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Globe Theatre, England

Last modified: 2003-03-15 by
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Description of the Flag

A variety of flags were used at the Globe, and other theatres, in the 16th century London. The type of flag indicated the author of the play being preformed. I thought the flag for Shakespeare's plays was a white elongated, swallow-tailed pennant, bearing a golden yellow swan.

Jim Ferrigan, 10 January 2003

Pictures of theatres in London from Shakespeare's time show flags flying above them; they seem to be plain red (or some other color, perhaps white). Flags flew when plays were performed, perhaps beforehand so people would know to come. There are no close-up pictures of the Globe; the swan flag may have flown over the Swan Theatre.

Nathan Lamm, 10 January 2003

I agree that the swan flag would have flown over the Swan Theatre. The flags were basically signals that on a certain day there would be performances. These were, of course, the days before mass communications and the flag that would be flown would be important as one could tell which theatre was holding a play. I have heard the concept of a globe held by Atlas was used as a symbol of the Globe Theatre, but to what extent? A photograph of the new Globe Theatre flag (not too clear) can be seen here, but is unlikely the original design.

According to a web page at my alma mater, advertising was prohibited, so the theatre owners would raise a flag and herald a trumpet fanfare signalling the imminent start of a production. The flag's color indicated the type of play: black signified tragedy; white, comedy; and red, history.

Phil Nelson, 10 January 2003

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