Medieval Stage Essay

1426 words - 6 pages

Introduction to our specific production and the theatre design element:
While evaluating the history of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, it is apparent that an exact date, time, or stage design has been identified for this particular Shakespearean masterpiece. It is believed by some scholars that William Shakespeare wrote this play with a wedding in mind, while other’s will argue that the final script wasn’t performed for anyone in particular, but rather for the general public in an amphitheater setting. According to the time period that A Midsummer Night’s Dream was made public, it is a large possibility that it was not performed in London, and that it was most definitely not performed as a ...view middle of the document...

During the earlier years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign (around 1562), the first spaces designated to “play” in and invite the public to were called Inn-Yards. Because actors did not have a permanent place to perform, they travelled throughout England, and naturally, needed to find various inns to stay in. In accordance with the inn-keeper, the travelling actors adopted the inn’s courtyards as their performance space (which came complete, with an audience). These spaces held up to five-hundred people, depending on the size of the inn. Anyone that wanted to attend these courtyard performances were charged a small fee if they wanted to stand on the ground, and a larger fee if they wanted a balcony view. This habit of taking over inn’s courtyards grew to be a very popular occurrence. Here is an example of what an Inn-yard performance might have looked like:

After a short while, the Inn-yards were being used for more than just productions. There were masses of people using these various spaces for gambling, prostitution, and other un-holy activities. These occurrences were frequent enough that the government and the Church of England took notice. By 1572, plays were banned from London city limits (which was claimed to prevent the spread of the plague by preventing large masses in a confined area). Then, by 1574, the Inn-yard performances became severely restricted, which led to the banning of actors in London, in 1575. Here is a map illustrating where plays/actors were allowed (plays/actors were not allowed in the gray area):

During the three-year span of banning theatre, anyone associated with the theatre with the reputation of a public nuisance, which forced the art to the outskirts of London.
After Inn-yard playing had been regulated, James Burbage, one of the first impresarios of theatre during the Renaissance, was actively promoting and making money off of the public’s rising interest in the art of theatre. He was highly experienced in designing and staging performances for Inn-yards, and had enough money to design and build a permanent space for theatrical productions. After actors were banned from London in 1575, Burbage concocted a plan to build a new, permanent theatre right outside the city limits.
In 1576, Burbage’s vision was set into action and he built the first theatre designed exclusively for performing, which he named “The Theatre”. The Theatre was built in Shoreditch, England (a city on the outskirts of London). Burbage derived much of his design inspiration from the Inn-yards, but also from the Roman amphitheaters that had been established several centuries prior. Much like the Inn-yards, the space had room on both the floor and balconies (there were usually three in an amphitheater) that surrounded the performance space; and staying true to the ancient, Roman-style, the theatre had no rooftop and was built in a round or octagonal fashion. The stage was raised about five feet off of the ground to allow audience members a...

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