Globe Theatre Special Effects

Globe Theatre Special Effects
  • Interesting Facts and information about Globe Theatre Special Effects
  • List of different Globe Theatre Special Effects
  • Facts and History about Globe Theatre Special Effects and Shakespeare plays
  • Elizabethan Theatre in the 16th century
Globe Theatre Special Effects

Interesting information about the Globe Theatre Special Effects during the life and times of William Shakespeare and Elizabethan London, England

Globe Theatre Special Effects
The Globe Theatre is not usually associated with the use of Special Effects. However many Globe Theatre Props and Special effects were used to enhance the dramatic and visual effects of the plays performed at the Globe Theatre. The Globe Theatre was new and competition was fierce. The better the plays and the more dramatic the special effects resulted in bigger audiences and greater profits. The Elizabethan audience must have looked at the brightly decorated Globe Theatre in awe - but the special effects would have held a far greater impact. So what special effects were created for the performances and plays written by the likes of William Shakespeare?

The Globe Theatre was built to include provision for Special Effects - Trapdoors
The Globe Theatre was designed to include some provisions to produce special effects. Trapdoors were built in the floor of the stage (called Hell) and in the stage ceiling (the Heavens). The height of the stage was five feet - so the area beneath the stage was easily big enough to hold both actors and props. This area underneath the stage was given the title  "Hell". Some props or special effects could therefore be 'entranced' or 'exited' via the trap doors. Actors could appear or disappear via the stage trapdoors. The ghost of Hamlet could miraculously be made to appear or disappear. The Globe Theatre Heavens was the name given for the false ceiling over the stage. The false ceiling was also designed with trap doors. Through the Heavens trap doors Globe Theatre actors, attached by a harness with wires or ropes, could make flying entrances on to the stage and props could be lowered on to the stage. The effect of this on the audience must have been very exciting, leaving a lasting and dramatic impact.

List of Globe Theatre Special Effects
Globe Theatre special effects would have been produced using some of the following items:

  • Cannon
  • Trapdoors
  • Wires, ropes and harnesses
  • Fireworks
  • Flowers and petals
  • Music
  • Live Animals
  • Bones, intestines and blood of dead animals

Bloody Globe Theatre Special Effects
Bloody special effects were used to excite and astound the audience. The simplest would be a handkerchief soaked in blood. Bloody special effects could also be produced to mimic wounds and injuries. Titus Andronicus was one of the most violent of the plays by William Shakespeare. The blood thirsty drama of Titus Andronicus is a sordid tale of revenge and political turmoil, overflowing with bloodshed and unthinkable brutality including countless murders, rape, terrible acts of mutilation and threats of human sacrifice ( who said Shakespeare was dull?). Bloody Special effects could be used such as turntable using a blood soaked dummy to be substituted for an actor. Animal intestines, tongues and bones could be used to enhance the effects. Bladders filled with the blood of animals such as sheep or bulls were concealed beneath the actor's costumes which could be pierced by the points of daggers or swords used in stage fights, or just a thump to the chest could produce a gruesome death scene.

Globe Theatre Special Effects - the Canon
Canons were included in the Globe Theatre Special Effects. The cannon was situated inside the roof, in the attic above the "Heavens". The cannon was used to create a dramatic special effect such as heralding great entrances especially in the plays by William Shakespeare which were about an event in history. The cannon was loaded with gunpowder and wadding providing the opportunity to recreate the sounds of the battlefield. This particular Globe Theatre special effect eventually led to the fire of 1613 which led to the total destruction of the Globe Theatre within just two hours.

Globe Theatre Special Effects - live animals
Some of the plays of William Shakespeare call for the entrance of live animals, such as a dog or a bear. There are no records confirming that such animals were actually used - but it seems logical that any such special effects using live animals would have been at least tried!

Globe Theatre Special Effects - the Music
Different sounds were used to create special effects. The most obvious sound effect was music. Musicians were employed to enhance the overall theatre experience. One of the balconies above the stage housed the musicians. Elizabethan composers were commissioned to write music and songs to accompany the works of playwrights such as William Shakespeare. The most famous Globe Theatre composer was Robert Johnson     ( 1582-1633 ). Robert Johnson composed 'Full fathom five' and 'Where the Bee Sucks' which were written  for 'The Tempest' by William Shakespeare.

Other Sound Effects
Other sounds were used to create special sound effects. Fireworks were used to imitate the sounds of the battlefield. Unusual sound effects could be made from 'Hell' including different sounds using various musical instruments such as the trumpet, chimes, bells or drums. Actors skilled in imitating the baying of hounds and crowing of roosters or the wailing of ghostly sounds would also be waiting in 'Hell' to create such sound effects. A metal sheet or a rolling cannonball were used for creating the sound of thunder.

Globe Theatre Special Effects
Interesting Facts and information about the Globe Theatre Special Effects. Additional details, facts and information about the Globe Theatre can be accessed via the Globe Theatre Sitemap.

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