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Theater Experience of Elizabethan England


Most of this leisure came either after church on Sundays or on the holidays ... was rediscovered in the 20th century and a reconstruction built near the spot. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Theater Experience of Elizabethan England

Theater Experience of Elizabethan England
  • The Elizabethan era is the period associated with
    the rule of Queen Elizabeth I (15581603)
  • It was the height of the English Renaissance when
    poetry and literature flourished.
  • Most prominent playwriter William Shakespeare

Everyday Life
  • Crimes of treason and Offenses against the state
    were treated with the same severity that murder
    and rape are today
  • Leisure was an important part of the lives of the
    English people during the Elizabethan Age. Most
    of this leisure came either after church on
    Sundays or on the holidays
  • Great cultural achievement, particularly in the
    area of music and drama. In that time, musical
    literacy was expected in the upper class of
  • Dancing was also a popular activity. The dances
    were mostly performed by couples
  • Hunting was a favorite pastime for people,
    especially rich people. Queen Elizabeth herself
    loved to hunt.
  • Plagues - Widespread diseases have been serious
    medical problems for a long time.

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Culture and Customs
  • Hairstyle was an important issue for the men and
  • of the Elizabethan time. Both sexes took pride
    and joy in
  • making their hair look as fabulous as the next
  • Fashion in the Elizabethan age was a way of
  • one's self the fashiotruly helped to reveal the
    general culture of the period.
  • Any part of the costume was likely to be
    decorated with braid, embroidery, pinking
    (pricking in patterns) slashing, or puffing, or
    it might be encrusted with pearls, jewels, or
    spangles or trimmed with lace or artificial
    flowers. Men's clothing, like that of women, was
  • gorgeous with color and ornamentation

The creation and development of the Elizabethan
The Strolling Players
  • Before the 1500's there were no such
  • thing as a theatre in England
  • Wandering minstrels who travelled from
  • one town and castle to the next
  • Some street players who entertained
  • people at markets and fairs
  • They were expected to memorize long
  • poems and these recitals were included in their

The licensed Acting Troupes
  • Many of the wandering minstrels,
  • or strolling players, were viewed as
  • vagabonds and had the reputation
  • as thieves
  • Licenses were required to travel.
  • This led to licenses for entertainers.
  • Licenses were granted to the nobles
  • of England for the maintenance of
  • troupes of players.
  • The Elizabethan Acting Troupes were formed and
    the development of the Elizabethan Theatre moved

  • During the 16th century, theater had a bad
    reputation London authorities refused to allow
    plays within the city, so theatres opened across
    the Thames in Southwark, outside the authority of
    the city administration.
  • The first proper theatre as we know it was the
    Theatre, built at Shoreditch in 1576. Before this
    time plays were performed in the courtyard of
    inns, or sometimes, in the houses of noblemen.
  • A noble had to be careful about which play he
    allowed to be performed within his home, however.
    Anything that was controversial or political was
    likely to get him in trouble with the crown!

The Inn-yards
  • The Audience capacity was up to
  • 500 people
  • There was gambling and there was
  • even bear baiting in some of the
  • Inn Yards
  • The plays were performed in the
  • cobblestone yards of inn yards
  • Elizabethan Inn Yards were at their
  • peak between 1576 - 1594
  • Some Inn Yards were eventually
  • converted to Playhouses, an indoor alternative to
    the massive open air theatres which were to

The Inn-yards (The Rose)

  • After the Theatre, further open air playhouses
    opened in the London area, including the Rose
    (1587), and the Hope (1613). The most famous
    playhouse was the Globe (1599)
  • The Globe was only in use until 1613, when a
    canon fired during a performance of Henry VIII
    caught the roof on fire and the building burned
    to the ground. The site of the theatre was
    rediscovered in the 20th century and a
    reconstruction built near the spot.
  • These theatres could hold several thousand
    people, most standing in the open pit before the
    stage, though rich nobles could watch the play
    from a chair set on the side of the stage itself.

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Did You Know
  • Elizabeth granted the first royal patent to the
    Servants of the Earl of Leicester in 1574. These
    "Servants" were James Burbage and four partners
    they were given the right to play "comedies,
    tragedies, interludes, stage-plays and other
    such-like" in London and in all other towns and
    boroughs in the realm of England
  • Under Elizabeth political and religious subjects
    were forbidden on the stage.

  • Respectable people and officers of the Church
    frequently made complaint of the growing number
    of play-actors and shows.
  • They said that the plays were often lewd and
    profane, that play-actors were mostly vagrant,
    irresponsible, and immoral people and that the
    theater itself was a public danger in the way of
    spreading disease. The streets were overcrowded
    after performances crimes occurred in the crowd.
  • Despite the Churchs complaints, Elizabeth
    encouraged the development of theater.

  • Nine Public playhouses were built between 1576
    and 1642.The three most important were all
    outside the city limits of London
  • The Globe (1599)
  • The Fortune (1600)
  • The Swan (?)
  • Most famous of all were the Globe, built in 1598
    by Richard Burbage, and the Fortune, built in

General features of public playhouses
  • Varied in size largest seated 2-3,000.
  • Varying shapes round, rectagonal, octagonal
  • The stage was raised, 4-6 feet, extending to the
    center of the yard.
  • A "Tiring house" at the rear of the raised
    platform where the actors would wait and change.

  • The stage was roofed called "the
    heavens"supported by columns. Flying was common,
    with cranes and ropes.
  • Traps in the floor, for fire, smoke, other
  • A hut above the Tiring House, for equipment and
  • Flag on top of hut to signal performance day.
  • Musicians gallery, below hut, third level.

The Playhouses
  • Elizabethan playhouses were suitable
  • for winter and evening productions
  • The plays produced at Elizabethan
  • playhouses were selected to suit the indoor
  • venues - the emphasis was on the words of
  • the play rather than noisy special effects
  • which were strong features of the open air
  • theatres. The Playhouses were more comfortable
  • and luxurious than other theatres
  • Admittance to the Playhouses were more expensive
    than the other types of Elizabethan theatres.
    Attending a public theatre performance would cost
    between 1 to 3 pennies, but admission to a
    private, indoor, theatre cost between 2 to 26
  • The cost prohibited the attendance of most common
    folk at the Elizabethan Playhouses
  • Everyone was given a seat in the Elizabethan
    playhouses- the higher the price of admission,
    the more comfortable the seat was

Globe Theatre
  • The Globe Theatre was a theatre in London
    associated with William Shakespeare.
  • A hexagonal shaped with a roof extending over the
    stage only. The audience stood in the yard, or
    pit, or sat in the boxes built around the walls.
    Sometimes the young gallants sat on the stage.
  • It was built in 1599 by Shakespeare's playing
    company, the Lord Chamberlain's Men, and was
    destroyed by fire on June 29, 1613.
  • A second Globe Theatre was rebuilt on the same
    site by June 1614 and closed in 1642

Indoor / Private Theatres
  • Smaller, roofed.
  • Troupes did shows in winter when it was too cold
    to be outside suggesting that the staging was
    probably similar.
  • 1576 Blackfriars a former monastery was
    the first one closed by 1584.
  • The New Blackfriars opened in 1596 by James
    Burbage. Their company, the Kings Men, used it
    after 1610 as their winter performance area.
  • By the time of Shakespeare (1595?), actors had
    achieved a satisfactory level of financial and
    social stability.

  • By 1642, there were six private theatres in
  • Private theatre rose in popularity from 1610 to
    1642. Public theatres were used only during the
    five warm months.
  • Size about ¼ - ½ of the seating capacity of the
    public theatres.
  • Spectators sat in the pit or in galleries or
    private boxes. The stages were probably similar.

At the end of the reign of Elizabeth there were
eleven theaters in London, including public and
private houses. Various members of the royal
family were the ostenstible patrons of the new
  • Public performances generally took place in the
    afternoon, beginning about three o'clock and
    lasting perhaps two hours.
  • Candles were used when daylight began to fade.
  • The beginning of the play was announced by the
    hoisting of a flag and the blowing of a trumpet.
  • at the close of the play the actors, on their
    knees, recited an address to the king or queen.
  • The price of entrance varied with the theater,
    the play, and the actors but it was roughly a
    penny to sixpence for the pit, up to half a crown
    for a box.

  • Noble women were very careful of their
    reputations and wore masks not to be recognized.
  • The audience was near and could view the stage
    from three sides
  • People were allowed to throw things at the actors
    if they did not like the play
  • At first there was little music, but soon players
    of instruments were added to the company.
  • The stage was covered with straw or rushes. There
    may have been a painted wall with trees and
    hedges, or a castle interior with practicable
  • A placard announced the scene. Stage machinery
    seems never to have been out of use, though in
    the early Elizabethan days it was primitive.

  • The playwright used poetic dialogue
  • to
  • - paint a picture of the scene
  • - establish the time and the place of
  • the action
  • - familiarize the audience both with
  • the characters identities and their
  • physical appearances
  • Soliloquies and asides were also
  • used to compensate for the absence
  • of an elaborate stage.

  • Although most of the plays written for the
  • Elizabethan stage have been lost, over 600 remain
  • extant.
  • The men (no women were professional dramatists
  • in this era) who wrote these plays were primarily
  • self-made men from modest backgrounds. Some of
  • them were educated at either Oxford or Cambridge,
    but many
  • were not
  • Most famous playwrights of the time were
    Shakespeare, Marlowe and Jonson
  • First English tragedy was Gorboduc
  • First English comedy was Ralph Roister Doister
    by Nicholas Udall

William Shakespeare
  • William Shakespeare (baptised April 26, 1564
    April 23, 1616) was an English poet and
    playwright. Shakespeare is considered by many to
    be the greatest writer in the English language,
    as well as one of the greatest in Western
    literature, and the world's preeminent dramatist.

General characteristics of his plays
  • Early point of attack
  • Several lines of action (subplots), independent
    at first, then somehow merge together unity in
    apparent diversity (King Lear  is a perfect
  • Large number and variety of incidents mixing of
    tears and laughter gentle and violent passions
  • Time and space used freely a sense of ongoing
    life behind the scenes

  • Large range and number of characters 30 is
    common rich and poor, all individuals.
  • Varied language elegant, ribald, witty, prosaic
    all to enhance character and action
  • Subjects from many sources (mythology, history,
    legend, fiction, plays) but reworked to become
    his own.
  • His four greatest tragedies are Hamlet, Lear,
    Macbeth, Othello

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