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English Renaissance Theatre

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Tonya Howe

on 31 March 2014

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Transcript of English Renaissance Theatre

English Renaissance Theatre
Development of renaissance theater loosely defined by the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603)
Theater history during this important period centers on London's urban theatrical activity--the background of this presentation is the Visscher Panorama of London, c.1616.
The period that follows the Renaissance is often know as "the Restoration," beginning in 1660 after the Puritain Commonwealth or Interregnum. Civil wars in 1640s led to the execution of Charles I; Oliver Cromwell became the head of state, closed the theatres, and then in 1660 Charles II was restored to the throne.
A note about nomenclature...
It is characterized by a new
of the theater, and a
between viewing the theater as a site of innocent diversion or a site of potential political or religious foment.
Thomson puts it this way: "It is primarily a story of actors and their patrons or audiences, only secondarily of architects and playwrights, and it is conditioned by conflict. On the one hand it is a delight in innocent pastime, on the other a suspicion that no pastime is innocent" (173).
What key concepts from Elizabeth I's biography strike you as important for theater history? As a context for Shakespeare?
the royal progress (175)
liveried household players (175-6)
"nationalistic exhibition" (175) and political power
feudalism to capitalism (177)
capitalistic venture: the playhouse (177-178, 180ff)
religious turmoil, political turmoil,
& anti-theatricalism
Gull's Hornbook
"The theatre is your poets' Royal Exchange"

This is a post-Reformation world!
& Contexts
Elizabeth I
overarching idea
enclosure's the thing!
creates the box office
larger, open-air, cheaper and less exclusive, many things besides theater performed, built in the liberties of London.

circular amphitheater with tiered seating (1d, 2d, 3d), a proscenium or thrust stage that generated interaction between actor/audience. Performances began at 2 and lasted until 6pm. Bare stage, costuming generally contemporary--very expensive! Sumptuary laws? Musicians were a huge part of the theatrical experience.
public theaters
private theaters
The Swan, The Globe, The Bear Garden
The Blackfriars
smaller, indoors, more expensive and exclusive (though not necessarily better-behaved audiences!), within the city walls
inn-yard theater
shaped by physical space, cultural context, dramatic text
loud, rowdy audience! personation (186)
censorship (187)
all-male acting
Acting style
Actors & Acting
boys companies
Chamberlain's Men
household players
Admiral's Men
repertory acting
16 adult actors generally necessary (types)
playwrights wrote for ensenble casts
The Tempest
Putting romance onstage, The Tempest gives us a magician, Prospero, a former duke of Milan who was displaced by his treacherous brother, Antonio. Prospero is exiled on an island, where his only companions are his daughter, Miranda, the spirit Ariel, and the monster Caliban. When his enemies are among those caught in a storm near the island, Prospero turns his power upon them through Ariel and other spirits.
The characters exceed the roles of villains and heroes. Prospero seems heroic, yet he enslaves Caliban and has an appetite for revenge. Caliban seems to be a monster for attacking Miranda, but appears heroic in resisting Prospero, evoking the period of colonialism during which the play was written. Miranda's engagement to Ferdinand, the Prince of Naples and a member of the shipwrecked party, helps resolve the drama.
The Tempest
is thought to have been written in 1610–11; it was performed at court on November 1, 1611. It appears in the 1623 First Folio. Sources include an account of Sir Thomas Gates’s shipwreck, Silvester Jourdain’s A Discovery of the Barmudas, the True Declaration of the Estate of the Colonie in Virginia, and other sources Shakespeare often used for his plays.
Adapted from the Folger Library Shakespeare edition, edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. © 1994 Folger Shakespeare Library. Go to: http://www.folger.edu/template.cfm?cid=904
critical source:
primary source materials:
Act I, Scene ii, 236-241

Ariel, thy charge
Exactly is perform'd: but there's more work.
What is the time o' the day?
Past the mid season.
At least two glasses. The time 'twixt six and now
Must by us both be spent most preciously.
Act II, Scene i, 148-175

Had I plantation of this isle, my lord,--
He'ld sow't with nettle-seed.
Or docks, or mallows.
And were the king on't, what would I do?
'Scape being drunk for want of wine.
I' the commonwealth I would by contraries
Execute all things; for no kind of traffic
Would I admit; no name of magistrate;
Letters should not be known; riches, poverty,
And use of service, none; contract, succession,
Bourn, bound of land, tilth, vineyard, none;
No use of metal, corn, or wine, or oil;
No occupation; all men idle, all;
And women too, but innocent and pure;
No sovereignty;--
Act II, Scene ii

"These be fine things, an if they be not sprites. / That's a brave god and bears celestial liquor. / I will kneel to him...." (119-121)

"O, wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in't!" (V.i.181-184)
Act I, Scene i: stage magic of the tempest; metaphor, symbolism, and the power of theatricality to conjure up inner worlds

Scene ii
If by your art, my dearest father, you have
Put the wild waters in this roar, allay them.
The sky, it seems, would pour down stinking pitch,
But that the sea, mounting to th' welkin's cheek, Dashes the fire out. (1-5)
Act I, Scene ii, 66-168
Prospero tells Miranda their history
Act III, Scene ii

...'tis a custom with him,
I' th' afternoon to sleep: there thou mayst brain him,
Having first seized his books, or with a log
Batter his skull, or paunch him with a stake,
Or cut his wezand with thy knife. Remember
First to possess his books; for without them
He's but a sot, as I am, nor hath not
One spirit to command: they all do hate him
As rootedly as I. Burn but his books.
He has brave utensils,--for so he calls them--
Which when he has a house, he'll deck withal
And that most deeply to consider is
The beauty of his daughter; he himself
Calls her a nonpareil: I never saw a woman,
But only Sycorax my dam and she;
But she as far surpasseth Sycorax
As great'st does least. (96-112)

Act IV, Scene i:
Ferdinand has "[w]orthily purchased" Miranda (14); conjures a "masque" to entertain Ferdinand and Miranda.

...I must
Bestow upon the eyes of this young couple
Some vanity of mine art: it is my promise,
And they expect it from me.

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep. (148-158)
Act V, Scene i:

"Now does my project gather to a head. / My charms crack not; my spirits obey, and Time / goes upright with his carriage. How's the day?"...
(1-5; read to c.90)
The Tempest

"The entrance of the Cell opens, and discovers FERDINAND and MIRANDA playing at chess."

on Caliban as "marketable"

"A strange fish! Were I in England now,
as once I was, and had but this fish painted,
not a holiday fool there but would give a piece
of silver: there would this monster make a
man; any strange beast there makes a man:
when they will not give a doit to relieve a lame
beggar, they will lazy out ten to see a dead
Indian." (II.ii.27-33)
Act V
Now my charms are all o'erthrown,
And what strength I have’s mine own,
Which is most faint. Now, ’tis true,
I must be here confined by you,
Or sent to Naples. Let me not,
Since I have my dukedom got
And pardoned the deceiver, dwell
In this bare island by your spell,
But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands.
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails,
Which was to please. Now I want
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so that it assaults
Mercy itself and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardoned be,
Let your indulgence set me free.
The allure & the effects of power

Different types of governance (patriarchal, political, utopian...)

Prospero's books: the power of knowledge, performance, art
world/stage--connections to performance as ritual?

The difficulty of distinguishing between men & monsters

The rejection of power (?)
prohibitions and critiques of the stage
group activity
Lord Mayor's letter to the Lord High Treasurer reflects Puritan sentiments toward the stage
Answers: not "honest recreation" but "corrupt and prophane"; represent "vnchast fables, lascivious divises, shifts of cozenage"; the audience is "the base & refuse sort of people or such yoong gentlemen as haue small regard of credit or conscience" and may imitate the offenses represented. Theaters are "the ordinary places of meeting for all vagrant persons & maisterles men that hang about the Citie, theeues, horsestealers, whoremoongers, coozeners, connycatching persones, practizers of treason..." (114)
Starts with (weak) statement of defense: "the people must haue soom kynd of recreation, & that policie requireth to divert idle heads & other ill disposed from other woorse practize by this kynd of exercize" (Nagler 113)
In your own words, describe the four "inconueniences that grow by Stage playes abowt the Citie of London"
Turn to the letter written by the Lord Mayor and Aldermen to the Privy Council (1597).

Shakespearean "Romance"? (Wise and Walker 366)
1611, Shakespeare's last play
*Key motifs and images?
continuity, metatheatricality
Yet he would be king on't.
The latter end of his commonwealth forgets the
All things in common nature should produce
Without sweat or endeavour: treason, felony,
Sword, pike, knife, gun, or need of any engine,
Would I not have; but nature should bring forth,
Of its own kind, all foison, all abundance,
To feed my innocent people.
No marrying 'mong his subjects?
None, man; all idle: whores and knaves.
I would with such perfection govern, sir,
To excel the golden age.
God save his majesty!
Long live Gonzalo!
Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me that, when I waked,
I cried to dream again. (146-154)
*What themes do these passages speak to? What other quotations can we connect them to?
Themes? Images?
Key Passages
Key to Diagram
AA – Main Entrance
B – The Yard
CC – Entrances to Lowest Gallery
D – Entrances to Staircase and Upper Galleries
E – Corridor serving the different sections of the Middle Gallery
F – Middle Gallery (Two Penny Rooms)
G – “Gentleman’s Rooms” or “Lords’ Rooms”
H – The Stage
I – The Hanging Being Put Around the Stage
K – The “Hell” under the Stage
L – The Stage Trap, leading down to “Hell”
MM – Stage Doors
N – Curtained “Place behind the Stage”
O – Gallery above the stage, used as required sometimes by musicians, sometimes by spectators, and often as part of the play
P – Back Stage Area (The Tirring House)
Q – Tirring House Door
R – Dressing Rooms
S – Wardrobe and Storage
T – The Hut Housing, the machine for lowering enthroned gods, etc, to the stage
U – the “Heaven”
W – Hoisting the Playhouse Flag
The Renaissance Theatre
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