Elizabethan theatre was considered the Golden Age and saw the development of William Shakespeare as Britain’s National playwright. His surviving 37 plays are still regularly produced and studied all over the world.
The Thames below Westminster (about 1871) by Claude MonetThe National Gallery, London
In June 2020 it was announced that builders had uncovered remains of The Red Lion, which was the first ever English playhouse built next to a drinking establishment in Whitechapel, 1567. Strict licensing laws in the City of London meant that such establishments had to site themselves outside their jurisdiction. The most famous theatres were constructed south of the River Thames, where a blind eye was turned to the raucous nature of Elizabethan entertainment tastes which included bear-baiting!
We know from records that when The Theatre was demolished its timbers were transported over the river to be used in building The Globe. It was built by Burbage's sons and became the main production house for Shakespeare's plays. Opening in 1599, it burnt down in 1613.
From drawings and the various remains found we know that the theatre buildings were round or octagonal with a high covered stage, surrounded by a yard for standing patrons, and an outer series of galleries and boxes for wealthier members of the audience.
LIFE Photo Collection
The theatres had their own companies of all male professional actors and playwrights paid for by patronage. Plays would be performed in contemporary costume with limited props, and with a great deal of interaction with the audience.
Lit Shakespeare Romeo And JulietLIFE Photo Collection
Written in verse and older English, the plays are generally seen as 'difficult' when studied at school but immediately come to life when seen in performance, especially when modern parallels are highlighted by setting and costume.
Lit Shakespeare MacbethLIFE Photo Collection