Old Globe
Theatre Structure

The structure of the Old Globe Theatre

William Shakespeare Site Map

The Globe Theater Structure

The Structure of the Globe Theater
The structure of the Globe Theatre is a complex. Not one inside picture of the old Globe is in existence, however, a picture of another amphitheatre, the Swan,  has survived. The following picture of the Swan by Johannes de Witt, a Dutch traveller, who visited the Swan is dated between 1596-1598. The picture was accompanied by what is probably the single most important source of our knowledge of the internal layout and structure of the Globe theatre. It consists of a diary note together with a sketch of the internal layout of the Swan Theatre.The Elizabethan amphitheatres were similar in design to the Globe Theatre, so the picture of the Swan can be used a good guide to the structure and layout of the amphitheatres including the old Globe. We have also included a modern representation of the interior of the Globe.

For comprehensive facts and information visit the Globe Theatre Website
 

 

Johannes de Witt's sketch
of the Swan Theatre

No inside picture of the Globe Theatre has survived. 
Use the sketch of the Swan Theatre as
a reference guide to visualising
the dimensions & structure
of the Shakespearean Theatre


Modern Representation
of the Globe Theatre 

Use the picture of the Theatre as
a reference guide to visualising
the interior & structure
of the Theatre

 

The Structure and Design of the Globe Theatre 

Globe AmphitheatreOpen arena design & structure - actors would also get wet if it rained!
Size of amphitheatres Structure & Dimensions - Up to 100 feet in diameter
Varying Shapes Octagonal structure , circular in shape having between 8 and 24 sides
Globe Building materialsStructure - Timber, nails, stone (flint), plaster and thatched roofs. Later amphitheatres had tiled roofs
Globe Building Duration6 months to build the structure 
Overall design and structure of the Globe TheatreThe open air arena, called the 'pit' or the 'yard', had a raised stage at one end and was surrounded by three tiers of roofed galleries with balconies overlooking the back of the stage. The stage projected halfway into the 'pit'
Globe Audience Capacity1500 plus audience capacity. Up to 3000 people would flock to the theatre and its grounds
The Grounds of the Globe theatreBustling with people & potential audience. Stalls selling merchandise and refreshments. Attracted non playgoers to the market
Toilet FacilitiesNone . People relieved themselves outside. Sewage was buried in pits or disposed of in the River Thames. All theatres closed during outbreaks of the Bubonic Plague - disease would have spread via the rats & fleas
The Entrance to the Globe theaterStructure - Usually one main entrance. Some later theatres had external staircases in their structure to access the galleries
The crest and motto of the Globe TheatreAbove 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".
The 'Box 'Playgoers put 1 penny in a box at the theatre entrance
Access to the Balconies & GalleriesTwo sets of stairs in the structure, either side if the theater. The first gallery would cost another penny in the box which was held by a collector at the front of the stairs. The second gallery would cost another penny
The Globe 'Box Office'At the start of the play after collecting money from the audience the admission collectors put the boxes in a room backstage - the box office. 
The ' Housekeepers 'The owners of the Globe theatre
The interior design and structure of the Globe TheatreDesign and structure was similar but far smaller version (1500 -3000 audience capacity) than the Coliseum of the Roman period (50,000 audience capacity) allowing the maximum number of playgoers in the space available
Globe Theatre LightingNatural lighting as plays were produced in the afternoon. However there was some artificial lighting mainly intended to provide atmosphere for night scenes
HeatingThere was no heating. Plays were performed in the summer months and transferred to the indoor playhouses during the winter
Stage dimensionsDimensions - Cannot be specific for the Globe. Stage dimensions varied from 20 foot wide 15 foot deep to 45 feet to 30 feet
The height of the stageDimensions - A raised stage - 3 to 5 feet and supported by large pillars
The floor of the StageMade of wood, sometimes covered with rushes. Trap doors would enable some special effects e.g. smoke
The rear of the StageA roofed house-like structure was at the rear of the stage, supported by two large columns (pillars) 
The ' Herculean ' columns or pillars The ' Herculean ' pillars were made of huge, single tree trunks. These were drilled through the centre to eliminate warping of the wood
The ' Heavens ' - a roof areaThe pillars supported a roof called the ' Heavens '
The ' Heavens 'The ' Heavens ' served to create an area hidden from the audience. This area provided a place for actors to hide. A selection of ropes & rigging would allow for special effects, such as flying or dramatic entries
The stage wall called the ' Frons Scenae ' taken from LatinBehind the pillars was the stage wall called the ' Frons Scenae ' (taken from the name given by Imperial Rome to the stage walls of their amphitheatres). A doorway to the left and right and a curtained central doorway from which the actors made their entrances. Above the door area was a highly decorative screen 
The Stage Gallery above the Stage Wall
The ' Lord's rooms '
Immediately above stage wall was the stage gallery that was used by actors (Juliet's balcony) & the rich the nobility -  known as ' Lord's rooms.'
The ' Lord's rooms 'Considered the best seats in the ' house ' despite the poor view of the back of the actors. The audience would have a good view of the Lords. And the Lords were able to hear the actors clearly. The cost was 5 pence & cushioned seats were provided
MusiciansMusic was an extra effect added in the 1600's. The musicians would also reside in the Lords rooms
The ' Gentlemen's rooms 'There were additional balconies on the left and right of the ' lord's rooms ' which were called the ' Gentlemen's rooms '. For rich patrons of the Globe theater - the cost was 4 pence & cushioned seats were provided
The ' Tiring House 'The stage wall structure contained at least two doors which lead to a leading to  small structure, back stage, called the ' Tiring House '. The stage wall was covered by a curtain. The actors used this area to change their attire
The ' Hut 'Above the ' Tiring House ' was a small house-like structure called the 'hut' complete with roof. Used as covered storage space for the troupe
Elizabethan advertisingAbove the hut was a small tower with a flag pole. Flags were erected on the day of the performance which sometimes displayed a picture advertising the next play to be performed. Colour coding  was also used 
- a black flag meant a tragedy , white a comedy and red a history.
The ' yard '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. 
GroundlingsCommoners who paid 1 penny admission to stand to watch the play
' Stinkards 'During the height of the summer the groundlings were also referred to as ' stinkards ' for obvious reasons
Access to the GalleriesTwo sets of stairs, either side if the theater structure . The stairways could also be external to the main structure to give maximum seating space
Seats in the galleries - Three levels

 

Structure - The seats in each of the three levels of galleries were tiered with three rows of wooden benches, increasing in size towards the back, following the shape of the building and structure. The galleries were covered affording some shelter from the elements. 

The New Globe Theatre
The New Globe Theatre in London was constructed using information available to mirror the structure of the original Globe Theatre. A picture of the new stage is featured.

Location Map & Descriptions of Elizabethan Theatres

Old Globe Theater - Pictures from engravings theatre by Van Vissher, Norden and Holler London Maps

Old Globe Theater Timeline - Time line of original theatre built 1599 and re - built 1614 - key dates

New Globe Theater modelled on the original - Pictures, stage, replica, model theatre

New Globe Theater - Structure, layout, design, dimensions and construction based on the original theatre, London

New Globe Theater Timeline - Time line of the replica of  William Shakespeare theatre and Bear Garden Museum, Southwark

Visiting the New Globe Theater - London theatre vacation guide with Elizabethan, Shakespearean map

Globe Theater Structure and Dimensions

 
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