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Pre-Elizabethan Theatre

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J Lew

on 25 October 2013

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Transcript of Pre-Elizabethan Theatre

Pre-Elizabethan Theatre
• Few records remain of the theatrical traditions in Western Europe earlier than the Elizabethan period.
• There was some secular drama, such as depictions of the Robin Hood myths, at big yearly festivals, such as May Day.
• The type of drama that was most prevalent before Shakespeare was the miracle plays.
• These were originally performed in churches on holy events such as Saints’ days to instruct the illiterate peasants about the stories of the bible and the lives of the saints.
• Eventually these productions moved outside of the church and were performed by the different guilds of the city on moving scaffolds and sometimes moving carts.
• The stories were performed in a series short scenes or pageants.
• Very little scenery, but quite elaborate costumes.
• As the plays developed, the bible stories were expanded upon and new characters added.
• The productions were quite profane with a lot of clowning and buffoonery.
• Only three full cycles of pageants remain: those of Chester, York and Wakefield.

Early Tudor Plays
• playwrights began to explore their own creativity more
• King Henry VIII's disregard for the Church (first in acquiring a papal dispensation to marry Catherine of Aragon, his deceased older brother's wife, and second in divorcing her to be able to marry Anne Boleyn) may be linked to the gradual secularization of plays

Theatrical Conventions
• Actors and the assigning of parts
• Tradesmen guilds: a group of professionals in a trade
• Each guild usually performed plays that related to their profession e.g. the carpenters act Noah’s Ark
• Money for the performances i.e. money for costumes, was raised by pageant silver
• Costumes
• The design of the costumes contained symbols to help the audience recognize the characters, (ex. God wore a white coat and had a golden face)
• Performances
• Festivals/move around town then eventually towns had specific theatre spaces
• Best way to announce that there would be a performance taking place was with trumpet and drums
Elizabethan Example...
Midsummer Night’s Dream : example of how tradesmen came together to perform

Social Aspect of Pre-Elizabethan Theatre
Miracle Plays
• Used to teach morality and ethics
• After 1500, audiences grew tired of these plays
• Tried to appeal to audiences in different ways

Later Plays
• Performed in town squares and inn-yards, moved to theatres later on
• Plays for enjoyment rather than moral messages
• Who went to see theatre?
o Available for the nobles and the lower classes
o Difference in seats, prices, food ect.
• Who were these plays written for?
o Plays written in ways that everyone could enjoy
o Aspects within each play that each social class could enjoy
o Audiences of the Tudor era particularly enjoyed violent plays
o Shakespeare became very good at doing this

by: Omoyeni Adeyemo, Chayla Day,
Jenaye Lewis, Liam McShane, and
Kirsten Paul

Miracle Plays
• watching/writing/performing plays continued to grow in popularity
• gradual shift from more religious plays to more secular plays continues to occur
ex. from miracle/mystery plays to morality plays
•interludes: type of allegory in which the protagonist faced personified representatives of various moral attributes. had to overcome temptation and manipulation in order to choose "God's path"
ex. "The Summoning of Everyman," early Tudor period, author known only as The Wakefield Master, no production records survive
More on "Gorboduc"
• differing opinions of which author wrote which parts of Gorboduc (Thomas Norton [1566-1604] or Thomas Sackville [1532-1584])
• political view shifts in Gorboduc
• debated influence on Gorboduc:
Senecan Style:
- 5 act structure
- Stoicism and rhetoric
- Gloomy atmosphere
- Horror
- Recitation, not stage performance
• works attributed to Seneca include: Hercules Furens, Medea, Troades, Phaedra, Agamemnon, Oedipus, Hercules Oetaeus, Phoenissae, Thyestes
• Seneca influenced by Virgil, Ovid, Euripedes
• Gorboduc as the “first regular English tragedy”
• relevance to Shakespeare:
- Barbara Heliodora Carneiro de Mendonca believes influence on
King Lear:
o word incidence
o tone
o political similarities

More on "Ralph Roister Doister"
• written by Nicholas Udall (1504-1556), who was an English schoolmaster, translator, playwright
• Udall influenced by Plautus, Terence
• relevance to Shakespeare:
- 5 acts
- Witty dialogue between Master and Servant
- Upper and lower-class interaction
- Unrequited love
- Long proclamations of love
- Love at first sight

A Monologue From Gorboduc
Thank you!

Thank you!
Thank you!
Full transcript