Studying abroad with Shakespeare at the Globe Theatre

Gillian Perry/Staff
Gillian Perry/File
Gillian Perry/Staff

I was lucky enough to spend this summer abroad in London. During this time, I learned of the immense value that Londoners place on the arts. Most of the city’s museums are free to access, and therefore the contents within them — whether it be history, art, literature or science — are arguably more easily appreciated. During my time in London, I explored many of these artistic facets, but one of my absolute favorites was attending the Globe Theatre to watch “Much Ado About Nothing.”

This performance was life-changing, and it completely reshaped my perceptions about Shakespeare and his body of work entirely.

Let’s start with entering the Globe. If you’re lucky, you’ll be met with a funny, friendly man sitting on a stool in front of the theater’s entrance. This man asks you what you’d like him to write about and whips up a sonnet right then and there. He’ll literally write about anything you pitch him. It’s amazing.

Then, you’ll come to enter the theater. A word of advice: Purchase “groundling” tickets in the pit. These tickets are extremely affordable, going for a mere £5 each. These tickets entail that you’ll be standing the entire duration of the play, but honestly, the time flies by very quickly. Watching the performance from the perspective of a “groundling” meant standing chest to the stage. My body was literally up against the stage, and it was magical. Watching the actors shaking violently with emotion and taking in such an ancient tradition filled with words ages old along with friends and strangers, while the stage lights reflected off the gentle mist overhead, creating a sort of purple haze — yes, the show will go on, rain or shine —was just absolutely surreal. The proximity to the stage itself made the experience that much more tangible to me. The scenes of anger actually drove a sense of panic within me while the scenes of joy elated me, but nonetheless, all the emotion portrayed that night affected me so truly. The actors and words had the power to move the entire audience at once — we laughed together, cried together and were caught in terror together.

Consuming and watching the performance in the way that Shakespeare’s text was intended was such a different feeling than reading his plays in bed or in class. It was so extremely moving and such an honor to attend “Much Ado About Nothing” at the Globe. I was literally humbled by the words of this legendary literary figure, standing below the stage, looking up at the actors and hearing their voices reverberate around me and the theater. In an atmosphere like this, I’d say there is a big possibility of finding a newfound love, or at least a new interpretation, for Shakespeare’s work. I think that listening to these age-old words, performed hundreds of times over centuries but made different and unique every time, can make Shakespeare just a little more bearable.

Contact Chelsea Song at [email protected].