In 1599, the first Globe Theatre was completed on the south bank of the Thames River. William Shakespeare, along with three other actors, bought a share in the Globe. It stood for 14 years and presented many of Shakespeare’s greatest plays. During a performance of Henry VIII in 1614, a stage cannon ignited the thatched roof and the theatre burned to the ground. However, it was quickly rebuilt and continued to present plays until the Puritans shut down all theaters in London in 1642. It was demolished in 1644.
The American actor Sam Wanamaker initiated the rebuilding of Shakespeare’s Globe after his first visit to London in 1949. Workers began construction in 1993 on the new theatre near the original site. The latest Globe Theatre was completed in 1996; Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the theatre on June 12, 1997 with a production of Henry V.
In 1596, a Dutch student by the name of Johannes de Witt attended a play in London at the Swan Theatre. While there, de Witt made a drawing of the theatre's interior. A friend, Arend van Buchell, copied this drawing. The sketch is the only surviving contemporary rendering of the interior of an Elizabethan-era public theatre. As such, it's the closest thing historians have to an original picture of what the Globe may have looked like, seating 1,500 people between the galleries and the "groundlings."
In addition, there are suggestive descriptions included in the plays themselves, such as the famous Chorus, which begins Henry V: ‘And shall this cockpit hold the vasty fields of France / Or may we cram within this wooden ‘O’...’
The Globe itself was not a truly circular building. An archaeological excavation of the Rose Theatre in 1989 revealed that the Elizabethan playhouses were polygonal buildings. In the same year, a small portion of the Globe itself was excavated and revealed that it was a 20-sided building with a diameter of 100 feet.
View the video tour of the Globe Theatre and Exhibition:/