THE COMPASS OF THE GLOBE
Drama, Mind and Faith
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on the Southwark bank of the Thames had a tiny physical compass but it contrived to encompass a wide world and wealth of meaning, comic and tragic. Shakespeare named it ‘This wooden “O”’, for it had a circular, almost cup-like, shape with steep sides where two galleries held an eager audience and the stage projected far into the circled arena below them. Above the stage was a curtained balcony for scenes of love or sorrow as in Romeo and Juliet or announcing the death of Falstaff to the Eastcheap throng below.
Thus the intimacy of The Globe took in the breadth and length of the world, the global scene of kings and peasants, of gardeners wise and monarchs foolish—all of them endowed with the finest blank verse wherein to tell their souls, to spin their plots or dramatise their hopes and fears. The tapestry was rich and splendid, whether launching Henry V on his escapades to France or hailing him again to England with Agincourt for his laurels, or setting Hamlet under way with the sentinels on Elsinore asking the inner question: ‘Who goes there?’ when merely challenging at the changing of the watch.
Through all its crowded or its private scenes, its rapid-fire converse or its lonely soliloquy, The Globe became the globe, a school, of the solemn and the hilarious, a very telling education in the art of being human, its futility and grandeur.
Kenneth Cragg read English and American History as an undergraduate at Jesus College, Oxford, but history fired an incentive for literature which, with philosophy, he taught at the American University of Beirut, and later in the inter-disciplinary system of the University of Sussex. Shakespeare is seminal everywhere.
138 x 216mm, 288 pages, hardback
ISBN 978 1 901764 56 7
£25.00 October 2009