Globe Theatre Fire

The Biography of William Shakespeare

  • Fire at the William Shakespeare Globe Theatre!

  • What play was being performed?

  • How did the Globe Theatre fire start?

  • What was the damage? 

  • Interesting information about the theater, life and times of William Shakespeare

Picture of scene from King Henry VIII
which was playing at the time of the Globe fire

 

Globe Theatre Fire

THE GLOBE THEATRE FIRE

  • The Globe Theater was built in just 6 months between 1597 and 1598

  • The Chamberlain's men acting company, including William Shakespeare used the Globe, an open-air amphitheatre, as the venue for their summer productions

  • The theatre held more than 1500 people - it was a huge building - made of timber and with thatched roofs

  • There was no heating and limited artificial lighting

  • There was one entrance

  • And there were two flights of stairs leading to the galleries which surrounded the 'Pit' and the stage

  • There were three tiers of roofed galleries with balconies and the seats in each of the three levels of galleries were tiered with three rows of wooden benches which increased in size towards the back, following the shape of the structure of the building

  • To get to the stairs the members of the audience would walk behind the wooden benches through each of the galleries

  • The Globe was clearly a huge Fire Risk!

THE GLOBE THEATRE FIRE

  • The competition between the theatres was fierce!

  • The better the plays and the better the special effects that accompanied them led to bigger audiences

  • The special effects used at the Globe were spectacular!

  • There were smoke effects, fireworks (for dramatic battle scenes), trap-doors and rigging which allowed for flying entrances. There was even music to accompany the plays!

  • The acting company became more ambitious with their ideas for special effects!

  • Someone had the idea of using a real cannon on the stage! This would be used at the beginning of a performance and would have produced an amazing sound effect!

  • Safety issues were not discussed! Fire hazards were ignored!

  • On June 29th 1613 fire broke out at the Globe Theatre - William Shakespeare would not have been in the theatre at the time of the fire as he had retired to Stratford-upon-Avon

  • A canon had been used for special effects, heralding grand entrances!

  • The canon was loaded with gunpowder and wadding

  • The canon was fired during a performance of King Henry VIII

  • The thatched roof caught on fire

  • Fire would have spread quickly - the building was made of wood

  • There must have been a terrible panic to get out of the building - there were no planned controls for evacuation - there were no fire extinguishers - there were no professional fire-fighters and there was no fire brigade

  • The Globe Theatre burned to the ground

  • There are no records of the death toll or number of casualties

  • William Shakespeare must have been devastated at the news of the fire

  • Plans were put into effect to replace the theatre

  • In 1614 the Globe Theatre was rebuilt, so there were in fact two original Globe Theatres!

  • The risk of fire in the 1600's was massive. The buildings were nearly all built with timber and had thatched roofs. The inevitable occurred and in 1666 the city was devastated by the Great Fire of London. Following the Great Fire thatched roofs were forever banned in London. This ban was only lifted in 1994 when the New Globe Theatre was reconstructed in London!

THE END OF THE GLOBE THEATRE

  • The Globe Theatre was not destroyed in the Great Fire of London

  • It was demolished by the Puritans in 1644

    • In 1642 the English Puritan Parliament issued an order stopping all stage plays in the theatres

    • The Puritans moved England to a much stricter code of conduct

    • The use of fine clothes and flippant behaviours was banned

    • The English Civil War broke out in 1642 which led to the beheading of Charles I

    • In 1644 the Globe Theatre was demolished by the Puritans

    • The Puritans eventually lost power and the throne was restored to Charles II (who was called the Merry Monarch)

    • In 1660 the theatres finally open again but the Globe was never re-built

  • The risk of fire in the 1600's was massive. The buildings were nearly all built with timber and had thatched roofs. The inevitable occurred and in 1666 the city was devastated by the Great Fire of London. Following the Great Fire thatched roofs were forever banned in London. This ban was only lifted in 1994 when the New Globe Theatre was reconstructed in London!

Globe Theatre Fire

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