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Performing Will

A kingdom for a stage, princes to act,
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene! 

1642, Wenceslas Hollar, <i>Long View of London</i>. "The Globe" superimposed; originally mislabelled "beere baiting".
1642, Wenceslas Hollar, Long View of London. “The Globe” superimposed; originally mislabelled “beere baiting”.

Some insist that Shakespeare's works must be seen in performance to be appreciated in full. Shakespeare wrote his plays, they argue, to be acted. Others prefer to savor his language in their own minds' ears and to appreciate the action, the settings, the costumes on the stages of their own imaginations.

In either case, learning a little context and background enriches appreciation. In that spirit, the following pages provide information about Shakespeare and the theaters of his time and ours.

  • Theaters of London 1567-1642
    These 75 years, from the construction of the first purpose-built English playhouse in 1567 to the closing of all playhouses by the Puritans in 1642, represents both the incunabular period and the golden age of English theatre. These years gave birth to outdoor amphitheaters with trapdoors and dressing rooms and indoor playhouses with artificial lighting. They gave rise to the first great “theatre impresarios” like James Burbage and Philip Henslowe who possessed both artistic sensibilities and ruthless business acumen. They produced “leading star actors” like Richard Burbage, James's son, who performed many of Shakespeare's great characters, and Edward Alleyn, Philip's son-in-law, who performed many of Marlowe's. Both actors enjoyed passionate fans, both died wealthy, and both were more publicly mourned than the authors whose words they spoke. Most importantly, this period gave us the greatest writer of the English language. Read more here…
  • Venues for Shakespeare Today
    Shakespeare's plays are performed in almost every country in the world. This is a short list of a few playhouses that make Shakespeare's works the core of their repertoires. Read more here…