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To what extent are Shakespeares plays a product of the Elizabethan theatrical context in which they were first performed?

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Introduction

English language and literature coursework: "To what extent are Shakespeare's plays a product of the Elizabethan theatrical context in which they were first performed?" Little is known about the personal life of one of, if not the greatest playwrights of all time, William Shakespeare. What we do know is that his works were and still are very popular. The popularity and success of Shakespeare's plays to this day has been due to his jaw dropping story lines, realistic raunchiness and tremendous tragedy. Throughout his plays, the themes of love, jealousy, romance and revenge are put across. In plays such as Othello and Hamlet, the main themes are jealousy and love, which contributes to why audiences are still so intrigued and involved in the story lines to this day. Shakespeare's theatres differ a great deal from those of today, for example they had very little money for props and scenery and short running times. Nowadays, millions can be spent on scenery and props and plays can last up to 30 years. Theatres such as the Globe would have had many trials to conquer, for example: the noise, the hustle and bustle and distractions from the audience. In Shakespeare's time, all sorts of people would have gone to the theatre, from prostitutes to thieves and drunks to homeless people. Because of the cramped conditions, lack of seating in the yard and types of people that were associated with the theatre, it was frowned upon for "higher class" people to attend it. If they were to attend, they would sit high up behind the stage with a curtain drawn, this was to mainly escape from the people in the yard. There were no seats in the yard because the theatre owners wanted to cram as many people in as possible, in order for them to make as much money as possible. Despite the higher-class peoples' position providing privacy, their view would be affected and therefore would have to listen to the play. ...read more.

Middle

It is clear that Othello is also a product of the Elizabethan theatrical context because internal stage directions were planted in the script. An example of this is in Act 5, Scene 1 when Iago and Roderigo are about to attack Cassio: Iago: Here, stand behind this bulk, straight will he come: Quick, quick, fear nothing; I'll be at thy elbow, it makes us, or it mars us, think of that, and fix most firm thy resolution. Roderigo: Be near at hand, I may miscarry in't. This relates to the Elizabethan theatrical context because plays were not on for a long time then, the population of London was much smaller so people would want new things all of the time. Because of this, actors didn't have a lot of time to rehearse, so little things like internal stage directions were put in the script to help them. This part would have been performed by Roderigo and Iago hiding behind one of the pillars on the stage of the Globe theatre because they had very little props at the time and Cassio would have walked past them. Iago would be standing close to Roderigo, but both of them would have been in the eye of the audience, otherwise the audience wouldn't have been able to hear them properly. This aspect is effective because if the two had just hid behind the pillar, the audience, if they could not see or were not paying attention would not know what was going on. So telling the audience what they were about to do also got their attention. Internal stage directions helped not only the actors, but the audience as well. Another aspect that shows Othello was a product of the Elizabethan theatrical context is when the actors describe their thoughts, actions and feelings to the audience. In Act 2, Scene 1, Iago discusses his plot with the audience on how he is going to turn Othello against Cassio and Desdemona. ...read more.

Conclusion

A scene in which one of these may have been used is Act 4, Scene 1. In this scene Iago tells Othello that Desdemona is sleeping with Cassio and tricks Othello to make it sound like Cassio is talking about Desdemona, when in fact he speaks about Bianca. Othello is hiding at this point. Iago - That's not amiss, but yet keeps time in all: will you withdraw? [Othello hides himself] This relates to the Elizabethan theatrical context because even though they did not use special effects a lot, these trap doors would have been cheap, yet very effective. The trap door on the stage would have been used for special appearances and for people to escape from other actors; the trap door in the heavens would have been used for things such as angel or ghost appearances, the actor would have been lowered down via a pulley system and flying animals. So, "to what extent are Shakespeare's plays a product of the Elizabethan theatrical context in which they were first performed?" I have analysed and now finally concluding that Shakespeare's plays were very much a product of the Elizabethan theatrical context. I have seen firstly, that the theatres as a whole effected the plays a lot, because of the lighting, seating and staging set up. The people that went to see the plays performed or even to listen to them, would have been affected by the plays because, you never knew what they would do next. If it was throwing something at one of the actors' heads or joining them on stage and you have to adapt it, for royalty to listen to it. The era in which it was set would affect it as well because of the clothing, the Queen of the time and the laws of the time. It has now been brought to my attention that everything around the actors and Shakespeare himself affected the plays very much, and because of these influences, the Elizabethan theatrical context was very much made and very unique because theatres changed, people changed, and time changed. ...read more.

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