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The Spectrum of English Reinassance Theatre - Red Lion's Backstage

Elev: Lidia Borlean

Profesor coordonator: Andreea Bell



Introduction Chapter I : Red Lion Theatre Chapter II : Literature and Drama Chapter III : A theatre of satire and revenge Conclusion Biography

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Every day I dream of being an actress because ever since I was 4 years old I have started being on stage. Because of my kindergarten teacher who wrote some poems and lead me to participate in two contests, I found my inner vocation. In the primary school I was involved in the school drama team and had small shows. But as time passed, I have learned more things and my passion grew. So was my curiosity for the secrets of performing. High school opened me a new perspective and new opportunities for theatre. First, I went to The Popular School of Arts for one year. Then Project Abroad was my second home for almost two years and a home where I met people from all over the world. Here I am now, in my last high school year, still wanting to become an actress. Some would say wanting is not enough because you have to fight and overdrive yourself to perfection. I agree with this, but as I tend to follow my heart, I believe that the feelings of motivation have a better result than reasoning. My reason for this theme is simply passion. Oscar Wilde said I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being. I agree and also add that the number of ways you can express yourself are endless. That is the beauty and the mystery of acting. In my presentation I will talk about the first theatre in London and what impact had on people that days, the history about what followed by the first theatre, some facts about Shakespeare and about the birth of inspiration.

I.Red Lion Theatre

In 1567 John Brayne opened Londons first purpose-built performance space, the Red Lion, which was located about a mile to the East of the city walls in Whitechapel. Elizabethan Theatre is the term applied to all plays written and publically performed during the reign of Queen Elizabeth which lasted from 1559 1603. In 1576, James Burbage in collaboration with his brother in law John Brayne built The Theatre which was the first building in England specifically intended for plays. The Theatre was built in Shoreditch, London which also served as the location of The Curtain Theatre which was constructed a year later in 1577. As a result, Shoreditch was regarded as the entertainment district for some time. In 1593 theatres, which were now many, were forced to close as a result of the Bubonic Plague. In 1594 when the theatres had reopened Lord Chamberlains Men, which would go on to become one of the most famous playing companies of that era formed. At its conception Lord Chamberlains Men performed exclusively at The Theatre, however, in 1596 when the Church began to object to the behavior exhibited in playhouses, the company was forced to exit The Theatre and began performing in The Curtain Theatre in 1597. In 1598 with the banning of public plays in London and the expiration of the lease of The Theatre, The Theatre was dismantled and its wood and materials used to construct The Globe Theatre which was constructed on the other side of the River Thames (what is now known as) Southwark Bridge Road. According to the brief biography of William Shakespeare (who was a central figure in Lord Chamberlains Men by 1592) which precedes most of his plays in their recent publications, Playhouses were usually circular or octagonal, with three tiers of galleries looking down upon the yard or pit, which was open to the sky. The stage jutted out into the yard so that the actors [who were all male as women were not allowed to act in the Elizabethan Theatre] came forward into the midst of their audience. Over the stage there was a roof, and on either side doors by which characters entered or disappeared. Over the backstage ran a gallery or upper stage which was used whenever an upper scene was needed. The space beneath this upper stage was known as the tiring house; it was concealed from the audience by a curtain which would be drawn back to reveal an inner stage.

A different model was developed with the Blackfriars Theatre, which came into regular use on a long-term basis in 1599. The Blackfriars was small in comparison to the earlier theatres and roofed rather than open to the sky; it resembled a modern theatre in ways that its predecessors did not. Other small enclosed theatres followed, notably the Whitefriars (1608) and the Cockpit (1617). With the building of the Salisbury Court Theatre in 1629 near the site of the defunct Whitefriars, the London audience had six theatres to choose from: three surviving large open-air "public" theatres, the Globe, the Fortune, and the Red Bull, and three smaller enclosed "private" theatres, the Blackfriars, the

Cockpit, and the Salisbury Court. Audiences of the 1630s benefited from a half-century of vigorous dramaturgical development; the plays of Marlowe and Shakespeare and their contemporaries were still being performed on a regular basis (mostly at the public theatres), while the newest works of the newest playwrights were abundant as well (mainly at the private theatres). Around 1580, when both the Theatre and the Curtain were full on summer days, the total theatre capacity of London was about 5000 spectators. With the building of new theatre facilities and the formation of new companies, the capital's total theatre capacity exceeded 10,000 after 1610. In 1580, the poorest citizens could purchase admittance to the Curtain or the Theatre for a penny; in 1640, their counterparts could gain admittance to the Globe, the Cockpit, or the Red Bullfor exactly the same price. (Ticket prices at the private theatres were five or six times higher). The acting companies functioned on a repertory system; unlike modern productions that can run for months or years on end, the troupes of this era rarely acted the same play two days in a row. Thomas Middleton's A Game at Chess ran for nine straight performances in August 1624 before it was closed by the authoritiesbut this was due to the political content of the play and was a unique, unprecedented, and unrepeatable phenomenon. Consider the 1592 season of Lord Strange's Men at the Rose Theatre as far more representative: between Feb. 19 and June 23 the company played six days a week, minus Good Friday and two other days. They performed 23 different plays, some only once, and their most popular play of the season, The First Part of Hieronimo, (based on Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy), 15 times. They never played the same play two days in a row, and rarely the same play twice in a week. The workload on the actors, especially the leading performers like Edward Alleyn, must have been tremendous. One distinctive feature of the companies was that they included only males. Until the reign of Charles II, female parts were played by adolescent boy players in women's costume. Costumes were often bright in color and visually entrancing. Costumes were expensive, however, so usually players wore contemporary clothing regardless of the time period of the play. Otherwise, costumes would be recycled and used in multiple different plays multiple times until it was too worn to be used. Occasionally, a lead character would wear a conventionalized version of more historically accurate garb, but secondary characters would nonetheless remain in contemporary clothing. 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. William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson were actors, but 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, while Ben Jonson killed an actor in a duel. Several probably were soldiers. Playwrights were normally 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.

Playwrights dealt with the natural limitation on their productivity by combining into teams of two, three, four, and even five to generate play texts; the majority of plays written in this era were collaborations, and the solo artists who generally eschewed collaborative efforts, like Jonson and Shakespeare, were the exceptions to the rule. Dividing the work, of course, meant dividing the income; but the arrangement seems to have functioned well enough to have made it worthwhile. (The truism that says, diversify your investments, may have worked for the Elizabethan play market as for the modern stock market.) Genres of the period included the history play, which depicted English or European history. Shakespeare's plays about the lives of kings, such as Richard III and Henry V, belong to this category, as do Christopher Marlowe's Edward II and George Peele's Famous Chronicle of King Edward the First. History plays dealt with more recent events, like A Larum for London which dramatizes the sack of Antwerp in 1576. Tragedy was an amazingly popular genre. Marlowe's tragedies were exceptionally popular, such as Dr. Faustus and The Jew of Malta. The audiences particularly liked revenge dramas, such as Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy. The four tragedies considered to be Shakespeare's greatest (Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth) were composed during this period, as well as many others. Comedies were common, too. A sub-genre developed in this period was the city comedy, which deals satirically with life in London after the fashion of Roman New Comedy. Examples are Thomas Dekker's The Shoemaker's Holiday and Thomas Middleton's A Chaste Maid in Cheapside. Though marginalised, the older genres like pastoral (The Faithful Shepherdess, 1608), and even the morality play (Four Plays in One, ca. 1608) could exert influences. After about 1610, the new hybrid sub-genre of the tragicomedy enjoyed an efflorescence, as did the masque throughout the reigns of the first two Stuart kings, James I and Charles. The rising Puritan movement was hostile toward theatre, as they felt that "entertainment" was sinful. Politically, playwrights and actors were clients of the monarchy and aristocracy, and most supported the Royalist cause. The Puritan faction, long powerful in London, gained control of the city early in the English Civil War, and on September 2, 1642 ordered the closure of the London theatres. The theatres remained closed for most of the next eighteen years, re-opening after the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660. The re-opened theatres performed many of the plays of the previous era, though often in adapted forms; new genres of Restoration comedy and spectacle soon evolved, giving English theatre of the later seventeenth century its distinctive character.

II.Literature and drama

It would be an oversimplification to say that Elizabethan literature was dominated by the court, but there is no denying that much of it is court-focussed. In the seventeenth century the court of Charles I exerted considerable influence on lyric and drama, while that of Charles II controlled theatre and produced the lyrics of such courtiers as John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester(1647-1680) and Sir Charles Sedley(1639-1701). Yet the major figures of seventeenth-century literature were neither courtiers nor dominated by court culture. In drama Shakespeare (1564-1616), Ben Jonson(1573-1637) and Thomas Middleton (c. 1570-1627) were all of relatively humble backgrounds and none of them became primarily a court spokesman( although Jonson did sometimes play this role). The greatest English poet of the country, John Milton (1608-1674), was the son of a scrivener and became an obdurate opponent of monarchy, while some of the finest prose of the period was written by John Bunyan(1628-1688), tinker son of a tinker father. Courtly coteries existed throughout the century, but the variety and richness of English literature at this time take us far beyond courts, into urban contexts, mercantile careers and the protests of the underprivileged. Much of what was produced was no longer the product of leisure: the professional writer comes to overshadow, though not to exclude, the amateur. By professional I mean not only those writers who earned their livings mainly by writing, but also those who were urged into print by the pressure of what they had to say, rather than by the impulse to create beautiful objects. This change of emphasis make the theatre a good place to begin, while another reason for starting with drama is that its seventeenth-century history stresses the importance of the decades of the Civil War and Commonwealth(1642-1660) in any account of the centurys writing. For one of the bestknown pseudo-facts about English seventeenth-century writing is the break in drama caused by the closing of the theatres in 1642. The tendency to see this as an absolute break and to regard Restoration drama as almost wholly unlike drama before 1642 is misleading and inaccurate. The closures of January and September 1642 were said to be for a season; drama continued to be produced between 1642 and 1660; and Caroline drama has much in common with Restoration. But there is a break in continuity, even if not an absolute one, and this is well indicated by material changes in the nature of theatre, changes particularly worth emphasizing since drama is essentially designed for performance. It is also important to remember that, between 1660 and 1700, there were very few theatres. Finally, although the claim that only a very restricted social range was represented in Restoration theatre audiences has been overstressed, there can be little doubt that theatre was a less popular medium in 1680 than it had been in 1610.

III. A theatre of satire and revenge

Shakespeares Hamlet (1603) was the first played at the beginning of the seventeenth century, and although the title-figure is probably the most famous in English drama, Hamlet is basically a stock character, acted on a long open-air stage without scenery, by a busy actor working in a tradition of short runs, little rehearsal time and a high degree of acting formality. Hamlet is given a revenge task and the play is about the difficulties which this entails. Both task and difficulties are parts of the conventional material of revenge drama. Towards the end of the century, in 1682, Thomas Otways Venice Preserved was produced for the first time. His play, acted on a covered stage and with scenery, is about the difficulties of moral and emotional choice. A brief history of English drama in the seventeenth century might be written with these two plays as markers. Hamlet includes characters who reflect upon experience and what it might signify. It is also a play of violent action, whether stage within the play proper( the theatrical which Hamlet hopes will trap Claudius), reported (Hamlets treatment of Rosencrantz and Guildernstern). It is also a tragedy full of satiric comedy the mockery of Polonius, the shivery near-farce of the second ghost scene, Hamlets obscene jokes at Ophelias expense, the graveyard humour, and even the horrid laughter, of a botched denouement. Shakespeare was a professional dramatist who, by the time Hamlet was written, was thoroughly experienced. Given the prevailing theatrical conditions the best way of writing drama was usually to take an existing story, and to turn it into dramatic form along lines already established bearing in mind the strengths and the specialism of the expected performers and the interests of the likely audience. Innovation was mainly a matter of extending or parodying that which was already established, and anything more obviously radical was likely to cause difficulties, as the career of Ben Johnson makes very clear. The dramatists are at times keen to be seen as poets, but the strength of Elizabethen and Jacobean theatre lies in its theatricality. Have you ever wondered about Shakespeares real existence? About his talent and plays talks everyone, but suspicion always haunts the guilty mind(W.S). Anonymous is a 2011 political thriller and pseudo-historical drama film. Directed by Roland Emmerich and written by John Orloff, the movie is a fictionalized version of the life of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, an Elizabethan courtier, playwright, poet and patron of the arts. It stars Rhys Ifans as de Vere and Vanessa Redgrave as Queen Elizabeth I of England. Set within the political atmosphere of the Elizabethan court, the film presents Lord Oxford as the true author of William Shakespeare's plays, and dramatizes events leading to the succession of Queen Elizabeth I and the Earl of Essex Rebellion against her. In spite of any legend, Shakespeare inspired generations of writers and directors to create pieces of art, such as: The Boys from Syracuse (1940) - The Two Gentlemen of Verona; Joe Macbeth (1953)

Macbeth; 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) - The Taming of the Shrew; O (2001) Othello and so on.


The impact of drama and literature spread from one year to another one, from one generation to another one by making people to ask themselves how life was before. I certainly did that. Curiosity is one of my qualities, this is the reason I wonder what could change the future and the evolution which is only technological evolution. Why the seventeenth century evolve by making culture? And why people tend to be less open-minded about the importance of literature and culture? Shakespeare is one example of a real man. There are many others who contribute to the English culture, but only he was the King of plays. I think that the answer to my questions is that people had any kind of information about history and culture, and what is done is unchangeable. Creating something else, like technology, keep people busy and make no harm to the old culture, but blocking the young one. The balance between culture and people nowadays is about the appearance of knowing and the essence of not knowing: A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.(Marcus Garvey)


17th Century Britain The Cambridge Cultural History by Boris Ford The Life Of Elizabeth I by Alison Weir Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Brison Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare by Stephen Greenblatt Wikipedia