THE ELIZABETHAN THEATRE
Updated: Oct 5, 2020
The early part of the Elizabethan age was a period of strolling players.
Actors go the audience to stage a play.
These players performed in improvised “theatres” anywhere like tavern yards, palaces or gentlemen’s houses.
The most important were the Admiral’s Men and the Chamberlain’s Men.
Both these companies were patronized by Queen Elizabeth.
James I who succeeded Elizabeth took Chamberlain’s Men under his protection.
Thereafter the company was called the “King’s Men”
Shakespeare in most of his career as a dramatist belonged to this company.
The first permanent theatre was built in 1576 by James Burbage.
It was called “The Theatre” as it was the only one of its kind in existence.
‘Rose’ theatre was built in 1587.
The ‘Globe’ was built in 1599.
The ‘Fortune’ was built in 1600 in square shape.
The Swan was octagonal in shape.
In Elizabethan period the theatre was half open to the sky.
The plays were acted during daytime.
In the end of Shakespeare’s career great changes for the better took place.
In 1608 James Burbage bought the refectory of old Blackfriars Monastery and converted it into an indoor playhouse.
Here plays were acted by daylight and therefore more stage effects were possible.
The main drawback of stage arrangement in Elizabethan theatre was that there were no proper stage appliances.
It is hard to produce the effect of change in time and place without these appliances.
Placards were used to announce the location of the action.
But Shakespeare tried to convey the effects of place, time and action through the dialogues between characters.
There was no drop curtain in the Elizabethan theatre.
The end of a scene was often indicated by a rhyming couplet.
No Female Performers:
In Elizabethan stage there were no female performers.
The acting profession was entirely masculine.
It was only in restoration period that professional actress became an accepted part of the English theatre.
Women’s parts were therefore played by young boys trained from childhood.
This is the reason why Shakespeare have few women in most of his plays.
He had his own diffidence about the effect so he created heroines like Rosalind, Viola and Beatrice to appear under the disguise of boys.
He also made some characters like Lady Macbeth and Cleopatra to complaint about this in their own dialogues.
Small motley crowd drawn from all section of society.
They all were different in tastes, education and wealth.
Most of them are highly superstitious, believing in ghosts, witches and witch crafts.
They were fond of witnessing scenes of violence like brutal fights and bear-baiting.
Those who could pay well were seated in the galleries from where they could have a better view of the performances.
There were also boxes for the well-to-do.
Some of the most privileged persons sat on stools on the stage.
They also pass remarks on the acting of the players.
The rest of the audience known as groundlings.
They were mostly unruly and noisly section of the spectators.
They paid just a penny and stood on the floor around the uncovered part of the stage which jutted into the yard.
Plays and Dramas:
The Elizabethan age was a period of transition from the old religious drama to modern non-religious plays.
It is often said that the church was the cradle of English drama.
In the beginning the dumb shows were performed inside the Church or the Church premises by the clergymen.
They were followed by the Miracle plays and Morality plays.
These plays were enacted with the purpose of imparting both instruction and entertainment.
After the renaissance there was revival of learning which influenced non-religious drama.
At first these plays were written with classical tradition including: the three unities of time, place and action.
Later these rules were broken and the modern type drama was evolved.
The first English dramatist of some originality was Robert Greene, one of the University Wits.
For more info: https://www.snappynotes.net/post/robert-greene-a-biography
The first tragedy in English was the famous Spanish tragedy written by Thomas Kyd.
For more info: https://www.snappynotes.net/post/thomas-kyd-a-biography
However, Christopher Marlowe, the author of Tamberlaine, the Jew of Malta, Dr. Faustus and Edward II, is recognized by all as the father of English Tragedy.
For more info:https://www.snappynotes.net/post/christopher-marlowe-a-biography
It is a fact that the major part of an Elizabethan play is in verse and not in prose.
The presiding deity however, of the Elizabethan stage was William Shakespeare whose dramatic career extended to about twenty years from 1590 to 1610. For more information about William Shakespeare and his works https://www.snappynotes.net/post/a-brief-biography-of-shakespeare https://www.snappynotes.net/post/the-importance-of-shakespeare-essay-ashlee-jenson
Social History of England by Louise Creighton
An Introduction to the Social History of England by A.G.Xavier
A Short History of Social Life in England by M B Synge