Drama research- elizabethan theatre Use of voice

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Drama research- Elizabethan theatre

  • - Use of voice

Present day actors in the renovated Globe found that clarity of speech and movement was more important than volume or size, and much more subtle acting was possible. The acoustics of the stage (once all of the genuine oak had been installed) turned out to be excellent, although actors tended to misjudge the effect of their own voices at first and were tricked into shouting when they didn’t need to. It is important to remember, however, that the opinions of modern actors may bear little relationship to the way in which Elizabethan actors viewed their stage and gave their performances. But other than their opinions there is very little in the way of information about use of the voice in the Elizabethan.

  • - Mannerisms of movement and gesture

The fool in those days never followed the script perfectly and like comedians do to day riff or improvise wordplay and jokes to respond to the hecklers in the crowd. At the end of the play the Elizabethan actors often danced, and sometimes the fool and other comic actors would perform a jig

Some time was apparently put aside for the fool to respond to challenges from the audience - with spectators inventing rhymes and challenging the fool to complete them, asking riddles and questions and demanding witty answers, or simply arguing and criticising the fool so that he could respond. “One of the famous clown Tarlton’s jokes, for example, was given in response to a woman in the audience threatening to cuff him. She should only reverse the spelling of the word, he told her, and she could have her will immediately.”

Shakespearean acting style is generally thought of today as being melodramatic. This is illustrated by emphasized and even exaggerated displays of emotions, as well as relatively stereotypical characters.

Although the melodramatic tone can certainly be picked up from reading Shakespeare there is more to it than that. The performances echo the drama quite intensely through the actor’s annunciation of the speech and their actions. Shakespearean writing is by design and definition supposed to be dramatically emphasized According to Dr. Hilda Spear the dialogue and acting style was more “theatrical” and “ranting” than what can be seen today

One of the most obvious characteristics of Elizabethan Theater was the lack of scenery and props. As a playwright of these times the scene had to be set by the dialogue. This meant the dialogue had to be bold and rich to hold the audiences attention as well as using the actor’s movements and gestures to spell out intricate details of the play that they could not access because of lack of props. This was also used to show the time of day because these performances were mainly shown in the afternoon.

In conclusion the acting of Shakespeare’s days was actually too complicated and delicately intricate to be characterized as “melodramatic”.


Kissing -- we don't currently make use of this gesture as the sign of respect it was intended to. No one actually makes any contact with anyone or anything when performing this kissing gesture.

Keeping the king to your right -- the right hand is the side of honor, and the left hand is a lower status position. When seated, you should give the right hand seat to someone you wish to honor, and your when a guest, you should insist on the left hand seat so as to honor your host.

  • - Use of multiple modes of performance- dance, music, clowning, pageantry

Elizabethan Music:
Music of Elizabethan time has a similar rhythm and style as the baroque music. (eg, Bach, Handel). English ballads, church music and even lively dance music were performed by people who belonged to all classes. Native folk music was seen being played at the dinner tables when families came together for a meal. There of course were different breeds of musicians, such as the travelling street minstrels which didn’t last long because of the demand for tavern ad theatre musicians. The music could be categorised into church music, court music, street music, theatre music and town music. Due to the church, a style of music evolved which was known as the choral polyphony. Music was also used as an enhancement for theatre. These plays saw the varying emotions being expressed through poems accompanied by music. Therefore theatre music reached new heights of success in the Elizabethan era.
Musical Instruments used for Elizabethan Music:
The main instruments used in Elizabethan times were the string, keyboard, wind and percussion. The different musical instruments were also used to indicate the status of a person as well. For example, wind instruments such as the trumpets were used to mark the arrival of royalty. Since music was always used in theatre, it should project a sense of conversation to intensify the drama.
Occasionally music may have been played between Acts or certain scenes, but scholars think this was quite unusual except in the hall playhouses, where candles had to be trimmed and replaced between Acts.

Interesting: Unlike the situations today, in the ancient days, a man who could not sing to win the hearts of others with his perfect voice was not considered to be a gentleman.

Elizabethan Music - Elizabethan Dance

Dancing in the Elizabethan era was considered "a wholesome recreation of the mind and also an exercise of the body". Elizabethan dance varied according to the social class. The court dances enjoyed by royalty, nobility and the Upper classes were often imported from Italy, Spain or France. These dance forms varied considerably from the energetic Galliard to the refined and stately Pavane being highly sophisticated with intricate steps and nuances, although the old favorite English country dances were still popular. The lower classes enjoyed the more traditional country dances such as the Jig, Morris Dancing or the Brand or the Brawle. The most important Elizabethan dances were the Pavan, Galliards and Almain. These English country dances were danced by couples in round, square, or rectangular sets in much simpler and repetitive forms and less intricate steps. The dances of the Elizabethan Lower Class would therefore be very different to those of the Elizabethan Upper Class. Many of the dances of the Elizabethan Lower classes were steeped in old customs and rituals, such as dancing around the Maypole.

Elizabethan Tournaments

Tournaments were enjoyed by both Commoners, Royalty and Nobles, the Upper Class and the Lower Classes. A rich member of the English aristocracy would sponsor a tournament and supply the money for the prizes. An Elizabethan Tournament was a series of mounted and armoured combats, fought as contests, in which a number of contestants compete and the one that succeeds through the final round or that finishes with the best record is declared the winner and is awarded the prize. Tournaments were imported from France during the 12th century and formed an important element of Elizabethan military and social life and lasted over several days.

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