June 29: Setting The Globe On Fire

Globe FireThere are only a few confirmed performances of any of William Shakespeare’s plays during the Bard’s lifetime. Now, obviously we know that his thirty-odd plays were frequently performed during his lifetime, but we only know the exact dates for a decent sized handful of performances. These include a Swedish tourist’s account of the likely premier of Julius Caesar; the 1601 performance of Richard II commissioned by the Earl of Essex to help rally supporters for a treason plot, and a performance of Henry VIII that occurred June 29, 1613 today. And why do we know that Henry VIII was performed 401 years ago today? Because it was during that performance that the Globe Theater burned to the ground!

Opened sometime in 1599, the Globe served as the home for Shakespeare and the theater troupe he wrote (and sometimes acted) for, The Lord Chamberlin’s Men and their star, Richard Burbage; the first great Shakespearean actor. Although the Lord Chamberlin’s Men performed at other London theaters, the Globe’s open air “wooden O” was their home.

There’s a scene in Henry VIII in which the title king arrives at a banquet at the home of Cardinal Wolsey, and the script called for the arrival to be marked by cannon fire. Unfortunately, at this performance the lighting of the prop cannon also ignited a nearby wooden beam. Soon enough, the fire began to spread all the way to the the Globe’s thatched roof. Thankfully, everyone was evacuated and no one was hurt, except for one man whose pants were literally on fire until someone extinguished them with a bottle of ale. However, we will never know how many scripts, props and other theatrical treasures were lost in the blaze.

The Globe would be rebuilt a year later with a tiled roof to help prevent another disaster. Amusingly enough we happen to know what play was performed at the rebuilt Globe on June 29, 1618, fifteen years after the inferno: Henry VIII.

So, after a nice evening at the theater, how about we grab a drink? Might I suggest The Globe Cocktail? Built by Jason Rector, the bar manager for San Francisco’s Globe Hotel, it’s a great alternative to the Mojito, perfect for a hot summer’s night.

The Globe Cocktail

  • 3 ounces Gin
  • 1 ounces St. Germain (Elderflower Liqueur)
  • 1 ounces lime juice
  • 1/2 ounces agave nectar (simple syrup will also work)

Shake together, and serve in a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish by allowing a sprig of mint to float on the liquid.

Tomorrow: The only president of the United States to become chief justice of the Supreme Court stops by for a drink.

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