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Elizabethan Theatre History

The Elizabethan theatre is the original renaissance theatre. It merged various styles of plays from all over Europe. It had elements of roman drama, Greek tragedies, comedies, historical plays, plays with a religious bent and such like.

Initially, plays were performed on the streets, courtyard of inns and roadsides. Also, the royal courts had their own entourage of travelling and permanent playwrights and actors. This used to be a regular source of entertainment for the English, however, there was no fixed time or place where plays would be held exclusively.

Elizabethan Theatre History

The making of the first Elizabethan theatre can be accredited to James Burbage and his brother in-law in 1576. They wanted to rake in the profits that would come their way if the theatre was to be permanent and stationary. They constructed the “Theatre” in Shoreditch which was under the employ of Lord Chamberlain’s men for 1594-1596. The “Curtain” was opened in the same area in 1577.

What is Elizabethan Theatre

Surrey saw the next theatre, “The Rose” soon after in 1586. It was fashioned after an open air amphi-theatre. Unfortunately, due to the outbreak of the bubonic plague in 1593, all theatres were forced to shut down as the situation in London graduated from bad to worse.

A year later when the theatres reopened, Lord Chamberlain’s Company came into the limelight and the first stirrings of Shakespearean era in theatres were felt. As it happened, London authorities took aversion to the staging of plays and forbade them from showing inside the city. Now, if someone wanted to see a play, they had to go to the outskirts of the city.

Elizabethan Theatre History

But, since Queen Elizabeth herself was a patron of the theatre; they could not be cowed down for long. Elizabethan theatres mushroomed here and there in the city of London. The Theatre, when it ran out of its lease period and the owner, Giles Allen refused to renew it, it relocated, lock stock and barrel to Bankside in 1599. This theatre was named the Globe Theatre.

Elizabethan Theatre History Facts

It was during this period in the history of Elizabethan theatre that William Shakespeare became known as an actor and then a playwright. The second surge of the bubonic plague happened in 1603 causing a tremendous loss of human lives. The theatre saw its third downward spiral. The Globe theatre then caught fire in 1613 which caused total destruction. Unmoved, the company rebuilt it using stronger reinforcements.

The final opposition faced by the Elizabethan theatre came in the form of the puritan movement followed by the Civil war in England. And for eighteen long years, the doors of theatres remained shut. It closed down in 1642 and finally reopened to the welcome of monarchy in England in 1660. The restoration had begun.

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