Elizabethan Theatre





Elizabeth’s England


“In roughly built playhouses and cobblestone inn yards, an extraordinary development took place in England in the 1500s.” (Yancey, 8). At that time, an opportunity combined to produce literature achievement never before witnessed in the history of drama and theater. The renaissance, helped spark this movement by inspiring scientific and artistic creativity throughout the land. Models began writing dramas that portrayed life in both realistic and imaginative ways. This created work later captured the attention of the world that changed the English drama. The many aspects of Elizabethan theater helped to shape the acting and theater world forever.

The Elizabethan theater grew tremendously by the moving force that was created by Queen Elizabeth. During her reign, she surrounded herself with writers, musicians, and playwrights. Not only did Elizabeth provide money that allowed her people the time and means to appreciate the arts, but supported the theaters as well. Only the actors that have reached their peak of profession could perform for the queen. She declared that no plays could be about religious matters or portray current political figures. She approved the performances that were produced in London. This allowed the ordinary people to see these plays. Many of the actors were willing to bring the plays to the public by arranging them in public and private playhouses.




The structures of the public theaters were usually rounded, squared or many-sided. In most, the theaters had at least, three levels of galleries and stood about ten meters high. The courtyard, which was also called the pit, measured about seventeen
meters in diameter. The poor townsmen could stand in the pit while the wealthier townsmen could sit on benches in the gallery. Even though the prices to get in the theater were high, the common audience paid early for their entertainment. It cost a penny to attend the performance and two pennies for the wealthier seating.

Due to crowdedness, diseases passed rampantly through the streets of Europe, as well as in the theaters. “Small pox, scarlet fever, and tuberculosis were just one of the few of the diseases that regularly killed thousands of people.” (Yancey, 35). The theaters closed with every serious outbreak. Which caused the players to make a choice to move with the thousand other citizens to continue their career. Acting companies usually went on tour. Not only to escape the diseases but to earn extra money.

“Women’s roles in the plays were acted by men or, more commonly by boys.” (Bommarito, 267). Boys were used for women’s roles because of their small figures and higher pitched voices. The boys began acting at the age of ten, learning the correct way to walk and talk on the stage. In addition they were also taught the art of applying make-up moving gracefully in the many layers of clothing that the Elizabethan women wore at that time.


English women were considered weaker and less intelligent, therefore, their opinions in life was limited. In judging behavior, the Elizabethans condemned the presence of women in some theaters. Despite the mens disapproval, a significant number of them did attend public plays.

Becoming a good actor was not easy. Since there were no microphones during this era, actors had to master speech, gesture, and had to have strong voices as well. “Players needed to speak their lines loudly and clearly enough to reach the most distant member of the audience.” (Yancey, 42). Most actors had long parts to be memorized quickly. This seemed impossible; almost all the actors forgot their lines at one point. This was known as “thribbling”. “Thribbling”, which is also known as making up dialogue, was looked down upon and some authors threatened an actor’s life when he made to many mistakes.

The Elizabethan costumes were elaborate and remarkable, but they had their drawbacks. The purchases of these fine necessities were a significant drain on the company budget. As the theater progressed, the costumes became more elaborate. They were made of costly fabrics such satin and velvet. Sometimes tailors were hired to make the outfit. At other times, the players were lucky to find suitable clothing for sale.

“Elizabethan plays were indeed passionate wand exuberant, and there seemed to be an endless number of them. At the height of theater activity, which coincided

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