Boys as Girls

  • Men as Females
  • Women were forbidden to be on stage
  • Young boys(13-19) played female roles in theatre plays
  • They were on specific diets and exercise
  • Voice coaches trained them to keep voice high pitched

Men as Females

  • Young male actors had to maintain a very small and thin body for the purpose of female curves(visual attraction)
  • After age of 20, young male actors had to quit and find new profession
  • Lasted from 1560 – 1661

COSTUMES: Play Enhancement

  • Actors wore very luxurious and colourful clothing that enhanced the number of audiences(latest fashion)
  • Costumes were easily recognized by colours, which also foreshadowed the portrayed character
  • Considerable time was taken in designing female costumes such as wigs and dresses(whalebone), to accurately fit male actors
  • The clothes worn by actors were proven to weigh more than their actual weight! (effort had to be increased!)
  • Another essential attire such as makeup, affected male actors severely
  • The Sumptuary Law was a crucial factor
  • that divided high class actors and low class
  • actors in terms of wearing specific clothing

Shakespeare’s Involvement

  • In his earlier years, he used unemployed actors in his plays, therefore there were more poor quality costumes
  • In plays like Julia Caesar, clothing were relevantly easy to design(e.g.: Toga)
  • Later, William Shakespeare used expensive Roman and    Greek clothing for his royalty plays(e.g.: Chemise)
  • His high class actors’ clothing were made out of taffeta silk fabric
  • In Titus Andronicus, costumes were dipped in
  • Animal blood to emphasize death.
  • In last play, each costume were priced at $100 due to his popularity!

Importance and Popularity of Costumes

  • In the early 40’s costumes were heavily relied to attract audience due to lack of props & scenery
  • High class actors were allowed to wear top notch clothes such as broad collared shirts and collarless jackets(more audiences)
  • Queen Elizabeth I  was in charge of introducing new styles of clothing to plays
  • If actor did not wear “good clothing” = assumption of low class
  • Edward Alleyn (1566 – 1626)
    Robert Armin (1568 – 1615)
    Christopher Beeston (1570 – 1638)

Traveling Companies

  • Traveling companies were groups of actors that would travel around and do their presentations rather than the audience going to see them
  • Traveling companies were also known as traveling troupes.
  • There was no theater in England until 1576
  • Since at the time there were many outbreaks of the Bubonic Plague the actors that travelers were looked at suspiciously
  • For a traveling company to be allowed to travel, they would first need a license. Some of the Elizabethan traveling companies were: Lord Stranger’s Men, Chamberlain’s Men, Admiral’s Men and King’s Men
  • For the traveling companies there were rules on what type of clothing that they could wear. The actors were not allowed to wear clothes above their social standings.

Music & Dance

  • Music was considered a effective enhancement to theatre plays(helped express emotions)
  • Reinforcement of music increased the number of audiences in theatre plays, thus allowed theatre plays reach new heights(e.g.: William Shakespeare)
  • Elizabethan dance varied according to the social class
  • Upper Class: Foreign Influenced(The Galliard)
  • Lower Class: Passed down from   generations(The Jig and the Morris Dance)

Musical Instruments

  • Shakespeare’s Macbeth
  • In this particular play, music was very crucial(hautboy instrument provided eerie atmosphere)
  • What if a horror movie of today went without music. It would be very confusing to comprehend!
  • Theatre Orchestra
  • The background music for plays were usually produced by regular musicians, vocally and instrumentally(choir like today)
  • Here is a popular song in one of Shakespeare’s plays. You will actually see the chorus singers creating a chorus piece using the same words, the main singer put out.

Examples of Dances

  • The Pavane (slow couple dance)
  • The Volt(close to ballet dance)
  • The Galliard(easy to dance to, not hard)
  • The Almain (accompanied by lute/keyboard music, more distinct and favourable)
  • Rufty Tuffty and Strip the Willow (repetitive dance steps)
  • If you look at their costumes, this was how the high class actors dressed. These clothing were extremely expensive back in the Elizabethan era. If you saw them dance, the men were establishing a message indicating that they were very strong, brave and wise. This dance was one of the most popular royal dances, because it did not have complicated dance steps. It involves the use of simple footsteps and poses.


  • This is an example of a dance, the lower class Elizabethan actors did on special occasions and in theatre plays.  Keep track of how the music supports this kind of dance. Is it fast paced or soft and smooth? This demonstrates why music was very important to different dance and plays.

The Hunting Dance – Royalty Style

  • The hunting dance, was from a comedy play written by Shakespeare, called Love Labour’s lost. Their dance will only have repetition of simple hand gestures, clapping and spinning. But most of all, poses. Dances like this were incorporated with the play script.  For example, one of the lady will be posing with her bow & arrow(indication of “hunter”)

Leave a Reply

Be the First to Comment!