On our first night in London we got the chance to watch Hamlet at Shakespeare's Globe Theater. Though originally built in 1599, it later burned down in 1613. The modern reconstruction was built in 1997 on the original site and with the original design concepts held in mind. Our viewing was from the main standing section in the center of the theatre, where peasants traditionally viewed Shakespeare's works. In Shakespeare's day, all theatre roles were held by men. This meant that even female roles were taken on by men. In the rendition of Hamlet that we observed, most gender roles were reversed and many ethnicities were represented. This at first called for some mental adaptation, but throughout the play proved to be an excellent theatrical device. The actors and actresses in the play were all exceptionally good and well-studied for their respective roles. The way the Globe Theatre cast the roles of the play, without strong emphasis on gender or race, brought forth the strongest actors for each role unfettered by social constructs. In a way, these choices made up for the days of all-male companies and did justice by the theatrical community at large.
Aside from the historical components, the Globe also brought up some interesting cultural aspects. Some members of our group mentioned confusion at certain humorous references in the play. While Londoners laughed readily, some of our group felt confused by the quick, witty rhetoric. We got the impression that Shakespeare's works may be more closely studied in England than in the United States. Additionally, theatre conduct was interesting. In particular, we noticed lots of couples continuously touching and showing obvious affection. This was quite different than in the United States, where we don't often show such outward signs of affection in public.
All in all, the Globe was a fascinating experience both artistically and culturally.
- Signed Natalie and Jessica :)