Category: Theatre

Plague and the Theatre in Shakespeare’s London Barbara Taylor of…

Plague and the Theatre in Shakespeare’s London 

Barbara Taylor of the Globe Research team delves into the murky world of the Plague to see if theatres were to blame for its spread. Grab your nosegays as you enter the Plague-stricken village of Eyam.

In 1577, clergyman Thomas White offered a pithy analysis of the relationship between plague and theatre. ‘The cause of plagues is sin,’ he wrote, ‘and the cause of sin are plays: therefore the cause of plagues are plays’.  Such a view wasn’t the opinion of a single preacher. The aldermen of the city of London wrote to the Privy Council in 1584, claiming that to put on drama during times of sickness ‘is to draw the plague by offending God on occasions of such plays’. Whether or not it was widely believed that plays, actors, and the sinful temptations of the public theatre were directly responsible for the plague, it was common practice in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to shut the whole sordid business down whenever the plague reared its ugly head.


A book of prayers to ward off the plague (1603)

Since the fourteenth-century Black Death, which wiped out huge swathes of Europe’s population, the plague came and went from England in waves, periodically sweeping over the country and taking thousands of lives with it. Because its true cause – diseased rats infecting humans through the bites of fleas – was unknown, boundless theories, superstitions, and so-called treatments emerged. The plague was a punishment from God; or the result of planetary alignments; or an imbalance and corruption of the body’s humours; or a combination of all the above. Preventions and remedies included surrounding yourself and your home with specific herbs, or peeling onions to leave in the street so they might absorb the infection of the neighbourhood. ‘Treatments’ also included fasting and praying. Needless to say, despite onions and prayer, chance of survival for the infected lingered optimistically at 50%.

Shakespeare’s life was affected by the plague. It probably took the life of his son Hamnet in 1596, and regularly closed the public London theatres that were the primary source of income for Shakespeare and his family. During these periods of closure Shakespeare and his fellow company-members could take their plays on tour to the provinces, although as arrivals from the plague-hit capital city they couldn’t be sure of a warm welcome. During an 11-month shutdown between 1603 and 1604, the new King James helped to tide the company over with financial hand-outs and the chance to perform at Court.

The plague-struck early years of the seventeenth century affected the demand for new plays, as touring companies took their tried-and-tested repertory on the road. The playwright Thomas Dekker complained in 1607 that these companies were ‘making fools of the poor country people’ who had to make do with old fare passed off as new work – ‘which here [in London] every punk and her squire […] can rant by heart, they are so stale and therefore so stinking’.


An illustration from the title page of Thomas Dekker’s ‘A Rod for Run-Awayes’ (1625), a pamphlet decrying those who fled London during the Great Plague.

After Shakespeare’s death in 1616, London would see its worst plague yet: the so-called ‘Great Plague’ of 1625, which killed an estimated one-sixth of London’s population, and drove flocks of people to flee the city. One of the victims of this plague was John Fletcher, Shakespeare’s collaborator who had taken over as playwright for the King’s Men. The shock of the 1625 plague lived in the city’s memory for decades, only to be dislodged by the horror of the 1665 outbreak – a pestilence that spread along trade routes from London all the way to the remote village of Eyam in Derbyshire…

Eyam, written by Matt Hartley and directed by Adele Thomas opens at the Globe on 15 September. 

Header image: Runaways fleeing from the plague, from ‘A Looking-glasse for City and Countrey’, (1630)

shakespearesglobeblog: Othello: In production….


Othello: In production. 

Shakespeare’s all too human story tale of jealousy and betrayal, Othello plays in the Globe theatre until 13 October. Directed by Claire van Kampen. 

Photography: Simon Annand

Measure for Measure gender swap may be theatri…

Measure for Measure gender swap may be theatrical first: undefined

Photos from the Sam Wanamaker Festival 201840 students from 20…

Photos from the Sam Wanamaker Festival 2018

40 students from 20 drama schools arrived at Shakespeare’s Globe on Friday and spent the entire weekend singing, workshopping and dancing together as part of the Sam Wanamaker Festival 2018

On Sunday they presented duologues from plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries to a roaring crowd. Photographer Cesare De Giglio captured them on stage and also backstage in the lead up to their energetic performance which ended with one mighty ‘Globe jig’!

The event was a gorgeous celebration of the conservatoire training available in the UK and lovely to watch emerging actors perform together as a company.

The 1,500 strong audience raised the ‘roof’ (well, we don’t have a roof but you know what we mean!) in support of the students – on Sunday Shakespeare’s Globe was pulsating with energy, at its liveliest and loudest.

Naturally we can’t wait to do it all again next year. See you in 2019!

Photography by Cesare De Giglio 

Five Star Reviews for #FourSeasons!Gyre & Gimble’s…

Five Star Reviews for #FourSeasons!

Gyre & Gimble’s Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons: A Reimagining plays in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse until Saturday 21 April 2018 and has opened to an amazing audience and critical response.

‘Some of the most magical and moving puppeteering you will get to see […] a remarkable evening’
The Times

Financial Times

‘Gyre & Gimble have made magic’
The Arts Desk

‘An emotional rollercoaster, filled with touching and charming moments […] A night you will never forget’

‘Feels like something entirely new, a genre unto itself, and a really exciting one at that’

‘Spellbinding in its simplicity and for the breadth of its emotional canvas’
The Stage

‘There are not enough words to praise the work of art that the team of The Four Seasons performed’
The Upcoming

‘Puppetry at its finest’
Theatre Bubble

‘This vastly skilled team imbue every tiny, sensitive movement with meaning and feeling’
The Independent

‘This has dramatically transformed for me what is possible with the medium’
Exeunt Magazine

‘Gyre & Gimble are puppet directors at the top of their game’
Time Out

See more photos on Facebook

Pictured: puppeteers Avye Leventis, Elisa De Grey, Ben Thompson, Craig Leo and John Leader, photography by Steve Tanner.


When Dorothy famously triumphed over the Wicke…

When Dorothy famously triumphed over the Wicked Witch, we only ever heard one side of the story. Gregory Maguire’s acclaimed 1995 novel, ‘Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West’, re-imagines the Land of Oz, creating a parallel universe to the familiar story written by L. Frank Baum and first published as ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’ in 1900.

Wicked tells the incredible untold story of an unlikely but profound friendship between two young women who first meet as sorcery students at Shiz University: the blonde and very popular Glinda and a misunderstood green girl named Elphaba. Following an encounter with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, their friendship reaches a crossroads and their lives take very different paths. Glinda’s unflinching desire for popularity sees her seduced by power while Elphaba’s determination to remain true to herself, and to those around her, will have unexpected and shocking consequences for her future. Their extraordinary adventures in Oz will ultimately see them fulfil their destinies as Glinda The Good and the Wicked Witch of the West.

Acclaimed as “one of the West End’s true modern classics” (Metro), and already the 15th longest running show in London theatre history, Wicked has show-stopping songs by Academy Award® winner Stephen Schwartz and is adapted for the stage by Winnie Holzman (My So Called Life).

Wicked is a three-time winner of the WhatsOnStage Award for ‘Best West End Show’ and a two-time winner of the Olivier Audience Award.  

Get your tickets here!

#GlobeOnTour 2018 in RehearsalOur #GlobeOnTour company are in…

Cynthia Emeagi.

Cynthia Emeagi.

Steffan Cennydd and Sarah Finigan.

Luke Brady.

Steffan Cennydd.

Colm Gormley and Rhianna McGreevy.

Brendan O’ Hea (Director) and Isabel Marr (Assistant Director).

Rhianna McGreevy.

Cynthia Emeagi, Russell Layton, Colm Gormley, Steffan Cennydd, Jacqueline Phillips, Rhianna McGreevy, Sarah Finigan and Luke Brady.

#GlobeOnTour 2018 in Rehearsal

Our #GlobeOnTour company are in rehearsals. This year they will take Twelfth Night, The Taming of the Shrew and The Merchant of Venice on tour to various venues across the world. 

Some of the performances will be decided beforehand, but for others the choice of play will often be given to the audience on the evening of the performance, in order to experiment with how a company would have toured in Shakespeare’s day.

See the full rehearsal gallery on Facebook

Browse tour locations

Photography by Marc Brenner

Apprentice Jadzia’s Big Awards Win!Today, as well as celebrating…

Apprentice Jadzia’s Big Awards Win!

Today, as well as celebrating National Apprenticeship Week (#NAW2018), we’re cheering a massive congratulations to our apprentice Jadzia for her big achievement last night at the Lewisham Southwark College Apprenticeship Awards.

Jadzia won Creative Apprentice of the Year Award – a well-deserved recognition of all the amazing work she is doing here with us and at college. Well done Jadzia!

In addition, we successfully scooped the Apprenticeship Employer of the Year Prize, another fantastic result.

A very successful night in Southwark for Shakespeare’s Globe!

Read more about the Shakespeare’s Globe apprentices

Pictured: Andrew Lawson (Head of Human Resources, Shakespeare’s Globe) and Jadzia Francis (Education Operations Apprentice)

Photography: Joe O’Neill

Meet the Shakespeare’s Globe Apprentices!It’s National…

Meet the Shakespeare’s Globe Apprentices!

It’s National Apprenticeship Week, and our four Apprentices Ria-Renee, Pedro, Joshua and Jadzia wanted to share their experiences working at Shakespeare’s Globe.

Our Apprenticeship Scheme employs these 4 young people who work across our Theatre, Communications, Education and Visitor Experience teams. They are working full-time and studying for Level 2 qualifications at Lewisham Southwark College (in Live Events and Promotion, Business Administration and Cultural Venue Operations). 

With us for a year, the Apprentices are valued members of our Globe community, contributing amazing work to the different projects they are engaging with. 

This week, congratulations are in order for Jadzia who was awarded the title of Creative Apprentice of the Year at the Southwark College Apprenticeship Awards!


‘Working at the Globe is very active and very fun – I have achieved and will achieve more amazing experience here.’ Ria-Renee


‘Working at Shakespeare’s Globe is a fulfilling and enjoyable experience.’ Pedro


‘I have grown to love working at the Globe, getting to do what I love and developing my skills on a daily basis. Being one of the first Apprentices on the scheme makes it even more exciting. Anyone who wants to become an Apprentice here should know how great of an opportunity it is.’ Joshua


‘I am really honoured to work at the Globe. It has opened my eyes to new possibilities and I am delighted to be a part of the scheme. Apprentices are the way forward!’ Jadzia

We are excited to see what great things these guys go on to do in the future!

The Shakes-peers Collective: The AlchemistsOur Shakes-peers…

The Shakes-peers Collective: The Alchemists

Our Shakes-peers Collective company have been taking part in workshops and blogging about their experiences here at Shakespeare’s Globe.

Open Access Arts’ Jeanette Rourke describes the group’s latest session.

If you were a type of dessert, based on how you feel now, what dessert would you be? There were lots of fizzy sherbets in the room today but I’m pretty sure I’d be a Banoffee Pie!

We always ‘check-in’ like this, in a fun way, at the top of our sessions. Here we all were together for the third time. We huddled together to do a pencil sketch of how the sharing of our work may be next week. Amanda and Victoria support the group whilst having the all important tea and biscuits. That done, its off to the GLOBE STAGE! Each time it is SO exciting, it is such a magical place.

We make a few simple ‘staging’ decisions and off we go! Each person ‘performing’ the pieces we have been working on, with such raw honesty. Amazing responses have also been written by some the group and we listen in wonder.

Shakespeare’s words and our words shared in this spellbinding place, how extraordinary is that!  For some that have joined us, these workshops are the first time they have ever been in real contact with Shakespeare’s language and the “I don’t know what this is” of our first session has melted away. 

By allowing ourselves to be open to the process, magical things have happened. As Shakespeare said, “you are an alchemist; make gold of that.”