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THE GLOBE THEATRE.
VER HE first Globe Theatre, on the Bankside,
Southwark, “the summer theatre of Shakespeare and his fellows,” is believed to have been built in 1594, partly of materials removed from the Theatre in Shoreditch, "the earliest building erected in or near London purposely for scenic exhibitions.” Outside, the Globe was hexagonal in shape, and, like all the theatres of that epoch,
was open at the top, excepting the part immediately over the stage, which was thatched with straw. The interior of the theatre was circular. The performances took place by daylight, and while they were going on a flag with the cross of St. George upon it was unfurled from the roof. Originally, in place of scenery, the names of the localities supposed to be represented were inscribed on boards or hangings for the information of the audience. The sign of the theatre was a figure of Hercules supporting the globe, beneath which was written “ Totus mundus agit Histrionem."
In 1601, the Globe Theatre was used as a place of meeting by the conspirators engaged in Essex's rebellion, and next year Shakespeare's Hamlet, following upon other of his plays, was here produced for the first time. In subsequent years plays by Shakespeare, Webster, Ford, and contemporary dramatists were performed at the Globe, until in 1613 the theatre was burnt to the ground owing to some lighted paper, thrown from a piece of ordnance used in the performance, igniting the thatch. The theatre was rebuilt in the following spring with a tiled roof, and according to Howes's MS., quoted by Collier in his life of Shakespeare, “at the great charge of King James and many noblemen and others.” Ben Jonson styled the new theatre “the glory of the Bank and the fort of the whole parish.”
The Globe Theatre was pulled down in 1644 by Sir Matthew Brand with the view to tenements being erected upon its site, a portion of which at the present day is occupied by Barclay and Perkins's brewery.
OTHING is known about the lives of John Webster and Cyril Tourneur. We are ignorant when they were born and when they died. . We possess only meagre hints of what con
temporaries thought of them. One allusion to Tourneur survives, which shows that he was not popular in his lifetime as a dramatist :
Pis fame unto that pitch so only raised
As not to be despised nor too much praised. A superficial critic speaks of “crabbed Webster, the playwright, cart-wright,” and proceeds, at some length, to deride his laborious style and obscurity. Commendatory verses by S. Sheppard, Th. Middleton, W. Shirley, and John Ford prove, however, that Webster's tragedies won the suffrage of the best judges. None such are printed with Tourneur's plays..
Web. & Tour.
Webster began to write for the stage as early as 1601. Between that date and 1607 he worked upon Marston's Malcontent, and is supposed to have collaborated with Dekker in the History of Sir Th. Wyatt, Northward Ho, and Westward Ho. Tourneur began his literary career by a satire called Transformed Metamorphosis, in 1600, which was followed in 1609 by a Funeral Poem on the Death of Sir Francis Vere. Both he and Webster published Elegies in 1613 upon the death of Prince Henry.
In this year he was employed upon some business for the Court, as appears from this passage in the Revels Accounts (ed. Cunningham, p. xliii.) :
To Cyrill Turner, upon a warraunte signed by the Lord Chainberleyne and Mr. Chauncellor, dated at Whitehall, 23rd December, 1613, for his chardges and paines in carrying l’res for his Mats service to Brussells . . . . Xli.
. The amount of this payment renders it improbable that Tourneur's mission was of any political or diplomatical importance.
We do not know when he commenced playwright; but The Revenger's Tragedy was licensed in 1607 and printed in the same year. The Atheist's Tragedy was printed in 1611; it had been written almost certainly at some earlier period. Webster's White Devil was printed and probably produced in 1612 his Duchess of Malfi, produced perhaps in 1616, was printed in 1623.
It is needful to dwell on the comparison of these dates, since they give Tourneur the priority of authorship in a style of tragedy which both
poets cultivated with marked effect. ( Not to class them together as the creators of a singular type of drama would be uncritical. They elaborated similar motives, moved in the same atmosphere of moral gloom, aimed at the like sententious apophthegms, affected the same brevity · and pungency, handled blank verse and prose on parallel methods, and owed debts of much the same kind to Shakespeare. That Webster was the greater writer, as he certainly possessed a finer cast of mind, and surveyed a wider sphere of human nature in his work, will be admittede Yet it seems not impossibie that he may have followed Tourneur's lead in the peculiar form and tone of his two masterpieces.
Speaking broadly, the two best tragedies of Webster and the two surviving tragedies of Tourneur constitute a distinct species of the genus which has been termed Tragedy of Blood. It was Kyd, in his double drama called The Spanish Tragedy, who first gave definite form to this type. Those two plays exhibit the main ingredients of the Tragedy of Blood-a romantic story of crime and suffering, a violent oppressor, a wronged man bent upon the execution of some subtle vengeance, a ghost or two, a notorious villain working as the tyrant's instrument, and a whole crop of murders, deaths, and suicides to end the action. What use Shakespeare made of the type, and how
i See J. A. Symonds' Shakespeare's Predecessors, chap. xii., for a definition and description of this dramatic genus.