The Elizabethan theatre was graced by many talented actors of that time. Edward Alleyn, Robert Armin, Christopher Beeston, Richard Burbage, Henry Condell, Nathan Field, John Heminge, William Kempe, John Lowin, William Rowley, William Shakespeare and Joseph Taylor. These were the handful of actors who were very well known in England during the Elizabethan era.
One name that stands out distinctly is that of William Shakespeare. The Elizabethan theatre had the good fortune of being associated with an amazing actor and one of the greatest playwrights of all time. He started as an actor initially, slowly and surely inching his way into writing plays.
The stage then and stage now were very different. Actors were not viewed with the same respect as they are now and not considered same as artists. It was considered to be a lowly profession, more likely to harbour thieves, brats and villains. The actors were mostly mistrusted and looked down upon. Funnily, in the same breath the shows were awaited with great anticipation.
Elizabethan Theatre Facts
As the popularity of Elizabethan theatre grew, so did the money that rolled in. No longer were they minstrels, travelling from court to inn. They had their own companies and with the advent of proper theatres, they began holding shares of the same. They enjoyed the patronage of the nobility and even the queen.
Interestingly, no woman was known to have set foot upon the stage. It was unheard of that a female choose or allowed to be a part of the plays. She was barred from the profession of acting in Elizabethan theatres. Hence, the female part in a play was portrayed by a male who was slight enough to pass for a female. This raised several eyebrows among the conservative and was frowned upon.
Elizabethan Theatre Audience
The actors enjoyed several privileges. One is that they could wear anything they wished according to the character in the play. Be it peasant or nobility or gods. They were as free with their wardrobes which even the affluent and the nobles were not.
The audience of Elizabethan theatre was varied. There were commoners, merchants, aristocracy, and nobility. The status divide, if not on stage prevailed in the audience.
The commoners were made to stand on the ground or floor in a sunken area. It was called the pit. The second level was for those who could afford a pretty penny and wanted to sit and enjoy the show. The topmost tier was the balcony. Reserved and constructed solely for London’s most elite.
The audience never failed to be enthralled by the scenes unfolding on stage and several were even patrons of the theatre or company or an actor or actors.