Day 1: Globe Theatre

If you’re native to an English-speaking country, you’ve heard of the Globe Theatre.  Two things all U.S. high school grads know are that Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, and Shakespeare’s theatre was the Globe.

My review of the Globe Theatre

I had seen a drawing of the Globe in one of my high school English classrooms, and I didn’t think much of it, but seeing it in person, I was genuinely impressed (and surprised to find myself so), impressed at the splendour of the stage and the capacity of the house.  It was a good deal bigger than I expected, and I could instantly see that views of the stage were much better than I had imagined when viewing the old drawing in high school.

One hopes that the people in 1599 were shorter than they are now, though, because there was not much leg room on the benches on the lower story.  Mum, Luther, and I had seats on stage left.  Dad, Sav, and Brad had seats in the pit, which is rather like the standing room around the stage at a rock concert.

Alas, photos were not permitted the theatre-goers themselves, but there was a professional photographer going about and snapping pics at his pleasure through the performance. (I can’t guess why they didn’t allow photos.  It’s not like people would have had flashes going off since the theatre is open-air, and the performance took place at 2:00.)

The show we caught was Anne Boleyn.  My review of the show follows, but first: history.

The history of the Globe Theatre

Prior to my England trip, I listened to an audio book A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare.  Among other matters, the book described the history of the Globe Theatre, which I’ll attempt to reconstruct:

The Globe Theatre’s origins lie in another theatre which lay on the north side of the Thames, owned by a certain Mr Burbage.  The theatre was in time inherited by Burbage’s two sons, and it was under their hand that the lease came due.  For a reason I can’t recall they determined to remove to another location.

The Burbage brothers didn’t have the money to strike out in this manner, so they invited certain other of the Theatre’s actors (including the talented William Shakespeare) to buy in and become co-owners.  The buy-in was quite steep for the actors, but becoming co-owners would increase their earning power above the not-much-more-than-subsistence, which it was at the time.

The four invitees did buy in, but there was a complication: the Theatre was owned by Burbage Sr, but the land on which it stood was actually leased.  That may not seem like a problem, but the question of whether or not the Burbage brothers had a right to the building was significant that the six actors carried swords and came in the night in the dead of winter to dismantle the Theatre and move the timbers and pegs on their own.

After the turn of the year, they rebuilt the Theatre on the other side of the Thames, specifically Bankside, Southwark.  The new theatre, named the Globe, was assembled in the very image of the old one.

My review of Anne Boleyn

I was rather disappointed.  There.  It was a good deal better than most of the performances I’ve seen whose dialogue is Elizabethan English, but it was, notwithstanding, rather vulgar (in both senses of the word).

I find it a regrettable commonplace that people find it the height of wit to insert crass language and lewdness into supposedly high-brow entertainment.  Seriously?  This is what elicits waves of laughter from audiences?  Even audiences who eschew the popular and seek out something less accessible?

Day 1: British Library

Mum at British Library in London

Directly we deposited our things at Bankside House, Luther and I departed for a brief visit to the British Library, reputed to house writs of fame and import.

Pressed for time, we only visited the display of ancient texts, but as far as I cared, there might be nothing else in the library.  We saw the Lindisfarne gospels and some very old versions of New Testament scripture dating as far back as the 3rd century AD.  There was also a respectable collection of writ from other faiths: the Bhagavad Gita and the Koran, to name two.

The Lindisfarne gospels are an illuminated manuscript .  Being in the presence of the gospels was my primary attraction to the British Library because of my interest in pre-Viking age British history.  The sacking of the priory at Lindisfarne (AD 793) is commonly accepted as the beginning of the (first) Viking Age in Britain.  The gospels aforementioned were produced about a hundred years before that by Eadfrith, who became bishop of Lindisfarne in AD 698.

We also saw writings and musical notiation from the very hands of revered authors, poets, and musicians of the last few centuries, including Jane Austen, Emily Brontë, Wordsworth, and Mozart.

I only interacted with three employees at the library and one worker at the food kiosk without.  All four were foreign, which isn’t remarkable, but it is some substance for my surprise at the great deal of immigration in London.

Our visit was curtailed because we had arranged to meet the others at the famed Globe Theatre for a production of Anne Boleyn, a 2010 play penned by Howard Brenton.  More on that in the next installment.

En route to the Globe, Luther and I picked up some quick lunch at a kiosk in a train station.  The fare was better than any other we saw about us, but alas, it was no competition for some good country pub commons.

Image of Lindisfarne Gospels is in the public domain and comes from wikimedia commons {{PD-US}} (

Days 1-3: London School of Economics

Days 1-3: 9 July 2011

london bridge station platform

No, it’s not a historic site, but we did spend a good deal of time at the London School of Economics because the dormitories of Bankside House were home to us for three days.  Bankside House stands in Southwark (‘suth·ark), just south of the Thames, a few blocks east of the Globe Theatre.

London is expensive, so it pays to plan ahead and find an affordable place to stay.  We lodged three people per room.

One of the doors in the stairwell sported an Obama ’08 sticker.  That’s worth a roll of the eyes.

No, I don’t have any photos of Bankside House.  Travel was something of a blur with no sleep but a few hours’ doze here and there for 40 hours or so.  We rolled out of bed just prior to 6 am in San Francisco.  When our plane touched down in London Gatwick, it was morning the next day (less 8 hours for the time zone shift) and time to start our first day in England.

My Review:

Cait and Brad in Southwark

Despite how polished the professional photos on the official website make it look, it was spartan and about as pleasant/unpleasant as your run-of-the-mill college dorm, but since school wasn’t in session, we had fewer noisy neighbours and consequently slept alright.  That’s not to say that we didn’t hear the kids making noise outside or playing music upstairs, but such disturbances did not last all night and were more muted than at other places I’ve dwelt.

I thought the beds were alright.  I could feel every bedspring through the matress, but that sort of thing doesn’t bother me greatly—so long as the bed is firm, and it was.

There’s a cafeteria on premises, and breakfast isn’t bad for cafeteria food.  There’s a computer lab in the basement, as well as a bar with billiards and foosball.  The basement provides free wifi.

British crest on iron gates

One of our rooms stunk of tobacco (in spite of the no smoking policy).  Did it come from the kids smoking outside the window?  There doesn’t appear to be a great deal of good loitering real estate anywhere in Southwark (including the market); I saw as many people loitering about outside my Bankside House window as I did anywhere else in the borough.

Days 1-3: London

Continuing my series on our UK Trip: London.  In the coming days I’ll give a description of each of the following.

(Days 1–3: 9 July 2011)
We observed:

  • Bankside House, London School of Economics
  • British Library
  • Globe Theatre
  • Westminster Abbey
  • Hyde Park Ward, LDS church
  • St Martin-in-the-Field church
  • Tower of London
  • The Orangery, Kensington Palace grounds
  • King’s Cross station

I’m glad to have visited London.  That’s remarkable because I had no intention of going, and indeed, only Sav’s wish to spend time there drew any of us to the city.

Really, I didn’t care for the city at all, but it was a tolerable evil to be blessed to visit such sites as are listed above.  Still I wish that one could get the Tower of London without the London.

The city generally disagreed with me.  Much of it smelled of diesel exhaust; much of Southward smelled of sewage and garbage.  It was crowded, and there was a great deal of both litter and advertisements to foul up the views.

Passing through crowds, English accounted for not half of the utterances, and what English we heard was from the US as often as from the UK.  This was my experience at Kensington, Hyde Park, Southwark, and so forth. Indeed, my windings through London made it not hard to believe reports that immigration into the country has truly been tremendous.

As one might expect, part of me feels remorse for the changing face of England because if I find myself in the mood for a bit of traditional England later on, it might not be around (at least not in such concentration as before).  Another part of me regrets the change because I believe the reports a significant quantity of the immigration is from people who impose a net drain, arriving and queueing up for social welfare services.

Another part of me is numbly philosophic about it, though.  For nearly as long as the recorded history of Britain reaches, we have one people after another conquering and imposing their ways upon the native peoples: the Romans in the first century; the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes in the 4th–7th centuries; the Danes after that; the French in the 11th century… Then things take a turn and from the 17th century through the 19th century, we have the UK conquering other lands and pushing its language and culture on their natives.