Want a study guide too?
Imagine yourself going to see a show. The cushy red seats. The talented orchestra. The body odor and animal abuse. Not what you pictured? Be thankful that plenty has changed since Shakespeare's time.
|Author||Shakespeare - William Shakespeare|
|Literary Topics||Author Highlights|
The first theaters didn't even have walls. Instead, plays were performed in processions…
or in circular, grassy areas.
The actors didn't much care for this.
Not only was there no separation between them and the audience…
…but rain delays were a common problem, and being on a level with so much body odor
had caused many a production not to make it past opening night.
So, after years of careful research and analysis, actors ditched the grassy fields of the past
for the marketplace. The early marketplace had one great advantage
over the original outdoor theater: it had a floor.
Naturally, this was considered a technological marvel, and the actors charged their audiences
Plays were performed on scaffolds raised in the marketplace, where people could gather
around to watch the action, and come and go as they pleased.
Obviously, this venue was quite noisy, especially as people bought and sold goods all around
Actors had to shout to be heard above the babble, but at least no one could tell when
someone flubbed a line. While performing in the marketplace meant
that the actors no longer suffered so much from hay fever, they did face a couple of
Sometimes, people would rush the stage, or watch a show without paying.
We've all seen mimes and contortionists and really bad Bob Marley impersonators performing
on street corners.
We might stop to watch for a few minutes, and then move along without putting our spare
change in the bucket.
It was roughly the same thing in Shakespeare's day.
So, how do you stop people from mooching? You build a theater, where every person who
wants to watch the show has to put money in a box as he or she is entering the building.
That's Nobel Prize-worthy thinking right there.
Shakespeare spent most of his career working at a theater called the Globe.
Here, there were three levels of seating, and a pit where people could stand.
Audience members paid according to whether they sat or stood to watch the performance.
Now, you might think the seats in the very, very back of the Globe theater would be the
cheapest, given their distance from the stage.
This wasn't the case, however: the cheapest seats, which only cost a penny, were in the
pit where people stood to watch the show. Just like today's theaters, where you can
go to watch a ballet or a musical or a symphony performance, open-air theaters like the Globe
offered all sorts of entertainment.
One of the best-selling gigs of Shakespeare's time was called bear baiting. No, it didn’t
involve putting bears on hooks and then using them to fish for mackerel.
In bear baiting, a bear would be chained to a pike and people would bet on how many dogs
it would take to kill the bear.
Ye Olde PETA frequently showed up to protest.
So what do you think? Would you be more likely to attend the theater if there was some good
old-fashioned animal violence to keep things interesting?
Or do you prefer our modern theaters… where at least you can contribute to early onset
diabetes with a rich offering at the concession stand?