era is estimated to have been between the late 1500’s and the early 1600’s and
is renowned for theatrical icons such as William Shakespeare, Christopher
Marlowe and James Burbage.
It all began in
1576, when James Burbage built ‘The Theatre’ in Shoreditch, London. It was the
first successful theatre ever built in England. Before this time plays were
held in the courtyard of inns – the Inn Yards. At times they were even
performed in the houses of noblemen, these noblemen had to be cautious however,
as performances that were controversial or political were likely to get them in
trouble with the crown.
were located outside the city walls as the authorities banned plays within the
city due to their controversy. Going to
the theatre became so popular that all classes would attend: Nobles bought
tickets to the most expensive seats, known as the balconies or galleries,
whereas the commoners stood in the theatre pit. Flags were used to advertise
the next play to be performed and at times colour coding was used to advertise
what genre the play would be.
The plays were
very interactive and actors were aware of the audience members. Dialogue was
poetic and dramatic and all characters were played by men. Young boys often
played female characters as it was frowned upon for women to act.
As for key
theatrical figures, Shakespeare is without a doubt the most heard of today. He
wrote numerous very well-known plays and poems and was a member of The Lord
Chamberlain’s Men; a company of actors for which he wrote most plays.
Marlowe however, was just as influential, and many playwrights and poets of the
sixteenth century followed where he had led, especially in his use of language
and concept of the blank-verse line.
figure during this era was James Burbage, and like mentioned above, he built the
first successful theatre in England, The Theatre. He trained to be a joiner,
but then chose to become an actor, which was an unusual decision as they were
seen as vagabonds and rogues at the time. He was the father of Richard Burbage,
who is considered the first great actor of English theatre and performed in
many of Shakespeare’s plays at The Globe, such as Hamlet and Richard III.