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Hope Elizabethan Theatre

Picture of Shakesprare Play

Picture of Shakesprare Play

The Hope Theatre - Elizabethan Amphitheatre
The Hope Theatre was an amphitheatre which was located on the Bankside in Southwark on the site of the notorious Bear Garden. Philip Henslowe and Jacob Meade cleared the site and built the theater in 1613-14. The contract for the Hope, dated Aug. 29, 1613 survived (as did the contract for the Fortune Theatre) It describes the structure and indicates that, except for the movable stage which was a necessary feature because of its dual purpose as a bear-baiting ring, it was designed after the Swan Theatre.

It was agreed that  bear baiting would occupy the theater only once every two weeks but the sport proved to be more profitable than the plays. Players left the theatre after Henslowe's death in 1616. The theatre was rarely used for plays after 1616 but bear baiting continued until 1656 when the Hope was closed as a result of several bear baiting accidents. In 1648 the theatres in London were closed by the Puritans. Ironically Bull-Baiting and Bear-Baiting was allowed to continue and this form of entertainment was popular throughout the Puritan era. The last bull baiting in England took place in England in 1832 - it was banned in this year by an Act of Parliament.

The Hope Amphitheatre - Elizabethan Theatre
The known facts about the Hope, which was used as one of the massive amphitheatre venues for early English Elizabethan Theatre, are as follows:

  • London Location of the Hope - Bankside, Southwark
  • The Hope was opened in 1613 - 1614
  • The theatrical entrepreneurs involved with the Hope were Philip Henslowe and Jacob Meade
  • Gambling was a major feature
  • These arenas had protective walls around them made made of stone (flint), not required for the purely theatrical buildings
  • The seating arrangements for the spectators were tiered benches
  • The temporary stages were erected by the actors
  • The floors consisted of earth or sand
  • The arena was transformed into a theatre by erecting a stage in the pit, similar to the booth stage used in market places, but larger in size and built on posts
  • Bull and Bear baiting was eventually banned in 1835
  • The Hope was one of the 12 massive amphitheatres, including the Globe Theatre, which were built around the City of London

Description of The Theatre amphitheatre
The Hope was described as an Elizabethan Amphitheatre which was octagonal or circular in shape having between 8 and 24 sides. The open air arena of the amphitheatre was called the 'pit' or the 'yard'. The stage of the amphitheatre projected halfway into the 'pit'. The Hope had a raised stage at one end which was surrounded by three tiers of roofed galleries with balconies overlooking the back of the stage.

Facts and Information about the Amphitheatre styled Elizabethan Theatres
Interesting general facts and information about the amphitheatre venue such as the Hope:

  • Audience capacity of an Elizabethan amphitheatre was between 1500 and 3000
  • The 'Box ' and the 'Box Office' - Playgoers put 1 penny in a box at the Elizabethan theatre entrance. At the start of the play the admission collectors put the boxes in a room backstage called the box office.
  • The Entrance to the theatre - Usually one main entrance. Some later theatres had external staircases to access the galleries 
  • There was no heating in the Elizabethan Theatre. Plays were performed in the summer months and transferred to the indoor playhouses during the winter
  • Lighting in the Elizabethan Theatre - Natural lighting as plays were produced in the afternoon. However there was some artificial lighting mainly intended to provide atmosphere for night scenes
  • Toilet Facilities? None . People relieved themselves outside. Sewage was buried in pits or disposed of in the River Thames
  • Size of Elizabethan Theatre - Up to 100 feet in diameter
  • Shapes of the Elizabethan Theatres - Circular or Octagonal in shape having between 8 and 24 sides
  • The height of the raised stage was 3 to 5 feet and supported by large pillars or trestles
  • Stage dimensions varied from 20 foot wide 15 foot deep to 45 feet to 30 feet
  • Only very rich women, who often wore masks, or women of dubious morals attended the amphitheatres
  • Musicians - Music was an extra effect added in the 1600's
  • A selection of ropes & rigging would allow for special effects, such as flying or dramatic entries

The Hope
The Hope was used as a venue for Elizabethan plays, replacing the Inn-yard venues. The  purpose built Elizabethan Amphitheatres in London such as the Hope were also used as venues for bear baiting.

Elizabethan Theatre
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