Books I Love

Remembering The Globe

Attributed to Tracy, from North Brookfield, Massachusetts, USA.
Attributed to Tracy, from North Brookfield, Massachusetts, USA.

I was fortunate while finishing my Literature degree at USF to be able to attend the summer study abroad program at Cambridge England in 2005 (a big shout out to my hubby for facilitating that!). While there, there was no way that I was going to pass up the opportunity to attend a play performed at Shakespeare’s Globe. The only night that I was able to go offered a modernized production of Pericles, Prince of Tyre. I managed to read the first half of the play before attending, but I have yet to actually see the play through to the end.

I was so disappointed.

I’d taken numerous college courses on Shakespeare including one which focused on effective theatrical accounts of the plays based on textual evidence from the scripts. Perhaps this was my undoing and why I had no problem with leaving the playhouse to catch the train before midnight back to Cambridge.

I’m not stuffy enough to say that it was because only “traditional” productions are the best. One of my all time favorite Hamlets is Kenneth Branagh’s set in the 19th century. In fact there were parts of the Pericles play that weren’t even in the script that I somewhat appreciated, but it was also where I started to say, “Hey, come on now. What are you guys thinking?”

In the production I saw, they had an older version of Pericles looking on his younger self during the play; much like Scrooge with the Ghost of Christmas Past. This wasn’t in Shakespeare’s script, but I was okay with it and looked forward to what else they would offer.

But then each Pericles spoke their lines.

The young Pericles (quite appropriately) spoke with a mediterranean accent, while the older Pericles spoke with a decidedly British accent. Huh. Maybe they thought that they could pull off what Madonna couldn’t? I mean, come on, they were supposed to be the same person! So much for continuity.

Then came the tournament in Pentapolis. We were subject to sit through about 15 minutes of acrobatics and rope tricks. While they were impressive, it added nothing to the story. Just after the intermission, the “narrator” came out and made a big speech about how he knew we were all thinking “This is not Shakespeare!” but then made some argument about how Shakespeare would have loved it. I’m sorry, but he just did not convince me.

Maybe I haven’t studied enough plays, but I never saw where Shakespeare added spectacle except where it moved the story along. He might have enjoyed the stunts, but I feel as though he would have wondered at their point.

The point where I finally left was when Marina was trapped in the brothel. I hadn’t read that far, and if the actors were trying to do Greek accents, it was lost on me. They were speaking Shakespeare’s Early Modern English with really thick Italian accents. I had no idea what they were saying anymore, which was a shame because the language of Shakespeare is half the fun.

If I didn’t have a train to catch, I might have stuck it out. It was awesome to be inside the Globe and seeing a play performed after all, even if it was a disappointing production. By the time we were at the brothel, I admit, I stopped following the play and simply imagined what it might have been like to attend a play here in Shakespeare’s day. Though I don’t think they had any night performances due to lack of light. The seats were uncomfortable and the groundlings were getting rained on. I felt that the experience provided a testament to the awesome plays that Shakespeare wrote. It just would have been nice to see a production that not only stayed a bit truer to Shakespeare, but also made sense.

I was amused to find a few months later that I was more impressed by a highschool production of The Secret Garden than a British acting troupe at Shakespeare’s Globe.

Do you think I was overly critical of the production? Have you been to the Globe? What was your experience?

7 thoughts on “Remembering The Globe

  1. I’m a huge fan of Shakespeare’s plays and have read (& studied) perhaps a dozen or more of them. I don’t think I’ve read Pericles, however.
    Like you, I’m very impressed with Brannaugh’s filmed versions. Don’t think I’ve seen his Hamlet, but I’ve seen his Henry V and another (can’t recall the title) with Denzel Washington and Emma Somebody.
    I’m generally fond of Elizabethan literature and would love to tour a historically accurate reproduction of the Globe. As I understand it, there are no actual plans extant … and differing ideas on how it was made (and its dimensions).

    1. Yeah, I hadn’t heard of Pericles till I booked my tickets. At least the Globe was a close representation, even if it wasn’t entirely acurate, and it was fun. 😀 I’ve been told, that I’d have seen a better quality play if I’d gone to Stratford-Upon-Avon. But when I think of Shakespeare, I think of The Globe. Though if I ever get to go back to England, I’ll probably try to see a play in Stratford. 🙂

      1. Yes, Wendy, very enjoyable … but (like many of Shakespeare’s plays) has those elements of sadness. Don’t recall the plot anymore, but the Prince has to pronounce judgement on somebody for something they did. Quite sad, as I recall.

  2. As a Shakespeare buff I’ve been to several live versions of various plays, seen just about every film version I can get my hands on , and have read approximately half of his plays. I’m so envious of you being at the actual globe, but its too bad the play itself wasn’t up to snuff… It amazes me that sometimes directors try to ‘make the play better’ when really, the words themselves should be enough. In any case, I enjoyed reading your reflections.

  3. I’m so sorry the play disappointed you. But you’re right, just sitting in the theater must have been incredible! So much history there. I’m jealous!

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