Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 2, No. 24. Wednesday, 23 Jan 1991.
Date: Wed, 23 Jan 91 09:58:18 EST
Subject: The Globe Theatre Site
Stephen Miller asks from London 'what's the rush?' about more digging
at the Globe site. He works close by, so he ought to know that in
England 'What's the rush?' really means 'Not in my lifetime'.
The head of archaeology at English Heritage, which is currently
in charge of the Globe site, has said in the press that he'd like
to leave the remains covered for the next twenty-five years.
Some of us have been aged too much already by all the public
agitation needed to save the Rose and the Globe, and don't want
either to wait another lifetime to learn from the two sites or
to watch them vanish under short-lived office blocks.
The basis for the English Heritage view, and perhaps Stephen Miller's,
is that digging ancient sites damages them. The statute which set EH up
in 1983 calls on them to secure the 'preservation' of ancient sites,
and they read that as meaning leave them buried. Which is fine, if,
as with Roman remains, you have a fair idea of what they are and what
new information they might disclose. You can then sit back and hope for
some superior technology to turn up one day which might make it possible
to learn from the undug sites without damaging them. But both the Rose
and the Globe are novelties, and probably unique, since no Elizabethan
amphitheatre has been dug up before, so they discredit that easy answer.
Not digging means you don't learn what you don't know. Both sites need
digging, even if the pressures from developers didn't threaten them
directly. The Rose is already half-dug, and there is no reason not to
continue the analysis when the developers release it. The owners of the
Globe site want to build a megablock over the Globe's stones too, though
in their case the excavation is complicated by the Georgian terrace
standing over part of it. If concern for the Globe and its secrets is
not given voice, it will be lost in a morass of planning disputes.
We need to move fast. The developers are unlikely to touch the Globe
site with anything so delicate as Miller's dessert fork.
Thanks to the half of the Rose and the segment of the Globe uncovered
in 1989, we now know far more about two of the long-lost Shakespearean
amphitheatres than we could possibly have deduced from the few pieces
of paper evidence that survive. It's painfully tantalising to be stuck
for more information now. But I'm not just playing Tantalus. If noises
are not made to express Shakespeareans', and even SHAKSPEReans' sense
that these remains are important, and need work done on them, we'll
Dept of English, Reading University.