Features of Elizabethan Theatre

April 21, 2019 | Author: AugustaLeigh | Category: Theatre, Actor, William Shakespeare, Performing Arts, Entertainment
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Features of Elizabethan Theatre 1

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The Elizabethan theatre was open to the sky, except for part of the stage and the galleries which were roofed. The stage -called APRON STAGE- projected out into the Pit where common people stood. The better-off were seated in the Galleries. The stage was therefore surrounded on three sides by the audience that could count up to two thousand people.  At the rear of the stage stage there was the TIRING HOUSE, HOUSE, where the actors actors changed changed their costumes and waited for the moment of their entrance.

There were TWO DOORS for entrances and exits in the back part of the stage, and a BALCONY over them. There was no scenery, no artificial lighting, so performances took place during the day; There was no curtain to separate the audience from the actors before the show began.  A TRAP DOOR, in the front of the stage, stage, was used for sudden apparitions of of devils or supernatural supernatural beings, or could be used for other special effects.

Features of Elizabethan Theatre 2

Plays were performed quickly - not garbling and rushing off the stage but without the long breaks to change scenes. Actors would have had to use their voices and bodies expressively to convey mood and meaning.

Good acting was natural but ‘big’, with a lot of energy and sexuality. The acoustics in theatres meant that actors did not necessarily have to shout to be heard, but they would need to speak clearly.

Plays were performed in the afternoon as there was no lighting for night performances.

The actors were professionals but they needed the ptotection of a high personality in town, or of the Queen or King, because no social status was accorded

Stages were round or polygonal and open to the sky although there was usually a canopy over the stage. Two doors at the back of the stage lead to the dressing rooms. There were no curtains, the audience could see everything.

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Costumes were likely to be fashionable and contemporary (at the time) They were used to indicate the character’s status or profession. Special effects were a part of the performances. In particular, a bladder filled with pigs blood was used (concealed under a tunic) if someone was to be stabbed and could therefore ‘bleed.’ Fireworks were also used to replicate lightning and give fights on stage more emphasis. Shakespeare gave many of the stage directions in the actual text of his plays. Consider Hamlet’s speech to the players… “speak the speech I pray you”  Actors had to capture and hold the attention of the audience, therefore their actions and gestures needed to be a lot larger than what we see today. The audience was also very close to the actors on the stage - this was particularly the case at The Globe theatre, where ‘the groundlings’ were directly in front of the stage.

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Shakespeare wrote in these styles:  (10 syllables to the line, with 5 strong and 5 weak beats). This  mirrors a heartbeat.

Blank verse  Rhyming verse Some of the text is in prose. In order to make sense, the text should be read to the punctuation, not to the end of a line.  Your speech should not sound like you are performing poetry - it should seem as natural speech. 

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Music and dancing were part of the theatre form, as were sword fights. Elizabethan actors were accomplished at stage sword fighting since it was something that was usual to them. The groundlings paid a small entry fee and stood for the duration of the performance in front of the stage. Patrons (wealthy people) bought seats in the galleries or sat on the stage itself.

Women were not permitted to act so female roles were played by young boys whose voices had not yet broken.

The SOLILOQUY is a typical convention of Elizabethan drama. It enabled the playwright to let the audience know the character's thoughts on a specific problem, or his plans for the future, or his feelings and emotional reactions, or his philosophical meditations on issues as life, death, etc. The audience must accept the unusual behaviour of a man/woman speaking to him/herself.

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