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Theater in Shakespeare


Theater in Shakespeare s Day By Julie Rittenhouse For the Hamlet to Hamlet unit English Literature, Grade 12 12 July 2005 That was then Going to the ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Theater in Shakespeare

Theater in Shakespeares Day
  • By Julie Rittenhouse
  • For the Hamlet to Hamlet unit
  • English Literature, Grade 12
  • 12 July 2005

That was then
  • Going to the theater in Shakespeare's day was a
    completely different experience from what it is
  • Shakespeares theater, The Globe, was typical,
    with a majority of the audience standing in the
    open air in front of the stage.
  • If it rained, most of the audience would get wet.

Sounds dramatic to me
  • Audiences were not a quiet bunch but a riotous
    crowd who could purchase food and drink from
    strolling vendors during the course of the
  • The poorest, called groundlings, had to stand
    for the duration.
  • If the performance failed to please, they would
    talk, jeer, catcall or hiss.

Money made a difference
  • For twice the price of admission the middle class
    could sit in seats with a roof over their head in
    curved tiers around the inside of the building.
  • The very important or rich could sit in a
    position directly above the stage or even on
    stools on stage.

Early arrival for Company
  • The Globes company arrived early on the morning
    of a performance as there was much to do to get
    ready they had to set up, rehearse, maybe even

Frequent Rehearsals
  • Rehearsals were frequent in Shakespeares theater
    because there were often changes to the
    scriptand they were always doing new playsoften
    at the same time as others.

Run up the White Flag
  • People knew there would be a performance at the
    Globe that day when they saw a white flag flying
    from the turret.

Daytime Drama
  • All lighting was natural.
  • Plays began at two o'clock, the beginning of the
    show being announced by a trumpet fanfare and
    three sharp knocks.

No women allowed
  • Very few women came to see plays in the
    Elizabethan era.
  • Even if they were escorted by men it was
    considered risque behavior.
  • Queen Elizabeth occasionally attended, though.

Boys took womens roles
  • Few, if any, women appeared on stage during
    Shakespeares day. Acting was considered a taboo
    profession for women.
  • Usually young boys (before their voices changed)
    played the part of girls and older men played
    older women.

Entrances and Exits
  • The stage was surrounded by the public in the
    central yard on three sides.
  • The most luxurious amount of scenery would be to
    have a curtain at the rear that would cover the
    three doors through which all entrances and exits
    were made.

Give them their Props
  • Only essential props such as a bed or a throne
    were brought onto the stage.
  • The imagery was painted in the words of the
    playwright and the imaginations of the audiences

"I'll meet by moonlight, proud Titania!"
  • Nighttime could be suggested by the actors
    carrying torches or lanterns, but
  • mostly the language created the stage setting.

Dressing the Part
  • Authenticity in costume design is considered
    important in modern day productions, but in
    Shakespeare's time the actors supplied their own
  • As a result, a variety of periods of design could
    stand next to one another on stage.

Playing to the Crowd
  • An actor could see the audience as well as they
    could see him, so a great connection was
    established between the two.
  • The actor would play himself against the crowd
    and would sometimes improvise speeches of his own
    to suit the occasion.

The Globe Theater
  • The Globe Theatre was constructed in 1599, out of
    timber taken from the Theatre.
  • It stood next to the Rose, on the south side of
    the Thames, and was the most elaborate and
    attractive theatre yet built.

The Chamberlains Men
  • The Globe was designed and constructed for the
    Chamber-lain's Men by Cuthbert Burbage, son of
    the Theatre's creator, James Burbage.

Neither a borrower nor a lender
  • The lease for the land on which the Globe stood
    was co-owned by Burbage and his brother Robert,
    and by a group of five actors including William
  • Much of Shakespeare's wealth came from his
    holdings in the Globe.

An equal share
  • Both the Lord Chamberlains Men and later the
    Kings Men shared equally in the expenses and
    income of their theater.
  • That meant each got 1/16th of the profits and
    paid 1/16th of the expenses.

6 sides, 3 stories, 0 roof
  • The Globe was a hexagonal structure with an inner
    court about 55 feet across. It was three-stories
    high and had no roof.
  • The open courtyard and three semicircular
    galleries could together hold more than 1,500

The Outer Stage
  • The stage had two primary parts 1) The outer
    stage, which was a rectangular platform
    projecting into the courtyard, from the back
    wall. Above it were a thatched roof and hangings
    but no front or side curtains.

The Inner Stage
  • 2) The inner stage was the recess between two
    projecting wings at the very back of the outer
  • This stage was used by actors who were in a scene
    but not directly involved in the immediate action
    of the play, and it was also used when a scene
    takes place in an inner room.

Hell on earth
  • Underneath the floors of the outer and inner
    stages was a large cellar called "hell", allowing
    for the dramatic appearance of ghosts and the
  • It was accessed by two or more trap-doors on the
    outer stage and one trap door "the grave trap" as
    scholars call it, on the inner stage.
  • Actors in "hell" would be encompassed by
    darkness, with the only light coming from tiny
    holes in the floor or from the tiring-house
    stairway at the very back of the cellar.

The Tiring House
  • The tiring-house, the three story section at the
    back of the playhouse, contained the dressing
    rooms, the prop room, the musician's gallery, and
    connecting passageways.
  • It was enclosed in curtains at all times so the
    less dramatic elements of play production would
    be hidden from the audience.

No curtain call
  • Unlike our modern auditoriums with cloaked main
    stages, and seating limited to the front view,
    the Elizabethan playhouses were open to the
    public eye at every turn, and scenery could not
    be changed in between scenes because there was no
    curtain to drop.

Walk-off, stage-clearing drawl
  • It was no coincidence that in all of
    Shakespeare's plays, the scene, no matter how
    dramatic or climatic, ended on a denouement, with
    the actors walking off or being carried off the

Imagination required
  • It would seem that Shakespearean audiences got
    more out of their play-going experience because
    they had to put more of themselves into it.
  • Today, we wouldnt dream of letting the actors
    see or hear our reactions to the plot or their
    skill. We are told to sit still and stay quiet
    until the end of the act.
  • In Shakespeares day, the audience had more input
    and influence.

Comprehension and Recall Quiz
  1. How were performances at the Globe Theater
    influenced by the weather?
  2. Why did the Globes company arrive so early on
    the morning of a performance?
  3. Why were rehearsals so frequent in Shakespeare

The Quiz continues
  • What was the proportion of women to men in
    theater audiences of the Elizabethan era and why?
  • What was the role of women players in the theater
    in the Elizabethan age? Compare their position
    during this period with those of more recent
  • Who owned and managed the Globe? How were its
    expenses and income shared?

This is Now
  • Which theater experience would you prefer,
    Shakespeares or contemporary Bostons. Explain

Works Cited
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  • Mabillard, Amanda. Shakespeare's Globe.
    Shakespeare Online. 2000. http//www.shakespeare-o (July 12, 2005).