The London Theatres in the Elizabethan London

The London Theatres in the Elizabethan London

-        London: large population, place of political and economical Power

-        main centre of  English intellectual life

-        centre for inland and overseas trade

-        rich merchants interested to open up new markets for England

-        theatre-going one of the favourite pastimes


-        mixed audience

-        primary for the crowd

-        stood  in the open around the stage

-        wealthier people sat in the distance in Lord's rooms or galleries

private playhouses:

-        in the walls of existing buildings

-        benches next to stage

-        smaller audience capacity

-        higher admission prices

3 Elizabethan audiences

  1. genteel audience of the private theatres
  2. plebeian audience
  3. both mixed

-        typical Shakespeare's audience, plays were mostly written for this kind

-        theatrical tariffs designed for working-class audience

-        1605 160.000 people living in Westminster

-        16% of London's population went to theatre every week

-        the Swan could hold 3000 people

-        the Fortune and the Rose capacity of 2500

-        Rose daily visitors 1160-1250 people

-        private theatres capacity of 1000

-        prices:

public:            a penny per person for standing place

                  + 1 penny seats in a gallery

                        + 1 penny comfortable seat in lords'rooms


private:           6 pennys

-        weekly wage of a workman 1601 84 pence

-        capacity of the Globe 2000 people

Origins of the Elizabethan Stage

-        churches searched for more effective way to teach the holy bible

-        10th century short dramatic presentations of biblical scenes

-        12th till 15th short plays

-        first in Latin later in English (Miracle Plays)

-        later more complex plays

-        put in different locations of the church (called mansions or houses)

-        first placed in the church

-        organization and acting done by clergy, later guilds (craftsmen)

-        wooden boxes now outside of churches in a row or in a half-circle

-        each box an other scene and its own group of actors

-        most action  took place in front of the mansions (playne)

-        pageant-method - mansions put on wheeled - wagons

-        rolled through the streets

-        audience stayed where they were

-        each pageant carried a two-storied wooden structure (4 vertical poles in each corner)

-        whole structure could be hidden from or presented to the audience's view

-        upper storey à used for actions on the city walls or on a window

-        lower storey à used for ground floor of a house or its rooms (normally kept open)

-        15th and 16th century Miracle Plays replaced by Morality Plays

-        taught a moral

-        abstract notions appeared on stage as persons (like Sin, Death, Knowledge)

-        Interludes popular

-        since 14th century

-        consisted of short and witty dialogues (social, religious or political satire)

-        presented in temporary stages not in public places

-        other kind of stage also yards in large inns

-        u-shaped, 2 long walls opposite each other with a short wall linking them

-        2 pageants placed against on the walls in a distance

-        between them a small platform

-        this platform à stage

-        became bigger "pit"

-        occupied by the audience

-        kind of neutral ground, depended on the actors what they used this for

-        2 pageants less important

-        later put on the opposite sides of the oblong Elizabethan stage

-        parted in 2 rows of several wooden structures, open or closed

-        representing city walls or storeys of houses but could changed into different functions

-        mostly presented on public places à problem: how getting money from the audience?

-        enclosed places the audience had to pay entrance

-        other location: in bear gardens

-        The baiting of Bulls and Bears à pop. Sport in England

-        animals attack each other and fight till death

-        arenas also used by actors

-        audience stood around the oval arena or sat down on the expensive galleries

-        in these theatres fruits, wine and ale were sold

Beginnings of Elizabethan public theatre

-        models for the public playhouses in London at end of 16th and beginning 17th century

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