History of English Theatre Notes

Topics: Richard Burbage, Drama, Lord Chamberlain's Men Pages: 3 (612 words) Published: February 25, 2014
Performing Arts

Theatre in London

Amphitheatre –Romans at Guildhall

Liturgical dramas (from the service of worship).
Took place in church during the Easter celebration. Sung and in Latin – vast cycles performed all over Europe in medieval times. Performed by Monks and nuns inside church. The spice seller was the first comic character as well as the first non-religious character. Liturgical dramas developed into Mystery/ Miracle plays and were performed outside. This is when we get the first actors.

Mystery Plays
In England different Craft Guilds were employed to perform different plays e.g. Carpenters acted out the story of Noah’s Ark and the Fishmongers the story of Jonah and the Whale. They were performed on wagons or temporary stages. The audience would move to different wagons to watch different plays. They might see six or eight short plays in a day. The performers were all amateur and all male. The Mystery Plays that we know today are the York Cycle of Mystery Plays and the Chester Cycle. Most of the others have been lost over the centuries.

The Tudor monarchy was very flamboyant. Henry VII had his own company of players. This dynasty loved tournaments, and royal processions etc.

There was an increase of professional actors in 16thc. They were attached to noble and royal families who protected them from religious and political turbulence. This religious upheaval eventually silenced the performance of Mystery plays.

In 1548 the feast day of Corpus Christi was suppressed and Mystery plays were banned. However performances carried on for three decades in the North and the Midlands that were far away from the centre of power in London but by 1581 they had stopped being performed there as well.

The time was ripe for non – religious plays to be performed by actors. No actresses – thought shameful to show oneself off.
The Church railed against Actors.

By the mid -16th C, plays were written for public performances and...
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