Ancient greek roman and elizabethan theatres Essay

This essay has a total of 1266 words and 6 pages.

ancient greek roman and elizabethan theatres

Of the many types of entertainment and past times we have today, theatre is still one
of the most loved. For this we have to thank the very earliest forms of ancient Greek
and Roman theatre. These ancient time plays were staged often in honor of a god and
have paved the way for theatre as we know today. A particular aspect that has had a
remarkable effect on the way theatre has evolved is the architecture of ancient
theatres. The architecture of ancient Greek and Roman theatres have had a
remarkable effect on future theatre designs including the architecture of the great
Elizabethan theatres.

The Elizabethan time period in England was ever so popular and well accepted that
specialised theatres were having to be built to cope with the large audiences. Before
this plays were being held in grape cellars and old farm houses, and so were not able
to provide a large enough venue or provide the larger than life atmosphere play
houses needed. By the time Elizabethan theatre was in the British mainstream the
plays were being held in two types of theatre, the public and private.

The public Elizabethan theatres were much larger than the private ones and were the
preferred theatre of Shakespeare and other great playwrites to stage a production.
The first such theatre was built by James Burbage in 1576 and was called simply the
theatre. Soon after other public theatres were built, including Shakespeare’s own The
Globe which was built in 1599. They could appear round, square or many sided and
where built surrounding a central courtyard. Performances were only during daylight
because there was no artificial lighting, even though many plays had night scenes. In
most theatres it consisted of three levels of viewing galleries and stood about 10
metres high. As well as being viewer platforms the part of the upper two galleries
that went behind the stage were used as a balcony to give the play vertical action as
well as horizontal. The courtyard, called the pit, measured about 17 metres in
diameter. Those wishing to watch the show from the pit could do so for a minimal
amount of money. People viewing a play in the pit surrounded the stage from three
sides, thus giving the audience a sense of being right in the action. For those that
were willing to pay a bit more there were the galleries with seats. But although these
galleries provided a seat to sit on they also stank of urine and sweat since there were
no toilets and people those days didn’t bath much. These rather large theatres could
hold as much as 5600 people and were generally the choice of theatre for poorer
people, but built around an attractive courtyard with an open roof these theatres were
far from something shabby intended for lower class citizens. Proof that the public
theatre was not a cheap alternative for poorer people is the fact that Shakespeare and
other well known play writers wrote almost all their plays specifically for the public
theatres and often despised performing a play in the smaller rich persons private

The Private Elizabethan theatres charged higher admission prices and were designed
to attract upper class citizens. Although these theatres were often owned by royalty
and attracted rather rich people to view plays they quickly went out of fashion and
eventually ceased to excist because Shakespeare wrote all his plays for public
theatres. Because of the unpopularity of these theatres not much is known about their
architecture except that they were small, had little equipment or basic machinery to
assist behind the scenes work and had artificial lighting in the form of petrol lanterns.

In typical Ancient Greek tradition, where grander and bigger was better the
architecture of ancient Greek theatres truly were traditional, in that they were huge
and grand. During the time that drama competitions were beginning to take place in
ancient Greece large ampitheatres were needed to be built in order to keep up with
the massive popularity of such drama competitions. Three major theatres were
constructed, notably the theatre at Delphi, the Attic Theatre and the Theatre of
Dionysus in Athens. The Theatre of Dionysus, built at the foot of the Acropolis in
Athens, could seat 17,000 people and during their heyday, the competitions drew as
many as 30,000 spectators. It was common for these large audiences to be noisy,
lively, emotional and unrestrained. They hissed, applauded, cheered and sometimes
broke out into a riot if they were unhappy with a play. These huge open air theatres
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