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DRAM088 Candidate No: 034026

Tourist trap or temple: Exploring the cultural and spiritual validity of

Shakespeares Globe beyond the level of historical reconstruction.

Shakespeares preoccupation with the occult, with ghosts, witches, fairies,

is understood as deriving less from popular tradition than from deep-

rooted affinity with the learned occult philosophy and its religious

implications (Yates 1979: 90)

Shakespeares Globe is in many ways at a peak of success, with high profile

events such as last years Globe--to--Globe, this years world tour of Hamlet and the

multi--award nominated Broadway transfers of Richard III and Twelfth Night. It is

clear now, in its seventeenth year, the venue is now leaving its initial experimental

phase and entering a more self--confident maturity. However, despite this, there is

still a tendency for some academics and practitioners to be dismissive of the new

Globe as a flawed reconstruction and producer of museum theatre , as if that were

its only raison de tre. This is an echo of the dissenting voices that were much more

commonly heard around the time of the new Globes construction, the fear being

that the Globe would be no more than a sort of Shakespeareland, a Disneyesque

heritage theme park for rubes and tourists

( This was not an entirely unfounded

fear, as this aspect appealed to a portion of the public who were keen to embrace the

Globe as a place of pilgrimage, their Bardolatric tendencies manifesting in eccentric

behaviours such as arriving at performances of the 1996 modern dress production

of Two Gentlemen of Verona in Elizabethan dress,(for

A recent Q and A session with actors from Propeller Theatre Company, which
did not refer directly to The Globe, but pointedly remarked that to perform in
Elizabethan costume is no more than museum theatre.
DRAM088 Candidate No: 034026

which they were turned away). As Siobhan Keenan and Peter Davidson point out,

this was in direct contradiction to the stated aims of those who have worked for

the project (Mulryne 1997: 147)

These original aims were to build a space that would recreate as close as

possible the environment in which Shakespeares plays were first performed.

Mark Rylance, first artistic director of the new Globe, called it the most

experimental space in England and likened its construction to someone

discovering the original cello, or the original violin and saying Mozart wrote for

this instrumentso who will take up the challenge to try and play his music on

this instrument?(Carson 2008: 103) With careful attention to research,

materials, craft (Carson 2008: 104), the architects and creative team behind the

new Globe came as close as they could, considering the limits of the information

and resources available to them, to an authentic replication of the original, but

acknowledged that it could only ever be a shadow, a representation, a

laboratory for the player and the theatrical historian (Mulryne 1997: 147). The

architect in charge of the project, Theo Crosby, shared Sam (Wanamaker)s vision

of the new Globe taking its place within a revitalised Southwark, relating to the

community who live beside it, offering educational opportunities to all who work

in it and drawing visitors like a magnet. (Gurr 1998: 48)

However, is there more to Shakespeares Globe? Through the attention paid to

Renaissance culture in filling in the research blanks, did the team behind the new

Globe in fact create a site worthy of pilgrimage not just of Bardolatry but a true

temple built on the principles of Hermeticism?

DRAM088 Candidate No: 034026

The Mysteries were enacted in the temples or schools of the

Mysteries and one of the main features of about the architecture of the

dramatic setting was the presenceof two great pillars. The same were

represented on the stage of Shakespeares original Globe theatre as well as

in other Elizabethan theatres, and today are replicated in the new Globe

Theatre in London (Dawkins 2004:154)

The positioning of the pillars at Shakespeares Globe is still the subject of

debate. Whether or not it is the case, as Peter Dawkins implies above, that the

pillars in the original Globe alluded to the pillars of the ancient mystery schools

and temples cannot be known for certain. Setting authenticity of reconstruction

aside, however, what we do know is that it was a conscious consideration in the

construction of the new Globe, and that since Peter Dawkins was involved in the

decision over the positioning and size of the pillars, (through Mark Rylance), the

esoteric symbolism of their presence was a factor in their prominence. Mark

Rylance met Peter Dawkins in 1988 whilst playing Hamlet and Romeo for the

RSC and became very interested in the alchemical symbolism that Dawkins

revealed to him in the texts, which he felt enabled him to access a deeper level of

connection with the characters. Rylance and Dawkins have worked closely

together on the Hermetic dimensions of Shakespeares works ever since, and it is

through Dawkins that Rylance first became involved in the controversial

authorship debate. They believe that a group of writers led by Francis Bacon

created the works of Shakespeare to be a guide to initiation into ancient wisdom.

Whilst this may seem a far--out conspiracy theory to the majority, it is an

important factor when considering whether the Globe could be considered as a

DRAM088 Candidate No: 034026

The pillars are a representation of the polarity inherent in the

construction of the Universe and are variously known as the pillars of Hercules,

Joachim and Boaz(meaning Mercy and Severity, the pillars in Solomons

Temple) or Mars and Venus, the latter by which they are referred to at

Shakespeares Globe. They are a major symbol of the principles of the Kabbalah,

a system of ancient Judaic mysticism that was prevalent in Renaissance

philosophy and is often alluded to in Shakespeares work. That the new Globe

embraced this content, at least in the days of Rylance, can be seen even in their

brief website promotional blurbs, such as this extract from the page for their

production of Merchant of Venice: The Merchant of Venice compares the

Christian, Judaic and Hermetic traditions of 16th century Italy and England and

weighs them in the balance. While it seems possible and even likely that the

pillars of the first and second Globe Theatres were there simply for the practical

purpose of holding up the heavens, there can be little doubt that Shakespeares

Globe of the modern day has embraced the potential of their sacred symbolism.

The decoration of the stage cover with a celestial scene resembling a

night sky is particularly appropriate in an iconographical scheme which

seeks to identify the stage as a microcosm of the world (Mulryne 1997:149)

One aspect of the Globes historical reproduction for which there is a

reasonable body of evidence is the painted and gilded heavens above the stage.

In a far cry from the fibreglass allusions of Disney World, these were

painstakingly created using authentic historical methods and materials and are

breathtakingly beautiful. The Sun and the Moon are represented, as is the full

circle of the Western Zodiac in anthropomorphic form. There is also a supernal

DRAM088 Candidate No: 034026

fire painted over a hatch from which Gods or other (presumably heavenly)

beings can descend. The latter is again a reference to the Kabbalah, as on the

Tree of Life there are ten sephiroth or spheres representing the descent of

spirit into matter and manifestation. The three highest spheres on the tree are

known as the Supernal Triad and are thought to be the source of all spirit and

beyond mortal comprehension.

Not only does this celestial canopy feed the aesthetic eye of the beholder,

but it also provides a tool for the actor, as they can directly address the heavenly

bodies and forces, as is often required in Shakespeares texts. The painted image

of the heavens gives a pictorial gateway to the divine powers as well as a

symbolic confirmation of the Globes nature as manufactured microcosm.

In a continuation of this apparent mapping of the Universe, just beneath

the heavens, on the wall above the balcony, may be seen anthropomorphised

representations of the classical seven planets. From left to right these are Sol,

Luna, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn. The seven planets not only

relate to the seven days of the week, but also directly relate to the seven

remaining sephiroth of the Kabbalah. Cleverly, they have also been rendered to

resemble the seven ages of man as referred to in Jaques famous soliloquy

Shakespeares As You Like It, which makes the microcosmic parallel blatant: All

the Worlds a stage. (As You Like It, Act II Scene vii)

Beneath the planets, very prominently featured on the walls either side of

the stage, may be found painted representations of the Greco--Roman Gods

Apollo and Hermes. This represents the next level towards manifestation of the

physical plane, (the stage itself) of the heavenly powers. Apollo and

Mercury/Hermes bring inspiration, illumination, eloquence and lucidity to

DRAM088 Candidate No: 034026

creative souls. Between these two figures may be found carvings of the muses,

traditionally conveyors of creative inspiration from the divine to mortal artists.

In Hermetic tradition, (so called as it is said to be passed down to mortals from

Hermes), images of the Gods can act as conduits for their powers and abilities, so

when they are addressed directly in the course of a play this invokes their

energies and adds an extra dimension to the emotional and spiritual experience

of the audience.

We read of audiences being spell-bound or ravished by characters

on stage (Kiernan 1999:12)

Of course a temple is not created exclusively for the priest/esses, or in

this case the actors, but in order to provide the people with a transcendent

experience or communion with the divine. This was certainly the intent of

Rylance from the offset, who in the early days of his office as Artistic Director

said: I hope we can provide theatrical experiences that reflect and enrich human

nature in its many physical, psychological, spiritual and divine forms. (Mulryne


The open roof of Shakespeares Globe unites actor and audience under the

same sky and surrounds them with the same light. Though an allowance is made

for evening performances through the use of electric lighting, it is not permitted

to use it to create stage effects, but rather to maintain a universal lighting. This

enable the actors to engage on a dynamic level with the audience, (and vice--

versa), which is little--known in modern theatre practice. Actor Jim Bywater, one

of the pioneer players of the Globes first production observed that, The Globe

audience shares the actors consciousness (Kiernan 1999: 11) When the
DRAM088 Candidate No: 034026

audience can become the conscience or part of the soul of the characters they see

on stage, truly involved in a spiritual and emotional journey, rather than a

detached observer, the initiatory potential of the theatre is clear.

Frances Yates in 1969 attempted to show that Shakespeares Globe

was a vitruvian space, with twenty-four sides. Archaeology proved her

wrong, indicating a theatre of some twenty sides, a product of standard

timber lengths rather than renaissance cosmology. (Wiles 2003: 192)

Mark Rylances first involvement with the reconstruction of the Globe was

when he met with Sam Wanamaker to arrange performing his touring production

of The Tempest on the foundations of the theatre. He had been inspired by the

teachings of Peter Dawkins to bring together a group of seven actors, (for the

number of traditional planets and other mystical resonances), working without a

director, to take an alchemical performance of The Tempest to sites of key

energetic importance on the landscape, most notably the Rollright Stones, in

order to balance the energies and bring fertility to the land. When it came to

performing in London, he wanted an outdoor space and was attracted to the

Globes foundations as they were the same proportions as the Rollright Stones

and Stonehenge. Sam Wanamaker, a spiritually--minded visionary himself, not

only agreed to the performance but proceeded to make Rylance part of the

Artistic Directorate who would have input on the construction. Since at the point

of planning the new Globe little was known about the original other than the

famous DeWitt drawing and what archaeological remains had been uncovered,

they were inspired by renaissance cosmology and the works of Francis Yates to

construct the new theatre according to Vitruvian principles.

DRAM088 Candidate No: 034026

Though it was later discovered that the original Globe was built with the more

practical consideration of standard wooden beam--lengths in mind, David Wiles

notes that, Despite the collapse of Yates theory, the classical placing of a square

within a circle was found a helpful key to reconstruction (Wiles 2003: 193)

It is not only the proportions and the sacred geometry of the space that

qualify Shakespeares Globe as a temple, but it is positioned facing north--east

aligned with the rising sun at Midsummer, just as Stonehenge, the Rollright

Stones, and other ancient places of apparent worship are. Of this point, scholar

Andrew Gurr notes that 'While there is no evidence for any particular

significance in this fact, it might well be unwise to ignore


Both in the first Globe and in the present third Globe, music was

placed between the world of the Gods above, and the earthly stage of

mankind, below. Music is, thus, not only heard but seen as the expression of

the Muses as it transmits heavenly impulses to Man below on the earthly

stage Claire Van Kampen (Carson 2008:81)

As impressive and significant as the iconography and appearance of the

architecture is, one of the effects of its structure according to ancient laws of

cosmic harmony is to create an extraordinary acoustic environment. Sound

resonates not only through the structure but through each body in the space,

actor and audience alike. This is a physical vibration created by the voices of the

actors and the presence of live musicians in the gallery-- another feature of the

new Globe which more recent research shows to have been unlikely at the

original-- which has the potential to move emotions in a way which transcends
DRAM088 Candidate No: 034026

rational comprehension. Once again, comparisons can be drawn with ancient

sites like Stonehenge, which have been found to have unique acoustic qualities

and inherent resonance that are unlikely to be accidental. Like much of the

construction of the original Globe, this is likely to remain mysterious.

Hell and the Underglobe

If we were in any doubt as to the intentions of the creative team behind

the new Globes construction to align the theatre with mystical energies, we have

only to visit the exhibition centre in the area underneath the stage, known as the

Underglobe, with a little esoteric learning behind us. Not only is there a realistic

representation of the Tree of Life, but the ceiling is emblazoned with numerous

motifs of a Kabbalistic, Alchemical, Astrological and Vitruvian nature. There are

also alchemical images on embroidered banners and representations of the

ancient muses.

Also in the chthonian depths beneath the jewel--like Globe stage, in the area

known affectionately as Hell in keeping with the Early Modern worldview, is

hidden a cigar box left in position by Rylance when he first became Artistic Director.

This contains offerings for the spirits of place, the remains of a shamanic ritual that

Rylance conducts with casts of each production, (which I have been privileged to

participate in), in order to maintain their good will. Although the current Artistic

Director, Dominic Dromgoole, does not share Rylances mystical beliefs or practices,

the cigar box remains.

Our voice is the window to our soul(Pearce 2005: 72)

DRAM088 Candidate No: 034026

It is not only the structure and decoration of the building which creates

the temple, but also the souls which inhabit it. Rylance brought together a team

of highly skilled and deeply spiritual people to work with the actors in the

theatre, helping them to adjust to its particular demands. His original Master of

Voice was Stewart Pearce, who teaches that we all have a signature note which

is our soul and bodys personal resonance. Though he is no longer resident, some

of his practices are still passed on, at least by Philip Bird who works with student

actors on educational residencies.

Still very much active with the Globe, although now primarily working

with the actors in the new Sam Wanamaker playhouse, is Alexander Technique

specialist Glynn Macdonald. She has been Master of Movement since the birth of

the new Globe and teaches actors how to embody archetypal and elemental

powers. Though she claims Sufi origins for these practices, they strongly reflect

the Hermetic principles on which the new Globe was built.

Vitruvius said: When every important part of the building is thus

conveniently set in proportion by the right correlation between width and

depth, and when all these parts have also their place in the total symmetry

of the building, we obtain eurhythmy.(Skinner 2006:129)

From the seeds of one mans vision grew not a tourist--milking machine,

nor even a mere museum piece, but a living breathing temple and cultural icon in

its own right, with practices drawn from traditional principles from which

theatre draws its ancient roots. Though there can be little doubt that some of this

magic is becoming dormant under the more corporate--minded leadership of

Dromgoole, the Globes sacred nature is inherent in its very structure and
DRAM088 Candidate No: 034026

foundations, both literal and conceptual. The works of Shakespeare, since they

deal with the nature and spiritual journey of humanity, are as relevant today as

they ever were. However, if we purely focus on the contemporary relevance and

ignore the underlying Renaissance philosophy, we deny ourselves an extra depth

of appreciation. The Globe provides a bridge of understanding between the

modern and the early--modern world. Whereas it remains to be seen what future

leadership will bring, there is more than idle Bardolatry that incites a sense of

pilgrimage from the Globe.

DRAM088 Candidate No: 034026


Carson, Christie and Farah Karim--Cooper (eds)2008, Shakespeares Globe:

A Theatrical Experiment, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Dawkins, Peter 2004, The Shakespeare Enigma, London: Polair Publishing

Gurr, Andrew 1989, Rebuilding Shakespeares Globe, New York: Routledge

Gurr, Andrew 2009, The Shakespearean Stage 1574-1642, Cambridge: Cambridge

University Press

Gurr, Elizabeth 1998, Shakespeares Globe: A Souvenir Guide, London:

Shakespeares Globe

Kiernan, Pauline 1999, Staging Shakespeare at the New Globe, Hampshire:

Macmillan Press

Mulryne, J.R and Margaret Shewring (eds) 1997, Shakespeares Globe Rebuilt,

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Orrell, John 1983, The Quest For Shakespeares Globe, Cambridge: Cambridge

University Press
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Pearce, Stewart 2005, The Alchemy of Voice, Forres: Findhorn

Skinner, Stephen 2006, Sacred Geometry, New York: Sterling Publishing

Wiles, David 2003, A Short History of the Western Performance Space, Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press

Yates, Frances 1979, The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age, Oxford:


Websites: -

space/previous-- productions/the--merchant--of--venice (5/5/2014) (6/5/2014)( Telegraph Magazine, 10

August 1996)