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Elizabethan Theatre

The local government of London was generally hostile to public performances, but its hostility was overmatched by the Queen\'s taste for plays and the Privy Council\'s support. Theatres sprang up in suburbs, especially in Southwark, accessible across the Thames to city dwellers, but not controlled by the London corporation. The companies maintained the pretence that their public performances were mere rehearsals for the frequent performances before the Queen, but while the latter did grant prestige, the former were the real source of the income professional players required.


The stage on which Elizabethan plays were performed was essentially a platform surrounded on three sides by the audience, only the rear being open for entrances, exits, and seating for musicians to accompany the frequent songs. Theatres built specially for plays, of which there were several by 1600, had an upper level which could be used as a balcony, as in Romeo and Juliet, or as a position for an actor to harangue a crowd as in Julius Caesar.

One distinctive feature of the companies was that they included only males. Until the reign of Charles II, female parts were played by adolescent boys in women\'s costume.


The growing population of London, the growing wealth of its people, and their fondness for spectacle produced a dramatic literature of remarkable variety, quality, and extent. Although most of the plays written for the Elizabethan stage have been lost, over 600 remain extant.

The men (no woman, so far as is known, wrote for the stage in this era) who wrote these plays were primarily self-made men from modest backgrounds. Some of them had educations at either Oxford or Cambridge, but many did not. The university men often looked down on those writers who lacked education. Although William Shakespeare was an actor, the majority do not seem to have been performers, and no major author who came on to the scene after 1600 is known to have supplemented his income by acting.

Not all of the playwrights fit modern images of poets or intellectuals. Christopher Marlowe was killed in an apparent tavern brawl, Shakespeare had associates in the London underworld and supplemented his income with money-lending, while Ben Jonson killed an actor in a duel. Several probably were soldiers.

Playwriting was a lucrative occupation for a writer who could produce around 2 plays per year. Most professional playwrights earned an average of 25 pounds a year, an impressive amount at the time. They would normally be paid in increments during the writing process, and if their play was accepted, they would also receive the proceeds from one day\'s performance. However, they had no ownership of the plays they wrote. Once a play was sold to a company, the company owned it, and the playwright had no control over casting, performance, revision or publication.

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Публикувано от: Стефка Видинова

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