If you recall some of my posts about Stratford-Upon-Avon, you’ll know what a big Shakespeare fan I am. I have the complete Shakespeare dictionary, one of my bedroom walls is covered in Post-it notes with words he invented, and I don’t usually go longer than a few weeks without re-reading one of his plays or watching a film adaptation of one of them. So it should come as no surprise that the Shakespeare’s Globe attraction in London made it onto my list of English favorites.
This is a replica of the Globe Theatre in London where many of Shakespeare’s plays were originally performed. Originally, the theatre was destroyed when one of the special effects went horribly wrong, and a spark from a cannon landed on the thatched roof and burnt the building to the ground. The theatre was quickly rebuilt, but a few decades later, the Puritans took over England, decided that frivolous activities like plays were causing things like the plague, and shut down all of the theatres. The Globe that you can visit today was built in 1997, and is incidentally the first building in London that has been constructed with a thatched roof since the Great Fire of 1666, after which thatched roofs were outlawed.
Today, there is a museum attached to it, and then you take a tour of the actual theatre. The museum offered fascinating insights into the context of Shakespeare’s era, including so much information about what theatre was like at the time. I learned so much, but I think my favorite section was the costume part. Historic apparel always fascinates me, especially the women’s clothing. The exhibit talked a lot about costume design, fabric, maintenance, and many other interesting aspects. The most outrageous fact I learned was that pee was regularly used to take care of clothing. Rather than paraphrasing, I’m just going to directly quote from the plaque:
Urine was used as a stain remover. It was collected and stored for three weeks until it fermented. Pregnant women’s urine was most effective because of its high oestrogen content; whilst the urine from someone who had consumed a lot of alcohol was useless. Urine was also used for mordanting dyes, tanning leather and bleaching.
So there you have it. It definitely makes the thought of wearing Elizabethan clothing a little less desirable (as if the corsets weren’t uncomfortable enough!).
As for the theatre itself, it was beautiful. The seats were just basic wooden, backless benches, as they would have been in Shakespeare’s time, but the stage was extravagant. You can see from the photos that it was decorated beautifully (those big pillars are wooden, but they were painted to look like marble because actual marble would have been too expensive). I would have loved to see a performance here, but their season hasn’t kicked off yet—at the moment they’re running a program called Globe to Globe, so all of their performances are in different languages. If I ever come back to London during summertime, I will definitely be making a Shakespeare performance at the Globe Theatre one of my priorities!