The Bedford Companion to Shakespeare: Ch. 4
The Bedford Companion to Shakespeare: Ch. 4 657
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Date Created: 03/03/16
Shakespeare: The Bedford Companion to Shakespeare Chapter 4 Performances, Playhouses, and Players Going to a Play, Circa 1595 1. The Theatre= one of the first permanent structures built for drama in England. a. Built in 1576 by James Burbage b. The Curtain= the second structure built 1 year later 2. A Company would be in charge of the play performing . a. Shakespeare was part of Lord Chamberlain’s Men. b. This company was made of a group of players who left other companies to join under Henry Carey and Lord Hunsdon. c. Lord Chamberlain’s Men= the most successful troupe in England 3. Gatherers= what they called todays ticket takers/ ushers 4. The Elizabethan theatre set ups were different from current conventional stages a. These stages were bare, without pictorial scenery b. There is also no program to introduce the characters here, the audience would need to figure that out through the lines and props. c. Between scenes the stage will momentarily be empty, then the next scene will start d. There was no curtain to lower and raise between scenes. e. Scen in Elizabethan= a location where characters meet and converse. When the place changes the scenes change. f. Elizabethan stage is known for the “Empty Space” g. Large scenic props were used but no backdrops were used, along with no curtain h. This allows flexibility and quick pace through the play 5. They didn’t need to constantly change the backgrounds a. The audience was in charge of mapping and keeping track of the time with what the characters say. b. They would provide verbal and visual codes for day and night c. Torches served to indicate nighttime 6. Costumes were very expensive and a very large part a. The costumes actually brought in foreign visitors b. Sometimes wealthy citizens would leave their clothes to favorite servants and they would sell them for great money to theatres c. Clothing was very very expensive and a popular trade item d. Clothing signified certain events: i. Nightgown= a late hour or surprise awakening ii. Riding gear= a journey iii. Headwear= determined social/economic status e. Colors reflect the range for characteristics. Common colors were carnation, dark brown, tobacco, and gooseturd green. 7. Woman did not act on stage until after the Restoration in 1660 a. Roles of girls and woman were mostly always played by prepubesant boys. Some may be by men. b. Most boy actors were apprenticed to members of the company c. This had a huge role on the choices the playwriters had to make on roles d. Shakespeare normally had 34 woman parts e. When he found a starquality actor he made the roles Lady Macbeth, Volumnia, and Cleopatra The Playhouses 1. Archeologists have been excavating theatres. They found The Rose and then unearthed The Globe theatre 2. In the 1590’s outdoor theatres, also called public theatres were operating in London a. The outdoor theatres were outside the city walls because London’s authorities were Puritan and opposed the performances b. Most popular: i. The Theatre 1576—the 1 permanent playhouse ii. The Curtain1577 iii. The Rose 1587 iv. The Swan1595 v. The Globe1599 c. The owner of the Theatre actually lost his lease and had to shut down the playhouse for two seasons. Lord Chamberlains men moved around to different playhouses but eventually came up with a plan. i. They dismantled to Theatre and moved the pieces across the river where they hired a contractor to use the pieces to build the Globe 3. After the turn of the Century, Indoor/ Private theatres because very important a. The major indoor playhouse= Blackfriars b. It was initially suppose to be built to house Lord Chamberlains Men but the local neighborhood did not allow this c. A decade later, in 1608 this was approved and Lord Chamberlains Men performed here and at the Globe theatre. 4. Theatre architecture had to be pretty uniform so plays could be performed the same in all theatres. a. They consisted of a bare stage with heavens, hell, a trap, doors leading to the tiringhouse, and tarras i. Heavens= a roof supported by two columns that partly covers the play area and is decorated with paintings of the sun, moon and stars ii. Hell= hidden area under the stage to allow for special effects iii. The back of the stage had doors that actors could enter and exit iv. Tarras= private viewing rooms for the wealthy, or used during plays that need a twostory scene (balcony scenes) v. The Hut= Above the tarras where special effects were also done 5. The Audiences a. Todays area for spectators are dramatically different from back then i. The Yard= Standing space for individuals in front of the stage, Paid 1 penny ii. Gallery= 2 penny’s, more comfortable iii. Higher Gallery= more expansive view, 3 penny’s iv. Lords Room= best seats in the house, private portions of the gallery nearest the stage. A sixpence b. Price Comparison: i. 7 pounds= average annual salary of farmer ii. 5 pounds= average amount a playwright brought in iii. 5060 pounds= a full, complete, nice outfit c. The type of audience is not exactly known but it is believed that outdoor theatres had a large mix of social classes d. Indoor playhouses were smaller with higher admission cost i. Indoor playhouses did not hold as many lower class citizens due to the price changes ii. Price for entry= sixpence iii. Bench in the pit= a sixpence+shilling iv. These were normally in down, not the suburbs The Companies 1. Actors were low on the social ladder, the same level as beggars a. Because of this, the law required an Aristocratic patron to be in charge for the acting troupes. b. From 157090 many groups formed. c. By the Mid 1590’s only two companies existed: i. Lord Admiral’s Men ii. Lord Chamberlain’s Men d. In 1598, These two companies were the only legal ones to play in London. 2. Having plays performed in a single location by the same groups led to the maturing of English drama. 3. Lord Admiral’s Men was led by business man Philip Henslowe a. He was the landlord, moneylender, promoter, and father of star actor b. Henslowe was in charge of building the Rose theatre in 1587. In 1592 he expanded it to make it bigger c. When Lord Chamberlains Men took apart the Theatre and built the Globe right across the street from the Rose, Henslowe fought back by building the Fortune theatre in the community that the Theatre used to exist in. d. Henslowe left a diary that helped us learn the common amount earned from a playwright (58 pounds), costume cost, and time from having the manuscript delivered to the play performed. 4. Henslowe’s counterpart in the rival company= James Burbage a. James Burbage arranged the building of the Red Lion 1567, and the Theatre1567 b. He purchased the Blackfriars in 1595 c. His one son helped run the business, other son was the main actor 5. The Shareholders were the key a. Shareholding brought in profit but was a lot of responsibility i. They had to commit their talents and services to the company only ii. They couldn’t sell their share unless the fellow sharers agreed iii. About 1012 shareholders once they became Kings Men. iv. Housekeeper= shareholders that also invested in the actual theatre b. Sharers formed the core of each company. i. They took major acting roles ii. Or they supplied scripts (like Shakespeare did) c. Hired men, paid by the week filled in the rest of the work, doing the small word and roles. d. The main size of a major London company=2030 people 6. Actors had to sometimes play 2 roles if there were more roles than actors a. Doubling, the absence of scenery (Empty stage), lack of artificial lighting, and the proximity of the audience created PRESENTATIONAL theater. i. Presentational theater is the illusion of a fictional narrative being maintained at the same time that the audience is reminded that a fiction is being performed 7. Major companies played everyday except for on major church holidays a. A new play was added every couple weeks The Theater and the Authorities 1. The municipal government and the Crown both paid attention to the growing theater popularity in Elizabethan London. 2. Prohibitions were placed on theaters because they thought the tight crowded audience space had something to do the plague spreading a. From 159294 the theaters were closed b. They were also closed during Elizabeth’s final illness in 1603 3. The city governments did not like the theaters because it was against their Puritan beliefs a. This is why they built their theaters outside of the city limits. That way they full under the ruling of the Crown, not the City b. Elizabeth and James’ government was more tolerable because they liked the theater. 4. The Revels Office was created by Henry VIII to basically be the government censor on playwrights a. They would approve playwrights, license playhouses, check and approve plays for print. b. The governments supported the plays because Elizabeth and James liked them. They would pay to have the actors come to the castle and perform 5. Another venue was the Provinces. This was an on the road group of actors
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