The reconstructed Globe Theatre is a magical place! Although it does not sit on the exact location of the original, Elizabethan construction techniques and architectural details were researched and followed as closely as possible. Ironically, this new vessel for presenting the plays of Shakespeare’s genius and those of his brilliant contemporaries like Marlowe, Beaumont & Fletcher, Jonson, Middleton, Kyd, and the rest was the vision of American actor Sam Wanamaker. Based on contemporary drawings and descriptions of Elizabethan theatres like the Swan, and on modern archaeological investigations of the Rose and original Globe, the new Globe, which opened in 1997, is truly a beautiful work of architecture.
And to watch a Shakespearean play performed there, as I did recently, is an enthralling and mystical experience. For despite the Oxfordians and others who crop up like termites from time to time insisting that Shakespeare did not write Shakespeare because he was not educated well enough and came from the lower middle classes, it is abundantly clear to anyone with less than half a brain that the glover’s son from smalltown Stratford-upon-Avon, through the hard work of his hands and an explosion of creativity in his mind, is indeed the playwright of Hamlet, Macbeth, and the rest.
The Tempest was on the night a friend and I were in attendance at this new “wooden O” after a wonderful day in London visiting various landmarks. It was authentically enacted in Elizabethan garb, and performed so well that it brought out ideas that had not occurred to me merely by reading this play of magic and illusion numerous times. The actors were surely, to paraphrase Shakespeare’s friend, rival, and inspiration Chrisopher Marlowe, “no spirits but the true substantial bodies” of Prospero, Miranda, Ariel, Trinculo, and the rest, until the spell was broken and the magic scene disappeared from the stage forever – except perhaps in the minds of the playgoers!
“Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.”
William Shakespeare, The Tempest, 1611