Theatre History Notes

Theatre History
Classical Greek Theatre
Festival of Dyonisis
o 3 tragic playwrights competed against each other. A jury voted on what they
thought was the best play. Won bragging rights
Tragedy – comedy – satyr
The playwrights
o Sophocles
o Euripides
Mask work
o Started as a religious thing
o Change characters
o Bring excitement
o Provide perspective
In the beginning
o Minoans
 Island of Crete
 Highly advanced
 Writing, art, pottery
 Bulls, sea life and floral depictions
 Theseus and Minotaur legend born out of the Minoans
 rosettes
 Palace of Knossos
o Mycenaens
 Greek mainland
 Battle of Troy
 Assimilated and adapted cultural features from the Minoans
 Trade – Egypt and Mesopotamia
 Art
 Geometric designs, spirals, rosettes
o Circular = skill
 Terracotta figurines, ivory sculptures, gold jewelry
 Plants, griffins, bowl leaping, warriors, hunts, bulls
 Longer head and ears in people depictions
The gods and heros of these people became the characters later to be brought
to life in the first plays
o Rise of city states came changes in government leading to a time of ambitious
nobles gaining the love of people by improving rights and fostering the growth of
arts and entertainment
The Greeks
 Rise of Tyrants
o In 546, a noble named Peisistratus overthrew the oligarchy
 Peisistratus
 became the leader of Athens
 made Athens the leading center of the arts
 established the Theatre of Dionysus
o started with a song of welcoming the god Dionysus to the
o theatrical contests
o Greek tragedy transcended from dithyramic poetry, which
was choral presentations that included movement
 Agamemnon
 Thespis
o First actor
o Inventor of tragedy (Tragedy = goat song)
o Won first prize for best tragedy in the Festival of Dionysus
o With Thespis, the chorus remained playing its role, while the first actor played
various roles by switching masks. IT would be 50 years before the second actor
was added
 Other people
o Choerilus – advancements in costumes and masks
o Pratinas – invented the satyr plays (raunchy comedies)
o Phrynichus – said to introduced female characters into the plays
 The Tragedy playwrights
o Aeschylus – about 80 plays, 13 victories at the festival, introduction of the
second actor
 “Happiness is a choice that requires effort at times.”
o Sophocles – more than 120 plays, 24 victories at festival, 3rd actor, fixed size of
chorus, first use of scene painting
 “Fate has terrible power. You cannot escape it by wealth or war. No fort
will keep it out, no ships outrun it.”
o Euripides- about 90 plays, 4 victories, questioned traditional values, strayed from
dramatic structure to explore psychological motivation
 Not crowd favorite at the time because how different his work was
 “Life is like a theatre; often very bad people occupy the best seats.”
 Tragic structure
o Prologue/exposition
o Parados – entrance of the chorus
o Episodes separated by choral dance songs known as stasima which develop the
main action
 Exodos or concluding scene
Climatic structure including a point of attack that actually occurs later in
the story
Satyr plays
o Farcical satyr plays
o Only surviving example is Cyclops (Euripides)
o Often comic relief, scantily clad men
o Last dramatic form to receive official recognition in Athens
o Men dressing as and mimicking others
 Pottery shows this dressing up
 Poetry that had crude and explicit humor
 Phallic songs, sung at the Dionysus festival
o Structure
 Parados
 Agon (witty verbal debate)
 Parabasis (Chorus speaking to audience)
 Exodos
Comedic playwrights
o Aristophanes – 40 plays, Old Comedy, makes fun of audience, crude jokes
 “By words the mind is winged”
o Menander – 100 plays, imaginative situations, fast moving dialogue and
suspense, domestic dramas
 “The character of a man is known from his conversations”
o Philemon – 97 plays, New Comedy, more focus of plot of the play, fewer
personal attacks, reoccurring stock characters, less important chorus
o Diphilus, Phillippides
Music and Dance
o Played on the flute (like oboe/clarinet)
o Underscoring
o Dance = any expressive rhythmical movement
 Emmeleia – dance of tragedy
 Kordax – dance of comedy
Costumes and Masks
o Historians argue that the base costume was a sleeved, highly decorated tunic ad
the Chiton (Kai-ton)
o Footwear – soft boot (kothornos)
o ALL performers wore masks
 Made of linen, cork, or lightweight wood
Stages and Staging
o Public land – parks, markets
o Greek theatre building – theatron
o often rectangular in the beginning
o 3 parts
 Large, dancing place
 Often had an alter in it dedicated to Dionysus
 Skene (tent, hut)
 Large rectangular building used for backstage area
 Represented the location of the plays
 Audience
 Parados
 Entry wats into the orchestra
o At first, the skene as literally a tent or hut put up for a religious festical. Later it
became a permanent stone structure
 Painted to serve as backdrops – scenery
o In front, there could have been a proskene, a raised acting area, that would be
the ancestor of the proscenium stage
o A typical theatre was able to seat around 15,000 viewers
 The masks and the stone itself would reverberate to help carry the sound
The Skene
o Skene was a background for most plays by 458BCE
o Contained dressing space for actors, stored some props
o At first it was wooden, then switched to stone
o Typically had 3 doorwats that later became playing space for the actors as well
as entrances and exits
o Essentially a flat
o Supposedly attached to the scene building and changed as needed
o Triangular decide of three painted flats hinged together
o Each side showed a different scene so you could easily turn it to change the
o Now believed that is didn’t originate until the Hellenistic age. The periaktos were
revived in Italian theatre
o Greeks did not present violence on stage
o A wagon would be wheeled from behind the skene and a character who had died
offstage would be laid out on the death wagon – ekkyklama - for the audience to
o A crane hidded behing the upper level of a skene
o Used to effect the entrance of an actor playing the god or goddess
 Suggested a descent from the heavens
o Deus ex machina
o Euripides used it a lot to wrap up loose ends
Altar and Seating
o If the altar was dedicated to Dionysus, a character couldn’t make sacrifices
because that would have been sacreligious
The Audience
o Included boys and men, no evidence on whether women were included
o Officials were responsible for keeping order and possible checking tickets
o Violence in the theatre was punishable by death
o All day affairs, so there was lots of food and drinking
o Audience could hiss actors off stage
o Chariots, statues, torches, lamps…
o Could represent a scene change
o Furniture was rarely used – restricted to couches for the ill
o Comedy used more furniture and props than tragedy
 Similar to now
 Lend Me a Tenor
o Props used to make a dramatic point
Masks and Costumes
o By the first century, the tragic actor wore kothornoi (raised boots) and an onkos
(headdress) to increase size
o Slaves had red hair, courtesans had yellow hair
Hellenistic Period
o Stage has been raised varying from 8-13 feet tall and sometimes 140 feet long
o Side wings have been eliminated
o Orchestra space has been cut a little bit
Beginnings of the Hellenistic Era
o 336 BCE – Alexander the Great, was also a great supporter of the arts
 From 336-146 BCE was Hellenistic
Changes during Hellenistic Era
o More festivals!
o Theatre could now take place at any time, not just during the festivals
o By 150 BCE, theatre spaces have definite shape
 Cut theatre orchestra
 No paraskenia
 Stone seating
o Acting competitions – suggests training
o 1st acting guild in 277 BCE
 Artists of Dionysus
o Government now produced the works
o Actors were ambassadors – they weren’t required to take place in the fighting or
o In the Classical period, actors were taking part of a religious activity, so that was
fine. However, people didn’t love theatre folks in the Hellenistic Age. They didn’t
want for actor’s chameleon like personalities to make them liars and scary for
society. Theatre folk were not totally well thought of
 People
o Aeschylus
 Great innovator
 Introduced the 2nd actor – made acting more sophisticated
o Sophocles
 Brought in the 3rd actor
 First actor to give up acting and just focus on playwriting
 Greek Mimes
o Earliest professional performers (though not given notice much by the Artists of
o Travelling players – gypsys – many originated in Italy
o Some included women
Greek Review!
 Whats necessary for theatre to exist as a solf-governed art?
o Separate audience and performers
o Stable society that values aesthetic performance and entertainment
o Must utilize performative elements
 Costume, setting, props…
o Focus of the performance is on human beings and acts as a mirror of celebration
of life
 Versus religious rituals being mainly effifacious
 What political/cultural shift that occurs just prior to the 5 th century BCE that allows
theatre to flourish in Greece?
o The tyrants come in and provide theatre as a way to make its subjects happy
o Peisistratus creats the City Dionysus and supports the development of arts,
making Athens a leading cultural center
o First tragedt competition in 534 BCE
 3 tragedies and a satyr play
o In 508 BCE, Greece became a democracy which then split into 10 tribes which
created an expansion of performers in competition
 Why is Aristotle’s Poetics important?
o First written account of theatrical structure and criticism
o Lays foundation for dramatic play structures
o First attempt to identify the characteristsics of literary work
o Developed the Unities
 Unity of Time
 24 hours
Unity of Place
 Takes place in roughly one space
 Unity of Action
 Motivated action with reason
o 6 Elements of Drama
 Plot
 Aural/Music/Sound
 Spectacle/Visual
 Characters
 Language
 Thought/Theme
How does the dramatist/actor relationship change from Classical thru Hellenistic times?
o 1st actor – Thespus
o 2nd actor – Aeschylus
o 3rd actor – Sophocles, first actor to go to just playwriting
o In the Classical Age, dramatists chose their own performers but after the
contests began they were chosen by the governing bodies (Artists of Dionysus)
What were the gradual changes from Old Comedy to New Comedy
o Old comedy had ploys that were more fantastical and loosly structures
o New comedy dealt more with everyday situations
o Old comedy utilizaed the chorus much more than new comedy
o Old comedy had less emphasis on plot and character
o OLD = chaos and fantasy
Be able to label a map of a Greek Theatre
Periaktoi – triangular flat
Hypokrite – interpreter or answerer, underscored the fact yhat drama required dialogue
Choragus/choregoi – producer, appointed by the archon
Progon – preliminary presentation designed to advertise and provide info about the coming
Pinakes – falt
Satyr play – farcical, often gruff play, like satyrs, part of the trilogy in the festival, cyclops only
Archon – government official, chose the plays for the festival, oversees judging
Deux machina – god machine, a crane that dropped people in
Theatron – theatre space
Orchestra – where the chorus was, a circle or cut circle
Thymele – altar in middle of orchestra
Proskenion – stage (infront of skene)
Parados – entrance used by chorus on sides
Skene – building behind the stage, used for props and wardrobe storage, showed the setting
Paraskenion – side wings of the skene, towards the audience
Tatrology – 4 plays by one author, 3 tragedies and a satyr play
City Dionysia – festival
Myth – legendary story, often subject of greek plays
Chorodidaskalos – choral trainer
Proedria – front row seats for to officials and religious folks
Phylakes – comic form that developed and satyized the Greek tragedies and myths- developed
by mimes
Aristotle – theatre developed out of desire to imitate, first critic
Aristophanes – old comedy, 40 plays, mocks audience, crude, make fun of audience
Euripides – tragedian, not as popular then, only 5 victories, very popular now
Aeschylus – second actor, 80 plays 13 wins
Sophocles – 120 plays, 24 victories, introduced 3rd actor, fixed size of chorus, skene painting,
gave up acting and was only a playwright
Thespis – first to step out of the chorus, won first drama festival, inventor of tragedy
Menander – imaginative, fast moving dialogue, suspense, DOMESTIC DRAMAS
Peisistatus – rise of the tyrants! Established City Dionysia festival, leader of Athens, established
the thratre and festival to make people like him even though he was a tyrant
Mimes – traveling players, similar to gypsys, variety entertainment, earliest performers
Artists of Dionysus – first actors union, professional security
Philemon – new comedy, focus on plot and notso much attacks, less important chorus
Old comedy v new comedy – old comedy was fantastical and loosly structured, involved the
chorus, new comedy dealt with the every day
Religious ritual v theatre – religious mainly efficacious, theatre is more a celebration of life
Changes in dramatist/actor relationship – originally one person. Aeschylus introduced second
actor. Sophocles was the first to stop acting and just write. Originally dramatists chose their
own actors, but then the government (through the artists) chose them
Changes in use of chorus – chorus was used less in new comedy
Purpose of chorus and their performance structure – provided commentary, background
information, offstage action, entertainment bring excitement and perspective
Costumes/props/scenery – kothornos = shoes, masks, chiton tunic,
Development of actors and how they were viewed by society – thespis was the first to step out
on his own, actors weren’t viewed super highly because they were thought of as problematic
chameleons, and were not trustworthy, but lots of money and attention was given towards
them sooooo. Actors were ambassadors and didn’t have to right in the war
Tragedy play structure – prologue (exposition), parados (entrance of chorus), stasima (dance
developing action), exodos (conclusing scene)
Aristotles poetics – developed the unities (time, action, place), elements of drama, foundation
for dramatic play structure
6 elements of drama – character, plot, music, thought, language, spectacle
 Background
o Rome founded around 750 BCE
o Kings were overthrown around 500 BCE and the republic was establish
o Classist society (senate, plebians, slaves)
o Rome came into contact with Greece around the 2nd and 3rd centuries
 Roman Theatre
o Focuses mostly on comedy and other forms of popular entertainment
o A form of domestic farce
o Influences by New Comedy, Mimes, and the Etruscans
o The Ludi Romani (festival in Rome) establish by Tarquin in Rome
o Another popular form that contributed to Roman theatre was Atellan Farce
 Like mime, developed from interaction with Greek performers who had
traveled to southern Italy
 Improvised and dealt with exaggerated family problems; also made fun of
historical or mythological figures
o The romans adapted most of their theatre from the practices of the Greeks
o More popular entertainment, less religious ritual
 The Ludi Romani
o Dedicated to Jupiter (Zeus)
o It went back to the 6th century BCE, but drama wasn’t added until 240 BCE
o Procession with games such as boxing, wrestling, and chariot racing. Later
gladiators and drama
o 3 main types of entertainment
 Circus
 Chariot races, wrestling, gladiators.
 All competitors belonged to a faction
o 4 factions in chariot races – Blue, White, Green, Red
 Based on the Greek hippodrome. U shaped arena.
 First circus building was the Circus Maximus
 Amphitheatre
 Built to stage violent entertainment
 Arena means sand, which was there to soak up blood
 Mostly gladiator combats
 Came from funeral games, but soon lost all religious importance
 Men who were gladiators were often criminals, slaves, and
prisoners of wars
 4 types of gladiators, with different type of armor and weapons
 Theatre performances
 No women allowed on stage, except in mime work
 Mimes were popular
 First permanent theatre was built in 55BC by Pompey
o Had meeting places, gardens, a gallery… made the building
useful so that it would thrive
The Odeum
o Odeum was a specialized theatre for musical performances and recitations more
refined than those shown in common theatres
o Odeums more common in the east than in the west
o Any theatre with a roof was called an odeum
Roman Comedy
o Fabula Pallieta
o Similarities: Mask work, still smaller scenes
o Changes made:
 Elimination of chorus
 Addition of musical accompaniment
 Emphasis on eavesdropping, which would lead to misunderstandings and
 Direct ancestor of western situation comedy
 “Screwball” comedies of the 1930’s
o Most popular of all Roman Comic Writers
o Plays were still read even if they weren’t being produced
o Depicted the trials and tribulations of romance
o Moliere was influenced by Plautus
o Wrote The Haunted House
Publius Therece Afer
o After Plautus, the most important Roman comic writer
o Stressed characterization, subtlety of expression and elegant language
o Combine plot elements from two Greek plays to create one new work
o Used prologue to provide exposition
o Brought to rome as a slace, the Afer in his name may indicate that he was
African, his owner, a senator, freed him and educated him
o Often used a double plot, plaving two characters in a similar romantic situation
and examining their different reaction
o References to only three tragic playwrights survive:
 Seneca was the only playwright of note
o Served as a tutor of Emporer Nero, became one of his chief advisors
o Exilesd many times
o Nine surviving plays, all based on Greek Myth
 The Trojan Women, Medea, Oedipus, Phaedra
o Used the chorus, but not integral to the dramatic action
o Emphasized violent spectacle
o Characters do not have a ttragic flaw – instead, they are obsessed with an
overwhelming emotion
Quintus Horace Flaccus
o Best known writer of dramatic theory and criticism of Rome
 The Roman Aristotle
o Wrote Ars Poetica, the Latin treatise on dramatic criticism
o Stickler on rules
 Only 3 speaking chracters appear on same time
 5 acts
 No god interfere unless absolutely necessary
 No combination between tragedy and drama
o Purpose of drama is to profit and please, not educate
o Emphasized decorum
 A king should act like a king – stay within your social status
 Consistent character – if youre angry, youre angry
 Anything overly offensive or overly marvelous should be kept offstage,
but this wasn’t always super important
Actors and acting companies
o Festivals were under jurisdiction of a local governemtn official who hired an
acting troupe
o Histriones/contones – roman word for actor, meaning declaimers
o The dominus was the head of the troupe, leading actor, made financial
o Acting companies had at least 6 male members (didn’t care about Horace’s 3
actor rule)
o Emporers sometimes forced nobleman to erform onstage as punishment
o Some were paid, but they weren’t look on highly, might be slaves?
o Acting involved a lot of training
Roman Pantomime
o Lavish, skilled performance in which gestures, movements, owrds, songs, and
music contributed to stir the emotions of the audience
o Introduced in roman during the reign of Augustus by Pyaldes of Cilicia and
BAthyllus of Alexandria (outside influence)
o Song was sung by someone, a solo mute perforancer dances
o Large orchestra made of wind and string intruments
o Pantomime costume
 Long silk tunic designed to follow and emphasize the movements of the
dancers body
 Versatile props
 Masks with closed mouths, elaborate hair, large hiles for eyes
 Expression of the dancers eyes needed to be seen
Theatre buildings
o Redesigned the Greek amphitheatre, but didn’t build a permanent theatre until
 Opposed to building permanent theratres because they might pose a
danger to public morals
o Pompey the Great broke the ban and build the first permanent theatre (put a
shrine on top to say it wasn’t just for theatre)
o Could hold up to 25,000 people
o Wanted to make people more comfortable by adding awnings and fans
o Orchestra is now semi-circular, but was rarely used for staging.
 Used to seat government officials and for flooding for the sea battles
o Scaena (Skene) was 2 or 3 stories high, had 3-5 entrances
 Tragedy had a palace backdrop
 Comedy used a street scene backdrop
o Used periaktoi
o Used curtains
o Parados = vomitoria
 Costumes
o Mirrored tradition Greek clothing
o Chiton (long robe), himation was a cloke worn over the chiton
o Colored to denote status
 Yellow = women
o Wore a simple sandal called the baxa – similar to flip flops
o Entire head was covered by the mask
 The Decline of Roman Theatre
o Theatre reached its height in the 4th century
o The Christian CHruch was a source of opposition because the Christians viewed
theatre as a connection to Pagan religion
 Mimes normally made fun of Christians
 Origins
o 330AD, Constantine dedicated a new rome on the site of the ancient Greek
colony of Byzantium called Constantinople
o Byzantium was ruled by roman law
o Rulers of the byzantine empire considered their government to be a
continuation of the roman empire, which was founded on a greek education
 Theatre
o The empire was Christian and didn’t encourage the development of theatre, but
it preserved much of the information, which allowed Western Europe to
rediscover the classical theatre during the Renaissance
o Center of entertainment = hippodrone
 Iconoclast Controversies
o “Icon” is Greek for “image” or “painting”
o Iconoclasm refers to the destruction of images or hostility towards visual
representations in general
 Shook byzantine empire for more than 100 years
o Open hostility toward religious represnetaions began in 726
 Leo III Removed icons from churches in their destruction
Might have thought that a huge volcano eruption was Gods anger
on the worship of images
o Some think it was to not worship images and idols, some think it was to regain
the growing wealth and power of the monasteries
o The claimed that the iconoclast arguments were simply confused.
o Said that the images were of an actual person – essentially portraits
o Painting Christ is necessary to show that God was incarnate
o Empress Theodora
Performances and Performers
o Theatrical performances given at public festivals, fairs, and private banquets
o States denied actors civil rights
o Born to the bear-keeper of Constantionpe’s hippodrome
o Mother taught them mime work
o Theordora was an actress, dancer, mime, and comedian
o Also a child prostitute – common for the time
 Actress often had bad connotation
o Left her job at 18, at 21 she met Justinian
o Theordora set up a house where they could live in peace
 Worked for womens marriage and dowry rights, anti-rape legislation
Christos Paschon
o Anonymous drama presenting the story of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection
o Depends heavily on the work of Euripides
Fabula crepidata
o Using Greek. Plots or adapting a Greek show
o Most common form of Roman drama
o A rectangular piece of cloth, mostly worn by women, partially throw over the
o A large raised stage in front of the scaena
o Theatron – theatre space, holds up to 25,000 people
Scaena frons
o Front of the scaena
o The façade, 3-5 entrances (more than the Greek)
Ludi romani
o The festival in Rome
o Established by Tarquin
o Dedicated to Jupiter (Zeus)
o Circus
 Chariot races, wrestling, gladiators
 Different factions – blue white red green
 U shaped arena
o Amphitheatre
 Violent entertainment
 Gladiator combat
o Theatre performances
 Only women allowed were those doing mime work
 First permanent theatre building was in Pompeii in 55BC
o Parados = vomitoria
o The side entrances
o Below or behind a tier of seats
Fabular togata
o Roman comedy written from Roman stories (not Greek)
o Lavish performance that used gestures, movement, words, song, and music to
stir audience’s emotions
o Solo dancer and a song sung by soloist or chorus
o Accompanied by orchestra
o Had a long tunic to emphasize movement
o Eyes could be seen through the mask
Circus maximus
o Chariot races, wrestling, gladiators
o Different factions – blue white red green
o U shaped arena
o First circus building
o Best known Roman critic and theorist
o The Roman Aristotle
o Wrotes the Ars Poetica
 3 speaking characters at once
 5 acts
 No god interference unless totally necessary
 No comining of tragedy and comedy
o Emphasized decorum
o The main surviving tragic Roman playwright
o Violent spectable
o Madea, Phaedra, the trojan women
o Overwhelming emotion was the flaw
o Most popular of all roman comic writers
o Influences Shakespeare and moliere
o The haunted house, aulularia
o Most popular comic writer after Plautus
o Stressed characterization
o Perhaps a freed African slave
o Often used a double plot, in which a single situation was shown from two
different chracters POV
o Wrote the mother in law
o Star of Roman theatre
Empress Theodora
o Born to the bear-keeper of Constantionpe’s hippodrome
o Mother taught them mime work
o Theordora was an actress, dancer, mime, and comedian
o Also a child prostitute – common for the time
 Actress often had bad connotation
o Left her job at 18, at 21 she met emperor Justinian and married him
o Theordora set up a house where they could live in peace
 Worked for womens marriage and dowry rights, anti-rape legislation
Competitions and other performance spectacles popular in Rome
o Gladitors
 4 different types of gladiators with different armor
o Chariot races
 Four different colors
o Wresting
o Violence!
Changes in comedy and tragedy from Greek to roman times
o In comedy, the chorus was omitted, musical underscoring was added, and there
was a heightened emphasis put on eavesdropping and miscommunication
Differences between Greek and roman theatre spaces
o Drama wasn’t competitive
o Produced individual plays, not tetrologies
o Roman spaces were in the middle of town, unlike Greek built on mountain sides
3 divisions of byzantine drama
o Religious
o Popular
o Scholarly
 Paid attention to classical Greek drama
Christos Paschon/changes in theatre of byzantine
o Passion of the Christ – Christ death and resurrection
o Depends heaviliy on euripides’ work
o Adapt drama to Christian concerns
Iconoclast movement and its effect on the arts
o Icons of Christ destroyed! No representation of god
o Really took a step back because there was no example to follow
How actors are viewed by society
o Sometimes people were forced to perform as punishement
o Sometimes slaves were actors, but sometimes there were stars that were
 Background
o 500-1400 CE = Middle Ages
o 500-1000 CE = Dark Ages
o Feudalism – lost of classism
o Rebirth of towns and universities
 Hrosvitha
o Earliest known female dramatist
o A nun
o Primarily dealt with Christian Martyrdom
 Liturgical Drama
o The church was omnipresent therefor plays revolved around religion
o Developed alongside liturgical musical changes
o By the 9th century, extended musical passages called tropes had been added to
o More tropes were being stages, and more than 400 plays by 956CCE dealing with
the visit to the tomb and been found throughout Europe
 Primarily presented in monestaries, but as they grew, the staging sifted
 Producing liturgical drama
o Writted in Latin and presented by members of the clergy with the assistance of
cjoir boys
o The transition from Romanesque to Gothic style developed larger interior
spaces, allowing the plays to no longer be confined to monestaries
 Mansion
o Scenic structure depicting some local needed for a biblical tale
o Set up around a larger central playing area
o Intended to indicate a locale – too small to perform in
o On view all the time during a performance
o On wheels and it moved
o Decorative backdrop – one side will always be hell
o Old orchestra space – the central acting space in liturgical drama
o Often down from the mansion
Why move outside?
o Performances were becoming elaborate and needed space
o Cost of staging was becoming burdomsome to the church
o Church officials were opposed to using holy spaces for theatre
o The Mystery of Adam even had stage directions indicating an outside venue
o Originally performed in Latin, then in the 13th century began to be wirtted and
presented in every day language
o Lets reach more people!
Religious Vernacular Drama
o Developed alongside liturgical drama
o Between 1350-1550 it flourished
o Mystery Plays and Morality Plays
Mystery/Cycle Plays
o Ministerium, meaning a religious service of office, which suggests the origin of
mystery drama
o Written in vernacular
o Staged outdoors
o Meant to appeal to popular tastes
o Characters are biblical but portrayed as medieval Christian serfs
 Anachronism – utilized to make the characters identifiable to the
o Emphasis on spectacle
o Comedy was introduced to make the plays more appealing
Producing mystery/cycle plays
o Produced by religious guilds/clubs called confraternities
o In engalnd they were produced by trade guilds
o Town councels assisted with funding
o Usually produced every 2-10 years
 Way less often than what we used to be doing
o Actors in cycle plays were amateurs
o Women performed in France but not in England
o Amateur actors agreed under oath to perform and were fined for missing or
disrupting a rehearsal
o Typecasting became common
o Financial burden on actors could be immense but it was seen as religious duty to
they may even go as far a s to hire someone to do their other everyday job
o Actors provided their own costumes, assisted if they needed something unusual
o There was some attempt at historically accurate clothing
o Processional and stationary staging are the two main types of staging
o Processional staging – audience would assemble in various palces and the cycle
play would be set up on a wahon which moved from locale to local so the play
could be presented multiple time son a route
o Stationary staging – a series of small scenic mansions stood side by side
Stage technology
o Secrets = special stage effects
o Secretes master = overseer of effects
o Flying in characters, floords for noah…
o Shiny surfaces were used to reflect light and create halos
o Trapdoors also allowed actors to be raised and lowered
Pageant Masters
o Overseer of the cycle plays
o Found people to contruct the scenery and seating for the audience
o Selected and rehearsed performers
o Controls eeeevverything
Morality Plays
o Attempts to teach a moral lesson through the use of allegorical characters
o Also called “station dramas”
o Main characters usually ordinary men or women
o Frequently based on the struggle between good and evil
Producing morality plays
o Usually professional performers
o Similar to the production of cycle plays, but more neutral
 Focused on teaching the lesson, less on spectacle
Secular Theatre
o Performaers were attacked by the church as pagan and sacrilegious
o Touring groups of performers were still popular
o Folk plays and farce
 Folk plays dramatize exploits of folk heroes
 Farce plays comically depict universal human weaknesses
Decline of Religious Theatre
o The rise of the monarchy – court entertainment becomes popular
o Elizabeth 1 banned religious drama in 1559
Special Effects
o Machinists were in great demance because of how difficult they were to create
 Machinist second only to the director
 Essentially technical director
o Many effects involved flying – pulleys would be painted by clouds of sky cloths
o Trapdoors
o Water effects were popular – water was stored in wine barrels onn roofs to
produce rain and flooding
o Some wicker flats created to set on fire for scenes where a building burns
o Many torture and exercution scenes that used effigies (dead bodies)
Audiences and Auditoriums
o In most places, plats were not performed every year, it would be between 1 and
10 years
o Invitations were sent out to talk about the plays, as well as posters and flags
o Guards protected the stages at night and a barrier was made to protect the
Music in plays
o Prominent part of productions
o Preshow music
o A chorus of angels would sing hymns
o Transition, intermission, and ending music
o Some plays indicate dances, but most did not
Hildegard of BIngen
o Born in what is now Germany
o Tenth child of a well to do family
o Had many visions, which she wrote into books
 She also wrote 77 pieces of vocal music
 Wrote the FIRST opera
o Wrote the first morality play – The Play of Virtues, also a musical morality show
 Written only for female voices
 The only male role is that of the devil, but he cant sing because of his
o Huge Christmas celebrations – “mummers” would sing and perform sketches in
return for food and maybe money – sort of similar to carolers
 Mummer – considered amateur actors, performed different plays and big
occasions, most often Christmas
 Acrobatics, singing, mimicry, acting
o A Tournament, a series of armored combats fought
o The Interlude grew out of the morality play, meant to be entertainment, short
and witty, as a diversion between scenes of the morality play
 Often for indoor performances, higher level of refinement
Feast of Fools
o Around January 1st, particularly in France
o A mock bishop or pope was elected, ecclesiastic ritual parodied, and low and
high officials changed places
o By the 13th century it had become a burlesque of Christian morality and worship,
but it wasn’t totally intended to mock, but to give thanksgiving for the
incarnation of Christ
o Didn’t die out until the 16th century
o The Lord of Misrule did tons of crazy things
 Wore womens clothes, animal masks, threw manure…
Shrovetide Plays
o Like the Shrovetide or carnival mumers were the same people who participated
in mystery plats
o Also called interludes and sotties
o Comic, and sort of started to make fun of society
Puppet Shows
o Dumb shows, with pantomimic performances with living actors of puppets
o Older stories of cheating, devils, noah’s ark…
o Interactive with the audience
o Creation and Flood,
o Extended musical passages, which grew into staged productions
o Originally performed in monestaries, but moved outward
Quem quatetiris
o “whom do you seek” trope
o Scenic structure used to tell a biblical tale
o On view at all times – indicated locale
o Always had hell demon mouth on one end and heaven on the other
o Central acting space
o Actors would indicate location with the mansion, them move to the platea to
Vernacular drama
o Plays written in common vernacular, as opposed to Latin
o Mystery and morality plays
Mystery/cycle play
o Dramatized biblical events
o Sometimes presented in a sequence, or with other festivals
o Vernacular, staged outdoors
o Biblical characters set as serfs – anachronism – make people relate
o Comedy and spectacle
Morality play
o Teach a lesson through allegorical characters
o Characters often ordinary men or women
o Good v evil
o Professional performers on neural stage
Passion play
Pageant master
o Overseer of cycle plays
o Found people to make scenery and seating, supervised the machinist, cast and
rehearsed performers, collected money, could serve as narrator…
o Using the same performer for the same type of role
o Became common during this time
Professional staging
Stationary staging
o Wagons
o Could be moved from place to place so as to perform in different areas, or the
audience could move around
o Stage area of a nambandoned roman amphitheatre, used in stationary staging
Cornish round
o Theatre in the round
o Special effects
o Halos, floods, trapdoors, burning crates…
Folk play and farce
o Folk plays = folk heros
o Farce – universal human weaknesses
Hildegard of bingen
o Nun with visions, wrote them down.
o Known for her musical compositions, the first morality play (The Play of Virtues),
medicine, spiritual healing…
o Is a saint now in the catholic church
o Ealiest female dramatist, though we don’t know if he stuff was performed
 Abraham
o Nun
o Dealt with christian martyrdom
Hans sachs
o Famous interlude playwrite
o Also a shoemaker
Origins of liturgical drama
o The church was omnipresent, so any play would revolve around religion
o Developed alongside liturgical music
o Tropes, or extended dramatic musical passages were created that dealt with
Biblical stories
o Originally performed in monestaries, then on to churches and cathedrals
Changes in performance venues (monestaries to outside)
o As the architecture changed to more Gothic styles – meaning bigger, grander
spaces, liturgical dramas could now be perfomed in churches or cathedrals, not
just monetaries. But then as spectacle got bigger, they moved outside to reach
more people and not mess with church so much. The cost was high for churches,
and some officials didn’t like using holy spaces for theatre
Staging of plays
Feast of fools
o Intended to give thanksgiving, but really just mocked. Reversed the roles – mock
o Lord of Misrule – did al sorts of crazy stuff; played dice at the altar, hurled
manure, sang obscene songs…
o Fools chosen by god for their lowly statu
Development of vernacular drama
o Developed alongside liturgical drama
o Mystery plays and morality plays
o Written in normal language/vernacular (not in latin)
Fixed stages v wagons
o Fixed/stationary = scenic mansions stood next to each other
o Wagon/processional – a wagon could be moved from place to palce so the plat
could be presented multiple times on a route
Entertainment outside the church (mummers, interludes, tournaments)
o Mummers – groups of “carolers” who went around at holidays singing and
performing for food or money – amatur actor with large skillset
o Tournament – armored combat with knights, winner gets money or a prize
o Interlude – similar to satyr play, short, witty, diversion play
The development of episodic form
o Early traces found in mideaval drama
o Contrasted with climatic drama
o Juxtapositing two plots to enhance the other
o Switching from group to group, place to place, as happens in the bible (no more
o Helped with anachronism as well
Performers and pageant masters
o Performers could be made to hire a replacement for their real job so they could
take part in their religious duty to act
o Contracts about being late or disruptive
o Provided their own costumes
The neutral platform stage
o Neutral, non localized platform stage
o A slate which could be “wiped clean” and used for different places
o Imagination
 Humanism
o Return to concern for the worth of humanity and earthly life, not meres as
preparation for eternity but as valuable in themselves
o Human virtues and ideals – justice, courtesy, magnamity, integrity, loyalty,
courage, and duty
 Changes
o Era of expansion – geographical exploration, scientific experimentation,
philosophical inquiry, artistic creativity
o The educational goal was the development of the universal human being skilled
in many fields (liberal arts, renaissance man)
 Why was Italy first?
o The ruins of Rome were everywhere, so they could easily see and experience it.
o Trade gave them great wealth
o Italy was the seat of the Roman Catholic Church
 Renaissance Drama
o Writing not as important as all the other spectacle
o Appreciation of the humanists for individual potential lead to artists they were
honored instead of remaining anonymous (like in middle ages).
 Manuel Chrysoloras
o First sign of change was a new awareness of dramatic form from the study of
Roman plays
o Latin plays, Senecas works, comedies of Terence and Plautus
o Beginning with Achilles by Antonio Iasci, the classical form and subject were
finally united
o The oldest known comedy of this time was Pier Paolo V______
 Vernacular
o Drama written in the vernacular did not appear until the early 16 th century, by
which time 12 of Plautus’s plays had been discovered
o The printing press (1465) made it possible to distribute texts to a larger audience
o The desire to maket he plays more accessiblwe to the court was probably major
motivation for translating the Roman plays into Italian and creating new plays in
the Vernacular
o First important vernacular tragedy was Sofonisba by Giangiorio Trissino
 Chorus of 15
 Divided into acts
 Deliberately attempted to counteract the influence of Senesca, which
launched a controvery that would last for years over the merits of Greek
and Roman drama as models for Italian authors
 Mannerism and Baroque
o Mannerist style is what we view as an equally self conscious and overly rigid
approach known as Neoclassicism (going back to classical), which then gave way
to Baroque
o Period of self confidence, grandeur, richness, and monumentality in the visual
o Elaboration, decoration, s-cureved line
o Emphasized unity among the arts, which brought new enthusiasm for the
theatre. Engagement bot physically and emotionalls
Neoclassical Ideals
o In drama – formiulation of the neoclassical ideal
o Return to Poetics
 Only comedy and drama
 Comedy has characters from lower and middle classes, everyday
 Drama was ruling classes, historical or mythological stories, unhappy
o The fundamental demand of neoclassicalism was for decorum, or the
appearance of truth.
 May be be divided into 3 goals: reality, morality, universality
o Wanted to reveal more ideal moral patterns
 Wickedness always punished, good always rewarded
Theatre Architecture
o Actors were developing commedia
o Architects going crazy
Teatro Olimpico
o Oldest surviving Italian renaissance theatre, built by Andrea Palladio Scamozzi
o Raised stage, seats about 3,000 (waaay smaller), 3D buildings (perspective)
Theatre at Sabbioneta
o Also constructed by 1588, sat only 250 people
o Only one background vista
o Horseshoe shaped auditorium and a raised stage
o Orchestra used for seating or flooding
o Proscenium arch stage (picture frame stage)
Audience seating
o Revolution in auditorium design occurred in the public opera houses of Venice
that required more seating which lead to pit, boxes, and galleries
Sebastiano Serlio
o Introduced the idea of using angled wings to give the appearance of a house, to
increase the illusion of depth the tops of these houses were constructed so that
they slanted downward and they would surround a painted backdrop
 The problem with the angles was that is made it impossible to shift
scenes during a performance
 Perioktoi were used to solve the problem at first
Later Nicola Sabbattini suggested placing new wings around those
already in place
 grooves
o Back area of the stage should be raked
Giacomo Torelli
o Developed the pole and chariot system of shifting scenery
o Poles were attaches to flats, when below the stage floor and could be shifted
Italian Renaissance Theatre
 Teatro Olimpico
o Oldest surviving theatre from the Renaissance
o Palladio, finished by Scamozzi
o Designed as a min indoor Roman theatre with a blue ceiling to represent the sky
o Could hold about 3,000 people
 Used now, but limited to only 400 people
o Originally used oil lamps for lighting
o Very detailed and ornate, perspective stage
 Teatro Farnese
o The prototype of the modern playhouse and the first surviving theatre with a
permanent proscenium arch
o Constructed by Giovanni Battista Aleotti
o Opening performance was a opera/ballet that had horsemanship and floods and
sea monsters and flying machines (deus ex machina). Super crazy.
 Audience Seating
o The innovation of the Italian renaissance in theatre architecture and scene
design have been unmatched in theatre history for the next 200 years, anyone
attending the theatre anywhere in Europe would be in a proscenium-arch
playhouse watching the stage action from wither the pit, box, or gallery
 Pit – standing area
 Box – best place to be seen
 Gallery –
 Sebastiano Serlio
o Architect, painter, and designer
o Introduced perspective and realism into scene design
o Believed 3 basic settings for theatre
 Tragic – houses (upperclass)
 Comedy – street scene
 Pastoral scene with tress, hills, and cottages
o His Architetturea was the first Renaissance work on architecture to devote a
section to theatre
 Fist to use term “scenography”, made extensive use of the scene space
and lighting to gie impression of depth
 Nicola Sabbattini
o One of the most influential and innovative effects and stage illusionists
o He wrote a major work that was a manual for constructing scenes and machines
in the theatre
o Explored a large variety of methods for changing the setting in theatrical
performances (since they had trouble changing the set because of the angled
 Side wings would have periaktoi with cranking winches under the stage
that would turn them
o Also tried a wing and groove system of scene changing
o Had a system for dimming lights (put tin cans over the candles)
Diacomo Torelli
o A military engineer, had build two churches, and erected the Teatro Novissimo at
 This theatre had a revolving stage and chariot and pole system
 So amazing in Europe that he was called “the great wizard”
o Chariot-and-pole system made it way easier to change seating
o Stages were lit with candles, which were monitored by stangehands and would
snip wicks or relight candles as needed
o Three types of artificial light sources were commonly used in theatrical events
 Torch
 Ceramic or metal oil lamps, with a wick protruding above the lip (oil
 Tallow candles
o Serlio describes three basic permanent sets for tragedy, comedy, and satiric
plays, with three categories of stage lighting
 General chandelier light for audience and actors
 Scenery illumination
 Dramatic lighting that would change with the action
 Bozze – glasses with colored water or something that would serve
as filters to create colored filters
o Josepth Furttenbach (German) describes the use of footlights, wing lights, and
lighting above the stage, in addition to the auditorium lighting that would
naturally do some work
 Also use mica reflector light
The Medici Family
o Wool merchants and bankers, in which they were extremely profitable - $$$$$
 Giovanni de Medici started the Medici bank, was the leader of all the
o Medici family ruled Florence until 1737 (for about 200 years)
o The huge patrons of the arts!
 Allowed artists to focus on their work without having to wrry about
A huge amount of art and architecture and science at the beginning of
the Renaissance was supported by the Medici family
 Also supported Galileo Galilei, and he tutored the family
o Interesting Facts
 4 popes came out of the Medici family
 Ferdinando de Medici was a patron of music and helped fund the
invention of the piano
 Galileo initially named 4 moons of Jupiter after children of the Medici
 One family member was assassinated by another family at an easter
service in front of 10,000 people
o There was no strong, unified, nation Italian drama until much later because of
the city state organization of Italy
o most plays during this time were read aloud at academies
o in the 1300s and 1400s, playwrights continued to write religious dramas in the
medieval style
Classical Drama Strikes Again
o Renewal of interest in calsccial dramatic traditions was inspired by several
 Revival of the teaching of Greek at the close of the 1300s
 Publication of all the extant plays attributed to classical authors
 A transfer in 1453 of surviving manuscripts to Italy after the fall of
o Unities of time, place, and action
 Within 24 hours
 Relatively the same place – not jumping from Italy to France randomly
 Action follows decorum
Intermezzi and Pastorals
o Intermezzi were shorter pieces depicting mythological tales and presented
between the acts of full length plays (usually comedies)
o Intermezzi developed out of popular court entertainment and required special
scenic effects
o Pastorals were imitations of Greek satyr plays, but the subject was always
 Not nearly as racy or sexual
 Aminta by Torquato Tasso is one of the most popular
o Developed in the Florentine Academy at the end of the 16 th century
o The Camerata (group of composers, poets, scholars…) sought to revive ancient
Greek drama which they believed had been partially sung
o First known opera was Dafne, but we don’t have any script from. La Favola
D’Orfeo is the first surviving opera
Alessandro Scarlatti
o Credited with establishing the Neapolitan school of opera in the 18th century
o Established the supremacy of the aria
o From 1695, his operas and musical drama incorporated three movement
sinfonias, which soon because standard for all Italian operas
Commedia dell’arte
o “play of professional artist”
o No scripts, all improvisation
o Much of the humor in a commedia presentation was produced by one character
beating another. They used a slapstick
o Companies consisted of 10 performers, 7 men and 2 women
o Possibly the successors of Greek and Roman mimes
o Scenarios – short scripts without dialogue would be written by members of the
company and then they invented words and actions as they went along
o Commedia actors often played the same stock characters
o Lazzi – repeated bits of comic business
o The church did not like the vulgarity of commedia
 Called it heretical, and competition for their morality plays
o Napolean also didn’t like commedia, because they would make fun
o For much of the middle ages, Spain had Islam, Christianity, and Judaism)
o Auto da fe – act of faith – a ceremony in which someone was accused and then
punished by inquisitors
o Spanish inquisition, led by Ferdinand and Isabella
o Spain was united by Ferdinand and Isabella. This stability, an absolutist crown,
was the earliest in Spain so they became wealthy and isolated
o The Inquisition develops standards of conduct and harsh religious intolerance
o Spain finds the Americas with their super powerful naval armada
o Europe became suspicious of the Kings of Spain and their response was to
further isolate the country from the rest of Europe in order to maintain a level of
orthodoxy with the church
 This isolation led to an explosion of art and culture within Spain
Renaissance Begins
o Dominant ruling family – the Hapsburgs, who later put family members of the
o Spanish renaissance art!
Spanish golden Age
o Time of extraordinary artistic flowering
o Period stretches from the mid sixteenth ventury to the death of the great
playwright, Pedro Calderon de la Barca, in 1681
 In parallel with Shakespeares England, a new type of drama took hold
Lope de Vega
o Lope was the leader of a first generation of dramatists
o Blended the popular and the classical, which became known as the comedia
 This inspired a second wave of dramatists in the mid seventeenth
century, this time more closely associated with the court of the playloving monach Philip IV
o Member of the armada, secretary to noblemen, many love affairs, and later a
o Claimed that by 1609 he had written 483 comedies. 450 have survived. Rumored
he wrote 2 pays per week
o Characteristics of Vega’s plays
 Clearly defined actions
 Suspense
 Conflicting claims of love and honor
 Happy resolved endings
 Characters representing every rank and condition of people
 Female roles among his best
 Extended the simpleton character
 Natural and lively dialogue
 Spanish equivalent of blank verse overall
Pedro Calderon de la Barca
o Challenged de Vega’s preeminence
o Wrote primarily for the court theatres rather than public theatres – many see
this shift to court theatre leads to the decline of Spanish theatre after 1650
o Son of a court official, university educated, entered the service of a nobleman,
then becomes a priest
 Both were Catholic priests,
o Approximately 200 plays, 200 survived, 80 are autos
o Two categories of plays
 Cape and sword
 Men of minor rank dealing with intrigues and understandings
 Serious
 Deal with jealousy and honor
o Life is a Dream – most famous play
o By 1700, 30,000 plays were written in Spain
o Catholicism was able to become secure in Spain while religious infighting was
rampant in the rest of Europe
o Influences of Spanish drama
 Moorish: women and honor (more on love)
 Christian: religious faith and doctrine
o When the Armada in 1588 was destroyed, Spain declined rapidly
Spanish religious drama
o Extensive in the NE areas because the Moorish influence was less there. As
Moors were expelled, religious drama expanded
o Auto sacramentale (autos) – associated with Corpus Christi, the scaraments,
combined characteristics of morality and cycle plays, human mixed with
allegorical, drawn from many sources as long as it illustrated drama
o Usually done on carros, or wagons, like the Italian mansions. 1647 – fixed
 Performed in front of churches, then courtyards and streets
 Never got inside the church
o The autos were forbidden n 1765 for being too carnival in spirit
 Some of the farces and dance elements considered objectionable
 Having the plays performed by possibly immoral actors was also
o Only the Christian portions of Spain developed Medieval Drama, since Islam
disapproved of theatre
o Later, plays were fore philosophical and poetically intricate and visually complex
o Troupes were chosen during Lent,
o Farcical interludes and dances always
 Flamenco dances
o Served as scenic pieces, entrances to the stage, and as dressing rooms for the
 Ornate, two story structures
o Public open air court yard theatres where the comedias (secular dramas) were
o Similar to an Elizabethan theatre
o Professional public theatre was established in Spain’s major cities
o Corral de la Cruz, built in 1579, Madrid’s first permanent theatre
o Corrales originated from courtyard performances, rectangular courtyards
enclosed by three buildings on three sides.
o Stage was raised with a permanent backdrop and a patio for standing spectators
Theatre at Court
o Court performances emerged during the seventeenth century during Philip III’s
Spanish secular drama
o Some secular works written, but not widely performed
o There were a number of professional troupes – actors were paid
o Lupe de Rueda – father of Spanish professional theatre, probably just the most
successful – toured widely, wrote plays resembling medieval farces 1510-1565
(so still no permanent Spanish theatres at this time
o Miguel de Cervantes – 36 plays about contemporary Spanish life
o Full length plays, serious or comic, always 3 acts (not 5)
Early professional theatre
o Records show that by 1454, actors were being paid to perform at Corpus Christi
Lope de Rueda
o In his prose, he displays an abundance of riotous humor, great knowledge of low
life, and a most happy gift of dialogue
o Created the genre known as pasos (short farces) noted for the rustic language
and ordinary people
Play Structure
o Bagan with prologue (preceded by sinign and dancing)
o Entremeses, short topical sketches, were performed in the intervals between the
o Plays ended with a dance
o Commedia used to describe any full length play, comedic or dramatic
Actors and acting
o Companies organized under an actor manages, licensed by the state, and rented
the theatre space
o Women could cross-dress for a part from the waist up
Influence on the New World
o First performance of a theatrical work in the New World was in April 1598, in a
small Spanish colony near the present-day city of El Paso
Quick Rewview
o Spanish Golden Age – 1492/1500 and lasted until the death of Calderon de la
Barca in 1681 (a playwright)
o Spanish dramas – commedias
o 3 act structure
o Dominant theme – honor
o Europe had generally transitioned into the Early Modern era throughout the
Renaissance, and Spain sort of missed that step. Instead, Spain was caught in a
nearly 800 year long religious war to expel Muslim Moors from the Iberian
Peninsula, a campaign known as the Reconquista that lasted until 1492
o Major impacts on Spanish sociert and drama
 Strong military clture
 Spanish men obsessed with chivalris honor
 Might have even discouraged an exploration of other motifs
 Philip II brought artists into Spain in order to inaguarate the Spanish
 Transformation of Spanish theatre – now becoming professional
drama, in permanent corrales
o Corrales were used to raise money for hospitals and other
charities, giving them a moralistic function
 From mid-16th centry, the Spanish government started playing a
larger role in theatre
 Women could participate if they were married to a man in the
o Number of Spanish troupes increased rapidly with the construction of
permanent theatres
o Two kinds of licensed companies – sharing troupes and salaried actors working
for a manager under 1-2 year contracts
o Actors not contracted to licensed companies joined companies on the road
o Actors were forbidden the sacraments of the church
o Professional female performers can be traced back as far as the 15th century
o Just a little fancier than what people would normally wear
o Contracts for autos specified costumes of silk and velvet
o In 1653, actresses were forbidden to wear strange headdresses, decollete
necklines, whide hooped skirts, or dresses not reaching the floor
o They were restricted to one costume per play unless the script demanded a
o Gala Negra
Lots of black, white, and red and gold for formal attire
Had a special type of black dye, also a fancy type of black lace work
Gold jewelry, buttons, precious metals from the Spanish-American
 Spanish laws made serious attemps to limit excess in the consumption of
 Separation of the people of the brown clothes and the black clothes
Stage and Scenery
o Stage was a raised platform with a proscenium arch and was bounded at the
back by a permanent façade
 Similar to English theatres at the time
o In court, there were extravagant performances put on called zarazuelas, stylized
musical events
o Rectangular space
Corral de Comedies
o Theatrical courtyard – open air theatre, fairly specific to Spain
o Performances lasted 2-3 hours with no intermission and few breaks
o Before the corrales, they improvised paces in houses or inns
o First permanent theatre – Corral de la Cruz
o Season of performances usually began on easter Sunday, ending on Ash
o Smoking was forbidden because of the risk of fire
o Men and women could not sit together, children could not attend
o The audience paid feeds at different points – at the entrance, a tip, for the
priveledge of a comfortable seat
o Performances
 Loa
 The opening round
 Then an appetizer
 Second round
 The masquerade
 Third round
 Final act
o In university towns, it was forbidden to perform on weekdays so the students
would not be distracted
o Two characters were instantly recognized in the corrales
 The mozo – maintainer of order, equipped with a big garrote
 The spacer – finding a suitable place for people to sit between others
Autos Sacramentales Carros Corrales Comedias Capa Y Espada Mosqueteros
Spanish Theatre Study Guide
Terms to Know:
Taburetes – benches set up in corrales, in the patio/yard area
Lunetas – little moons, semicircular benches
Cazuela – the gallery where women sat
Alojero – refreshment stand
Desvanes – 4th floor of coralles, attics, cramped spaces, low ceilings, the only place men could sit with
Gracioso – the comedic relief character
Barbo – the old man stock character
Companias de partes
Zarazuela – mini musical court performances
Entremeses – intermezzi, short topical sketches in between acts
Lope Felix de Vega Carpio – one of the most renown palywrights of all time, wrote about 2 plays a week,
we have a ton of surviving works, did all sorts of different genres
Pedro Calderon de la Barca – one of the other most famous playwrights, followed in Lope de Vega’s
footsteps, we have about 120 surviving plays, most of which are autos, his death marked the end of the
golden age
Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz – a nun playwright, wrote both secular and religious dramas
Religious Dramas vs. Secular Dramas – flourished side by side
The Producing of the Autos Sacramentales – perfomed at the Chorpus Christi festival, performed on
carros (wagons)
Events that marked the beginning and end of the Spanish Golden Age – it started with Isabella and
Ferdinand unionizing the country, got all the moors and jews out of spain, sending out colombus, and
ended with the dealth of Calderon, the Spanish armada was defeated…
The Producing of the Comedias – produced in corrales, curtain, props, flats, a façade/stage home,
rectangular, mostly contemporary clothing
The Status of Actresses – women could act in troupes, then they tried to say no, that didn’t work, so
they said women had to be family members of men in the company, various dance regulations so as not
to be too sexual, performers in general not looked highly upon by the church
Structure of Acting Companies – acting troupes, men and women, regulated by government – all plays
and troupes licensed by gov, some called companies de partes, some others were organized by a
manager (autor), typecasting of the gracio and barbo character
 Acting Companies
o Had to know tooons of shows and be able to perform them whenever
o Actors often received a subsidy for their costumes in court productions
(because they had to be fancy and stunning)
o First permanent compant in 1629
o By 1673 there were 5 government supported troupes in Paris
o The first National Theatre in the world was made
o 8-12 actors, women performed as well
 Comedie Francaise
o Organized under the sharing plan of Moliere’s troupe with some
o The societaires were responsible for all company policy, including the
selection of plays
o Vacancies were filled by pennsionaires
 Had to audition successfully in both tragedy and comedy
o The doyen – head actor of the company
 Audiences
o Before the founding of the Comedie Francaise, most French companies
performed only about 3 times a week for public audiences
o Performance time was early afternoon until 1680 when the Comedie began
its plays around 5pm
 Louis XIV
o The sun king
o Defined and popularized ballet – placed it firmly at the art of high and
revolutionized society
o Ballet was reserved for the royal courts – dance could bring down celestial
influence, could serve as propaganda…
o Refinement, elegance, ornate
o Didn’t want actors to be lewd, but said they weren’t criminalized and they
wanted them
 Actors still weren’t liked by the church – didn’t get a Christian burial,
church wedding…
 Moliere
o Tweaked the bourgeois characters that were his audience in a satirical ways
o Not into neoclassical ideals
o Lots of satirical works – comedy of manners, farces
o Hold a mirror up to life with witty dialogue
o The king really liked him, so he saved Moliere a few times
o Bad luck to wear yellow in “The Imaginary Invalid” because that’s the color
that Moliere died wearing
o Really important service characters
Theatre Spaces
o Started with tennis courts, then built some permanent theatre spaces
o First permanent theatre space was Hotel de Bourgon
French comedy
o Farce and borrowed Italian jokes
o Stock characters
Alexander Hardy
o First Frenchman to have made his living as a dramatist
o About 50 plays have survived, wasn’t super popular after his death
o He drew on stories from Ovid, Cervantes, and Boccaccio, as opposed to
taking from Greek/Roman/Biblical stories
Pierre Corneille
o French poet and dramatist, considered the creator of French classical
o Le Cid, Cinna, Polyeucte are some of his popular works
 Le Cid broke so many rules, so it was a big uproar
o His talent came to the attention of the Cardinal de Richelieu, France’s great
o Never really adhered to the neoclassical ideals
o Men with free will
Jean Racine
o Career began as a dramatist with Moliere’s troupe of his play La Theabaide
 Moliere’s company was very supportive of new writers and works
o His reputation rests on the plays he wrote between 1664 and 1691, notably
Andromaque, Phedre, and Athalie
o Followed neoclassical ideals
o Women scorned by fate
Michel Baron
o Undisputed master of the French stage
o The most popular and best actor of his time
o The child of theatrical parents, orphaned at a young age, joined the company
of children known as the Petits Comediens du Dauphin. Joined Moliere’s
company, and was taken under Moliere’s wing
Armande Bejart
o Wife of Moliere (19 year old her, 40 year old Moliere), had two kids, ran the
company after Moliere, inspiration for lots of his roles, actress
Cardinal Richelieu
o Linked to the Medicis
o Chief minister of France in 1625, squelched religious squabbles – peace =
more art and theatre developing
o Loves the arts
o Established the French Academy to maintain purity of the French language
and literature
 Monitor types of works presented
o Wanted to centralize power, support the king and himself
o Builds a theatre inside his house
Fench Neoclassical Ideals
o Le Pleiad – made rules for plays
o Versimilitude – action onstage must be believable – no soliloquys, no gods
coming in and fixing things, no ghosts
o Decorum – drama has to teach and please, plays should uphold French ideals
o No mixing of dramatic styles – tragedies are about serious people, comedies
non-serious peoples
o Unities – time, place, action
o Five act structure – that’s how Seneca did it
o Made France the dominant European cultural center of the day
o Rex ex machina is fine, but not deus ex machina (king can come in)
 Background
o England was late to the Renaissance because of war and internal strife
 Between Britain and France with The 100 Years, within Britain itself with
the War of the Roses
o The Black Death/Plague ravaged Europe in the 1300 and 1400s
 Henry VII
o Crowned in 1485 beginning a new dynasty after winning the Battle of Boswirth
o Married Elizabeth of York
 Court of the Star Chamber
o Henry strengthened the gov by creating the Court of the Star Chamber (named in
the room in which they met that had stars painted on the ceiling)
o Dealt with “unlawful maintenance, giving of licenses, signs…”
o Militia
 Connections to Spain
o Henry VII sought to unite with spain
o Married in to the Spanish family, quite messily
 Royal VIII
o Wanted to revive the glories of past England, so he went to war with France,
they made peace and his sister Mary married the king of France
o The Act of SUpremancy madfe Henry the head of the Church of England (which
turns out badly)
 Religious Changes
o Broke from the Catholic Church (so he could get a divorce), which would cause
dissolution in his kingdom
o Dissolved monasteries and distribution of the collected wealth
o He died, as did his son Edward – his eldest daughter would try to convery the
country back to Catholicism and married back into the Spanish royal theatre
o Then comes Queen Elizabeth!
Early Tudor Drama
o Medieval theatre practices continued to be dominant until the spirit of the
renaissance began during the reign of Henry VII
o Humanists came to England
 Morality plays were popular, which provided the models for propaganda
plays written during Henry VIII’s break with the Catholic Church
o Influences from Greek and Rome, taught in schooling
o John Heywood was the author of the first nondidactic interludes in England
o Nicholas Udall became headmaster and wrote one of the best known early Tudor
Comedies, Roister-Doister
The University Communitty
o Humanist plays were flourishing at Cambridge by the 1520s
o In 1546 Queens College mandated such perfomances and constructed a
removable theatre structure for use in its main hall
o Best known of these plays was Gammer Gurton’s Needle, written by Mr. S and
acted at Christ’s College
 Like a roman comedy, not as much innuendo, but
London’s Inns of Court
o Inns were principally places of residence for lawyers in training
o Most performances came duing the Christmas “revels” which extended over a
period of 4 weeks
o Interest in latest fashions of drama
o Looks similar to the tennis court theatres of France
o Written by Thomas Sackville and Thomas Norton, ranked as the first English
o Presented at The Inner Circle, then later at the White Hall
o 5 act structure
o Concerns jealously
o Used to point a lesson for England about the dangers of leaving uncertain the
order of successfion to the throne
o Established the fashion of modeling plays on Seneca’s tragedy
The University Wits
o Influence of the universitiesand the inns waned over time and The Plague and
political unrest ravaged the country
o In the 1590s, Thomas Kyd and a group of educated men turned to playwrititng
 Bridged the gap between the learned and popular audiences
 Blended classical and medievasl devices drawn from many sources, set
the path for Shakespeare
o Thomas Kyd
 The Spanish Tragedy, most popular play of the 16th century in England
 Established the vogue for “revenge tragedy” (ie Hamlet)
 Uses senecan devices, ghosts, chorus…
o John Lyly
 Wrote primarily for boys companies catering to aristocratic audiences
 Mostly pastoral comedies that mingle classical mythology with English
 Usually wrote in refined artificial prose
 (As You Like It)
o Robert Greene
 Wrote pastoral and romantic comedies but for adult companies
 Noticing for hus charming and resourceful heroines, who, after
wandering in disguise through a series of temptations, are rewarded with
the fulfillment of their fondest desires
o Christopher Marlowe
 Most influential of the group
 Protagonist with coplex motivations, illuminated by an episodic story
 His play Edward II was especially important – rearrange, telescope, and
alter diverse historical events to create a sense of casual relationships
and a coherent story
William Shakespeare
o Frequently said to be the greatest dramatist of all time
o Originally an actor between 1585 and 1592
o Became a shareholder in the Chamberlain’s Men in 1594
o Became a householder in the Globe Playhouse in 1608
o Took up playwriting between 1589 and 1592
Characteristics of Shakespeare Work
o Borrowed stories from many sources
o Many interwoven plots
o Large casts, wellrounded characters
o Didn’t care about neoclassical ideals
Ben Johnson
o Considered the finest Elizabethan playwright after Shakespeare
o Went to prison many times for his contributions to politically satiric comedies
o Wrote many masques (court performances) for James I
o Popularized Commedy of Humors
Jacobean and Caroline Dramatists
o Tragicomedies with contrived happy endings were increasingly popular
o Technical skills were advancing
John Webster
o The White Devil, Duchess of Malfi
o Wel drawn characters and dramatic poetry
o Criticized for obscurity of action of the characters
o Protagonists surrounded by corruption
John Fletcher
o Replaced Shakespeare as the principle playwright of the King’s Men
o Popular among aristocrats, not as much the common people
 Saw his language used on stage as the way in which they would speak
o Plays were the most performed
James Shirley
o Comedies, comedy of manners
o Also became of chief playwright for the kings men
o Wrote 36 plays which depicted the manners and fashion of London society
John Ford
o Usually cited as exemplifying the decadence that characterized Caroline drama
o Now admired for his ability to illuminate evil by associated it with ordinary
human beings
o Attributed to 17 plays
Government Regulation of Theatre
o Development of playwrighting as a profession was made possible by the
emergence of public theatre
o Any gentleman could sponsor a troupe of actors
 A gentleman was someone who owned land
o Actors not employed by a member of the gentry was considered to be a
vagabond and could be imprisoned
o Troupes toured when not needed by their patrons
o In 1559, Elizabeth banned plays on religious and political subjects and made local
officials responsible for licensing all pub lic performances in their areas
 Just moved to the countryside
o In 1572, government attempted to reduce the number of companies by making
it illegal for anyone below the rank of baron to maintain a troupe or authorize
one to tour, but this also didn’t really help
o The first royal patent for a theatre company was granted to Leicesters Men,
headed by James Merlin (?)
o Theatre was riled against as an instrument used by the devil to encourage vice
and take people away from honest work
o In spite of all this there was a boom in theatre building
 This controversy encrouaged the Queens government to take further
control of professional theatre.
o The Master of Revels soon received the right to grant licenses for the
construction of theatres
 The Master of Revels – the official responsible for the monarch’s
entertainment and who served under the Lord Chamberlain
 Restrictions of patents and fights for control of theatre monopolies
Acting Troupes
o Early troupes required to have noble patrons
o Adaptability – know lots of works
o Would preview their work upon arriving in a new city
o From the 1570s on they focused their attentions on London
o Adult Companies and Boys Companies.
Theatrical conditions
o A season would run over 40 weeks, in which a company could perform anywhere
from 28-35 different plays
 Some plays never made it through the first performance
o Once the playwrights fees were paid the play belonged to the troupe
o A flag was flown to show was was being performed
o Not much scenery, just props, and some spoken scenery.
The prompter is the precursor to the stage manager
Public Theatre
o Indoor and outdoor theatre
 Roof = aristocratic audiences
The Red Lion
o Open air theatre, built 1572, just east of London
The Rose Playhouse
o Built by Philip Henslow
o Built across the river Thames
o Open air theatre
o Polygonal
The Globe
o Home of the Chamberlain’s Men
o Fire destroted in 1613, the 2nd globe lasted until the civil war
o Built up, trap doors, storage, put and gallery seating
The Private Theatres
o Likely that more indoor performances were given than outdoor performances
o Lots were staged in manor houses, then inns, universities, or at court
o Depended largely on candles and oil lamps for lighting
o Seats for all spectators – no groundlings
Scenery, Props, Special Effects, Music
o Assumed that the façade provided the backdrop
o Relied primarily on spoken décor
o Master of Revels Offivce provided anything needed for court performances
(including furniture)
o Emphasis on spectacle occurred after 1603
o Sets then became decadent, used pyrotechnics, flying machines, along with
magic tricks and swordsmanship displays
o Music, dance, and use of costume became more common
o Boys companies usually originated as choirs, meaning their music was very
o Lots of theatres had orchestras, and live music
o Dance was used to appeal to popular audiences
o Most visual element in Elizabethan drama
o Often paid more for costumes than the play itself
o 5 ranks of clothing
 Ancient of out of style – used to indicate another period or
 Antique – drapery to add a classical feel
 Fanciful garments for witches and ghosts
 Tradition costumes
 National or racial costumes
o History plays were costumed in Elizabethan dress
o Only 10-20% of the population could have been theatre goers, so competition
for audiences was intense
o Posters, handbills, flags and other devices used for advertising
o Cost of admission kept many of the poorer class out of the theatre
o Women could attend, but it was horrible if they stood in the groundling area
Court Plays and Masques
o Professional players performed regularly in the houses of the nobility and at the
o In Stuart times, each member of the royal family produced plays
o Court performances were held at night = lots of candles
Inigo Jones
o The scenery, costumes, and special effects for most masques were by Inigo
Jones, who is the most important English Designer.
o Most influential English artist of his day
o Studied in Italy
o Very popular – Covent Garden
o Doesn’t have a lot of background history about him
The Masque in England
o Short allegorical entertainment, performed by masque actors
Asian Theatre
 The beginning
o No single event as the beginning of Asian theatre
o Oldest examples of Indian drama date to 2CE
o Earliest Japanese plays – 14CE
 Indian Tehatre
o Developed alongside Rome
o Dance is widely portrayed – very important
o Sanskrit theatre ahs been recognized as the first representation of Indian theatre
o Beginning in the 2BC, Sanskrit theatre was the only medium of illustrating the
religious and aristocratic Indian fervor
o During the 17th century, Sanskrit theatre evolved as one of the eminent art form
and was then known as “Indian classical dance drama”
o Three stages of history: ancient, mideval, modern
Ancient india
o Vedic Aryans – origin of theatre as the result of this religious ritualism
o Theatre was a life size art, systematic representation of dancing, singing, and
playing and instrument
Sanskrit drama
o Plays often concern the exploits of the kings and heros of history
o Supernatural beings
o Important charactesr from middle and lower classes (soldiers, merchants,
hermits, sages)
o The Nataka plays feature stories about kings and divine beings. The Prakarana
plays concern stories that revove around middle-class characters
o Drama regards existence as orderly and predictable. Conflict occurs as
individuals make attempts to act outside of an order sustained/established.
Divine forces act to bring charactesr back to their ordained places
o Written in both verse and plays
o Performances were precedes by elaborate preliminary rituals, collectively known
as purvaranga
Nataka and Prakarana
o Both have 5-10 acts
o Nataka is more tragedy, though the hero triumps
o Sanskrit plays normally confirm the celestial order – karma, gods…
o Prakarana – more comedy, but not totally
The Natyashastra
o Detailed treatise and handbook on dramatic art that deals with all aspects of
classical Sanskrit theatre. Believed to have been written by the mythic Bragman
sage and priest Bharata
o Includes drama, music, poetics, and general aesthetics.
o Primary importance lies in its justification of Indian drama as a vehicle of
religious enlightenment
o Offers a tehaory of ow theatrical art affects a person, referred to as rasa
 “juice” “essence” “flavor”
 Aesthetic state of mind that accompanies an audience members
experience of theatrical art and conscious reflection on his or her
experience of that art
 Romance
 Heroism
 Anger
o Types rather than individuals
 Noble hero – nayaka
 Clown/jester – vidushaka – intelligent, innuendo humor, move freely in
the social hierarachy, translates the hero’s Sanskrit lines into vernacular
langue (which could include political criticism)
o Professions from minor actors to make-up assistants, stage technicians,
musicians, and a conductor
o Primus motor of a troupe, as well as the actual play, is sutradhara, or the theatre
 Have expert knowledge on all aspects of theatre, active role in the actual
performance by introducing the actors and plays to the audience
 A very involved narrator
Medieval India
o Lots of invasions – added lots to theatre
Stages in India
o A curtain divided in the middle formed the background of the stage
o Simple scenery, often with weapons, some furniture or chariots
o Had a tiring room
o Believed that the theatre houses in which the Sanskrit dramas were performed
in were small – had to be able to see all the facial movements
Chinese Theatre
o Development was linked to the patronage of the imperial court
o Song Dynasty contributed to the development of Variety Plays
o Theatre activity involved dancers, singers, actors, shadow puppets, and
The beginning
o Dances imitating animals – animal movements still form an integral part of many
martial arts, dance, and theatre traditions today
o Chorus dances were popular. Tiny dance skits. Wi (men) and xi (women) groups
o martial arts was precursor to many of their dances originated
Baixi – “A Hundred Entertainments”
o Grand scale spectacle – included mimes, jugglers, acrobats, magicians, song,
martial arts, dancing
The Early Plays
o Early drama combined stylized movement and a chorus – chorus described the
action which was enacted by dancer-actors
o The play scripts, which included sing passages, known mainly through sources
from the Tang Dynasty
o Themes – honor, piety, ethical codes
o Early – dance plays, have some singing.
o Lots of martial arts, sleeve movement – martial arts brought in more female
o Not much of a plot, predictable stories for the most part
o Communism destroyed lots of theatre culture
 Common Characters
o Leading male – selfish scholar
o Leading female – poor orphan girl, becomes the wife of the male
o Clown – can be a fortune teller, villain, servant god, or prime minister
o 7 actors, usually playing 18 roles
o Roles distinguished be extremely stylized and colorful make-up
o Orchestra present onstage
o White, red, black makeup
o Very distinctive facial hair
o Makeup tells you who all the characters were
 Tang Dynasty Theatre
o Tang = classical period of Chinese civilization
o Intimate performances with artistic refinement
o Energetic jian dances and softer ruan dances (often women)
 The Pear Garden
o Merging together of lyrics and language happened with Buddhist monks in
connection with their missionary work
o Two state offices for administering the training of performers needed in official
rites and ceremonies
o Has a school for training musicians, dancers, and actors
 Liyuan – The Pear Garden
 In the palace grounds
 Chinese Opera
o In the Song period, large red light
Chinese Theatre