Monográfico_Cervantes Monográfico Cervantes-Shakespeare - Page 62

In the playhouses, the cheapest tickets were sold for a mere penny, and allowed the spectator entry to the very front of the theatre. This area at the bottom of the stage was called the pit, and it was where the “groundlings” or “penny knaves” stood to watch the performance. In the summertime these audience members became known as the “stinkards”, due to the unfortunate olfactory combination of the extremely poor hygiene of the time and the warmer weather. Excavation of the original site of the Globe has provided us with the interesting discovery that the “groundlings” would munch on hazelnuts or oranges during the plays. Perhaps this was their equivalent to eating popcorn at the cinema. They would shout out at the actors and throw things if they didn’t like the performance! Very rich nobles could watch the play from a chair set on the side of the stage itself, giving them a bird’s eye view of the action. Popular playwrights of this era who are still well-known household names today were Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe, and, of course, William Shakespeare. Many people at the time even considered Christopher Marlowe to be Shakespeare’s superior in the dramatic craft. However, this talented rival came to an untimely end when he was killed at a relatively young age in a tavern 4ight. Companies would typically perform between 30 and 40 new plays every year. The Admiral’s Men, Shakespeare’s rival theatre company, performed every afternoon for six days a week, 40 weeks of the year. With such intensive schedules the profession was hard work. Although there was a pro4it to be made for those with shares in a company, actors or “hirelings” engaged on a weekly basis were not paid quite as much. The young boys who took on the female roles were paid even less. The profession was only open to men in England, although women were acting in other European countries at the time. Women were not allowed to perform in public theatres in England until 1660. Theatre companies were wildly popular. Plays were written proli4ically and performed to full houses, except during those periods in 1603 and 1608 when the spread of the Bubonic Plague was so unmanageable that the theatres were forced to temporarily close. Unlike nowadays, the same play was never performed for two days in a row. There was a repertory system whereby companies would put on a different play every day. Actors might spend the morning rehearsing and then they would perform in the afternoon. Overall, there wasn’t a lot of time allocated for rehearsing. The actors didn’t even have their own copies of the play; they would write out their own parts to learn by heart along with ‘cues’ that let them know when to start saying their lines.