On this day 1613…the Globe burns down

The Globe Theatre burned down on this day in 1613 and one poor theatre-goer had to put out his flaming trousers with a pot of ale.

the globeDuring a performance of Shakespeare’s Henry VIII, a cannon located in the roof of the theatre was fired as part of the play.

The gun had been used for many years in various productions but this particular day some of the burning wadding landed on the dry thatch of the theatre roof and there smouldered gently until the whole thing went up in flames.

Fortunately, the audience managed to make its escape and there were no fatalities but not everyone got out with their dignity.

The author and diplomat, Sir Henry Wotton, described the scene in his diary: “Now King Henry making a Masque at the Cardinal Wolsey’s house, and certain cannons being shot off at his entry, some of the paper or other stuff, wherewith one of them was stopped, did light on the thatch, where being thought at first but idle smoke, and their eyes more attentive to the show, it kindled inwardly, and ran round like a train, consuming within less than an hour the whole house to the very ground.

“This was the fatal period of that virtuous fabric, wherein yet nothing did perish but wood and straw, and a few forsaken cloaks; only one man had his breeches set on fire, that would perhaps have broyled him, if he had not by the benefit of a provident wit, put it out with a bottle of ale.”

The theatre was rebuilt the following year before being pulled down by the Puritans in 1644/45.

The current incarnation of the Globe was opened in 1997.

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