When Bill asked what some things were that I wanted to do on this trip, I could only think of one thing: See a Shakespeare play in the Globe Theatre. Today was Play Day! Somehow I didn’t picture that this 16th century theatre would be located right smack dab in the middle of downtown, but after navigating past cathedrals and across bridges, and narrowly escaping death by looking the wrong direction for traffic, Bill looked up and said, “Huh, look at that old building.” I looked up and recognized it right away. Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre!
First, we toured the ancient building and grounds. It was just the way I had pictured it, except for one thing I’ll mention later. It was a round auditorium, open in the center (it had to be, since they didn’t have lighting yet, other than candles). There were balconies for the nobility, but the richest of them all actually sat on the side of the stage itself, watching it from the back! The bottom floor was the standing area for the commoners. The players called this part of the audience the stinkards because they were laborers, often still smelling like the animals they cared for or the products they made, sweating from the sun-heated auditorium, and standing during the entire three hour performance. The stage was just what I expected, but it was what I saw when I looked up at the ceiling that surprised me. It was painted with the sun, moon, and stars. I wondered if the actors looked up and felt like they were performing for the universe itself, vast as it was. I wondered if they felt like somehow they were making a small mark on a very big world. It brought to mind the famous line, “All the world’s a stage, and the men and women merely players.” This line was from As You Like It, the very play we had come to see!
Soon, it was time to watch the performance. Thankfully, we had chosen to behave as nobles and got a ticket sitting on a bench, with a cushion, in a balcony directly across from the stage. As the “stinkards” filed in, it surprised me how many of them had chosen this route. Some may have done so for economy, but I bet many of them wanted to experience the play as the commoners would have 400 years ago.
The performance was superb; it was unlike any Shakespeare performance I have ever attended. Like in Shakespeare’s day, there was a man playing the woman pretending to be a man in order to get close to the man she had fallen in love with was played by a man. Unlike in Shakespeare’s day, the man she fell in love with was played by a woman! Confusing, right? Add to that a woman playing the duke who banishes her father, and the same woman playing the father who is banished! There are more twists and turns than the route we had taken to get there, but the story unfolded and completely wrapped the audience within itself. Even Bill got into it, though watching a Shakespeare play was not something he would have chosen. Amusingly, his favorite character was played by a deaf girl because, quoth he, “At least I could understand what she was saying.” Wait…what??? Trust me. You had to be there.