Elizabethan experience of the Theatre

Including the commedia dell’arte


  • Large square stage—lines repeated to each side
  • Open air –no lighting
  • Noisy audience –no microphone
  • Alternative distractions available –ale sellers, bear baiting, prostitutes plying their trade, hot pie sellers etc
  • Tiered seating –upper classes in higher rows, social class distinctions
  • Few props
  • 1 penny, quite expensive, could be a day’s wage
  • few women I audience
  • no women in the cast – so love scenes????
  • The Commedia dell’arte:

This was a variety of theatre born in Italy and comprised of improvisation within a fairly structured framework. That is the characters were predetermined and the basic plot but the actors would improvise within that and had to be very good at working off the lines of others. The professional actor was born here.

Actors were much prized who could think on their feet and who could exaggerate, embellish and wring the tears or laughs out of the audience.

Typical features of the commedia dell’arte were the stock characters, the lazzi or humorous interruptions which had nothing to do with the play.


Extract from an article (see full doc. The Commedia Dell’arte)

Read from:
“Commedia, despite being an Italian art form, has had a great influence on English. Let’s start off with a few of the basics: ”


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