One of my favorite things about London is all the history that it holds. I love strolling through this city and just thinking about all the monumental things that happened here and that have played a role in molding the world we live in today.
So many people that influenced the world walked these very same streets lifetimes ago. Kings, queens, scientists, scholars, politicians, artists…and my personal favorite, William Shakespeare.
So, what’s a Shakespeare fangirl like myself to do in London? Go to the Globe, of course!
The Globe Theatre is an accurate reproduction of the theater where many of Shakespeare’s plays were performed in Elizabethan times. The current Globe sits on the banks of the Thames, next to Tate Modern, only a few hundred yards from where the original once stood.
It is one of my favorite places in the world, and unequivocally, my favorite place to see theatre. So, when I found myself with a free afternoon and good weather, I bought a ticket to see a production of “The Winter’s Tale.”
Seeing a show at Shakespeare’s Globe is an authentic Elizabethan theatre experience, which means that you’re spared basically any and all modern comforts, so you have to prepare. What follows is what I’d like to call A Groundling’s Guide to the Globe.
First things first: What’s a groundling?
“Groundlings” is the affectionate term for the people who occupy the “pit” or the “orchestra” section of the Globe Theatre. This is where the commoners would watch the shows in Shakespeare’s time. There are no seats, like a general admission concert. The more affluent audience members sat in the three levels of “bleachers” that encircle the rest of the space. Groundling tickets are only £5, and the other seating options start at more than £20, so if you’re a young, able-bodied college student on a budget like myself, groundling is the way to go.
Side note: When I was at the Globe two years ago, one of my classmates was fed a banana, then later kissed by one of the actors. So, if you’re into audience participation, you’ll love being a groundling.
“Let every man be the master of his time” Macbeth III, i.
Be on time, and by that, I mean be early. The two prime spots for groundlings are right up against the stage (so you can lean on it) and along the back wall (so you can lean on it).
These spaces fill up quickly, so I arrived about an hour before the show started to peruse the gift shop and to wait by the doors before they opened. I was rewarded with a spot in the front of the stage, but the sides of the stage are often less crowded, and also provide a unique view of the performance, so I recommend those, as well.
“I almost die for food, and let me have it!” As You Like It II, vii.
Shakespeare’s plays tend to be long, and they feel even longer when you’re standing the whole time. It is imperative that you eat a decent meal before going to a show at the Globe. I stopped at my favorite chain in the UK, Leon, which has a location just around the corner from the Globe and a great selection of fast, but healthy food.
It’s also a great idea to bring snacks to eat during the interval and a bottle of water.
“For the rain it raineth every day. A great while ago the world begun, with hey, ho, the wind and the rain.” Twelfth Night V, i.
One thing that the Globe does not have (that many modern theaters do) is a roof, so it’s important to plan accordingly. I would advise checking the forecast and aiming for a nice day, like I did. However, a cloudless, sunny day in London is hard to find. So, do your best and then come prepared. Bring your raincoat or buy a poncho as a souvenir of your trip.
If the heavens do open up, the show must go on. Talk about being in the splash zone.
“The soul of a man is in his clothes.” All’s Well That Ends Well II, v.
In addition to rain gear, bring layers. Layers are never a bad idea in London. Also, the single most important thing to bring to the Globe, in my opinion, is a pair of comfortable shoes. This is not a formal occasion. Leave your opera outfit at home and throw on your comfiest trainers. (That’s British for “sneakers”)
“If this be magic, let it be an art lawful as eating.” The Winter’s Tale V, iii.
You are now officially ready to take on Shakespeare’s Globe like a true Elizabethan groundling. It is a one-of-a-kind theatre experience that will surely prove to be unforgettable. I had an incredible afternoon at “The Winter’s Tale,” and I look forward to returning to the Globe as many times as I can to experience the brilliance, emotion, and magic of Shakespeare.
Claire Doire, Study Abroad Correspondent
Claire Doire is a junior at Boston University studying Public Relations with a minor in Political Science. She hails from Middletown, Rhode Island and is currently studying abroad in London: the home of her wordsmithing hero, William Shakespeare. Back in Boston, Claire spends her free time dancing, acting, and working hard to one day become her own version of The West Wing’s C.J. Cregg.