The Renaissance: Theater and Mr. William Shakespeare

The Renaissance Theater and
William Shakespeare
In the beginning…
• The first public theater
built in England was
called the Theater
– Built by James Burbage
• Other public theaters
followed, including the
Rose and the Swan.
• The most popular
theater was the Globe
Swan Theater. A sketch by Johannes de Witt
The Globe
• Built in 1599 out of pieces of the
• Built on the south side of the
Thames River in the Southwark
• Easily accessible across the Thames
River or over London Bridge
The Structure of the Globe
• Sixteen-sided polygon
– Called the “Wooden O” by
Shakespeare in Henry V
• Three stories high (100 feet)
• Three main parts: building proper,
stage, tiring house (backstage area)
• The building proper surrounded an
inner yard
The Globe Audience
• General admission (one penny) = yard “seats”
– People who paid general admission were called
• Pay more=gallery seats
• Expensive=chairs set directly on sides of the stage
• Held between 2,000 and 3,000 people in very close
proximity to one another
– Reason why it and other public theaters were
closed during plague epidemics and fires
Structure of the Globe
Drawing of the Globe by C. Walter Hodges
Actors and the Stage
• Jutted partially into the
• Referred to as a “bare
– Little scenery, yet much
– Actors used the stage (trap
doors, hangings, balcony,
– Audiences had to use their
• Highly trained actors
– Sing, dance, wrestle, fence,
weep, roar, whisper
– Very close to audience
Actors and their Costumes
Vital elements of the plays
– Signified time and people
Women’s costumes often more elaborate
– Helpful because women were not
allowed to be actors; all female roles
were played by men/adolescent boys.
The Tiring House
Contained machinery and dressing
Had a gallery above it
– Spectators could sit there
– Musicians performed there
– Actors used it
Allowed for props and actors to emerge
Advantages of the Globe
• Flexibility
– Stage anywhere
– No
for set changes
• Speed
– Moved quickly
Shakespeare’s Role in the Globe
• Owned part of it
• Principal writer and
member of the
Chamberlain’s Men
• Staged his plays specifically
for the Globe
• Extremely popular under
the reigns of Elizabeth I and
King James I
– The King’s Men or His
Majesty’s Servants
Shakespeare: An Actor?
• Besides writing the plays, he
occasionally acted in them
– Played smaller roles
– Took over when actors
were ill
• Performed in a few plays of
his friends
• Better known as a
playwright and producer
The End of the Globe
• 1612 – Shakespeare retires
• Still manages the Globe and Blackfriars
• 1613 – Globe burns when a fired cannon
catches the roof on fire during a performance
of Henry VIII
• 1614 – Globe reconstructed
• 1640s – Globe and other public theaters
closed by new Puritan government, which felt
plays were immoral
William Shakespeare: The Man, the
Myth, the Legend
• Born April 23, 1564 in
• Grew up poor
• Education
– Free grammar school
– Studied Latin, the Bible, and
English composition
• Married Anne Hathaway at
age 18; she was 26
– 3 children: Susanna,
Hamnet, and Judith
The Lost Years
• 1585-1592
• Speculated to have held
various jobs, including
teacher and lawyer
• Supposedly left his family
in 1588 to go to London
• 1592 – Henry VI debuted
• Spent the next 21 years
of his life writing
– 37 plays (comedy,
tragedy, and history)
– 154 sonnets
A Genius
• His father was illiterate, yet he had a
vocabulary of nearly 30,000 words
– Coined phrases and words: “into thin air”
and “be all and end all”
– Wrote of court life, foreign affairs, law,
science, classical, and European literature
• Blended plot, characters, and language in a
unique way
The Question of Authorship
Most Wanted #1: Edward de Vere
• Born in 1550
• Earl of Oxford
– Aristocrat
– Studied at Cambridge
– Surrounded by books
– His uncle translated
Ovid’s Metamorphoses,
which Shakespeare
based many of his plays
• Poet & playwright
– Stopped writing around
the time that
Shakespeare’s name
began to appear
Many believe this to be de Vere not Shakespeare
More Evidence for de Vere
Links between characters in the plays and his life
– Polonius from Hamlet = caricature of his father-in-law
1579 Bible – contains 1,000 underlined and
marked passages plus marginal notes
– More than 250 of the marked passages are directly
referenced in Shakespeare’s plays
His nickname was “Spear-shaker” based on his
ability at tournaments and his coat of arms had a
spear on it
The Case Against de Vere
• Died in 1604 but many of Shakespeare’s
plays were written after this date
– Could have been published after his
• He would have been using the name
because it was not conventional for
aristocrats to write, but we know he did
write and publish under his own name
Most Wanted #2: Francis Bacon
• Aristocrat
• Educated
• Similarities occur
between the works of
Bacon and Shakespeare
– Metaphors, similes,
basic ideas of their
works are similar
Northumberland Manuscript
A folder found at Northumberland House in 1867
Contained works by Bacon , including letters and
Most interesting:
– The cover page contains both Bacon and Shakepeare’s
names on it
– Inside the folder are two transcripts to Shakespeare’s
plays: Richard II and Richard III
– Above the titles of the plays, it says “By Francis Bacon”
Most Wanted #3: Christopher Marlowe
• Evidence: he lived at
the same time as
• Died in 1593 just when
Shakespeare’s career
was beginning
• Some claim that he
never died but only
pretended to in order to
escape people coming
after him
Did He Do It?
No one really
We do know that
he borrowed from
many texts
It is possible that
he may not be the
sole author of his
The Death of a Legend
Died April 23, 1616
Epitaph: “Good friend
for Jesus’ sake forbear,
To dig the dust enclosed
here: Blest be the man
that spares these stones,
And curst be he that
moves my bones.”
“He was not for an age
but for all time.” - Ben