Description

This panorama of London was engraved by C J Visscher and first printed in 1616. This is a later version, printed by Frederick de Wit (c. 1650) and afterwards hand-coloured. On the south-side of the river is an illustration of the Globe Theatre, where Shakespeare performed many of his plays. The view of London, from the South Bank of the River Thames, looks across old London Bridge to the Tower of London, the spires of the City, and St Paul's Cathedral.

The first public playhouses were built in London in the late 1500s. Theatres were not permitted within the boundaries of the City itself, but were tolerated in outer districts of London, such as Southwark, where the Globe was located. Southwark was notorious for its noisy, chaotic entertainments and for its sleazy low-life: its theatres, brothels, bear baiting pits, pickpockets and the like.

The Globe was built in 1599, from the reused timbers of a playhouse known as The Theatre. It was an open-air amphitheatre, with three tiers of galleries, a covered stage and a thatched roof. The first Globe was burnt down in 1613, when its thatch caught fire during a performance of Shakespeare and Fletcher’s Henry VIII. The second Globe was built on the foundations of the first, but given a tiled roof. It could accommodate an audience of 3,000.

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