A Brief History 1576 – 1678 “Elizabethan Theatre”is a general term covering the plays written and performed publicly in England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558 – 1603). Derived from Medieval Theatre traditions such as mystery plays.
A Brief History (continued) Temporary companies of players attached to households of leading noblemen that performed seasonally in various locations existed before the reign of Elizabeth I and became the foundation for the professional players that performed on the Elizabethan stage (repertory). The attitude of the local London government towards public performances was hostile however it was outmatched by the Queen’s taste for plays and the Privy council’s support.
The Players The Players simply refers to the actors. All actors were men and younger boys would play female characters. Actors would form groups called companies (eg: the Queen’s men) that would be sponsored by nobles in orderto gain political protection. Needed to memorize as manyas 50 different parts for 25 differentplays in a single month as plays were rarely repeated.
Elizabethan Plays Intricate plots with deeper and more varied characterization. Growing emphasis on “real life” situations. Comedies usually ended in marriage.-Eg: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Merry Wives of Windsor. History plays were based off of lives of people and events that had transpired. -Eg: Henry V, Henry VIII, Richard II. Tragedies were plays with tragic heroes that undergo a series of unfortunate events which usually leads to the death of a lead character.-Eg: Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo & Juliet
Notable Playwrights William Shakespeare (26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616)-English poet and playwright-Wrote 38 plays, 154 sonnets and several poems- Eg: Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet, Julius Caesar. Christopher Marlowe (26 February 1564 – 30 May 1593)-English dramatist, poet and translator-Believed to have written 6 plays-Eg: Doctor Faustus, The Massacre at Paris.-Stabbed to death.
Costumes Expensive and elaborate-Embroidery, ruffs, pearls, lace, etc. Brightly coloured Helped distinguish various characters
Sets No sets or backdrops because they wanted the audience to use their imagination to create the scenery. No modern lighting (candles and natural light). Words were more valued than scenery.
Props Very important - make up for a lack of set. Expensive so they did not have many. Took a lot of time to make. Certain props symbolized certain places.-Eg: chairs, tables and mugs symbolized a tavern to the audience. Large scale props such as cannons have been known to be used.
Types of Theatres
Inn Yards Very popular as it provided alcohol and lodging. Performances were held in private Inns. A small fee was charged to playgoers as they entered the inn-yard. An additional fee was added onif they wanted to go up to abalcony level. The Audience capacity was up to500 people.
Inn Yards All of the major inns had large cobblestone yards where the plays were performed on. There was gambling and evenbear baiting in some of theInn yards. The stage was constructed onmoveable platforms supportedby Trestles (rigid frame usedas support). The temporary stages wereerected by the actors. Lighting – natural lighting wasused as most of the plays were in the afternoon.
Playhouses Elizabethan playhouses provided indoor venues for the production of Elizabethan plays. The venues were smaller androofed. Suitable for winter and eveningproductions. Admittance to the Playhouses was more expensive. Indoor Playhouses were exclusive - thecost prohibited the attendance of mostcommon folk.
Playhouses The Audience capacity was up to 500 people. The Great Halls in existing, prestigious buildings were used as playhouses for plays and performances. The indoor Playhouses were lighted by candles so plays could be staged at night. The use of candles led to theintroduction of intervalswhen candles that wereburnt out are replaced.
Playhouses Food and drinks were served, or sold, during the intervals. Music and songs were strongly featured - the acoustics of indoor theatres helped in this area. Beautiful scenerywas introduced (backdrops). The plays were selected to suit the indoor venues.
Amphitheatres The Elizabethan Amphitheatre was built in a similar style, but on a smaller scale, to the Roman Amphitheatres. It was designed to hold a capacity of up to 3000 people. One the most popular Elizabethan amphitheatres is the globe theatre.
Globe Theatre The Globe theatre was built in 1599 the Globe Theatre was opened on Bankside - the South of London. Up to 100 feet in diameter Stage dimensions of the theatre varied from 20 foot wide 15 foot deep to 45 feet to 30 feet Design and built based on theColosseum, but on a smallerscale. Stage was raised - 3 to 5 feet,supported by large pillars.
Globe Theatre Globe theatre took 6 months to build. The Building materials - Timber, nails, stone (flint), plaster and thatched roofs. Octagonal structure or circular in shape having between 8 and 24 sides Used natural lighting asplays were produced in theafternoon. However there wassome artificial lighting mainlyintended to provideatmosphere for night scenes.
Interior of Globe Theatre
Interior of the Globe Theatre
Interior of Globe Theatre The Galleries - The galleries had rows of wooden seats and were accessed from a back corridor and had a roof offering shelter from bad or rainy weather. Stairs and Access – usually only one main entrance, but later designs had more stairs into the galleries. The Stage– where the performance occurs. The Pit/Yard- the cheapest part of the Globe Theater and the audience had to stand. Surrounding the stage on all 3 sides.
Interior of the Globe Theatre The Heavens - an area hidden from the audience, A selection of ropes & rigging would allow for special effects, such as flying or dramatic entries The FronsScenae- a doorway to the left and right and a curtained central doorway from which the actors made their entrances Lord's rooms- used by the rich members of the audience, the Upper Classes and the Nobility, were considered the best seats in the house. Gentlemen's rooms- These seats were for rich patrons of the Globe theatre. Tiring House- The actors used this area to change their attire. The Hut - used as a covered storage space for the acting troupe.