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Drama and theatrical presentation in Elizabethan England is not acknowledged and remembered today because of individual plays, but for the physical plant itself, its facilities, social attendance, general themes, and writers of the time. Plays were important and vital to the time period, but the playhouse and factors surrounding it, really characterize the Elizabethan period. Writers and actors alike all play an important part in the theatre, and very important is the structure of the playhouses.
By far the most famous, or better-said, well known theatre of Elizabethan theatre has to be the Globe. The Globe influenced and affected all other playhouses of the time. One reason that the Globe is so famous is because of the close connection with Shakespeare. Once the Globe opened its design and equipment were so good, that it surpassed all its rivals. Within a period of five years all other theatres of its type had to be closed or replaced. In short the Globe playhouse witness and helped create the essence of the Elizabethan theatre.
The shapes and dimensions of Elizabethan theatres were strongly influenced by the shape, size and structure of the playhouse as a whole. On thing that is extremely important and vital to know, is that all the playhouses were usually built on marsh ground. The theatre had heavy okay framework, which was very valuable. The wood was the reason for the standing twenty-two-year-old theatre. Of course the wood also had its flaws, many theatres were lost to fires and rotten wood, because of rain. The playhouses were circular in form, or for the most part. Structural difficulties can be imagined in designing and building a cylindrical playhouse made out of wood. A circular seating plan wholly or partially surrounding the platform was of course ideal, but very hard to make perfect. The reason why the structure was considered to be so great is because wood does not lend itself well to bending. Wood is not easily curved; making the job of Elizabethan carpenters a hard task to say the least. Yet at every level of the playhouse, beginning with the sills and ending with the roof plates and ridgepole, all horizontal beams in the frame forming the inner and outer walls were cut by hand to the requisite curve out of balks or timber far heavier than the finished members. The total length of the wood was 1900 feet, making it a tremendous and expensive task to build theatres.
Constructing the playhouses was a difficult task, and many a time accidents occurred were more than a few people died. Accidents usually occurred when the galleries of the actual playhouse were being built. Architects of the time tried to develop better and safer playhouses. Because one could compromise setting up curved wood of seats and balustrades inside a polygonal frame, but such a plan would be structurally illogical and would materially reduce the capacity of the playhouse, to that of a house.
Playhouses of the time usually had an octagonal frame and the galleries all ended up being converted into spectator-galleries encircling a corresponding portion of the playhouse's yard. The main entrances were narrow, deliberately made so. One reason for the entrance was for the purpose of restricting the influx of spectators to a single file. At the main doorway stood an attendant known as the doorkeeper who held a box into which every person entering dropped a penny. Although sometimes they would drop two pennies, if the play was new. Once the playgoer had dropped his penny and entered he passed through a corridor leading into the benchless and unroofed area of the playhouse. If the person so wished, he could remain in that section of the theatre without paying an
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Elizabethan drama, William Shakespeare, Elizabethan, Elizabethan carpenters,
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