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What is a groundling?

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, Southbank, London
Image by Dramagirl via Flickr

Those wonderful one-penny ticket audience members who stood in the yard of Shakespeare’s theatre were a rowdy and indiscriminate lot by all accounts. Hamlet had a few words to say about them. They were, “for the most part, capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb shows and noise.” But hey, they bought the ticket, and supported the company.

Today the groundlings at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London pay considerably more than a penny for the privilege of standing in the yard.  They love theatre just as much, but maybe aren’t as hardy as their ancestors.  Whenever possible, they attempt to find somewhere to sit.  Sadly, the eagle-eyed stewards are on the job and keep the groundlings where they belong … standing … in their place.

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