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THE 2000: English Theater Terminology

Holly Shaw
THE 2000
1. What is “humanism?”
Humanism was a major movement in Renaissance literature, which imitated the Greeks
and Romans and focused on human beings rather than gods. Thanks to the printing
press, which appeared in Europe in the 1450s, this literature was available to great
numbers of people
2. What were the transformations in Italian theatre during the Renaissance?
The chief transformations in Italian theater happened between 1550 and 1650. During
this time, changes were seen with improvisational theater, acting, dramatic criticism,
theater architecture, and scene design.
3. What were the “intermezzi?”
Intermezzi were short pieces depicting mythological tales; they were presented between
the acts of full-length plays and were often thematically related to the full-length works
they accompanied. They often required spectacular scene effects
4. Define “commedia dell’arte.”
Commedia dell’arte was an Italian Renaissance form of popular theater that was highly
improvisational, using stock characters, masks, and with staged by traveling
professional performers.
5. What is “slapstick” and in what form of theatre did it originate?
Slapstick, a type of comedy or comic business that relies on exaggerated or ludicrous
physical activities for its humor, has its origins in the commedia dell’arte. The term
slapstick comes from the wooden swords used in comic fight scenes.
6. Define the neoclassical ideal of “verisimilitude.”
Verisimilitude was the neoclassical idea that drama should be “true to life,” however it
was not the kind of realism found in modern drama. While the neoclassicists insisted
that these dramas being recognizable and verifiable from real life, stock dramatic
situations and stock characters were still permitted.
7. Define the neoclassical ideal of the “three unities.”
Unities referred to the preference that a play’s plot occurs within one day (unity of time),
in one place (unity of place), and with no action irrelevant to the plot (unity of action).
8. Describe the innovative theatres and opera houses that became revolutionary in Italy.
Innovations were made with the proscenium-arch stage, which made placing realistic
scenery much more effective; with the proscenium arch, along with Renaissance
innovations in scene design, became impetus for greater field theatrical realism. Look at
photos of the remaining theaters, they were works of art, very beautiful.
The public opera houses were design to fit in as many pay customers as possible. To
hold the larger audiences, pits, boxes, and gallery setting, along with a proscenium-arch
made the Venetian opera houses innovative.
9. What is the English Renaissance often called and why?
The English Renaissance is often referred to as the Elizabethan period because its
major political figure was Elizabeth l, who reigned for 45 years from 1558 to 1603. At the
heart of the English renaissance is literature and the art of theater.
10. What contributions were made by Christopher Marlowe?
Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593) advanced the arts of dramatic structure and
contributed a gallery of interesting characters to English drama. He also perfected
another element that was approved central to later Elizabethan plays, dramatic poetry.
Known to critics as Marlow’s “mighty line”, his verses consisted of iambic pentameter; a
meter which had five beats to a line, with two syllables to each beat and the accent of
the second beat. In his hands, dramatic verse in iambic pentameter developed strength,
subtlety, and suppleness, as well as great lyrical beauty.
11. What was the name of Shakespeare’s theatre company and where did they perform?
Shakespeare was an actor and member of the dramatic company, the Lord
Chamberlain's Men, which was London’s leading troupe.
12. Describe the Elizabethan public theatre.
To avoid government restrictions, public theaters were built outside of London’s city
limits. These theatres had raised platform stages surrounded on three sides by the
audience. The platform stage was a neutral playing area that could become many
different places in a quick succession; a room in a Palace, a bedroom, a street a
battlefield. When one group of characters left the stage and another group entered, this
generally signaled a change of scene. Sometimes the characters announced where
they were, at other times the location was apparent from the action. The stage floor had
trap doors, and behind the raised platform was the stage house, known as a tiring
house. This three story building served as a place for changing costumes as well as for
storing properties and set pieces. The stage house was also the basic scene piece in
the Elizabethan public theater.
13. Describe the scenery and costumes of Elizabethan theatre.
Due to the quick pace of the Elizabethan plays, There was no use of painted scenery in
either public or private theaters instead actors would come on stage bringing out
minimal props to suggest a locale.
While their dramas exhibited a great deal of historical and geographical variety, the
Elizabethans were not too concerned with accuracy; most costumes were simply
contemporary clothing, reflective of the social classes being depicted.
14. How large was an Elizabethan acting company and what were the divisions of the
Throughout the English Renaissance, the monarch exerted considerable legal control
over theater, and a number of acting companies were restricted by laws. Each company
had approximately 2twenty-five members and were organized of a sharing plan. There
were three categories of personnel in a company: shareholders, hirelings, and
apprentices. Shareholders were the elite members of the company who received a
percentage of the troupe’s profits as payment. Hirelings were actors contracted for a
specific period of time, for a specific salary, and they usually played minor roles.
Apprentices were young performers training for the profession and were assigned to
shareholders. There were no female performers women's roles were played by boys or
men. Since the plays had many characters, the doubling of roles was common.
15. Describe the secular plays, comedias, from the Spanish Golden Age.
The Spanish comedias usually dealt with themes of love an honor; the leading
characters were often minor members of the nobility. Comedias were written in three
acts, were extensive or episodic, and mixed serious and comic subjects matte; The are
very similar to modern melodramas.
16. Describe the scenic conventions in Spanish theatre.
17. Describe the Spanish acting companies.
The Spanish acting companies consisted of sixteen to twenty performers, some of
which included women. The church did not support the use of females performers, and
as a result, the Spanish government was forced to impose stringent restrictions on
women working in theater- for instance, only a woman who was married or otherwise
related to an actor in a troupe could be employed. Most Spanish acting tropes used
companies de partes- sharing companies, like those of Elizabethan England. Some
companies, however, were organized by a manager who contracted performers for a
specific period of time.
18. Who were the three most important seventeenth-century French dramatists?
Moliere (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin; 1622-1673) exerts the most influence of modern
theater among all the other French neoclassical playwrights. He created exaggerated
character types and made fun of their eccentrics.
Pierre Corneille (1606-1683) began his career writing comedies, but soon turned to tragedies,
becoming hugely successful with The Cid.
19. What influenced the work of Moliere and what is notable about it?
Moliere’s work was strongly influenced by Italian commedia dell’arte. Moliere was a
master of slapstick as well as more subtle kinds of comedy, and he frequently used a
deus ex machina (an unexpected power or event saving a seemingly hopeless
situation) to resolve his contrived plots.
Jean Racine (1639-1699) was also a great writer of tragedy. Unlike Corneille, Racine was
comfortable with the neoclassic rules and adhered to them from the start. His masterful handling
of poetry and emotion established a model to be followed in France for the next three centuries.
20. What was notable about Pierre Corneille’s play, The Cid?
The Cid Is notable for arousing opposition from intellectuals because it did not follow the
neoclassic rules established by Italian critics. Despite this, it remained enormously
popular an was presented frequently not only in France, but in other European
countries. Because of the controversies, Corneille took a four year hiatus from
playwrighting, once he resumed, he had adhered more closely to the neoclassical rules.
21. What is notable about Jean Racine’s, Phaedra?
Phaedra was one of Racine's best known tragedies. It is a perfect example of climatic
plot structure; it has only a few characters and the action takes place in one place at a
22. Describe the French amphitheater.
The French amphitheater was an in undivided gallery with inexpensive bleach like
seating. There was probably a small upper stage, raised 13 feet above the main stage
that would use for special effects such as flying. At the close of the seventeenth century,
upper class audience members were frequently seated on stage.
23. What form of entertainment did Louis XIV bring back into prominence?
Louis XIV’s Interest in ballet brought this form of entertainment back into prominence at
court. To satisfy the royalties taste for elaborate ballets and to prepare for Loise’s
marriage, a new court theatre was built; the Salle des Machines (“Hall of Machines”)
was completed in 1660 and was the largest Playhouse in Europe.
24. What theatre was founded by Louis XIV and what made it better than other French
spaces at the time?
Louis XIV Founded the French national theater in 1680, but the company did not move
into its own building until 1689. The interior of the Comedie-Francaise featured a
horseshoe-shaped construction, with meant that the sight lines were significantly better
than those another French spaces of the time
25. Describe the French acting companies.
The French acting companies were organized under a sharing plan and had women
members who could become shareholders. Rehearsals were supervised by the
playwriter, or a leading performer, or sometimes both. Troupes spent little time on
rehearsal. Once a play was introduced, to troupe was expected to be able to revive it at
a moment’s notice, and the bill at theaters was changed daily