A History of Elizabethan Theatre Essay

* Stage Shape and Configuration:

The size of amphitheatre varied up to 100 feet in diameter. The stage shape was octagonal, circular in shape having between 8 and 24 sides. The open air arena, called the ‘pit’ or the ‘yard’, had a raised stage at one end and was surrounded by three tiers of roofed galleries with balconies overlooking the back of the stage. The stage projected halfway into the ‘pit’. The Stage dimensions varied from 20 foot wide 15 foot deep to 45 feet to 30 feet. The height of the raised stage was 3 to 5 feet and supported by large pillars. The floor of the Stage was made of wood. The rear of the stage was a roofed house-like structure, supported by two large columns.

* Scenery:

Elizabethan stages were sparser in terms of decoration when compared to the equivalent in later eras, but items such as furniture, including pieces like tables and thrones, were used to embellish a scene. In some cases, more elaborate sets were used; these included grassy banks, gallows frames and caves

* Costumes:

The costumes used in Shakespeare’s theater companies were perhaps one of the most effective forms of props employed, allowing actors to reflect changes in character and even gender with relative ease. Many of these costumes captured the historical setting of specific Shakespearean plays; for example, togas and breastplates were worn in performances of “Titus Andronicus.” Make-up, along with female clothing was used to depict women characters, since Elizabethan laws forbade women to act on stage.

* Lighting:

There was natural lighting as plays were produced in the afternoon. However there was some artificial lighting mainly intended to provide atmosphere for night scenes.

* Sound:

Musicians were used for music. Music was an extra effect added in the 1600’s. The musicians would also reside in the Lords rooms (best seats in the house).

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* Special Effects:

Sometimes stage props served to recreate some special effect. Examples included fireworks, which were set off to replicate lightning in outdoor scenes, and actual pistols — without the bullets — which would be shot whenever military salutes or fighting needed to be shown. Even animals, such as dogs, were brought on stage in Shakespearean plays because creating a fake animal would have been more difficult. Trap doors would enable some special effects e.g. smoke.

* Other Important Conventions:

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