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Elizabethan Actors

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Elizabethan Actors

Elizabethan Theater Actors - the Superstars of the Elizabethan Theater. The famous actors who brought the plays and their plots to life. Edward Alleyn, Henry Condell, William Shakespeare, Richard Burbage and John Hemmings were probably the most famous of all Elizabethan actors. What were their lives like?

How much money did they make? How many plays did they perform in each month?  What did they do in the Winter months? The introduction of the Playhouses. How much rehearsal time did they have? This section covering Elizabethan Actors includes interesting information about Elizabethan Actors.

The Reputation of Elizabethan actors
The reputation of the early Elizabethan Actors was not good. Many were viewed as Rogues and Vagabonds. Actors were not trusted. Travelling Elizabethan Actors were considered such a threat that that regulations were imposed and licenses were granted to the aristocracy for the maintenance of troupes of players. Actors would be asked for these credentials - they were treated with suspicion. Plays were regulated. Plays were subject to censorship - the content of plays was checked to ensure that they did not contain political or religious elements which might threaten the state. Elizabethan plays were often bawdy and the audiences were rowdy.

The Lifestyle of Elizabethan actors
The popularity of the Elizabethan theater increased enormously. The standing of Elizabethan Actors improved when the purpose-built theaters were introduced. A play could attract as many as 3000 people to the theater and the Elizabethan actors were the equivalent of today's superstars. Many of the major Elizabethan Actors became stake holders in the theaters and became wealthy men. They mixed with the nobility and played before royalty.

Famous Elizabethan actors
The names of some of the most famous Elizabethan Actors were as follows:

Edward Alleyn (1566 - 1626)
Richard Burbage (1567 - 1619)
John Heminge (1556 - 1630)
William Rowley (1585 - 1642)
Robert Armin (1568 - 1615)
Henry Condell (1568 - 1627)
William Kempe (1560 - 1603)
William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616)
Christopher Beeston (1570 - 1638)
Nathan Field (1587 - 1619)
John Lowin (1576 - 1659)
Joseph Taylor (1586 - 1652)

For Facts and Biography information on all of the above famous Elizabethan Actors please refer to the: Globe Theatre Actors

Elizabethan actors and the Amphitheaters
The huge amphitheaters such as the Globe Theater were built on a similar design to the great Roman arena's. This helped to give the theater a more acceptable reputation by drawing comparisons to the great classic plays of the Greeks and Romans. The sheer size of the amphitheatres drew in the audiences and the cash. They were built in a lavish style and provided exciting visual effects, using ropes for flying entrances, trap doors for surprising entrances and exits. There was a constant demand for new plays and a high turnover of different plays. There was little time for rehearsals. There was one problem with the Elizabethan amphitheater - it was open to the elements and therefore only suitable for winter performances. It was not long before enclosed theaters were built - the playhouses.

Elizabethan actors and the Playhouses
The playhouses provided Elizabethan actors with enclosed venues so they were able to stage plays in the winter as well as the summer - more money. The downturn to the popularity of the plays and the crowds that they attracted were the frequent outbreaks of the Bubonic Plague. When there was such an outbreak the theaters were closed down. The Elizabethan Actors often left the towns for the comparative safety of the country in these frightening periods.

Elizabethan Actors - the Female Roles
During the Elizabethan era only men were allowed to act in the theatre until 1660 - it was judged to be unseemly for a woman to undertake such a role. Young boys were therefore hired to act in the female roles. The white make-up used by young male Elizabethan actors was lead based and highly poisonous. The young boy actors were therefore very unhealthy, had unpleasant facial skin diseases and a high proportion actually died of lead poisoning.

The Theatrical Costumes worn by Elizabethan Actors
Elizabethan clothing of the Upper Class was sumptuous. The materials were luxurious and covered a whole variety of colors. Due to the Statutes of Apparel (The Sumptuary Laws ) ordinary Elizabethans were not able to wear the latest fashions. Fashionable clothes would only be seen at a distance, when wealthy nobles or Royalty were in view. Elizabethan actors were granted special permission to wear these fine clothes. Costumes in the Elizabethan Theatre would therefore double as a fashion show. All people of the Elizabethan period understood the meaning of different colored clothing - a concept somewhat alien in our modern age. Most of us would recognise that purple had been the color associated with royalty since the days of the Roman Emperors - but nearly every color of clothing had its own meaning during the Elizabethan era. And this meaning was totally understood by the audience. The colors of the costumes therefore conveyed an enormous amount of information as soon as the actor walked on to the stage. The types of materials and fabrics would have had a similar effect. Many of the plays had historical themes featuring the royalty and nobles of the land. As soon as an actor walked on the stage the fabric and color of his clothing would indicate the role of the character he was playing - Elizabethan Nobles and Upper classes wore clothing made of velvets, furs, silks, lace, cottons and taffeta.

Elizabethan Theatre
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