Welcome to my blog, where I take pleasure in words and pictures, be they my own or those of others. I'm a creative individual, and the crafty side I explore on my 'other blog', Picking Up The Threads, which I hope you'll visit too. I'm sure you understand that I have sole copyright of my original work and any of my contributions, so please ask if you want to use them. A polite request is rarely refused. So, as they used to say on the BBC's 'Listen With Mother' radio programme, many years ago: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin."

Saturday, 29 June 2013

This Wooden O

But pardon, and gentles all,
The flat unraised spirits that have dared
On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth
So great an object: can this cockpit hold
The vasty fields of France? or may we cram
Within this wooden O the very casques 
That did affright the air at Agincourt?

On this day in 1613, the first Globe Theatre in London was burned to the ground. It had originally opened in 1599 and Shakespeare had written his most famous plays for its company The Lord Chamberlain's Men, to which he belonged. The most powerful roles were written for the actor Richard Burbage. These included Hamlet, Othello and King Lear. The 'Wooden O' referred to by the Chorus in the prologue of HenryV is probably The Globe, where the play would have first been performed.

It was a spark from a stage cannon which set the thatched roof ablaze and led to the building quickly burning down. A new Globe arose like a phoenix from the ashes and continued to prosper until it was closed down by the Puritans. It was later demolished and the site forgotten until 1924, when a small plaque appeared on a brewery wall on the supposed site. It was there that a young actor named Sam Wanamaker found it and, disappointed that there was not a grander memorial, made a vow to somehow re-create the Globe as near to the original site as possible. The story of how his sheer determination and hard work paid off can be read here. The new building, named 'Shakespeare's Globe Theatre' opened in 1997 and has been delighting audiences ever since. I have not been fortunate enough to see a performance myself but I have seen TV recordings of the plays. Great fun, but of course the television can't convey the atmosphere.


The pictures come from my own set of Royal Mail mint stamps, designed by C. Walter Hodges issued in 1995 and titled 'Shakespeare's Globe and The Bankside Theatres' to commemorate the vision of Sam Wanamaker and the South African architect Theo Crosby, and to mark their 25 year partnership and the realisation of their dream. Sadly, both men died before the theatre was officially opened.



The fold-out information leaflet which comes with these stamps, tells us that Southwark's Bankside was already a thriving entertainment centre before the first playhouse, 'The Rose' was built in 1587 and enlarged to the shape depicted on the stamp in 1592. On a recent trip to Southwark we were lucky enough to visit the site of the original Rose theatre, where volunteers give daily talks, and a film presentation. They hope to raise enough funds to begin more archaeological work in the next year or so.  More pictures here.It was a fascinating eye-opener for me, and the visit was entirely free, relying on donations to keep going. We almost missed it and if it wasn't for following some arrows on an A board, pointing down some backstreets, we certainly would have. I can recommend it if you are ever in the area. There's also Southwark Cathedral, the wonderful Borough Market and a reconstruction of The Golden Hinde, Sir Francis Drake's ship to see. As we did!



Three years after The Rose came 'The Swan', a little further upriver, opposite Blackfriars, and in the same year as the Globe's destruction, a rival theatre company built 'The Hope' which doubled as a bull and bear-baiting ring. Then in 1614 the brand new Globe was opened for business. The leaflet says it was 'The Shaftesbury Avenue of its day'.

Sharing this with my friends at Sepia Saturday and with Viridian's Sunday Stamps. View the pictures and leaflets more closely in my Flickr set here.

17 comments:

  1. I visited the Globe last year and was lucky enough to be able to watch a rehearsal, but I would love to go back and watch a play there (in the summer)

    I was massively impressed with the building itself and the enthusiasm of our guide.

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  2. I agree about the Globe, and also about the Rose project. As Little Nell said, it was not easy to find them, but very worthwhile. There is little left of the Rose apart from the foundations, but they are confident of unearthing a trove of artifacts, and intend to use the site to demonstrate how a theatre worked, and what patrons would have experienced in and around the Rose.

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  3. You would have loved Nottingham today, Armed Forces Day, a massive parade in Slab Square, then a vast show ground on the Meadows, almost every regiment and service and quasi service and service charity, with equipment, and the weather was unusually beautiful. Spitfire, Hurricane and Lancaster and Red Arrows and more overhead. I spent a long time chatting to Mauritian (British) soldier in the tent of the Field Post Office, we both were keen ex philatelists. Its nice to see these Globe stamps, I had never seen them when issued. To me much more interesting than Shakespeare you will be shocked to hear !

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  4. Most interesting and a nice set of stamps, although I would say it's difficult to design such a set without them all appearing almost identical. Perhaps that's intentional.

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  5. I love a good stamp and these are a very nice set.

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  6. I really should get up to London. I haven't visited for well over a decade, and this post has added one more thing to the list of what I'm missing.

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  7. In 1613 you already had history. The British still had not discovered or settled in Australia yet!

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  8. I didn't realize that the Globe Theater was recreated so recently. There was a recreation of "Shakespeare's Old Globe Theatre" in "Merrie England" at the 1934 Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago. That was just a temporary building. I have postcards of the exterior and the stage.

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  9. Great post. Nell. Does this mean that you will join Sunday Stamps each week?

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  10. We would be happy to have you join Sunday Stamps as you can. This week's stamps are real treasures! Thank you for your commentary. I hope to get to London some day.

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  11. Stamps are so often quite beautiful - and these are certainly that. I seem to recall that the new Globe was built on the site of a demolished brewery. Now I am all in favour of art ... but some sacrifices are too great to make.

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  12. Last time I was in that area I got stuck at the Tate and never got out. I didn't know much about Sam Wanamaker - what an interesting story. Thanks for the extra this week...your posts are always so entertaining.

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  13. The stamps are a delightful, it would have been nice to wander along the path past all the theatres looking to see what was on back in the day. I like the people queuing up to get in.

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  14. Lovely stamps, such impressive detail, even a bear.

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  15. A lovely little addition! It makes me a bit sad though, as last night I wanted to attend a performance at Caponi Art Park, The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) but the reaction on my hubby's face when I suggested it, not so pleased. So I offered, or we could go to an air-conditioned movie instead. Of course he rather liked that idea.

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  16. I don't remember this set of stamps at all, I'm afraid, though I have no excuse. I did visit the Globe once, by accident. I was supposed to be on a work trip and became side-tracked.

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  17. Lovely stamps, and I had no idea there were so many theaters around during Shakespeare's lifetime.

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