Shakespeare Research

By: Katherine Harding & Kacey Aurand

Theater in Shakespeare's Time

Here's a little bit about Shakespeare's personal life:

Women in Shakespeare Theatre

In the 1500's, women were no where near thought of the same as they are now. In Shakespeare Theatre there were many female characters never actually played by women. They were always replaced with boys that dressed as girl performed the female roles.

Shakespeare's Acting Career

Not only was Shakespeare a very popular play writer, he also spent some time of his life being a "player". The term "player" was what the actors referred to themselves. His name appeared some of the cast in the chamberlains men acting company. He performed the role of Edward l in a play by George Peele. There is no evidence of him performing in any of his own plays. Shakespeare did perform in the role of Henry IV in Henry IV: Part 1 and 2, Duncan Macbeth, and Ghost of Hemlet’s father in Hemlet. He also may have performed the role of Old Adam. He filled in some of the parts of older male characters. He sometimes acted in the first decade of his career as a playwright. He may have acted in some of his own works too, but we don't know what parts he may or may not have played.

Audience Conditions

The theatre was an olden day version of cliques. The more money you had the "cooler" or more popular you were. If you were rich and popular, you got to get a better seat. The poor people stood in the center on the theatre and more rich you were the higher and better seats you got. It also worked as a first come first serve type of deal. Within your range of seats that you could afford you were also competing with others that could afford those too. The Globe was constantly jam packed. There were so many people that came to see theatre back in this time.

Audience Opinions

The audience at theatres were not scared to voice their opinions. If they didn't like the play or how a certain player was preforming, they sure didn't feel the need to hold anything back. One of the ways they would let them know they weren't enjoying the play / it was of time or money was to obviously say what they thought out load, by hissing and shout nasty things. There was also another way that was a little more harsh. People would have oranges ready to be thrown if the players weren't acting up to just the right standards.

These are some portraits of Shakespeare

The Globe Theatre Today

What was going to the theater like during Shakespeare’s day?

The audience would eat, drink and talk throughout the whole performance. Its not like stuff today, it was like a hangout to them. The theatres were opened and they used natural light. All the plays were performed in the afternoon when it was still daylight. There was never females performing the roles. Males performed all there roles. Very little scenery was used in the performances. They used language to set the scenes. Visiting a theatre to watch a play was very different then than it is now. You were never expected to be quiet and still unlike today.

The Globe Theatre

The Globe Theatre was a theatre in London that played William Shakespeare's plays. It was built in 1599 by Shakespeare's playing company, the Lord Chamberlain's Men, on some land owned by Thomas Brend and inherited by his son, and was destroyed by fire on 29 June 1613, started by the puritans. A second Globe Theatre was built on the same site by June 1614 and closed in 1642. A modern reconstruction of the Globe, named "Shakespeare's Globe", opened in 1997 just about 750 feet from the site of the original theatre. From 1909, the current Gielgud Theatre was called "Globe Theatre", until it was renamed in 1994.

The Globe Description

The Globe's size and shape are approximated from scholarly inquiry over two centuries. There wasn't an actual roof on the theatre they liked it when it was open and they used natural light. There was three levels usually. There was an area at the base of the stage called the yard. For a penny you could stand on the rush-strewn earthen floor to watch all the performances. Around “the yard” were stadium style seats that you could pay more for. In the back of the stage there were usually two or three doors reaching to the main level. The backstage part was called the “tiring house” where the actors dressed and waited for their entrance. Floors above mayu have been used for storing costumes and props and as management offices. The balconies were used for housing the musicians and sometimes used to set the scene such as the one of Romeo and Juliet. The roof was supported by large columns on either sides of the stage. Some theatres had roofs and the ceiling under it was named the “heavens” and they would paint the clouds and a sky on it.

Audience Organization

The 'groundlings' would pay 1 penny to stand in the 'Yard' of the Globe Theatre. The gentry would pay to sit in the galleries often using cushions for comfort! Rich nobles could watch the play from a chair set on the side of the Globe stage itself. Theatre performances were held in the afternoon, because, of course, there was limited artificial lighting. Men and women attended plays, but often the prosperous women would wear a mask to disguise their identity. The plays were extremely popular and attracted vast audiences to the Globe - the audience capacity was over 1500 people and this amount increased to 3000 when people mingling outside the grounds.

In 1599, Thomas Platter noted the cost of admission in his diary:

"There are separate galleries and there one stands more comfortably and moreover can sit, but one pays more for it. Thus anyone who remains on the level standing pays only one English penny: but if he wants to sit, he is let in at a farther door, and there he gives another penny. If he desires to sit on a cushion in the most comfortable place of all, where he not only sees everything well, but can also be seen then he gives yet another English penny at another door. And in the pauses of the comedy food and drink are carried round amongst the people and one can thus refresh himself at his own cost"

Virtual Globe Link:

Astrology during Shakespeare’s Day

Astrology- studying celestial bodies and there movements and relative positions and how they had an influence on human affairs and the natural world

Zodiac- a belt of the heavens within about 8 degrees either sides of the ecliptic including all apparent positions of the sun, moon, and most familiar plants. It is divided into 12 equal divisions or signs

What are astrology/zodiac supposed to say about people and their lives?

Astrology and zodiac were supposed to tell people about there personalities.