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Elizabethan Theatre Essay, Research Paper

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

with the last years of Elizabeth?s life (1590 to 1603).? (Yancey, 69). The poetry in Romance plays was expressions of the people?s beliefs and outlooks on things. Elizabethan people were very passionate and their plays reflected their spirit. Sometimes, romance was expressed in traditional love stories such as Shakespeare?s

Romeo and Juliet. Audiences accepted and understood poetic forms of expression and expected to hear it when they attended the performances.

Because of many people believed in ghosts and goblins, playwrights often added these supernatural creatures in their plays. Their strong belief in god made it easy for them to believe in unseen forces. Although in some plays playwrights, just for sheer thrill, included ghosts, the plays were usually tragedies, having the ghost as the victim. Witches were treated with respect because they were thought to be powerful and could cause harm to the very ones who offended them. Fairies were less threatening than witches. When Shakespeare presented A Midsummer Night?s Dream, audiences were charmed. Playwrights William Shakespeare, Thomas Greene, and Ben Jonson included fairies in their productions.

?From 1594 to 1608, Shakespeare was fully involved in the London theater world.? (Wadsworth,346). He wrote on average two plays a year and was very popular in his company. Queen Elizabeth liked Shakespeare?s plays and gave him support and protection from critics. ?Shakespeare?s plays seemed to be dramatically effective and attempted all forms and subjects.? (spear, internet).Only little evidence exists of the Elizabethan Playwrights. A majority of the Elizabethans were very hard

driven. To get the plays finished in a short amount of time, playwrights would join together to come up with ideas, plots, and characters that would please the audience. Usually, a portion of the performance was assigned to each writer. This way, the writer was able to create his part of the story independently and later joined complete the play. Sometimes, the plots and the storylines were unclear, but the writers would overlook this to have the play completed on time.

Audiences were very open in the way they critiqued the plays. ?If they disapproved of an actor they would pelt him with oranges or anything handy; they would hiss and shout. On the other hand, they were ready with their applause and would clap and cheer when they approved.? (Spear, Internet). A visit to one of the theaters during this era would have been eye-popping, lively, and a life enhancing experience to a responsive individual. ?This play hungry public was one of the essential features of the Elizabethan theater, enlivening and stimulating the art just as the theater inspired and delighted them in return.? (Yancey, 48).

The audiences had nothing to fear when they laughed at plays that made fun of their world. Playwrights who poked fun at the church, government, or the royalty could face serious consequences. In some cases their plays were censored or banned. In extreme cases, the playwrights and the players were imprisoned. Churches wanted to abolish everything that did not conform to their official doctrine and the plays being one of them.

Elizabeth?s death in 1603 marked the end of an extraordinary era. By the domination of the puritans, seriously influenced townsmen objected to having theaters with noisy crowds; treat of fire, and disease in their neighborhood. The entertainers had been broken up and the playhouses were falling in disrepair. The theaters were thought to have been ?houses of evil?, which later caused them to be closed.

In conclusion, Elizabethans expressed great interest in plays and the involvement of the playwrights and the Queen herself. During this era, the performances were a big part in the way the people lived and the way they viewed their lives. Shakespeare is one of the many who brought this joy to the everyday people. ?The voice of Shakespeare, spoken through the mouths of the actors, remains one of the greatest voices of human experience. This will always be unforgettable in the history of the human imagination.? (Hodges, 102).

Bommarito, Andrew Gray. Prentice Hall Literature.

New Jersey: Simon &Schuster,1991.

Boyce, Charles. Shakespeare A to Z.

New York: Roundtable Press,Inc,1990.

Hodges, C. Walter. Shakespeare Theatre.

New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, Inc.1964.

Wadsworth,John. ?William Shakespeare?. The World Book Encyclopedia, 1993 Ed.

Yancey, Diane. Life in the Elizabethan Theater.

San Diago, California: Lucent Books, 1997.


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