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The original setting of many of Shakespeare’s best-known plays, the Globe theater has had a perhaps appropriately dramatic history. It began life as ‘The theater’ in Shoreditch. Following trouble with the landlord, the actors dismantled the building and carried it across the frozen Thames to be used in the construction of a new theater on Bankside, which they named the Globe in 1599.
The original Globe theater was destroyed by fire in 1613 during a performance of Shakespeare’s Henry VIII. It was rebuilt on a grander scale a year later, but William Shakespeare had taken the opportunity to retire from the stage. His company of players continued to act at the Globe, however, until 1642 when the Puritans closed the theaters. The Globe was demolished in 1644, and for over three centuries, the area became a part of trading London.
From the 1950s onwards, the Port of London went into a severe decline, and the once-thriving areas along Bankside became derelict. The time had come for Sam Wanamaker’s big idea. In 1970, he founded the Globe theater Trust, dedicated to reconstruction of the theater, and architect Theo Crosby was commissioned to produce the designs. The new theater was finally completed in 1997, and Shakespeare’s Globe is now one of London’s most-visited tourist attractions.
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Nicholas Fogg is an expert on Shakespeare’s life and works and has lectured widely on the subject. He is a Fellow of Queen’s University, Ontario. His previous books for Amberley include Hidden Shakespeare and Stratford-upon-Avon: The biography. He lives in Marlborough.
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