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Essay/Term paper: Shakespeare and his theater 2

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Shakespeare

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Shakespeare and his Theater

Compared to the technical theaters of today, the London
public theaters in the time of Queen Elizabeth I seem to be
terribly limited. The plays had to be performed during daylight
hours only and the stage scenery had to be kept very simple with
just a table, a chair, a throne, and maybe a tree to symbolize a
forest. Many say that these limitations were in a sense
advantages. What the theater today can show for us
realistically, with massive scenery and electric lighting,
Elizabethan playgoers had to imagine. This made the playwright
have to write in a vivid language so the audience could
understand the play. Not having a lighting technician to work
the control panels, Shakespeare had to indicate wether it was
dawn or nightfall by using a speech rich in metaphors and
descriptive details. Shakespeare's theater was far from being
bare, the playwright did have some valuable technical sources
that he used to the best of his ability. The costumes the actors
wore were made to be very elaborate. Many of the costumes
conveyed recognizable meanings for the audience such as a rich
aristocrat wearing silk clothes with many ruffles. Many times
there were musical accompaniments and sound effects such as
gunpowder explosions and the beating of a pan to simulate
The stage itself was also remarkably versatile. Behind it
were doors for exits and entrances and a curtained booth or
alcove useful for actors to hide inside. Above the stage was a
higher acting area which symbolized a porch or balcony. This was
useful in the story of Romeo and Juliet, when Romeo stood below
Juliet and told her how he loved her. In the stage floor was a
trap door which was said to lead to "hell" or a cellar, this was
especially useful for ghosts or devils who had to appear and
disappear throughout the play. The stage itself was shaped in a
rectangular platform that projected into a yard that was enclosed
by three story galleries.
The building was round or octagonal in shape but Shakespeare
called it a "wooden O." The audience sat in these galleries or
else they could stand in the yard in front the stage. A roof and
awning protected the stage and the high-priced gallery seats, but
in the case bad weather, the "groundlings," who only paid a penny
to stand in the yard, must have gotten wet.
The Globe theater was built by a theatrical company in which
Shakespeare belonged. The Globe theater, was the most popular of
all the Elizabethan theaters, it was not in the city itself but
on the south bank of the Thames River. This location had been
chosen because, in 1574, public plays had been banished from the
city by an ordinance that blamed them for corrupting the youth
and promoting prostitution.
A playwright had to please all members of the audience.
This explains the wide range of topics in Elizabethan plays.
Many plays included passages of subtle poetry, of deep
philosophy, and scenes of terrible violence. Shakespeare was an
actor as well as a playwright, so he new well what his audience
wanted to see. The company's offered as many as thirty plays a
season, customarily changing the programs daily. The actors thus
had to hold many parts in their heads, which may account for
Elizabethan playwrights' blank verse writing style.


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