Wait, The Puritans Destroyed The Globe?

No matter how many times I see an article like “6 Myths You Still Believe About Shakespeare” I always click and skim to see whether there’s something new under the sun.  This one had all the usual — his birthday’s not necessarily on 4/23, he didn’t get all his money from writing, the plays weren’t “published” in his lifetime, and so on.

But this one was new to me:

The building in Southwark known as Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is a reconstruction that opened in 1997 – almost 400 years after the original was built. The original was ruined by fire after an accident involving the firing of a cannon during a 1613 production of ‘Henry VIII.’ It was rebuilt the following year only to be demolished in the 1640’s under Puritan pressure.

Emphasis mine.  I knew about the burning of course, but I never realized that the Puritans had it burned less than a generation after Shakespeare was gone?  “A bunch of us are sailing to America.  Last one to leave England, don’t forget to burn the Globe.”

Has somebody out there got more timeline on this? What happened to Middleton and Fletcher and Jonson and all the others that were still alive after Shakespeare was gone?  For that matter what exactly was going on at the Globe after Shakespeare, who kept writing for them?

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3 thoughts on “Wait, The Puritans Destroyed The Globe?

  1. Fletcher replaced Shakespeare as house playwright for the King's Men and died in 1625; he was replaced by Massinger. Beaumont, retired since 1613, died the same year. Middleton died in 1627. John Webster is last heard from alive in 1625; we think we has dead by the end of the 1630s. Ben Jonson lived on until 1637, but was considered past his prime and neglected by the court of Charles I. John Ford disappears in 1639.

    In 1642, the Puritans gained control of London in the Civil War and ordered the closure of the theatres. They weren't reopened until the Restoration (of the monarchy) in 1660.

  2. Well, it wasn't just the Globe — all of the playhouses in London were officially shut down in 1642, not to reopen until 1660 and the return of Charles II. Saying that they were closed by "the Puritans" is correct if sort of maddeningly inspecific. It wasn't the Church that shut them down, but rather the Puritan-aligned faction which took control of Parliament at the beginning of the English Civil War. The Globe was pulled down (not burned — you'd have to be mad to intentionally start a fire like that in London) probably in 1644; the Blackfriars sometime in the 1650s. In 1647, actors were declared vagrants; apparently some kept trying to play at places such as the Red Bull, as there are accounts of them getting arrested in 1649.

    As for the playwrights? Fletcher seems to have taken over as the primary playwright of the King's Men after Shakespeare retired (several of Shakespeare's last plays are collaborations with him, and Fletcher also, more famously at the time, collaborated with Francis Beaumont), but, as ever, the companies bought scripts from a variety of playwrights. It seems like most of the ones we think about as Shakespeare's contemporaries or immediate successors were themselves dead by the time the theatres were closed — Fletcher in 1625, Middleton in 1627, Webster in 1634, Jonson in 1637, Ford in 1639 or 1640, Massinger in 1640, Heywood in 1641.

  3. I was told by, I think, Peter McCudy (the builder of the 1997 Globe) that the Globe became apartments for a time. That'd be a fun place to live, huh? I believe it was partially "pulled down" and the remainder of the building formed a sort of tenement. Anyhoo, good times in Southwark.

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