Introduction to Hamlet
Types of Theaters
Indoor Private Theaters, such as Blackfriar's, which Shakespeare's plays were later performed at, held less than 1,000 people and the cheapest admittance was 6 pence. Everyone was sitting and those interested in flaunting their wealth could pay even more to sit on the stage.
Plays were also performed in the great halls of royal residences, universities, private homes of dignitaries, and occasionally Inns. When the plague closed the theaters, plays were performed in churches or guildhalls.
Physical Structure of Theaters of Shakespeare's Time
- Some theaters were polygonal or circular (the Globe), others were square
- Size estimates range from 72 to 100 feet, but they held audiences of two or three thousand
- The Globe had a square stage that protruded from a house that held "tiring rooms," or dressing rooms and wardrobe storage.
- The yards of outdoor theaters were uncovered, but the stage was covered by a ceiling called "the heavens"
Scene Changes: Changes were signaled by props or dialogue, as there were no curtains and no stage-hands to move sets. Either actors would walk on and off of the stage, or certain props would dictate the setting, such as napkins would be used out of the street, but inside in a dining hall.
Entrances and Exits: There was a trapdoor at the bottom of the stage, for actors to emerge from, commonly as a ghost from the afterlife, hangings across the back of the stage that could be drawn back to "discover" actors hidden behind them, and ropes that could be used when actors needed to descend from or ascend to the heavens.
Children actors were the main source of competition for adult acting companies like Shakespeare's. They came from one of two prestigious youth companies: the Children of Paul's and the Children of the Chapel Royal. Both, however, had dissolved by 1608.
Acting Companies and Theaters of Shakespeare's Time
Shakespeare's company managed itself with principle actors also acting as "sharers", sharing in the money made, and the responsibility of paying the expenses.
Patrons were needed support acting companies. Without them, actors were classified as "common players", who were legally viewed as vagabonds, or beggars.