|Around the Globe and Back Again:
Shakespeare's Globe Theater Then and Now
Prep for Teachers
Prior to the teaching, bookmark all Web sites used in
the lesson. CUE the videotape Shakespeare's Globe to actors
in battle gear coming on stage when the narrator has just said, "I
wonder what an audience would make of this today?" When using
media, provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION,
a specific task to complete and/or information to identify during
or after viewing of video segments, Web sites, or other multimedia
elements. Prepare the hands-on element of the lesson by gathering
and assembling the items listed in "Materials." Place items
into a Time Capsule (a sealed box will suffice).
Setting the Stage
The following activities will prepare your students for a lesson on Shakespeare's
Globe Theater by forming a connection between popular entertainment today
and that of Elizabethan England. They will provide students with a sense
of the physical and cultural environment of London at the turn of the
Step 1: Establishing a Connection
Between Now and Then
Ask your students to calculate how many years into the future the year
2403 is (402 years). Ask them to imagine constructing a time capsule that
would be opened in the year 2403. However, the time capsule can only contain
items that would give the futuristic people an idea of popular entertainment
in the year 2001. Ask them what items they would put in. (When references
are made to movies and theater, elicit items specifically related, i.e.
ticket stub, candy wrapper, popcorn bucket, playbill, theater program,
Tell your students that although many things change in 402 years, some
things stay the same. Ask them to subtract 402 years from our present
year, 2001 (1599). Tell them that they will open a time capsule constructed
by citizens of London in the year 1599. Ask them to identify the country
and continent where London is located (England/Europe). If a classroom
map or globe is available, ask a student to locate it.
Step 2: Establishing a Cultural Context
Ask your students to take out their notebooks and a pencil or pen, and
divide the students into groups of three or four. Place the time capsule
in a central location where all students can view it. Explain to the students
that each group will be examining and identifying each item in the time
capsule. Ask one volunteer from each group to shut his/her eyes and remove
one item (or more, depending on how many items you have placed in) from
the time capsule. (Sprinkling a bit of talcum powder on the items might
give this exercise a light-hearted authenticity. The students can blow
the powder off as if it were dust.) The students bring the item(s) back
to their groups.
The groups should examine the item(s) and try to identify it/them. As
each item is identified by the group, each group member should record
the determination in his/her notebook. Give the groups about thirty seconds
to examine and identify each item, and then instruct them to pass their
item(s) on to the next group. The examination and identification should
proceed until each group has viewed each item. Then, when all items have
been viewed, the groups should discuss the information in their notebooks
and speculate on how all the items might be related.
A representative from each group should share the group's conclusions
with the rest of the class. If the students have trouble identifying the
more obscure items (i.e. the bundle of straw), you can lead them a bit
by asking them how buildings might have been constructed four hundred
years ago. (The class debriefing should yield various conclusions, such
as the fact that theater was a form of popular entertainment; people of
different classes frequented the theater; theaters were located in and
around the city; the seats surrounded the stage; admission prices varied;
hazelnuts were a popular snack during performances.)
Step 3: Establishing a Personal Connection to History
Ask your students where they prefer to sit when they go to the movies
or to the theater and to explain their preferences. (Responses will vary.
Students may respond that they like to sit in the center of a movie theater
so they can view the screen optimally. Some may say they like to see a
live performance from the orchestra section so they can see the actors
Ask your students to log on to http://www.rdg.ac.uk/globe/newglobe/Pictures/MarkedPlan.gif.
At this site, they can examine the floor plan of the Globe.
Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by explaining
that they will be examining the floor plan of a theater that existed over
four hundred years ago. Ask them to study the plan and decide from where
they would like to view the performance. (Try to avoid asking them where
they would like to sit, keeping the option open of standing in the yard.)
After they have made their decisions, ask them to provide a rationale
for their choices. Accept all responses as equally valid. Encourage the
students to comment on one another's responses. Ask your students where
they think the best seats in the house would be. Ask them where they think
they could view the play for the cheapest admission price.
Step 1: Introducing the Globe Theater
Ask your students to name the most famous playwright they know who lived
four hundred years ago (William Shakespeare). Ask them to name some Shakespearean
plays with which they are familiar, and discuss what they remember or
liked about the plays they mention. Explain to your students that they
will be exploring the theater where Shakespeare's plays were performed.
Tell them that it was called the Globe Theater. Ask them why they think
it was given this name. (Responses may refer to the shape of the building.
More insightful speculations might include that Shakespearean plays dealt
with universal themes. All responses should be treated as valid.)
Ask your students to imagine they are audience members at a performance
of a Shakespearean play. Ask them to describe what they envision and to
describe the atmosphere. (Focus on responses that suggest a subdued, respectful,
rather snobbish mood. This idea will stand in contrast to the scenes in
Tell the students that they will be viewing a video about Shakespeare's
Globe Theater, which will teach them about the Globe itself during Shakespeare's
time and show them the Globe today. It will also familiarize them with
the type of people who frequented the Globe four hundred years ago.
Insert Shakespeare's Globe, and provide your students with a FOCUS
FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to notice how the theater experience
presented in the video is different from what they expected. START
and PLAY the tape when you see actors in battle gear coming on
stage. The narrator has just said, "I wonder what an audience would
make of this today? PAUSE the tape when you hear the stage
actor say, "There's witchcraft in your eyes, Kate," and see
a befuddled-looking actress (a scene from The Taming of the Shrew).
Ask your students if the audience's experience differed from what they
expected. (Possible responses: The audience was lively and engaged in
the performance. The audience was having fun. Many people were standing
up and some were very close to the stage. The actors interacted with the
Ask your students why they think Shakespeare wrote plays for a living.
(Responses will vary and may include the fact that he liked to write,
that he made money doing it, that he gained popularity by doing it.)
Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking
them to identify Shakespeare's intention in writing plays. PLAY
the tape. PAUSE when you see the narrator and hear him say, "...much
in the way that cinema and TV is today."
Ask your students what Shakespeare's intention was (to entertain a wide
audience). Ask what in today's society entertains a wide audience. (Responses
will vary and most likely include TV and the movies). Emphasize that Shakespearean
plays were not written exclusively for the rich; that, in fact, everyone
Tell your students that the narrator will now take them back in time to
another place. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION
by asking them to raise their hands when they hear the year and the name
of the city the narrator has entered. Ask them to identify some of the
professions the narrator mentions. PLAY the tape. PAUSE
the tape when you see two tavern patrons conversing at a table and hear
one of them say, "I should think these players have got it by now."
Ask your students to identify the year and city (1599, London). Ask them
to identify some professions of the people who were interested in plays
(apprentices, tradesmen, prostitutes, vagabonds). This is a good opportunity
to introduce them to new vocabulary. Ask if anyone knows the definition
of "vagabond." This will reinforce the idea that people from
all walks of life enjoyed theatrical performances.
Ask them to recall the conversation between the two tavern patrons and
remember a danger associated with playhouses the men mentioned (the plague).
Ask the students if they know about the plague. Explain to them that it
was a deadly disease that killed one-third of the population in Europe.
Many public places (including theaters) were closed during an outbreak
of the plague. It was finally determined that the plague was caused by
fleas on rats.
Ask your students why poor or working class people were interested in
Shakespearean plays. (Responses will vary and may include the fact that
it was fun, that it was cheap, that it gave them a way of forgetting about
their own troubles.)
Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking
them to listen for how the tavern patrons convinced the waiter to go to
the Globe to see a performance. PLAY the tape. PAUSE when
you hear the waiter say, "Well he would, wouldn't he," and see
him leave the tavern.
Ask your students how the tavern patrons got the waiter to leave work
and go with them to the Globe. (Responses should include: intriguing plots
about the lives and secrets of royalty, the cheap price of admission
one penny, the fact that it was banned by Puritans.) Explain to your students
that the Puritans were an extremely religious sect that left England because
of religious persecution and settled in the New World.
Ask them if they heard the waiter mention any disadvantages of the Globe.
(He mentioned having to stand for three hours.) Emphasize to your students
that if people were willing to stand for that length of time, the play
must have been worth the trouble.
Explain to your students that the narrator will now return to modern-day
London. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION
by asking them to determine what happened to theaters in London around
the turn of the 16th century. PLAY the tape. PAUSE when
you see the narrator sitting on a wall and hear him say, "If you
wanted entertainment, you had to go out of the city."
Ask your students what happened to the theaters in London around the turn
of the 16th century. (Officials closed entertainment and forced the theaters
outside the city because they feared riotous behavior. They also thought
that if people were at the theater, they weren't working.) Emphasize that
the theaters moved out of the city and across the river in order to stay
Ask your students if they can think of other forms of entertainment besides
drama that could be performed within a theater. (Responses may include
sporting events, musical concerts, wrestling.) Provide your students with
a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to raise their hands
when they hear three types of entertainment (besides drama) that people
crossed the river to see, and to raise their hands when they can name
the first two public playhouses. PLAY the tape and PAUSE
when you see the narrator looking over a model of the Globe and hear him
say, "These attacks did not prevent the new theater opening."
Ask your students if they can name the three types of entertainment people
left the city to see (bear-baiting, cockfighting, sword fighting). Explain
to your students that bear-baiting was a cruel though popular form of
entertainment where a bear was tethered while dogs attacked it. Ask them
if they can name the first two theaters (the Theatre and the Curtain).
Explain to your students that although Shakespeare's Globe was not one
of the first theaters to open, it was the most successful. Explain to
them that Shakespeare was not only a great playwright, but had other abilities
as well. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION
by asking them to determine when the Globe opened and who owned it. PLAY
the tape. PAUSE when you see a bird's eye view of the Globe model
and hear the narrator say, "He called it a wooden O."
Ask your students to infer what other profession Shakespeare had. (He
was a businessman since he was co-owner of the Globe. He must have been
good in business if the Globe was the most successful theater.) Ask them
when the Globe opened (1599).
Ask your students how long successful businesses stay in existence in
today's world. (Responses will vary, but ask students to justify their
answers.) Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION
by asking them to determine how long the Globe stayed in business and
what happened to it in 1642. PLAY the tape. PAUSE when you
see an inside view of the Globe, facing the gallery and hear the narrator
say, "...ending one of the greatest periods in English history."
Ask your students how long the Globe remained in existence (43 years).
Ask them what happened in 1642 (The Puritans closed it down). Explain
to your students that Shakespeare died in 1616, 26 years before the theater
closed. It remained open long after his death.
Explain to your students that the Globe was eventually torn down and other
buildings were built on the site. About 350 years after the Puritans closed
the Globe, an American actor and director named Sam Wanamaker decided
to locate the original spot and rebuild the theater.
Tell your students that the narrator will take them on a brief tour of
the New Globe Theater. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA
INTERACTION by asking them to determine how many people fit in the
theater and what the people in the yard were called. PLAY the tape.
PAUSE when you see the narrator standing in the yard and hear him
say, "Their faces looked as if they'd been par-boiled."
Ask your students how many people the theater held and holds today
(3,000). Ask them what the people in the yard were called (stinkards).
Ask them to speculate why they were given this name. (Responses may include
the fact that they didn't wash regularly, that the number of people packed
in so tightly created a bad smell.) Explain to your students that the
"stinkards" were also called "groundlings" since they
stood on the ground to watch the performance.
Ask your students if they can think of advantages and disadvantages of
being a groundling (weather, crime, darkness). Provide your students with
a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to determine some
advantages and disadvantages of being a groundling. PLAY the tape.
PAUSE when you see the narrator in the yard and hear him say, "...or
get dark too early." You will also hear dance music.
Ask your students to name some advantages of being a groundling (good
view, mobility, interaction with actors). Ask them to name some disadvantages
Ask your students why they think the Globe attracted so many people. Provide
your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them
to raise their hands when they hear three reasons why the Globe was popular.
PLAY the tape. STOP the tape when you see a performance
on stage and see the credits.
Ask your students why so many people went to the Globe (hear different
plays, see actors dress up as royalty, see prominent people mocked).
Step 2: Understanding Events Chronologically
Distribute the attached Scavenger Hunt Worksheet. Divide the class into
groups of three and ask them to log on to the Globe timeline of the Shakespeare's
Globe Research Database Web site http://www.rdg.ac.uk/globe/home.htm.
Ask them to click on the Shakespeare's Globe link and then click on the
timeline link (the last one on the list).
Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking
them to decipher the clues on the sheet using the timeline.
Allow about 15 minutes for this exercise. Then ask one volunteer from
each group to move to the group to his/her left with the Scavenger Hunt
Worksheet his/her group completed. At this point each group of three should
have one new member. The new member should report his/her group's findings
to the new group, and the group should present their findings to the new
member. When the information has been shared, the volunteer returns to
his/her original group and reports any discrepancies or overlooked information.
Then debrief the entire class by going over the sheet together, ensuring
that all students have accurate answers.
Step 3: Touring the Globe
Ask your students to recall the year in which the Globe was torn down
to build tenements (1644). Explain to your students that in 1949, 305
years after the Globe was torn down, an American actor and director named
Sam Wanamaker began his dream of rebuilding the Globe. Ask your students
if they find anything unusual about these circumstances. (Possible responses
may include these ideas: Shakespeare is arguably the best-known playwright
in history, yet for centuries, the Globe was ignored. A foreigner, rather
than a British national, undertook the project.) Tell them that the New
Globe Theater was built approximately 200 yards from where the original
Globe stood. In 1997, the New Globe Theater opened with performances of
Henry V and The Winter's Tale.
Explain to your students that they will take a virtual tour of the New
Globe Theater. Ask them to log on to the Shakespeare Globe USA Web site
and click on the Tour the New Globe Theater, London link in the upper
Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by explaining
that they will tour the outside and inside of the theater, making sure
they view every picture by using the forward, back, left, and right links.
Ask them to imagine they are on a guided tour of the Globe. For each picture
they visit, ask them to record one observation and develop one question
to ask the guide. This can be done in their class notebook.
After they have taken the tour and completed the related activity, divide
them into groups of three and ask them to share their observations and
questions with one another. Circulate around (as if you are the tour guide,
perhaps) and provide answers to questions that they cannot as a group
Step 4: Becoming an Actor
Ask your students to recall the video and ask if any one can remember
what Shakespeare added to the English language. This type of question
is useful in assessment because it will give you an idea of the degree
to which students absorbed information not explicitly asked of them during
the viewing of the video. (Elicit a general recollection that he created
hundreds of words and phrases. Prompt them to remember that he also was
a master at the art of insult.)
Explain to your students that they will be practicing speaking Elizabethan
insults through logging on to Randy's Shakepearean Insult Server
http://www.randyworld.com/shakespeare. Provide them with a FOCUS
FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to work in pairs and take turns
clicking the "new insult" box and reading the insult that appears.
Encourage them to read with expression and experiment with various forms
Distribute the What Did You Call Me? Worksheet. Explain to
the students that the snippet of dialogue on the sheet comes from King
Lear, one of Shakespeare's most famous tragedies. Divide the students
into pairs and ask them to read the directions on the Worksheet and complete
When they have completed the Worksheet, ask them to log on to the Proper
Elizabethan Accents site http://www.renfaire.com/Language/index.html.
Provide them with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by explaining to
them that they will construct their own short skit using the mix-and-match
Shakespeare insult sheet.
Ask your students to remain in pairs and click on the "insults"
link near the top of the page. Ask them to read through the brief introduction
and scroll down to the three columns of insults. Ask them to follow the
directions given at the site, which require them to create insults by
combining phrases from the three columns. They should construct five or
Encourage them to translate the Elizabethan idioms to discover the meanings
of their insults. Circulate around the room and assist in the translation.
Encourage your students to speculate about words and phrases that are
unfamiliar to them and to you. You can also have them log on to the Shakespearean
Glossary site http://eserver.org/langs/shakespeare-glossary.txt.
Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by encouraging
them to use the glossary if they need help defining a word or phrase.
After they have constructed their insults, ask each pair of students to
create a skit in which the insults are put into context. Ask them to create
a situation in which one character angers the other. For example, one
character can spill a drink on the other as he/she is walking past. An
argument can ensue leading to the Shakespearean name-calling. Suggest
that they use the dialogue between Kent and Oswald as a model.
After they have constructed the skits, ask each pair to perform for another
pair of students near them.
In order to help students synthesize the various pieces of information
presented in the learning activities, have them try this cross-section
activity in which they role play. Groups of four students will demonstrate
their understanding of the dynamism of the Globe Theater through taking
on the roles of actors, groundlings, and wealthier spectators. They will
each take turns explaining the theater experience from their own unique
point of view. The group's performance will end with the actors performing
the skit developed in the previous learning activity.
Divide your students into groups of four. Have them determine which two
will be actors and which two will be spectators.
The Actors: The actors will perform the skit they developed in
the previous learning activity. In addition, they will also individually
create a brief monologue in which they reveal what it is like to be an
actor. The actors will each perform his/her monologue before performing
the skit. Encourage them to focus on the whole experience as they have
understood it through the learning activities. (You can make some suggestions,
such as dealing with society's view of actors, the potential dangers posed
by the groundlings, stage fright, playing women's roles, etc.)
The Spectators: The students should determine who will take on
the role of a groundling and who will take on the role of a gallery spectator.
Ask the students to create a brief monologue in which they reveal who
they are, what their profession is, why they are at the Globe, and what
it is like to be a groundling or a gallery spectator.
Ask your students to direct and practice the performance. They should
determine the order in which the monologues are performed. Remind them
that the performance should end with the name-calling skit developed
in the previous activity. Here is an example of a possible format:
- Groundling's monologue (provides a segue to the next character)
- Gallery Spectator's monologue (provides a segue to the next character)
- Actor #1's monologue (provides a segue to the next character)
- Actor #2's monologue (provides a segue to the skit, for example:
I must bid you a farewell the performance is at hand!)
- Actors perform the name-calling skit
Ask the groups to perform for the class.
Visit Shakespeare's Globe Research Database at http://www.rdg.ac.uk/globe/newglobe/Dimensions.htm#orig
and construct a sketch or three-dimensional model of the original Globe
using the dimensions listed.
Explore and report on the excavation of the original Globe and the use
of radar exploration in archaeological digs.
Public theaters were closed in the 17th century due to outbreaks of
the black plague. Research the cause of the deadly disease and include
mortality rates. Research current diseases caused by lack of sanitary
conditions. Suggest preventive strategies.
Research and report on the history of the Puritans, their persecution
in Europe, and their decision to settle in the New World. Create a short
skit or monologue from the point of view of a Puritan living in Elizabethan
- Contact a theater group or organization, such as Theatreworks USA,
and have a representative visit to discuss the challenges of Shakespearean
- Interview a modern craftsperson, tradesperson, or apprentice and
compare their professional experiences with those of the people living
in Elizabethan England.
- Research current censorship cases in which particular groups have
attempted to ban performances, literature, or art. Discuss with the
class the protections the Constitution grants.