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They also offer a more intimate setting with the use of artificial light.

Shakespeare's company planned for years to operate its own indoor theater, a goal that was finally achieved in when the Burbages took over London's Blackfriars theater. Still more indoor productions often came during the period between Christmas and New Year, and at Shrovetide the period before Lent at one of the royal palaces, where Shakespeare's company and other leading companies gave command performances—a high honor that was also well-paid.

Playgoers in Shakespeare's day paid a penny to stand in the uncovered yard of a playhouse, or two pennies for a balcony seat. Indoor theaters like the Blackfriars accommodated fewer people and cost more, with basic tickets starting at sixpence. Fashionable men about town could get a seat on the side of the stage for two shillings 24 pence. Spectators liked to drink wine or ale and snack on a variety of foods as they watched the plays—modern-day excavations at the playhouses have turned up bottles, spoons, oyster shells, and the remnants of many fruits and nuts.

FREE Shakespeare on the Common

While most women's roles were played by boys or young men in the all-male casts, comic female parts such as Juliet's Nurse might be reserved for a popular adult comic actor, or clown. In addition to their dramatic talents, actors in Shakespeare's time had to fence onstage with great skill, sing songs or play instruments included in the plays, and perform the vigorously athletic dances of their day.


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Actors usually did not aim for historically accurate costumes, although an occasional toga may have appeared for a Roman play. Instead, they typically wore gorgeous modern dress, especially for the leading parts. Costumes, a major investment for an acting company, provided the essential "spectacle" of the plays and were often second-hand clothes once owned and worn by real-life nobles. The bare stages of Shakespeare's day had little or no scenery except for objects required by the plot, like a throne, a grave, or a bed. Exits and entrances were in plain view of the audience, but they included some vertical options: actors could descend from the "heavens" above the stage or enter and exit from the "hell" below through a trapdoor.

Characters described as talking from "above" might appear in galleries midway between the stage and the heavens. In , the English playhouses and theaters were closed down and often dismantled for building materials as the English Civil War began.

History (theatrical genre)

With the restoration of the English monarchy in , theater returned—as did Shakespeare's plays, now with both male and female performers. In the centuries that followed, Shakespeare's plays have been performed in England, North America, and around the world, in productions that mirror the state of theater in each place and time: from lavish scenes, to surrealism, to stark bare stages. They have been used as a medium for political commentary, and have been incorporated into theatrical traditions like Japanese Kabuki theater.

Beginning in the late s, Shakespeare's plays inspired the creation of a wealth of replica Elizabethan theaters, more or less faithful to what was known of the theatrical past. Dozens of open-air Shakespeare festivals have also grown up across the United States and other countries.

American Shakespeare Center | Blackfriars Playhouse

Shakespeare's works have also been frequently interpreted on film. Brooklyn's Vitagraph Company, for one, produced several silent, one-reel movies of the plays starting in Shakespeare's Theater.


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Item Title:. But what caused the fire and when was the new Globe theatre rebuilt? Here, author and broadcaster Andrew Dickson brings you the facts about the Globe fire of ….

In early May , having just turned 49, William Shakespeare was at the height of his career. He was the most famous playwright of the age, imitated by younger writers and lauded even by jealous contemporaries.

Event Information

It was his first property investment in London, adding to a substantial portfolio back home in Stratford-upon-Avon. Packed with spectacular pageantry and effects, it was a new mode for the playwright — perhaps a new beginning. As the flames consumed the all-wooden structure there was a panicked evacuation, so rapid that a number of people left their cloaks behind. One man apparently had his clothes set on fire and had to throw a bottle of ale over himself.

According to another account, someone else was burned after attempting to save a child.

The day was hot and dry, and within little more than an hour only smoking ruins were left. The fire raged so intensely that a house next door went up too. That we know so much about the most infamous fire in theatre history indicates what major news it was at the time: several eyewitnesses noted the event, and it must have been the talk of Jacobean London.

Other Titles by John Russell Brown

The tone of this account is jocular — perhaps because Wotton seems to have been irked by common players depictingrevered historical figures such Henry VIII and Cardinal Wolsey, and felt that Shakespeare and his theatre had got their just deserts. Not long after the conflagration a street ballad appeared, marking the event its author is unknown. Its refrainpuns on the title of the play that had caused the tragedy:. Not only would the theatre have to be rebuilt — in an era before buildings insurance, they would have to foot the cost — it would need to be done in a hurry, because every day without a playhouse depleted their reserves even more.