Globe Theatres: Past, Present and Virtual

In several recent talks, I’ve opened with a story about the De Witt sketch. It’s a depiction, in 1596, of the stage of London’s Swan Theatre. It is, for all intents and purposes, the only image that theatre historians have that shows the interior of an Elizabethan theatre. It’s the best picture we have of the stages that Shakespeare acted upon and for which he wrote.

De Witt Sketch, Swan Theatre

The man who drew the sketch was Johannes De Witt, a Dutch visitor to London who recorded his observations in his journals. In fact, De Witt’s original sketch is lost. The ‘De Witt’ sketch is actually a copy by fellow Dutchman, Arendt van Buchell.

Then I show photos of the Globe Theatre (here’s a big panorama of the interior), a present-day replica that sits on the Thames river, very close to its original location. For theatre and history buffs it’s a real pleasure to stand inside this space, which is reknowned for its historical accuracy. In fact, if theatre historians discover new information about the Globe, they modify the building to match .

Then in my talk I jump to images of the New Globe Theatre in Second Life. It’s a model of a proposed actual theatre on Governor’s Island in New York. It doesn’t look much like the original or the replica, but I like the connection of the past to the future, and of the actual to the virtual. I then make some connections to De Witt’s sketch as user-generated content, his journal as a blog and Arendt’s copy as a copyright violation. And things roll on from there.

That’s a long-winded introduction to say that somebody recently emailed me with a link to an actual, apparently accurate replica of the Globe Theatre. This appears to be a sort of showcase piece for a Second Life architect named Ina Centaur. It’s a pretty impressive accomplishment, and will make for a smoother metaphor in future talks.

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