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Shakespearean Theatre Notes

Page history last edited by Julie E Ruble 6 years, 7 months ago

-Early Renaissance Theatre:

Born out of Miracle and Morality Plays: Plays in churches depicting the lives of saints, or telling some Biblical story.  Later, towards the Renaissance, Morality Plays would be traveling bands with an Everyman character who was innocent but undergoing temptation.  Good and evil characters would try to persuade him (and the audience). Meant to teach a lesson.


COSTUMES:  Since Elizabethan theatre did not make use of lavish scenery, instead leaving the stage largely bare with a few key props, the main visual appeal on stage was in the costumes. Costumes were often bright in color and visually entrancing. Costumes were expensive, however, so usually players wore contemporary clothing regardless of the time period of the play. Occasionally, a lead character would wear a conventionalized version of more historically accurate garb, but secondary characters would nonetheless remain in contemporary clothing.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_Renaissance_theatre)


-Shakespeare:  Born on April 26, 1564, and died on April 23, 1616.  His surviving works include 38 plays, 154 sonnets, and other poems. His career in writing probably began in the mid-1580s.  His plays were performed only by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, a playing company in London that included Shakespeare himself.  When Queen Elizabeth died in 1603, James I granted them a royal patent and they became known as the King’s Men.  In 1599, a partnership of company members built the Globe Theatre.


-The Globe Theatre:  

PHYSICAL: At the base of the stage, there was an area called the pit or yard where, for a penny, people (the "groundlings") would stand on the rush-strewn earthen floor to watch the performance. During the excavation of the Globe in 1989 a layer of nutshells was found, pressed into the dirt flooring so as to form a new surface layer. A rectangle stage platform, also known as an 'apron stage', thrust out into the middle of the open-air yard. On this stage, there was a trap door for use by performers to enter from the "cellarage" area beneath the stage. No electrical lighting, so most plays take place in daylight.

AUDIENCE:  Characters in Shakespeare plays don’t talk to themselves – always talking to another character, God, or the audience.  The audience plays an active role in the play.  They think Shakespeare includes so much comedy even in his tragic plays in order to keep audiences entertained.  Environment would be more like a basketball game than like modern theatre.  (Read “Performances” section ofhttp://www.theatrehistory.com/british/bellinger001.html:


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. There were playbills, those for tragedy being printed in red. Often after a serious piece a short farce was also given; and 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. A three-legged stool on the stage at first cost sixpence extra; but this price was later doubled.

The house itself was not unlike a circus, with a good deal of noise and dirt. Servants, grooms, 'prentices and mechanics jostled each other in the pit, while more or less gay companies filled the boxes. Women of respectability were few, yet sometimes they did attend; and if they were very careful of their reputations they wore masks. On the stage, which ran far out into the auditorium, would be seated a few of the early gallants, playing cards, smoking, waited upon by their pages; and sometimes eating nuts or apples and throwing things out among the crowd.



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