Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Elizabethan Theatre

            In England, prior to 1576 or the reign of queen Elizabeth I there were no established theatres in the country. Actors of that time wandered around looking for spectators. They usually performed in the courtyards of Royal Palaces or anywhere that could accommodate large audiences. Along with the drawback of no permanent acting house or theatre, actors had to deal with the social stigma accompanied with their trade; they were usually regarded as vagabonds.
            In 1576, actors could finally enjoy performing in a permanent theatre when James Burbage, an actor who was once a carpenter built England’s first theatre located in Shoreditch. It was given an effortless name, “The Theatre”. The main area of the theatre was opened to the sky with a large yard for spectators who couldn’t afford seats to stand. The cheapest seats in the theatre were normally 2 pence. The theatre was later closed in 1599; however James Burbage’s son stripped it down and hauled it across town to Bankside where it took 6 months to reconstruct. It was called The Globe. It was not known for sure if the theatre was actually shaped like a globe but from Shakespeare’s description in one of his play’s leads historians to believe this.
            Unfortunately, in 1613 during a performance of Henry III, a canon that was fired caught fire to the thatched roof and the theatre burnt down. The Globe was rebuilt; however it was closed permanently in 1644 when all plays were banned by Parliament. It was only in the 20th century was a new theatre built and opened for acting.
            During that era actors did not enjoy the luxury afforded by modern-day actors today. The theatres did not have a set or lighting. Therefore, performances had to be held in daylight. They also utilized little props and costumes and music and songs were used to set the scene. It was also difficult for actors to capture the audience because they were normally loud and frequently ate and drank while watching the play.
            Other theatres included: The Curtain and The Swan which were public theatres and The Cockpit and Blackfriars which were private.


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