Theater History: Elizabethan Theater

By 5AZ
  • Period: Dec 3, 1500 to

    Spanish Golden Age

    This is what historians have come to call the Spanish Reniassance, when literature and art in Spain flourished. It coincided with the rise and fall of the Hapsburg dynasty.
    Loas - a prologue to plays - and entremeses - interludes that happened between the 3 acts of a comedia - were common in the overwhelmingly dominant 3-act Spanish Comedia that flowered from the Golden Age. Cazuelas, the "stew pan" or balcony where women would sit in Spanish playhouses, were also employed during this age.
  • Dec 4, 1548

    Hotel de Bourgogne

    Built to house religious drama by the venerable Confrerie de la Passion, the Hotel de Bourgogne was the first permanent theater in Paris and the only Parisian playhouse at the beginning of the 17th century. It could hold approximately 1,600 people.
  • Dec 3, 1550


    [Approximately 1550]
    During the Golden Age of Spain, these autores were actor-managers. They would hire anywhere from 10 to 20 performers. By 1550, each company had 3 or 4 women actors!
    The Spanish Playhouses that the autores managed were owned by hospitals, charities, or orphanages, whose undertakings were in effect sponsored by the theatre companies’ rents.
  • Dec 3, 1553

    Ralph Roister Doister

    [The date is approximate, since we don't know for sure]
    Written by Nicholas Udall, this play is one of the first notable Roman-type comedies from 16th century England about a braggart warrior.
  • Dec 3, 1566


    During the 16th century, this theatrical genre became popular under King James I. It was similar to Roman pantomime in form and purpose, and combined music, poetry (most often by Ben Jonson), and spectacle (often designed by Inigo Jones).
  • Dec 3, 1575

    History/Chronicle Genre

    Beginning in 1575 with Bale’s King Johan, the History/Chronicle dramatic genre is both typical of and unique to the English drama of the Renaissance.
  • Dec 3, 1576

    James Burbage

    Burbage builds The Theater, which is the first permanent public theater building in England since the Roman era. He had a professional acting company with Shakespeare in the King's Men. He is known as the Best actor of Elizabethan England. He was especially noted for acting as Richard III, Othello, and Hamlet.
  • Dec 3, 1576

    Blackfriars Theatre

    Starting off as a place where children could practice their performaces before going before the court and doing so, it was a private theater. In 1596, James Burbage converted it fully into a theatre. Blackfriars housed the King's Men after 1603.
  • Dec 3, 1579

    Corral del Principe

    During the Golden Age of Spain, secular plays were performed in these "Corrales", which were remodeled inn yards. Located in Madrid, this was one of Spain's leading permanent theater spaces.
  • Dec 3, 1579

    Corral de la Cruz

    During the Golden Age of Spain, secular plays were performed in these "Corrales", which were remodeled inn yards. Located in Madrid, this was one of Spain's leading permanent theater spaces.
  • Dec 3, 1580

    Raphael Holinshed

    Died 1580.
    His book The Chronicle located the 16th century English in time.
  • Christopher Marlowe

    This English poet and playwright was considered to be William Shakespeare's most important predecessor in English drama. He wrote many plays including Edward II and Dr. Faustus. In his writings, Marlowe is known especially for his use and establishment of dramatic blank verse.
  • Thomas Kyd

    Thomas Kyd is an English dramatist. His Senecan revenge play called The Spanish Tragedy (c. 1589) had many features of and was a source for Shakespeare's Hamlet. He invented the style of the revenger's tragedy during his day and age.
  • The Globe

    Assumed to have been able to hold approximately 2,000 people in its audience, The Globe housed much of Shakespeare's work from 1599 onwards. The Lod Chamberlain's Men used this playhouse.
  • Inns of Court

    Law Schools which provided London with student performances.
  • The Fortune Theatre

    A very fancy public playhouse that was famous enough to rival the Globe in its time. The dimensions and elements of The Fortune Theatre detailed in a contract for Philip Henslowe have given us an idea of what Elizabethan public theatres looked like.
  • Psychology of Shakespeare's Period

    A popular theory of psychology and character analysis in the Elizabethan Era (1558-1603). Humour Secretion Element Personality Trait
    Sanguine blood Air Happy, amorous, etc.
    Melancholic black bile Earth Sentimental, gluttonous, etc.
    Phlegmatic phlegm Water Cowardly, sluggish, etc.
    Choleric yellow bile Fire Violent, ambitious, etc.
  • Tennis Court

    The tennis court building was the most frequently converted into playhouses in 17th-century Paris.
  • Period: to

    Jacobean Age

    The period in English history, beginning in 1603, took its name from Elizabeth’s Stuart successor: James I. Inigo Jones flourished in this time period; he introduced the first fully realized Renaissance classical style of architecture into England.
  • Richard Haklyut

    His book Principal Voyages and Discoveries of the English Nation placed the 16th century English in space. It provides a significant amount of the knowledge of the early English voyages to North America.
  • Lope de Vega

    De Vega was an extremely prolific Spanish author during the Golden Age of Spain. The first Spaniard to make his living as a playwright, one of his most famous plays is Fuente Ovejuna (1612-1614). Another of his works is New Art of Making Plays for Our Time, an explanation of his dramatic aesthetic including verisimiltude. Though he wrote over 800 plays, de Vega's work did not penetrate into human nature, so he cannot be compared with Shakespeare.
  • Cardinal Richelieu

    Richelieu was a French clergyman, noble, and statesman. He was Founder of the French Academy, political advisor to Louis XIII, and was also a Cardinal. Richelieu had a lot of influence.
  • Tirso de Molina

    This Spanish monk was a phenomenal plawright during the Golden Age of Spain. He wrote The Trickster of Seville, which included the model for all future Don Juan stories.
  • Spanish Comedia

    Spanish Comedia was the drama form that dominated the secular theatre during Spain's 17th century. The five distinguishing characteristics of Spanish Comedia are:
    1. There are 3 acts in a play.
    2. Plays are written in verse.
    3. Plot is the driving element of the composition.
    4. The characteristic theme is love vs. honor.
    5. There are only 2 types of Spanish Comedia:
    a) capa y espada (the cape and the sword)/ tragicomedy
    b) corpse or noise theatre
  • Sir William Davenant

    Davenant gets a license to have a play during the Commonwealth. He started the Duke's Company. He was manager, director, and playwright. The Duke's Company opened with The Siege of Rhodes. The Siege of Rhodes was the first English appearance of opera that was to siphon off the “high class” audience from non-musical theatre.
  • Period: to

    The Restoration

    Under King Charles II, the Restoration is the name of the period of English history beginning in 1660, immediately following the Commonwealth.
    In Restoration comedy, everyone is driven by sexual motivation.
    The theatre of the Restoration period was essentially the entertainment of the Aristocracy and Royalty.
  • Maraget Hughes

    Margaret Hughes is the first woman to professionally act on the English stage. She did so in 1660 as Desdemona.
  • Edward Kynaston

    The last English "boy player" of women's roles. Samuel Pepys called him "the loveliest lady that ever I saw in my life." His last female role was with Killigrew's Company in Beaumont and Fletcher’s Maid ’s Tragedy.
  • Drury Lane Theatre

    Otherwise known as Theatre Royal Drury Lane, this playhouse was built by Thomas Killegrew. It seated less than 1,000 people. It was destroyed by a fire in 1672. Two years later in 1674, it was rebuilt on its original site.
  • Earl of Shaftesbury

    The Earl of Shaftesbury wrote convincingly during the same period that the Sentiment counterbalanced Reason (as conceived by Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727)).
  • Moliere

    One of the greatest comedians, Moliere was a French writer, actor, manager, producer, and director. In 1643, at the L'Illustre-Theatre, Moliere met Madeleine Bejart, the young leading actress of the L'Illustre. During the course of his life, he had multiple affairs with Bejart.

    Moliere believed that people could not change and placed an emphasis on human folly in his writings. His greatest achievement was that Moliere raised comedy up to be as high as tragedy.
  • Jean Racine

    Racine is a French neoclassical playwright well-known for his mastery of tragedy.The neoclassical program demands a unity of time, place, and action. In his Phedre (1677), Racine captured the essence of neoclassical tastes and "rules" including simple plots, complex characters, and a single wrenching moral dilemma.
  • Calderon

    Calderon was a minor Spanish noble playwright. His most famous work is Life's a Dream. He was considered comparable to Lope de Vega. In his plays, Calderon included so much music that some thought of his works as operas. For the last half of his life, he wrote 2 or more autos sacrementales each year.
  • Autos Sacrementales

    These are one act plays similar to mystery or morality plays with a positive outcome with the purpose of bolstering the faith of the devout. These religious plays were performed on the feast of Corpus Christi and four would compete every year in Madrid.
  • Thomas Killegrew

    Killegrew was an English playwright and theater manager. He started the King's Company and used Drury Lane and Theatre Royal. He got a patent from Charles II to put on plays. He was also Master of Revels from 1673-1677.
  • Pierre Corneille

    A french playwright and poet, Corneille is considered the father of French classical tragedy. He wrote Le Cid, which was his most famous play. However, it received harsh attacks for its non-neo-classical genre heroics that he was scared into writing more "regular" works of much less life and interest.
  • Charles II

    Charles II was king of England and Ireland. Beginning around 1660, he instituted a patent system for theatre. The time of his reign has come to be known as the Restoration period.
  • Primogeniture

    The Law of Primogeniture was a law in England whereby it was illegal to break up an estate by assigning multiple heirs. Furthermore, the father would have to die in order for the estate to shift to his heir. Daughters had to marry if they were to have a future.
  • Louis XIV

    (1638-1715) (r 1643-1715)
    Nicknamed The Sun King, Louis XIV's famous words were "L'Etat, c'est moi", literally meaning "The state, it is I." He was an absolute monarch and controlled his country especially by centering much of the political action in Versailles.
  • William Wycherley

    Wycherley is an English playwright who encapsulated the pinnacle of Restoration comedy. His most famous and successful work is the The Country Wife, a vulgar comedy written in 1675.
  • William Congreve

    An Irish dramatist. He is especially known for his play The Way of the World, written in 1700. He had women appear on stage!
  • John Gay

    Englishman John Gay wrote The Beggar's Opera, which was under the title of "opera", but really fit more into the category of a "ballad opera" because it had spoken word too. Though opera was normally a place for the upper class and the court audience, the bourgeousie/the middle class came to The Beggar's Opera.
  • David Garrick

    David Garrick was an actor who used a Naturalistic style, which was a style based on the real happenings of life. Among other characters, Garrick acted as Richard III, Romeo, and Jarrief.
    In only 6 years, Garrick went from being unknown to becoming the greatest English actor of his time. A very meticullous actor, he was versatile and could act well in comedy as well as tragedy.
  • Charles Macklin

    Macklin was an Irish (and English) playwright and actor. He was the first one to break out of the stock-character style of acting. His version of Shylock in the Merchant of Venice became famous.