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How did Shakespeare himself stage the casket scene in The Merchant of Venice? How was the dying Anthony “heaved aloft” into Cleopatra’s monument? How did Prospero direct the scene wherein Ariel swoops down out of the heavens to confound the enemies of Prospero and cause the banquet they are about to eat to “vanish”? Such questions, and many others, can be answered only by a scholar familiar with the actual construction of the Globe playhouse and other Elizabethan theatres.
About one-fourth of John Adams’ study is devoted to establishing various hitherto misunderstood details relating to the design of the Globe, the disposition of the audience, and similar questions. The greater part of his book has to do with the design and equipment of the multiple stage. His data have been gathered from a careful study of every extant play of the period from 1540 to 1663, all available contemporary records bearing upon the subject, and the various specialized inquiries of stage historians. His work, which is the first attempt at a complete and unified reconstruction of the Globe, throws a flood of new light on the whole early history of the English stage and English dramatic literature. There are some seventeen illustrations, including a portion of an extremely important pictorial view of London made by Visscher sometime between 1606 and 1614.