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Elizabethan Playhouses

Picture of Blackfrairs Playhouse

Picture of Blackfrairs Playhouse

Elizabethan Playhouses
The Elizabethan Theatre emerged from strolling players to performing in the yards of Inns, or Inn-yards, to purpose built theaters based on the huge open air amphitheatres of Ancient Rome and Greece to the comfort of enclosed Playhouses. A Playhouse was a small, private, indoor hall. Playhouses were open to anyone who would pay but more expensive with more select audiences.

The audience capacity of the playhouse was up to 500 people. The huge success of Elizabethan plays produced at the Inn-yards and theatres and with play going becoming the height of fashion it was not long before a vast amount of plays were being produced indoors to ensure that plays could also be produced during the cold winter months. The indoor theatres called playhouses were born. The playhouses helped the acting troupes considerably as playhouses allowed for an all year round profession, not one restricted to the summer at the mercy of the English weather. Playhouses also allowed for luxury and comfort for courtiers and the nobility when watching a play thus encouraging wealthy and powerful clientele. Many plays were produced in buildings with Great Halls which were suitable for the purpose of staging plays. The Gray's Inn and Whitehall were two such theatres and were easily converted into playhouses. Purpose built playhouses were also specifically built such as the Salisbury Court playhouse.

Interesting Facts and Information about Elizabethan Playhouses
The following interesting facts about the Elizabethan indoor playhouses provide an insight into the development of the modern theatre:

  • Elizabethan playhouses provided indoor venues for the production of Elizabethan plays
  • The venues were smaller and roofed
  • Suitable for winter and evening productions
  • Admittance to the Playhouses were more expensive than the other types of Elizabethan theatres
  • Attending a public theater performance would cost between 1 to 3 pennies, but admission to a private, indoor, theatre cost between 2 to 26 pennies
  • Indoor Playhouses were no so much private but exclusive - the cost prohibited the attendance of most common folk
  • Everyone in the private theatre audience was given a seat - the higher the price of admission, the more comfortable the seat was
  • The Audience capacity was up to 500 people
  • The Playhouses were more comfortable and luxurious than other theatres
  • The Great Halls in existing, prestigious, buildings were used as playhouses and venues for plays
  • The indoor Playhouses were lighted by candles so performances could be staged in the evening
  • The use of candles led to the introduction of intervals when burnt down candles were replaced
  • Food and drink was served, or sold, during the intervals
  • Music and songs was strongly featured - the acoustics of indoor theatres lended themselves to this
  • Beautiful scenery were introduced - as this was not open to the open air elements this could be re-used over and over again
  • Costumes tended to be quite sumptuous
  • The plays were selected to suit the indoor venues - the emphasis was on the words of the play rather than noisy special effects

Indoor Elizabethan Playhouses
The information and facts regarding the development of indoor Elizabethan playhouses provide an interesting insight into the development of the modern theatre.

Elizabethan Theatre
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