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THE MODERN

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Originally appearing in Volume V26, Page 732 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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THE MODERN THEATRE During the middle ages miracle plays with sacred scenes were the favourite kind of drama; no special buildings were erected for these, as they were represented either in churches or in temporary booths. In the 16th century the revival of the secular drama, which, in the reign of Elizabeth, formed so important a part of the literature of England, was carried on in tents, wooden sheds, or courtyards of inns, mostly by strolling actors of a very low class. It was not till towards the close of the century that a permanent building was constructed and licensed for dramatic representations, under the management of Shakespeare and Burbage. The first building specially erected in London for dramatic purposes was built in 1576-77 by the actor James Burbage. It was constructed of timber, and stood in Holywell Lane, Shoreditch, till 1598, when it was pulled down; it was known as " The Theatre " par excellence. Of almost equally early date was the " Curtain " theatre, also in Shoreditch; so called from the plot of ground, known as " The Curten," on which it stood. It probably continued in use till the general closing of theatres by order of the parliament in 1642. The " Globe " theatre, famous for its association with Shakespeare, was built by James Burbage, who used the materials of " The Theatre," in the year 1599. Its site was in Southwark, in the Bankside, near the " Bear Gardens." It was an octagonal structure of wood, with lath and plaster between the main framework. It was burnt in 1613, rebuilt, and finally pulled down and its site built over ' This theatre was not begun when Pausanias wrote his book Attica, and was complete when he wrote the Achaica (see Paus. vii. 2o). It is illustrated in Mon. Inst. vi., plate 16. s These are shown on Graeco-Roman vases of the latest type, with paintings of burlesque parodies of mythological stories.in 1644. Its name was derived from its sign of Atlas supporting the globe. Near it were two less important theatres, " The Rose," opened in 1592 by Henslowe, and " The Swan " (see below), opened in 1598 and partly owned also by Henslowe; like the Globe, the latter was an octagonal wood-and-plaster building. The " Blackfriars " theatre, another of the Burbages' ventures, was built in 1596, near the old Dominican friary. The " Fortune " theatre was built by Edward Alleyn, the actor, in 1599, at a cost, including the site, of £1320. It stood between Whitecross Street and Golding Lane. It stood as late as 1819, when a drawing of it was given by Wilkinson (Londina illustrate, 1819). The " Red Bull " theatre was probably originally the galleried court of an inn, which was adapted for dramatic purposes towards the close of Elizabeth's reign. Other early theatres were the " Hope " or " Paris Garden " theatre, the " Whitefriars " and " Salisbury Court " theatres, and the " Newington " theatre. A curious panoramic view of London, engraved by Visscher in 1616, shows the Globe, the Hope and the Swan theatres. The plan of the first English theatres appears to have had no connexion with those of classical times, as was the case in Italy: it was evidently produced in an almost accidental way by the early custom of erecting a temporary platform or stage in the middle of the open courtyard of an inn, in which the galleries all round the court formed boxes for the chief spectators, while the poorer part of the audience stood in the court on all sides of the central stage. Something similar to this arrangement, unsuitable though it now seems, was reproduced even in buildings, such as the Globe, the Fortune and the Swan, which were specially designed for the drama. In these and other early theatres there was a central platform for the stage, surrounded by seats except on one side, where there was a " green-room " or " tireynge-howse." The upper galleries or boxes completely surrounded the stage, even the space over the green-room being occupied by boxes. This being the arrangement, it is easy to see why the octagonal plan was selected in most cases, though not in all—the Fortune theatre, for example, was square. An interesting specification and contract for the building of the Fortune theatre (see below) is printed by Halliwell-Phillipps (op. cit. infra, p. 164). In all its details the Fortune is specified to be like the Globe, except that it is to be square in plan, and with timbers of heavier scantling. The walls are to be of wood and plaster, the roof tiled, with lead gutters, the stage of oak, with a " shadow " or cover over it, and the " tireynge-howse " to have glazed windows. Two sorts of boxes are mentioned, viz., gentlemen's roomes " and " twoopennie roomes." A woodcut showing this arrangement of the interior is given in a collection of plays edited by Kirkman in 1672. The vexed question of the construction of these theatres has been much discussed in recent years. In 1888 a drawing of the Swan theatre (fig. 4), apparently copied from a rough drawing in a London letter from the traveller Johannes de Witt, was discovered by Dr Karl Gaedertz in a manuscript volume in the Utrecht University library, consisting of the common-place book of Arend van Buchell (1565-1641). While undoubtedly authentic, and probably broadly accurate, this copied sketch cannot be accepted, however, as giving the regular or typical plan of the contemporary theatre, as in some respects it does not fulfil the known conditions of the stage. What that typical plan was, if (as is probable) one actually existed, has led to much learned conjecture and great difference of opinion as regards the details required by the interpretation of contemporary stage directions on the necessities of the action in contemporary drama. The ingenious reconstruction (fig. 5), drawn by W. H. Godfrey in 1907, of the Fortune theatre, following the builder's specification; appears to approach very nearly to satisfying all the requirements. (See " The Elizabethan Stage," in the Quarterly Review (London), April 1908.) In the 16th and 17th centuries a favourite kind of theatrical representation was in the form of "masques," with processions of grotesquely attired actors and temporary scenic effects of great splendour and mechanical ingenuity. In the reigns of James I. and Charles I., Ben Jenson and the architect Inigo Jones worked Italian ballet; and in the middle of the 17th century the regular together in the production of these " masques," Jonson writing opera was introduced at Paris. the words and Inigo Jones devising the scenic effects, the latter At the end of the 18th century the theatres of San Carlo being very costly and complicated, with gorgeous buildings, at Naples, La Scala at Milan, and La Fenice at Venice were the landscapes, and clouds or mountains, which opened to display finest in Europe; all these were rebuilt in the 19th century, mimic deities, thrown into relief by coloured lights. These masques were a form of opera, in which Ben Jonson's words were set to music. Ben Jonson received no more for his libretto than Inigo Jones did for his scenic devices, and was not unnaturally annoyed at the secondary place which he was made to occupy: he therefore revenged himself by writing severe satires on Inigo Jones and the system which placed the literary and mechanical parts of the opera on the same footing. In an autograph MS. which still exists this satirical line occurs—" Painting and carpentry are the soul of masque " (see Cunning-ham, Life of Inigo Jones, London, 1848). In Italy, during the 16th century, the drama occupied a more important position, and several theatres were erected, professedly on the model of the classic theatre of Vitruvius. One of these, the Teatro Olimpico at Vicenza, still exists; it was designed by Palladio, but was not completed till 1584, four years after his death. It has an architectural scena, with various orders of columns, rows of statues in niches, and the three doors of the classic theatre; but the whole is painted with strong perspective effects which are very unclassical in spirit. Scamozzi, Palladio's pupil, who completed the Teatro Olimpico, built another pseudo-classical theatre in 1588 at Sabbionetta for the duke Vespasiano Gonzaga, but this does not now exist. In France the miracle play developed into the secular drama rather earlier than in England. In the reign of Louis XI., about 1467, the " Brothers of the Passion " had a theatre which was partly religious and partly satirical. In the 16th century Catherine de' Medici is said to have spent incredible sums on the dresses and scenery for the representation of the but have been eclipsed by the later theatres of London, Paris, St Petersburg and other great cities of Europe and America, both in size and architectural splendour. On the problems connected with the construction of the Elizabethan theatre, see Dr Cecil Brodmeier, Die Shakespeare-Biihne nach den alten Buhneranweisungen (Weimar, 1904) ; Dr Paul Monkemeyer, Prolegomena drier Darstellung der Englischen Volksbiihne zur Elizabeth and Stuart Zeit (Leipzig, 1905) ; Dr Richard Wegener, Die Buhneneinrichtung des Shakespeareschen Theaters nach dem zeitgenossischen drama (Halle, 1907) ; George F. Reynolds, Some Principles of Elizabethan Staging (Chicago University, 1905); E. K. Chambers, " The Stage of the Globe," in vol. x. of the Stratford Shakespeare (1904); Victor E. Albright, A Typical Shakesperian Stage (New York, 1908). (J. H. M.; H. CH.)
End of Article: THE MODERN
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