Simanaitis Says

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THEATER IS REOPENING in the U.S. and, in time, in other parts of the world as well. Let’s celebrate this by recalling a classic venue: London’s Globe. Here are tidbits collected from several Internet sources. 

Recycled. The Globe was built between 1597 and 1599 in Southwark on the south bank of the River Thames. Its timber was recycled, no, make that stolen, from The Theatre, an earlier London venue that had lost its lease.

The Wooden O. In Shakespeare’s The Cronicle Hifstory of Henry the Fift, the king refers to the Globe as “this wooden O.”

Not to quibble with Hank Cinq, but it was actually an icosagon, a 20-sided polygon. The word “icosagon” comes from the Greek, είκοσι, eikosi, twenty, and γωνία, gonia, angle.  

Color-coded Flagging. The Globe advertised its productions by way of flags posted on its roof. Black flags promised a tragedy; white, a comedy; and red, a history. 

As noted by Matthew at The London Pass, “So that’s why they didn’t put on my one man show, The Tragic Life of a Very Funny Person Who Lived a Billion Years Ago. It wasn’t that it was a steaming pile of pretentious nonsense. It was a question of flags. Of course!”

Box Office. Today, Merriam-Webster offers multiple meanings for the word “box office”: “1 a: an office (as in a theater) where tickets of admission are sold. 1 b: income from ticket sales (as for a film). 2: the ability (as of a show) to attract ticket buyers; also something that enhances that ability: any publicity is good box office.” 

In Shakespeare’s time, the money collected for admittance was carried in boxes to a room backstage. 

Image from Smithsonian Knowledge Encyclopedia.

Groundlings, Gentry, and Lords. Groundlings paying a penny were the original SRO, Standing Room Only; no seating was provided for them. Well-to-do gentry sat in three tiers in this (almost) theater in the round. Noble theatergoers sat in Lord’s boxes overlooking the stage.

Roofs and Trapdoors. Roofs covered the Globe’s well-to-do seating and stage area; the groundlings warranted no such protection. Globe productions were summer activities.

Image from

The roof above the stage, known as the Heavens, had a trapdoor from which heavenly characters could be lowered. The stage had a trapdoor as well for burials, miraculous reappearances, ghosts, and other theatrical surprises.

Historical Closures. Plague closed down the Globe and other London entertainments in 1603 and 1608. Puritans closed it down for good in 1644. They turned the Globe into tenement housing. 

Let’s hope modern Puritans don’t get any ideas from SimanaitisSays.

Today’s Globe, London. Image from

My Sources. Thanks to Britannica, The London Pass, and No Sweat Shakespeare. I’m amused by reader comments following No Sweat Shakespeare‘s posting: “Homework Done Thanks. You just saved me ages. I needed to collect 20 facts about the Globe and I finally finished.”

Indeed, I was delighted with seven. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2021  

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