Elizabethan Theaters Cassidi Murphy period 1

Picture 1: Blackfriars Theater (inside), 2: Full view of The Globe (inside), 3: Ground view of the top of The Globe (inside), 4: Outside perspective of The Globe.

Thesis: The Elizabethan theaters had important components that made them different from other theaters such as their structure, play components, and acting companies and history.

Elizabethan Theater Buildings

Quote #1: "By the late 1500’s, Elizabethan plays were being performed in two kinds of theater buildings—later called public and private theaters. Public theaters were larger than private ones and held at least 2,500 people. They were built around a courtyard that had no roof. Public theaters gave performances only during daylight hours because they had no artificial lights" (Lander).

Commentary: Public theaters were for everyone while private theaters were for the wealthy and upperclassmen. I wonder why the public theaters didn't use artificial light. They would be able to do performances at night, they would just have to use candles and lanterns.

Quote #2: "The Winter’s Tale, Cymbeline, and The Tempest all take advantage of the different kinds of staging made possible by the Blackfriars. For example, these later plays used the more sophisticated stage machinery to represent flight" (Lander).

Commentary: Even though the private theaters were more sophisticated and had more technology, public theaters still had much bigger audiences because everyone could afford it. Plus, plays were only performed in the winter. I wonder how much it cost to see a play in a private theater.

Quote #3: "In his play Henry V , Shakespeare called his theater a "wooden O". It was a large, round ( or polygonal ) building, three stories high, with a large platform stage that projected from one end into a yard open to the sky" (Anderson).

Commentary: Shakespeare's theater, The Globe, an Elizabethan Theater was very unique because of its shape. It was shaped like an O so that everyone had a clear view of the play since there was seating all around the theater. Plus, the stage was right in the middle of everything giving everyone a clear view of the play and performers.

Quote #4: " A canopy, called the "heavens" or the "shadow," extended over the stage from its rear wall. The stage itself probably contained one or more trapdoors, often used to represent graves or the mouth of hell. A balcony or upper stage was commonly provided and was used in such scenes as the famous balcony scene (2.2) of Romeo and Juliet" (Boyce).

Commentary: The trapdoors made the plays more entertaining and portrayed a realistic dissent into hell. The stage had many components that helped make the play more interesting and realistic. Furthermore, the stage was elaborately decorated and painted. The heavens were painted like, well, the heavens, with all of the zodiac signs.

Pictures 1-2: Shows how Elizabethan Theaters had little to no scenery. Pictures 3-5: Shows the colorful and elaborate costumes the performers wore.

Play Components

Quote #5: "Unlike most modern dramas, Elizabethan plays did not depend on scenery to indicate the setting (place) of the action. Generally, the setting was unknown to the audience until the characters identified it with a few lines of dialogue" (Lander).

Commentary: Plays back then were very different from plays today. Today, scenery and special effects are used to entertain the audience while back then, the intellectual dialogue is what held the audience's attention. In modern plays, backdrops, props, decorations, and lighting is used to identify a setting compared to the olden days, when a few words could turn the stage into forest.

Quote #6: "In addition, the main stage had no curtain. One scene could follow another quickly because there was no curtain to close and open and no scenery to change. The lack of scenery also allowed the action to flow freely from place to place, as in modern motion pictures" (Lander).

Commentary: The plays in the Elizabethan time didn't need an abundance of props or scenery to make the play good. It actually made them better not having them because it allowed the play to flow freely without stops and interruptions.

Quote #7: "The absence of scenery did not result in dull or drab productions. Acting companies spent much money on colorful costumes, largely to produce visual splendor. Flashing swords and swirling banners also added color and excitement. Sound effects had an important part in Elizabethan drama. Trumpet blasts and drum rolls were common. Sometimes unusual sounds were created, such as "the noise of a sea-fight" called for in Antony and Cleopatra" (Lander).

Commentary: The costumes and sound effects made up for the absence of scenery and props. Even though there was no scenery, no excitement of the crowd was lost because of it. The plays included lots of color, sound, and elaborate costumes. In result, the plays were anything but somber.

Picture 1: The King's Men acting company. Picture 2: The structure and different parts of The Globe Theater. Picture 3-4: Shows how men played women parts. Picture 5: Shows an old play being performed by all male actors.

Acting Companies and The History of Shakespeare's Theater

Quote #8: "Acting companies consisted of only men and boys because women did not perform on the Elizabethan stage. A typical acting company had 8 to 12 sharers, a number of salaried workers, and apprentices. The sharers were the company's leading actors as well as its stockholders" (Lander).

Commentary: I wonder why women weren't allowed to perform in plays and why it was looked down upon. An acting company had a lot of sharers, so the money that was made was split between many people. Not only was there sharers, there was also workers and trainees that had to get paid. The money they made was spread very thin.

Quote #9: "By 1594, he was a charter member of the theatrical company called the Lord Chamberlain's Men, which was later to become the King's Men. (As the names of these acting companies indicate, theatrical groups depended on the support of a wealthy patron-the King's Men were supported by Kings James himself)" (Anderson).

Commentary: The King's men were on of the most famous theatrical groups of all time. After he joined them, Shakespeare ended up working for them for the rest of his career. As you can see, the acting company was well supported since a king backed them up. One of the reasons why they did so well was because of Shakespeare's exceptional plays that he wrote.

Quote #10: "Globe Theatre was an early open-air English theater in London. Most of the great English playwright William Shakespeare's plays were first presented at the Globe. The brothers Cuthbert and Richard Burbage constructed the theater in 1599 from the timbers of London's first playhouse, called The Theatre" (Seidel).

Commentary: The Globe was one of the most attended theaters back then. It was cheap and had rows of seating all around the building. One of the reasons it was so popular was because most of Shakespeare's plays were performed there, and his plays were the best and most entertaining. Although, since there was no roof, plays were only performed in the daytime because they didn't use any artificial light.

Works Cited

Anderson, Robert. “Shakespeare and His Theater: A Perfect Match.” Holt Literature & Language Arts: Mastering the California Standards: Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking, by G. Kylene Beers et al., Austin, Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 2003, pp. 778-80.

Anderson, Robert. “William Shakespeare’s Life: A Genius From Stratford.” Holt Literature & Language Arts: Mastering the California Standards: Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking, by G. Kylene Beers et al., Austin, Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 2003, pp. 776-77.

Boyce, Charles. “Elizabethan theatre.” Critical Companion to William Shakespeare: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work, Critical Companion. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2005. Bloom’s Literature.

Lander, Jesse M. “Shakespeare, William.” World Book Advanced. World Book, 2016. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

Seidel, Michael. “Globe Theatre.” World Book Advanced. World Book, 2016. Web. 2 Dec. 2016.


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