A few dates 1576 Building of the first public theatre, known as The Theatre, by James Burbage and John Braynes, north of the river and outside the city walls. Used by most of the major companies. • Master of the Revels 1587 Building of The Rose by Henslowe 1595 Building of the Swan, south of the river on Bankside. Described and sketched in 1596 by a visiting Dutchman, Johannes de Witt. See the illustration.
A few dates (2) 1598-9 Dismantling of the Theatre to be rebuilt south of the river on Bankside as the first Globe Theatre (by Richard and Cuthbert Burbage). Similar in structure to the Swan. This was the theatre owned and used by Shakespeare's company, the Lord Chamberlain's Men (after 1603 the King's Men). It was destroyed by fire in 1613 and rebuilt in 1614 as the second Globe, demolished in 1644 1608 Acquisition by Shakespeare's company of the second Blackfriars Theatre, the most important private theatre of the period, indoors and situated on the north bank of the Thames. 1642 Closing of the theatres with the onset of the English Revolution or Civil War
The Globe (1) • 1564 Shakespeare born inStratford-Upon-Avon • 1576 James Burbage builds the the first public playhouse in London: the Theatre in Shoreditch. The Lord Chamberlain's Men use it from 1594 to 1596. • 1598-9The first Globe Playhouse was built and opened, using timber from the Theatre. First performance: probably 21 June 1599.
The Globe (2) • 21 September 1599: first recorded performance of a play at the Globe (Julius Caesar), by a Swiss visitor, Thomas Platter. Henry V and As You Like It probably also performed that year. Platter also gives a careful record of ticket prices and seating arrangements. • 1613 The Globe burns down accidentally during a performance of Henry VIII. Rebuilt immediately on original foundations.This time the roof is tiled, not thatched. Shakespeare retires to Stratford. • 1616 Shakespeare dies. • 1642 The Globe is closed by the Puritans, as are all playhouses in London.
Summary (Bankside) • 1550-1642 There were four theatres on Bankside - the Globe, the Rose, the Hope, the Swan and also several Bear-baiting and Bull-baiting amphitheatres. Over 15 venues were available in London to hear a play.
Observations (‘Open-air theatre) • Raised stage / yard where groundlings stood; seats in galleries around more expensive, perhaps also some on stage; rooms at rear for actors' entrances and exits, for machinery, musicians. Typical public theatre 1590s to 1640 (known as Elizabethan, Jacobean, Caroline). No roof, no artificial lighting; but props, elaborate costumes. Could take 3000 people, probably ranging across courtiers, wits, gentry, pickpockets, merchants, artisans, prostitutes, soldiers. Outside City walls to escape jurisdiction of hostile authorities, so on south bank of Thames. Often closed in times of plague, political crisis, most notably in 1642.
Observations on indoor theatres • Blackfriars Theatre, north of river, under jurisdiction of city fathers, with some court protection. Bought by Shakespeare's company 1608. Indoors, artificial lighting, 500-600 capacity. Tickets from one shilling. Elaborate machinery, including flying gear. Stage still part of auditorium, but audience mostly have straight-on view, rather than sitting in the round. Different dynamic actors/audience; Sh's last plays, much use of spectacle and masque-like elements. From 1608, Shakespeare therefore writing for 2 very different playing spaces, and some plays (probably e.g. Macbeth,The Tempest) adapted to be performed in both. Versatility of both writer and actors.
Acting companies of Elizabethan/Jacobean period • Shakespeare’s company known as Lord Chamberlain’s Men or, after 1603, King's Men. Protection. Men: no women on public stage until 1660, their parts being played by 'boys’. A joint stock company: core of shareholders with stake in theatre(s) they owned, plays they owned, props, costumes, their own acting skills. Shakespeare a writer, actor, and also a capitalist, part-owner of the company. No director: instead, a team, perhaps with internal tensions and rows, some more powerful than others. But the shareholders did own their resources: they had between them quite a lot of control. This produces very rich and varied drama, lots of experimentation.
Gurr, “The Elizabethan Stage and Acting” • Acting (action and playing) • Casual entertainment (player and shareholder) vs instructive mirror for life (playwrights) • Shakespeare on both sides • Money and theatre • Play scripts as raw material for the stage.
Gurr (2) • Repertory system (a different play every afternoon of the working week; little scope for the finer point of staging). • Speed of delivery • Novelty (p. 249): never before such a direct contact with the audience. • Personation (Marston, 1599). • Realism?
Rival companies / rival actors • This illustration of the character of Tamburlaine is actually the actor Edward Alleyn who was most famous for his performances of Marlowe's play. His only rival in fame was Richard Burbage (Hamlet). Alleyn was the star of the Rose theatre. He married Philip Henslowe's daughter in 1592 and became his father in law's partner, first at the Rose, then at the Fortune (1600). He became so prosperous that he was able to found Dulwich College, which now houses precious art collections, but also Henslowe's diary, an essential document for our knowledge of Early Modern stage practice.