand. The stage structure projected halfway into the ' yard ' where the commoners (groundlings) paid 1 penny to stand to watch the play. They would have crowded around the 3 sides of the stage structure.
  • The crest and motto of the Globe Theatre Above the main entrance of the Globe was a crest displaying Hercules bearing the globe on his shoulders together with the motto "Totus mundus agit histrionem" (the whole world is a playhouse). This phrase was slightly re-worded in the William Shakespeare play As You Like It - "All the world’s a stage".

Globe Theatre Structure
Who built the theater? What was the structure like? What building materials were used? How long did the theater take to build? Who financed the the building of the theater? What were the amenities like? How big were the grounds and what entertainment was available?

  • The Building materials - Timber, nails, stone (flint), plaster and thatched roofs. Later amphitheatres had tiled roofs
  • The Builders of the Globe - The Globe was built by carpenter Peter Smith and his workers and was the most magnificent theater that London had ever seen. It was built between 1597 -1598.
  • The stake holders of the 'Theatre' included William Shakespeare and Richard Burbage
  • Globe Building Duration 6 months to build the structure
  • The Shape of Elizabethan Theaters such as the Globe were often Octagonal structure or circular in shape having between 8 and 24 sides
  • Lighting - Natural lighting as plays were produced in the afternoon. However there was some artificial lighting mainly intended to provide atmosphere for night scenes
  • Heating - There was no heating in the Globe Theatre. Plays were performed in the summer months and transferred to the indoor playhouses during the winter
  • Toilets - None. People relieved themselves outside. Sewage was buried in pits or disposed of in the River Thames.
  • The Grounds of the theatre were filled with stalls selling a variety of take-away foods and beverages.
  • The Globe theatre was also used for gambling and prostitutes plied their trade within the confines of the Globe building and grounds. Fights also broke out amongst audience members adding to the entertainment available.
Elizabethan Theatre
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