Renaissance drama Elizabethan theatre Great artistic quality Mythology shared by the whole nation Elizabethan theatre Very popular among all social classes (nobles, craftsman, peasants, burghers and even monarchs Celebration of England and English kings and queens Structure of the Elizabethan theatre • one of the most common • • • • • Plays were initially performed in London inn courtyards • 1574: public performances were banned in London • a few years later a number of public playhouses were built outside the jurisdiction of London, at first north of the City, : The theatre (1576), the Curtain (1577); then others (the Rose (1587), the Swan (1595), and the Globe (1599) were built south of the Thames. • • • • • form of mass entertainment people of all classes went to the theatre beautiful costumes and (sometimes) funny language most people stood in front of the stage (was cheaper) audience often took part in the performance: screamed, booed, cheered, ate, drank and even quarelled stage: right in the middle of the audience actors were only males, female parts were played by adolescent boys in women's costume performances took place in the daylight, mainly in the afternoon Prices – fares • Arena (open yard surrounding the stage) – one penny • Galleries – 2 pennies (standing room) • Galleries – 3 pennies ( seats) • One of the galleries was divided into small compartments that could be used by the wealthy and aristocrats. • A few seats on the stage Companies’ fortune • By law, actors were “vagabonds” and not allowed to perform in public; • looked for patrons’ protection, generally noblemen or even the monarch • wore their patron’s livery • chose their patron’s name: – the Earl of Leicester’s Men – The Lord Chamberlain’s Men – The King’s Men • In winter, performances took place at noblemen’s palaces or at Court The Jacobean theatre Early XVII century • Separation of the theatre audience: the lower and the higher classes no longer attend the same theatre: – Public outdoor theatres attended by ordinary people – Private indoor theatres attended by the nobility • Plays written for the nobility were performed indoor: at court or at noblemen’s palaces. Study Questions 1. • 2. • What was the most relevant cultural phenomenon throughout the English Renaissance? What were its features? The Elizabethan theatre can be considered the most significant cultural phenomenon of English Renaissance for its high artistic quality. It celebrated England and the country’s kings and queens, providing a whole mythology to the nation. It was a popular form of entertainment seen by the monarch, nobles, burghers, craftsmen, labourers and peasants. Mention the names of some playhouses and describe their structure and features. The plays, first performed in the courtyards of London inns, were later banned from the City being considered either a disturbance or highly immoral. From 1574 new public outdoor playhouses were built north of the city – like “The theatre” or the “Curtain” – but mainly south of the Thames such as the “Rose”, the “Swan”, the “Globe”. The latter was Shakespeare’s company playhouse. The audience was mixed, the prices varied, but entrance could cost as little as 1 penny to stand in the arena (as a “groundling”). Spectators could sit in the galleries or take the few seats on the stage for more money. Plays were performed in the afternoons, actors were in close contact with the public, who could move around, talk, quarrel, eat and drink. Due to this mixture of elements, the atmosphere of Elizabethan public theatres was unique. Study Questions 3. • 4. • What is it relevant to remember about the actors? According to the law actors were classified as “vagabonds” and weren’t allowed to perform in public, so they put themselves under the protection of some nobleman or even the queen or the king and to thank them for their generosity and the protection granted they wore their patrons’ liveries and their companies took their names. For instance, Shakespeare’s companies were The Earl of Leicester’s Men, The Lord Strange’s Men, The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, The King’s Men. Actors could also perform privately at Court or for noble households in winter. Finally, all female roles were acted by young boys disguised, a tradition that lasted until the 19th century. Which changes occurred to the Jacobean theatre which are revealing of contemporary society? While at first theatres had been attended by all social classes, after Elizabeth I ‘s death there was a sharp division between public outdoor theatres only attended by common people and private indoor theatres attended by the nobility. The lower and the higher classes were no longer part of the same audience. Such a division reflects the division that took place in English society in the early 17th century.