Elizabethan theatre

The Theatre was the first playhouse to be built, in 1576, followed by the Curtain in 1577, the Swan in 1595 and the Globe in 1599.
These playhouses were round or octagonal in shape, twelve metres high and with a diameter of twenty-five metres. They could hold up to 3,000 people.
The rectangular stage was twelve metres wide. This space did not allow more than twelve actors on the stage at the same time. the theatre was made of wood.

The stage had no curtain; it was supported by two pillars and was roofed over to protect the actors and their costumes. there was an uncovered central area, called ‘the pit’, surrounded by three roofed tiers of galleries.
The gallery above the stage could be used either by the audience or by the musicians, or as an additional part of the stage.

There was a trap door, used for devilish apparitions, disappearances and also for
burials. A balcony crowned by a gable on the upper floor housed the stage machinery. It was from there that gods and goddesses and other special effects descended onto the stage. During a performance a flag with the emblem of the theatre flew above the roof.

The actors’ tiring house was the place where the actors changed their clothes, and was behind the stage .There were two doors for entrances and exits.

There was no scenery, and plays were acted in daylight because they hadn’t enough money for the candles . Performances required a limited number of props: tables, chairs,swords, canvasses of the sun and moon, and also a tree of golden apples and a series of dragons. For night scenes a simple candle or torch symbolically transported the audience into the night world. Thus the theatre relied on the audience’s imagination, and the text was enough to bring the play to life.

The action was continuous. A scene ended when all the actors had gone off the stage and a new set of characters came on.

The Elizabethan actor was a busy man, constantly rehearsing new plays. He had little time for long and elaborate preparations, but he belonged to a team and the trained actor was ready to improvise in an emergency.

A In Shakespeare’s time there were no female actress.

the theatre was calling “the nest of the devil by the church”.
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