In 1594 when it was safe to return to the theatre again Will joined an acting troupe called the
Lord Chamberlain's Men sponsored by Queen Elizabeth I Chamberlin~Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon. It was during this time that Shakespeare wrote one of my favorites, The Taming of the Shrew. By now Will had hit London like gang busters. He was the talk of the town. Both common and nobility flocked to the Blackfriars theatre to see his plays.
In Elizabethan London plays were big!!! There was money to be made. As soon as one play was produced it hit the stage. The citizens couldn't get enough and Blackfriars couldn't keep up. This prompted Shakespeare and friends to invest in the Globe Theatre built in 1597. It was a huge theatre compared to Blackfriars. It not only served as a theatre but a brothel and gambling house. All plays were done in the afternoon because there was no artificial lighting to be had. The commoners would pay 1 penny to stand and watch, gentry would be seated on the benches and nobility would have a comfortable chair in a theatre box. Shakespeare himself would receive 10% of the take in each day. He became very wealthy.
Theatres did have critics mainly the Church of England. They were very concerned with the unsavory characters surrounding the theatres and the increase in crime. In 1574 the Common Council of London issued this statement:
" great disorder rampant in the city by the inordinate haunting of great multitudes of people, especially youth, to plays, interludes, namely occasion of frays and quarrels, evil practices of incontinency in great inns having chambers and secret places adjoning to their open stages and galleries, inveigling and alluring of maids, especially of orphans and good citizens' children under age, to privy and unmeet contracts, the publishing of unchaste, uncomely, and unshamefast speeches and doings . . . uttering of popular, busy, and seditious matters, and many other corruptions of youth and other enormities . . . [Thus] from henceforth no play, comedy, tragedy, interlude, not public show shall be openly played or showed within the liberties of the City . . . and that no innkeeper, tavernkeeper, nor other person whatsoever within the liberties of this City shall openly show or play . . . any interlude, comedy, tragedy, matter, or show which shall not be first perused and allowed . . . "
Because of the outcry in 1596 the Common Council ordered that all theatres within the city limits of London be closed and relocated to the South side of the River Thames.
The Globe Theatre became number one. Some of Shakespeare's best works were first performed on the Globe Theatre's stage; Much Ado about Nothing (1598- 99); Julius Caesar (1599); and As You Like It (1599- 1600). Hamlet (1600-01); Othello (1603-04); King Lear (1605); and Macbeth (1605-06). These are just a few.
June 29, 1613 a canon loaded with gunpowder and used for special effects was fired off during the play. The canon ball hit the thatched roof and the theatre burned to the ground. Can you imagine the panic and pandemonium that occurred. It is not known if there were any casualties.
The Globe was rebuilt in 1614. The moral critics never let up and in fact increased their demands to shut down all theatres in London. In 1644 the Puritans lead by Oliver Cromwell demolished the Globe and by 1648 all play houses in London were ordered to be pulled down. All was not lost for the London Theatre. When Charles II became King he allowed the theatres to re-build and re-open. The site of the Old Globe was discovered in the 20th century and a New Globe has been re-constructed near the spot.
That is all Mr. Will for today I will continue and wrap-up The Life and Times of Shakespeare on Monday.
Have a great weekend and thanks for visiting!