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Shakespeare Study Guides in Kindle Format
With Complete Texts That Define Difficult Words and Explain Difficult Passages
By Michael J. Cummings
Copyright © 1995, 2003, 2010, 2017
Table of Contents
Description of Original Globe Theatre Location Builders Owners First Performances Second Globe Featured Authors
Shakespeare's Acting Companies Actors Sets: Effect on Writing Special Effects Music and Dancing Costumes Stunts
Globe Acoustics Memorizing Lines Audiences Globe Motto Meaning of Box Office Marquee Other London Theatres
Theatre Season Opposition to Theatres Censorship Stage Directions and Drama Terms Amphitheatres vs Playhouses
Elizabethan vs Renaissance Theatre Elizabethan vs Jacobean Period
The interior of the structure resembled that of a modern opera house, with three galleries protected from rain and sunlight by a roof. About 2,000 playgoers paid two or more pennies to sit in these galleries. The stage, said to be about fifteen yards wide and nine yards deep, was raised four to six feet from ground level. Above the stage was a ceiling supported by pillars. Above the ceiling was a balcony from which actors could recite lines. The stage projected forward into a roofless yard where up to 1,000 "groundlings" or "stinklings," who each paid a "gatherer" a penny for admission, stood shoulder to shoulder under a hot sun or threatening clouds. This roofless yard allowed sunlight to illuminate the stage. Playgoers could also sit in seats to the left and right of the stage if their wallets were fat enough to pay the high price.
It is unlikely that the uneducated groundlings who huddled in the yard understood the difficult passages in Shakespeare’s plays. Shakespeare himself belittled them in Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, calling them (through lines spoken by Hamlet) incapable of comprehending anything more than dumbshows (pantomimes). But because the groundlings liked the glamour and glitter of a play, they regularly attended performances at the Globe. When bored, they could buy food and drink from roving peddlers, exchange the news of the day, and boo and hiss the actors.
There was no curtain that opened and closed at the beginning and end of plays. At the back of the stage was said to be a wall with two or three doors leading to the dressing rooms of the actors. These rooms collectively were known as the "tiring house." To tire means to dress—that is, to attire oneself. Sometimes, the wall of the tiring house could stand as the wall of a fortress under siege. Props and backdrops were few. Sometimes a prop used for only one scene remained onstage for other scenes because it was too heavy or too awkward to remove.
Londoner Peter Street (1553-1609) was said to be the carpenter/contractor hired to construct the Globe. In 1600, he and his workers also constructed one of the main rivals of the Globe, the Fortune Theatre.
In Shakespeare's time, males played all the characters, even Juliet, Cleopatra, and Ophelia. Actors playing gods, ghosts, demons, and other supernatural characters could pop up from the underworld through a trapdoor on the stage or descend to earth on a winch line from a trapdoor in the ceiling, called "the heavens." Off the stage, the ripple of a sheet of metal could create thunder. Stagehands set off fireworks to create omens, meteors, comets, or the wrath of the Almighty. Instruments such as oboes and cornets frequently provided music. If an actor suffered a fencing wound, he simply slapped his hand against a pouch (perhaps a pig's bladder) beneath his shirt to release what appeared to be blood. Apparently, there were no directors, in the modern sense, to guide the actors and supervise the special effects.
The gallery had a thatched roof. (Thatch consists of straw or dried stalks of plants such as reeds.) During a performance of Henry VIII on June 29, 1613, the Globe Theatre burned down after booming cannon fire announcing the entrance of King Henry at Cardinal Wolsey's palace ignited the roof. Everyone escaped, including a man whose pants caught fire. Someone threw ale on him, dousing the fire, according to Henry Wotton (1568-1639), an English author.
When the owner of the land on which The Theatre stood threatened to demolish the building after the lease expired, Richard and Cuthbert dismantled the playhouse and used the timbers for construction of the Globe on the south bank of the Thames in a district where two other theatres, the Rose and the Swan, were already competing for the coins of London playgoers. The construction was completed in 1599.
Richard Burbage was an actor in a company called the Lord Chamberlain's Men, which Shakespeare had joined in 1594. (The name of this company became the King's Men in 1603 after King James I succeeded Queen Elizabeth, who died in that year, as the ruler of England.) Burbage was believed to be the first actor in history to play Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, King Lear, Romeo, Henry V and Richard III. Cuthbert Burbage did not act, although he was interested in drama. The Lord Chamberlain's men was arguably the most prestigious acting company at the time. However, another company known as the Admiral's Men—which featured the works of Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593), among others—also enjoyed wide popularity and respect.
Lord Chamberlain's Men and the King's Men. It is said that he enjoyed playing the Ghost in Hamlet. All actors had to memorize their lines exactly; if they forgot their lines, they had to improvise cleverly or get cues from an offstage prompter.
Highly skilled actors, such as Richard Burbage, earned more money—and received more praise—than Shakespeare and other playwrights. Actors who played clowns and jesters were celebrities, much as today's television and movie comedians. The main actors associated with Shakespeare's acting companies or with his plays included the following. Each actor was a member of the Lord Chamberlain's Men and the King's Men or both:
Allen, William (?-1647): Member of the King's Men.
Alleyn, Edward (1556-1626): As an actor, the chief rival of Richard Burbage. He acted in Shakespeare's plays and those of Thomas Kyd (1558-1594), Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593), and Robert Greene (1558-1592). Queen Elizabeth I was among his fans.
Armin, Robert (1563-1615): Comic actor who was said to have played fools or court jesters in Shakespeare's King Lear, As You Like It, Twelfth Night, Timon of Athens, The Winter's Tale, and All's Well That Ends Well. He was a member of the Lord's Chamberlain's Men and the King's Men.
Baxter, Richard (1593-1667): Member of the King's Men, beginning in 1628, twelve years after Shakespeare's death.
Beeston, Christopher (1579-1638): Member of the Lord's Chamberlain's Men.
Benfield, Robert (?-1649): Member of the King's Men.
Bird (or Bourne), Theophilus (1608-1663): Member of the King's Men from 1640 to 1642.
Bowyer, Michael (1599-1645): Member of the King's Men, beginning in 1640.
Browne, Robert (1563-1622): Actor who inherited William Sly's shares in the Globe Theatre.
Bryan, George (1586-1613): Member of the Lord's Chamberlain's Men.
Burbage (or Burbadge), Richard (1567-1519): The most renowned and beloved actor of Shakespeare's time. As a member of the Lord's Chamberlain's Men and the King's Men, he starred in many Shakespeare plays—such as Hamlet, King Lear, Richard III, and Othello—and performed in the plays of several of Shakespeare's contemporaries. He and his brother, Cuthbert, owned 50 percent of the shares in the Globe.
Burt, Nicholas (1621-circa 1690): Member of the King's Men as a boy actor. He played the lead role in Shakespeare's Othello in the 1660s. He also played Prince Hal in Shakespeare's Henry IV plays.
Cooke, Alexander (?-1614): Member of the Lord's Chamberlain's Men and the King's Men. He was a principal actor in Shakespeare's plays, according to the First Folio.
Condell, Henry (1576-1627): Member of the Lord's Chamberlain's Men and the King's Men. Along with John Heminges, he collected and co-edited Shakespeare's works. (See John Heminges.)
Crosse, Samuell (dates of birth and death uncertain): A principal actor in Shakespeare's plays, according to the First Folio.
Ecclestone, William (dates of birth and death uncertain): Member of the King's Men.
Field, Nathan (1587-1620): Member of the King's Men.
Gouge, Robert (dates of birth and death uncertain): An actor in Shakespeare's plays, according to the First Folio.
Heminges (or Hemings), John (1566-1630): Heminges and Shakespeare belonged to the same acting company (first known as the Lord's Chamberlain's Men and later as the King's Men); both were part owners of the Globe. Perhaps his greatest achievement was to collect and co-edit, with Henry Condell, the first published volume of Shakespeare's plays, which appeared in 1623. It has come to be known as the First Folio.
Kempe (or Kemp or Kempt), William: (?-1603): Celebrated comedic actor and dancer. He was a member of the Lord's Chamberlain's Men from 1594 to 1599 and appeared in several Shakespeare plays, including Romeo and Juliet as Peter and A Midsummer Night's Dream as Bottom. He also might have played in the Henry IV plays and Much Ado About Nothing.
Lowin (or Lowine), John (1576-1653:): A member of the King's Men. It is believed he played Iago in King Lear.
Ostler, William (?-1614): Member of the King's Men.
Phillips, Augustine (?-1605): Like Heminges, Phillips acted with Shakespeare in the Lord's Chamberlain's Men and the King's Men. He also may have played musical instruments in stage productions.
Pope (or Poope) Thomas (?-1603): Comedic actor who was a member of the Lord's Chamberlain's Men.
Rice, John (dates of birth and death uncertain): Member of the King's Men.
Robinson, Richard (?-1648): Member of the King's Men.
Shank (or Schanke), John (?-1636): Comedic actor as a member of the King's Men and other acting companies.
Sly (or Slye), William (?-1608): Member of the Lord's Chamberlain's Men and the King's Men.
Taylor, Joseph (?-1652): Member of the King's Men beginning in April 1619, three years after Shakespeare's death. He was highly accomplished and praised for performances in Shakespeare's Hamlet, King Lear, and other plays.
Tooley, Nicholas (1583-1623): Member of the King's Men. He may have appeared in Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew.
Underwood, John (?-1624): Member of the King's Men.
Whenever place or time mattered [in a Shakespeare play], some references to them could be introduced into the dialogue, and if special atmospheric or dramatic effects were needed, they could be created by the poet's pen. Hence, it is to the Elizabethan stage that we are indebted in great measure for the exquisite descriptive poetry of Shakespeare. Such conditions, moreover, encouraged a greater imaginative cooperation on the part of the audience in the production of a play, and this active participation was further increased by the informality of the platform stage. With such intimacy, soliloquies, asides, and long set speeches are natural and not absurd as they are in modern theatre.—Watt, Homer A., and Karl J. Holzknecht. Outlines of Shakespeare's Plays. New York: Barnes, 1947 (page 8).
Music abounded in his comedies. But even some of his darkest dramas, such as Macbeth and Othello, present music. For example, when Hecate enters in the first scene of the fourth act of Macbeth, she tells her three sister witches,
And now about the cauldron sing,The stage directions that follow say, "Music and a song, ‘Black Spirits,’ &c."
Music helped Shakespeare underscore a theme, alter or maintain a mood, herald the entrance of important persons, or create the right atmosphere for an event or occasion, such as war, a dance, or a banquet.
In The Two Gentlemen of Verona, a song sung at the court of the palace of the Duke of Milan underscores the theme of love.
Who is Silvia? what is she?In Henry VIII, Queen Katherine asks one of her attendants to cheer her up by playing her lute and singing. The attendant then sings these lines:
Orpheus with his lute made trees,In As You Like It, Amiens sings a song comparing the ingratitude of man to biting winter wind.
Blow, blow, thou winter wind,Characters in the plays sometimes sing drinking songs to accompany revelry. In Antony and Cleopatra, Antony, Octavian, Lepidus, Pompey, and others drink wine while a boy sings the following song:
Come, thou monarch of the vine,Instruments used included the trumpet, the oboe—called an hautboy or hautbois (pronounced O bwa)—and stringed devices such as the viol and the lute. The plays also included dancing. In fact, Romeo and Juliet met at a masked dance. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the fairy king, Oberon, dances with his queen, Titania, after inviting her to “rock” with him. Oberon says, “Sound, music! Come, my queen, take hands with me, and rock the ground whereon these sleepers be.” Shakespeare’s popular comedy As You Like It ends with a dance. Other plays with dancing include Henry V and Love’s Labour’s Lost. In The Two Noble Kinsmen, co-authored by Shakespeare and John Fletcher, the schoolmaster and the jailer’s daughter speak of a dance called the morris, in which the dancers enact a folk tale.
In a Shakespeare play, an actor might have worn an elaborate costume to depict a king or queen; he might also have worn plain clothes—perhaps those he wore around his house—to depict an ordinary citizen.
Colors of the clothes sometimes suggested a quality of the actor wearing them: white represented innocence; red, anger and passion; black, evil. In some plays, actors wore clothes with contemporary accents even though they were characters in an ancient setting. For example, the characters in King Lear and Cymbeline, both set in ancient Britain, wore clothing popular at the time of Shakespeare. Presumably, it was sometimes too costly and time-consuming to research and make costumes of another era.
MottoThe Globe had a Latin motto: Totus mundus agit histrionem. It was a translation of one of Shakespeare's most famous lines: All the world's a stage (As You Like It, 2.7.147). The line can also be translated as "all the world plays the actor."
Before the building of regular playhouses the itinerant troupes of actors were accustomed, except when received into private homes, to give their performances in any place that chance provided, such as open street-squares, barns, town-halls, moot-courts, schoolhouses, churches, and—most frequently of all, perhaps—the yards of inns. These yards, especially those of carriers' inns [inns accommodating deliverers of messages and merchandise], were admirably suited to dramatic representations, consisting as they did of a large open court surrounded by two or more galleries.The first two structures in the London area constructed specifically for stage productions were the Theatre, completed in 1576, and the Curtain, believed to have been completed in 1577. Shakespeare acted and/or presented plays in both theaters. His history play Henry V debuted at the Curtain in 1599.
In the prologue of the play, Shakespeare refers directly to the Curtain. He asks, "Can this cockpit [theatre] hold the vasty fields of France?" In other words, can the small stage of the Curtain adequately present a play set on a vast battlefield? He then asks, "Or may we cram within this wooden O the very casques that did affright the air at Agincourt?" The wooden O, of course, refers to the circular Curtain Theatre. Shakespeare was preparing his playgoers to use their imaginations to pretend that a great battle was to take place on the stage of the theatre, just as modern audiences pretend that everything they are about to see in movies is real and devoid of artifice. From time to time, Shakespeare and his fellow playwrights also presented plays in private residences and the palace of the reigning monarch. There were so many plays and so many venues for them that in 1617, a year after Shakespeare's death, Englishman Fynes Morrison wrote in a journal,
The City of London alone hath four or five companies of players with their peculiar [own] theatres capable of [holding] many thousands, wherein they all play every day in the week but Sunday, with most strange concourse of people . . . . [A]s there be, in my opinion, more plays in London than in all the parts of the world I have seen, so do these players or comedians excel all others in the world. (Quoted by Michael Best, author of "The Players," published in Internet Shakespeare Editions, sponsored by the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, and posted at <http://internetshakespeare.uvic.ca/Library/SLT/help/introcite.html>.Among the theatres and other facilities that presented plays in Greater London in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were the following:
Bell Inn: Inn in the Eastcheap section of London that staged plays in its courtyard from 1576 to 1594. Eastcheap was a meat market in central London.
Bell Savage Inn: Dating back to 1420, this inn on London's Ludgate Hill staged plays beginning in the late 1500s.
Blackfriars: Thirteenth-century monastery of Dominican priests, who wore black robes. After King Henry VIII closed all Roman Catholic monasteries between 1536 and 1541, Blackfriars saw new life as a theatre, beginning in 1576, when a company of boy actors (the Children of the Chapel) staged plays there. Actor and theatre builder James Burbage purchased part of the site and renovated it for stage presentations. Unlike the Globe, which had a roofless yard, Blackfriars was completely sealed off from the elements, allowing winter productions. His son, Richard, inherited it in 1608 and began presenting plays there with adult actors. Shakespeare was a shareholder in the theatre and lent his artistic talents to performances.
Boar's Head: Inn located in the Whitechapel district of London that staged plays in its yard, beginning in 1557, before being converted to a playhouse that operated from 1598 to 1605.
Bull Inn: London inn that staged plays between 1576 and 1594, before theatres like the Globe came into existence.
Cockpit-in-Court (also known as the The Royal Cockpit and, simply The Cockpit): Entertainment building constructed by King Henry VIII during his reign. Tennis, bowling, and cock-fighting were among the pastimes it featured. It was rebuilt as a theatre in 1616 and debuted its first production in 1617.
Cross Keys Inn: London inn on Gracechurch Street that presented plays on a stage in a yard from circa 1579 to 1594.
Curtain: Theatre in east London that staged plays between 1577 and 1625. Shakespeare's Henry V opened at the Curtain.
Fortune: Theatre constructed in northern London in 1600 by the same builder who constructed the Globe, Peter Street.
Gray's Inn: One of the Inns of Court. Gray's Inn dates back to the 1300s. Shakespeare is believed to have debuted The Comedy of Errors at this venue.
Hope: Theatre in Southwark (pronounced SUTH uk, with the th pronounced as in think) constructed in 1613 and 1614. It also hosted the sport of bearbeating. Because bearbaiting proved more popular than stage drama, few plays were staged there after 1616. But bearbaiting continued at the Hope until just beyond mid-century.
Middle Temple: One of the Inns of Court. Shakespeare's Twelfth Night debuted there in 1602.
Newington Butts: Theatre in Southwark that began productions in the 1580s and staged Shakespeare plays in 1594.
Porter's Hall: London theatre in the suburb of Puddlewharf. It opened in January 1617, staging Nathaniel Field's Amends for Ladies, and closed in the same month after the Privy Council and the king ordered it torn down.
Red Bull: Inn in the Clerkenwell district of Greater London that began staging plays in its yard in the late 1550s. An indoor playhouse was opened at the site in 1604.
Red Lion: Play venue opened in 1567 in the Whitehall district of Greater London. It failed to thrive and may have closed in the same year that it opened.
Rose: Theatre constructed in Southwark in 1587 that featured the Admiral's Men acting company, Lord Strange's Men, Sussex's Men, the Queen's Men, and Worcester's Men. Shakespeare is believed to have acted at the Rose. Evidence suggests that the Rose was razed in 1606.
St. Paul's: London theatre on Ludgate Hill near old St. Paul's Cathedral (built as a Roman Catholic church between 1087 and 1314). Two companies of boy actors performed in the theatre between 1575 and 1606. The theatre was destroyed in 1066 by the Great Fire of London.
Saracen's Head: Inn in the London borough of Islington that staged plays in the latter half of the sixteenth century.
Swan: London theatre completed by 1595 near the Thames on the site of a former monastery in Paris Garden in the Southwark section of Greater London. A 1596 drawing of the Swan by Dutchman Johannes de Witt depicts it as having a projecting stage, seating galleries, balcony, and roofless yard, all of the features attributed to the Globe, constructed four years later. Consequently, many modern researchers have concluded that the Globe was modeled on the Swan.
The Theatre: First important playhouse constructed specifically for plays. Inns and other facilities had already been presenting plays, but none of them was built for the sole purpose of presenting the work of playwrights. Built in 1576, it had a stage projecting into a roofless yard. Surrounding the stage and the yard were roofed galleries, resembling the seating in an opera hall. After it closed in 1598, it was torn down. Its timbers were used to construct the Globe.
Whitefriars: Like Blackfriars, Whitefriars was a former monastery. Carmelite monks, who wore white habits, occupied it until King Henry VIII's closure of monasteries between 1536 and 1541. In 1608, part of the monastery began serving as a playhouse for two children's groups, the King's Revels Children and the Children of the Queen's Revels. In 1613, an adult group—Lady Elizabeth's Men—began performing there with the Children of the Queen's Revels. Afterward, the acting companies moved to other venues.
White Hart Inn: Southwark inn that staged plays in its courtyard between 1576 and 1594. Shakespeare refers to the White Hart Inn in Henry VI Part II (4.8.19).
Inns of Court: Meeting places in Greater London for barristers (specialists in law) and judges. There were four Inns of Court, dating back to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries: the Middle Temple, the Inner Temple, Gray's Inn, and Lincoln's Inn.
At a time of unrest, when the Earl of Essex was challenging the Queen's [Elizabeth's] authority and armed bands terrorized the streets of London, the Chamberlain's Men [Shakespeare's acting company] were forbidden to perform Richard II, a play already licensed and performed, because it contains a scene in which a king is compelled to renounce his crown; in 1601, the queen's counsellors believed that this might encourage her enemies and spark off a revolution. The theatre was taken very seriously by the authorities and was allowed to deal with political issues only if they did not refer too obviously to current affairs or seditious ideas, but were set, safely, in an earlier century or, better still, in ancient Rome or foreign countries.
Editors of Shakespeare's plays often enclose stage directions in brackets, such as this one at the beginning of Romeo and Juliet: "[Enter Sampson and Gregory, of the house of Capulet, armed with swords and bucklers.]" Sometimes, too, editors use italics and omit brackets.
Following is a glossary of stage directions and drama terms.
Act: One of the main divisions of a play. Shakespeare's plays each have five acts. Each act is subdivided into scenes. An act generally focuses on one major aspect of the plot or theme. Between acts, stagehands could change the scenery.
Antagonist: A character, situation, feeling, idea, or thing that opposes the main character, or protagonist.
Alarum: Stage direction indicating the coming of a battle; a call to arms.
Arras: Tapestry hung on the wall of a stage to conceal a person or thing until the right moment. In Hamlet, an arras played a crucial role. Polonius hid behind one to eavesdrop on a conversation between Hamlet and his mother, Queen Gertrude. When Hamlet saw the tapestry move, he stabbed at it, thinking King Claudius was behind it, and killed Polonius.
Aside: (1) Words a character speaks to himself only; other characters on the stage cannot hear the words. However, the audience hears everything. (2) Words a character speaks to a nearby character or characters but not to any other characters on the stage. The audience hears everything.
Burden: Refrain of a song; recurring theme. Burdens occur in two of Ariel's songs in the second act of The Tempest.
Catchword: In published Shakespeare plays in earlier times, catchword referred to a single word on the bottom of the right side of a page. This word was the first word appearing on the next page.
Chorus: The chorus was a single person who recited a prologue before one act or several acts (and sometimes a passage between acts) in Henry V, Henry VIII, Troilus and Cressida, Romeo and Juliet, and Pericles, Prince of Tyre. The lines spoken by the chorus were preceded by the designation "chorus" or "prologue." Generally, the chorus informed the audience of action offstage or outside the time frame of the play.
Chronicle Play: Another name for a history play, since it chronicles historical events.
Comedy: A play that ends happily. A comedy may contain humorous scenes and dialogue, as in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Twelfth Night, and The Taming of the Shrew. But humor was not a requirement in a stage comedy in Shakespeare's time. However, a happy ending was.
Dialogue: What the characters say to one another; conversation.
Dramatis Personae: List of the characters in a play. Such a list is found at the beginning of each Shakespeare play.
Enter: Stage direction indicating the entrance onto the stage of a character or characters.
Epilogue: Short address spoken by an actor at the end of a play that comments on the meaning of the events in the play or looks ahead to expected events; an afterword.
Excursion: Stage direction indicating that a military attack is taking place. The opening of the second scene in Act 3 of King John contains such a stage direction.
Exeunt: (pronounced EX e unt) Stage direction indicating the departure of two or more characters from the stage.
Exit: Stage direction indicating the departure of a character from the stage.
Fair Copy: Play manuscript after it has been edited. See also Foul Papers.
Flourish: Music usually introducing the entrance or exit of a king or another important person, or several important persons. The music may consist of a short trumpet passage.
Foil: (1) A secondary or minor character in a literary work who contrasts or clashes with the main character; (2) a secondary or minor character with personal qualities that are the opposite of, or markedly different from, those of another character; (3) the antagonist in a play or another literary work. A foil sometimes resembles his or her contrasting character in many respects, such as age, dress, social class, and educational background. But he or she is different in other respects, including personality, moral outlook, and decisiveness. In Romeo and Juliet, Mercutio is the foil of Romeo. Mercutio is cynical and skeptical. Romeo, on the other hand, is romantic, idealistic, and impractical.
Foul Papers: Original draft of a playwright's manuscript. See also Fair Copy.
Gallery: Roofed seating area of a theatre, such as the Globe, that resembled the grandstand of a baseball park. The Globe had three galleries that could accommodate about 2,000 playgoers.
Hautboys: Stage direction indicating that entering characters are playing hautboys (OH bwah), which are oboes.
Heavens: Ceiling of the stage roof, which rested on columns, and the balcony above it. A trapdoor in the ceiling allowed actors to enter a scene on a rope or another device.
Hell: Area beneath the stage floor. Stagehands could create sound effects in this area. In addition, actors beneath the stage could enter a scene through a trapdoor built into the floor.
History Play: A play that focuses on a real-life historical figure. Among Shakespeare's history plays are Richard II, Richard III, King John, and Henry IV Part I, Henry IV Part II, Henry V, Henry VI Part I, Henry VI Part II, Henry VI Part III and Henry VIII.
Induction: Preface or prelude to a play. The Taming of the Shrew contains an induction that precedes the main plot.
Master of Revels: Government censor who examined all plays for offensive material.
Monologue: Long speech spoken by a character. He or she may address the monologue to one character or several characters. If the speaker is alone on the stage, he usually delivers his monologue as if he is talking to himself. In reality, he is addressing the audience. Probably the most famous monologue in Shakespeare is Hamlet's "to be or not to be" speech in Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, beginning at 3.1.66.
Passes Over: Direction indicating that a character is walking across the stage while other characters are conversing. Such a direction occurs several times in the second scene of Act I of Troilus and Cressida. Following is the script of part of this scene.
[AENEAS passes over the stage.]Prologue: Introduction of a play or an act in a play. In Henry V, a chorus (one person) speaks a prologue that encourages the audience members to use their imaginations to create what a stage cannot: battlefields, clashing swords, the might of warriors. Shakespeare writes, "Think when we talk of horses, that you see them printing their proud hoofs i' the receiving earth."
Protagonist: Main character.
Promptbook or Prompt Copy: Edited version of a play in which an acting company inserted stage directions.
Re-Enter: Stage direction indicating the re-entrance onto the stage of a character or characters.
Scene: (1) Time and place of the action in a play; (2) part of an act in a play that usually takes place in one location.
Sennet: Trumpet flourish to introduce the entrance of a character, such as King Lear (Act 1).
Soliloquy: Passage in which a character reveals his thoughts to the audience but not to other characters. "To be or not to be" is the beginning of a famous soliloquy recited by Hamlet.
Solus: Stage direction indicating a character is alone on the stage.
Stage Directions: Information in the script of a play that instructs the director, the actors, and others involved with the production (including musicians and stagehands who generate special effects) on gestures, sound effects, emotional responses of characters, the geographical location of a scene, the moment when a character should enter or leave a scene, the way a character should recite a line, and so on. The stage directions are usually enclosed in brackets.
Stationers' Register: Book in which the English government required printers to register the title of a play before the play was published. The full official name of the Stationers' Register was the Hall Book of the Worshipful Company of Stationers.
Thrust Stage: Stage that thrusts forward into the audience. The Globe was believed to have a thrust stage.
Tiring House: Dressing rooms of actors behind a wall at the back of the stage. To tire means to dress—that is, to attire oneself. Sometimes, the wall of the tiring house could stand as the wall of a fortress under siege.
Tragedy: A play in which the main character (or characters) suffers a downfall and usually dies. Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, King Lear, and Othello are all tragedies.
Tragicomedy: A play containing elements of both tragedy and comedy. The Merchant of Venice is an excellent example of such a play. The play ends tragically for one of the leading characters, Shylock—a Jewish moneylender—who suffers financial ruin and humiliation (although he does not die). The play ends happily for the other leading characters, all Christians. The Roman playwright Plautus (circa 254-184 BC), who wrote comedies, coined the term tragicomedy in Latin (tragicomoedia). Shakespeare himself did not use the term to refer to any of his plays, but later critics and scholars did.
Trapdoor: A hinged wooden flap in the floor of a stage or the ceiling over the stage. It could act as an entrance or exit for characters.
Torches: Stage direction indicating that entering characters are carrying lit torches.
Tucket: Stage direction indicating a trumpet flourish.
Within: Stage direction indicating that a character speaking or being spoken to is offstage. The audience is to imagine that he is isolated from the other characters in another room. He may also be at the front door, in the cellar, or any other place where the characters onstage cannot see him.