Shakespeare – Module 2: Elizabethan Theater – 2 of 3

WHAT: Today you will gain some insight into what an Elizabethan theater was like and how plays were performed.

By the end of this study session you will be able to:

✔ List some popular Elizabethan entertainment activities
✔ Describe the layout of an Elizabethan theater.
✔ Imagine and describe the atmosphere of an Elizabethan theater.

Today you will need:
✎ A pen
☰ Some paper to write on
♫ Some headphones or a space where you can play videos out loud

Life was very hard for Elizabethans and it was a daily struggle to survive. When people face hardships, they often use popular entertainment to keep themselves going and to distract themselves from their difficulties.

1) Make a list of all the things you are doing to keep yourself entertained during this national lockdown!
☺ Netflix movies

2) What do you think Elizabethans did given that they did not have TV or the internet?
3) Watch the short video (4 minutes) below and list the ways Elizabethans had fun. Afterwards, identify ways in which our entertainment is similar: for example, we have Tik Tok dances and they also liked to dance!

4) Watch a short video (7 minutes) on what Elizabethan theaters were like. Pay attention to the layout and workings of the theaters because in this session you are going to do some descriptive writing about being in one!

5) Answer the questions underneath the video. You can click them to reveal the answer to check if you are right.

Other than Shakespeare, name 2 famous Elizabethan playwrights.

Christopher Marlowe and Ben Johnson.

What play houses did most people go to?

The public theaters.

Name some other famous theaters other than The Globe.

The Curtain, The Rose, The Swan and The Fortune.

What shape were most of theaters?

Circular, like a giant letter O.

What was the canopy known as?

The Heavens.

What was the Tiring House used for?

Storing props and also a place for actors to get dressed.

Were women allowed to be actors?

No. All female parts were played by young boys who still had high pitched voices!

6) Read this example of a description of a modern theater:

You walk into a theater. You find your seat down toward the front because you paid a little more for your tickets to be close to the actors. You settle into your comfortable theater seat. The audience is buzzing. After a moment, the house lights dim and a hush falls over the crowd. The stage lights come up or the curtain rises. The set is the interior of a modest home. It is not exactly naturalistic, though clearly a home with designed accents. Actors enter. The clothes they wear fit the house setting. They begin speaking. The language is familiar and colloquial like you speak in your home. They do not address the audience. There is an imaginary “fourth wall” of the house that you are peering through to see the action of the play. This helps you “suspend your disbelief.” It puts you in the place and time of the play. You are there to see the play. You are an observer of the play.

7) Imagine you are in an Elizabethan theater! Write a description of what you can see, hear, smell and feel. If you want to look at some pictures for inspiration, click on this link:

You could include details about:
✍ The crowds: how are people behaving / sitting / standing? Are they quiet or noisy? Do people smell!?
✍ The stage / use of props / time of day / music
✍ What the actors are wearing

TIP: If you are stuck for how to start each sentence, look at the bold parts in the example above.