This edited article about theatre in the 17th century originally appeared in Look and Learn concern number 919 published on 1 September 1979.

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“Clear the auditorium!” bespeak Cromwell’s soldiers as they smashed seats and also seized props and costumes. Every the actors, consisting of Shakespeare’s godson william Davenport, to be thrown right into prison. Under Cromwell’s puritan reign, acting was completely banned.

For almost 20 years, the London theatres were closed come the public, however in 1660, as soon as King Charles II in ~ last reverted from exile in Europe, the theatre started up again.

The brand-new King enjoyed theatre and also he authorize a licence re-opening the theatres the minute he was back in England. One such licence went to William Davenport, who opened up a theatre in ~ Covent Garden, and also another saw Thomas Killigrew, who opened a theatre not much away in Drury Lane.


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Mrs Siddons by cutting board Gainsborough. Siddons was one of first female actresses welcomed ~ above to the publicly stage. Famous for she performance together Lady Macbeth, she ended up being known as ‘The Queen that Tradegy’

Both theatres to be designed in the recent Italian style. Although castle still had the Elizabethan apron phase which jutted out into the audience, castle now had actually a “proscenium arch”.

This to be an arched wall surface which framed the stage and separated the from the audience by way of a curtain. Overhead chandeliers v wax candles listed the lighting, and shutters at the ago of the stage opened and also closed to permit changes that scenery.

Because that the high price of renovating old theatres or building new ones, theatre tickets slowly became more expensive, until only the wealthy might afford come go.

The theatre became a place to be seen. World went not to watch the play however to speak to your friends. Several of the audience satellite on the phase itself obscuring the check out of others, and also interrupting the performance with their loud remarks.

When the audience prospered bored, eggs, tomatoes and also rotten fruit were hurled at the actors. Fights sometimes broke out, as well – even among the privileged world sitting on the stage.

The famous diarist, Samuel Pepys, make a series of interesting notes in his newspaper on the theatres the visited. That tells us that the seats were never ever numbered and that over there was constantly a great rush as soon as the doors opened. The an extremely rich, the wrote, used to send your servants come reserve seats because that them.

Most of the plays performed to be bawdy and also badly written. Also Shakespeare’s theatre were adjusted to suit famous taste. In one variation of Macbeth, witches danced throughout the phase singing delightful, quite sweet songs. What was once a tragedy had been turned right into a comedy.

Nor to be the acting anything prefer it is today. In repair times, gibbs strutted around the stage and recited currently in a many unnatural way. They offered exaggerated, dramatic motions to present the audience when they were to it is in happy and also when they to be to be sad.

Now, for the first time in England, women were enabled to act on stage. Nell Gwynne, a former orange seller, ended up being one that the an initial actresses. She first went on stage when she was fifteen years old – but her career to be short-lived, for in 1669 Charles II observed her exhilaration at Drury Lane and also immediately fell in love with her. She gave up acting quickly afterwards.

In time, certain actors and actresses became really popular through the public, and they began to lure their very own “fans”. Two popular “stars” that the 18th century were sarah Siddons and also David Garrick.

Mrs. Siddons come from a theatrical family. Her brothers was john Kemble, a popular actor, and also her father was i get it Kemble, one equally famed theatre manager. Buy it Siddons came to be known to her audience as the “Queen that Tragedy”.

David Garrick was renowned for his “natural” layout of acting. He studied human being closely and also acted on phase in the method he saw people behaving in actual life.

Garrick play a excellent King Lear after ~ spending hrs watching a madman who had actually accidentally killed his two-year-old daughter by cram her the end of a window.

Garrick was not only the biggest actor the his day; he additionally helped manage the theatre in ~ Drury Lane. Later, he ended up being sole manager and introduced some interesting new reforms. The insisted on consistent rehearsals for the actors and encouraged them come act less stiffly ~ above stage. He introduced covert lighting and also had audience seating eliminated from the stage. To keep order in the auditorium he employed armed guards.

The top quality of plays soon improved. Vice versa, in the previous an audience had actually been contents to clock badly written comedies and also rewritten Shakespearian plays, they now preferred an ext polished plays written by new playwrights. William Sheridan’s school for Scandal and also Oliver Goldsmith’s She Stoops to overcome were an especially popular. Lock were created in natural speech, and also contained much more than a touch the clever wit.

But in September, 1808, a fire damaged the theatre at Covent Garden, and it was burned to the ground. Five months later, Drury lane was ruined in the exact same way.

The 2 theatres which changed them catered for a brand-new kind of audience and a different type of theatre. The time had actually come for the Victorians to take it the stage.

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