Skip to 0 minutes and 5 secondsSo hello, learners. Welcome to the week three roundup video. I'm Jennifer and I'm the mentor on Shakespeare and his World. And I'm talking to Jonathan Bate, the educator on Shakespeare and his World. So hello, Jonathan. Hello, Jen. Hello, everybody. Lots of good questions this week, so we'd better just get cracking. Shall we start at the very beginning when the touring players visited Stratford. Could you tell us a little bit more about how they were paid, and how they earned their money? Yeah, that's right they were actually paid by the town council. And that's why we have the records of the tours, because it was kept in the account books of the various towns and cities that were visited.
Skip to 0 minutes and 46 secondsSo basically, it was a deal with the council and they'd play in the Guild Hall, the council building. The assumption is that the local people didn't have to pay. So the assumption is that there wasn't a sort of box office, as there was in the professional theatre in London. But we don't know that for sure. But certainly, in terms of the payment to companies, that came from the town council. And in Shakespeare's case, the Stratford Corporation as it was called. OK, great. Learners have been really interested in the casting of the play and the acting companies. Obviously, it makes a lot of sense that Shakespeare would have written parts specifically for actors to save time in the rehearsal period.
Skip to 1 minute and 26 secondsCan you tell us anything else? Would he have written other part-- do we know any of the actors he would've written parts for? Yeah, this is a really interesting question that Shakespeare, unusually among the dramatists at the time, was a full member of the company himself. So for most of his career, he was always writing his plays for his own company. And he knew the particular skills and strengths and appearance of each individual actor. And so it is that we can actually work out from some of the printed texts, based on his surviving working scripts, we can work out which part was written for which actor.
Skip to 2 minutes and 2 secondsSo we know, for example, that the character of Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream was written for the company clown, Will Kempe. And we know that, because at one point in the printed text, Kempe's name is given, instead of Bottom's. We know also, there was a rather tall, thin actor called Sinklo. And various tall, thin parts were clearly meant for him. For instance, the Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night. So there's actually a surprising amount that we can reconstruct. Another thing we know is that it was customary for the apprentice, the boy actor, to play the part that was most closely linked to that of his master.
Skip to 2 minutes and 42 secondsSo in a play, for example, like Romeo and Juliet or Othello, Burbage-- Dick Burbage, the lead actor-- he would have played Romeo. He would have played Othello. His apprentice would have played Juliet, would have played Desdemona. So they'd have had a chance to rehearse at home in the evenings. That's really interesting. And of course, you brought up the idea of boy actors and boys playing women's parts. That's something that some of the learners struggled to get their head around a little bit-- how young boys would have been able to portray the right depth of character. Can you go into a bit more detail about that?
Skip to 3 minutes and 13 secondsYeah, I mean this is a very interesting question, because all the female parts, as far as we know, it's just possible some of the older women's parts were played by fully grown actors. But certainly, all the kind of romantic leads, all the heroines, all the young women in the plays were played by the boy actors. And certainly, even parts like Lady Macbeth and Cleopatra-- huge, demanding parts-- were played by the apprentices. At the same time, we need to remember that among the rival acting companies to Shakespeare's, there were acting companies that consisted entirely of boy players. In particular, the choir boys who were training to sing at the great cathedrals, like St.
Skip to 3 minutes and 55 secondsPaul's and in the Chapel Royal, they put on a lot of plays. Teaching boys the art of acting, speaking beautifully onstage went along with teaching them the art of singing.
Skip to 4 minutes and 9 secondsThe thing that is striking though, to my mind, about the development of Shakespeare's female characters is that it does seem that they get more and more sophisticated as you go through his career. And I suspect what that is to do with is a sense of the lead actors and Shakespeare himself becoming more and more used to working with the apprentices, and with the apprentices becoming more and more sophisticated. And it is still the case that you can have teenage actors in the modern theatre and film today, playing rolls of remarkable sophistication.
Skip to 4 minutes and 47 secondsSo there's a lot of questions about the experience of actually being in the theatre in Shakespeare's time, compared to the experiences of being in the theatre today. One thing was to do with the open roof on The Globe, when we have such terrible weather here in Britain. What about that? Yeah, again, we don't quite know why they didn't roof over all public theatres. Whether it was to do with costs, to do with logistics. One thing it was partly to do with was the fact that, in a way, the model for theatres-- public theatre-- was the theatre of ancient Greece and Rome. And they, of course, had open air theatres. Although, as you say, much better weather.
Skip to 5 minutes and 29 secondsOne of the consequences of the open air theatre was, of course, only very short seasons were played in winter. And that meant, for much of Shakespeare's career, in winter the company either went on tour where they would play in guild halls and great houses. And, of course, they played indoor special performances in the houses of aristocrats, and above all, the court. Especially during the Christmas season, they would have played indoors at the various royal courts. It was towards the end of Shakespeare's career-- we'll be talking about this later in the course-- that his company acquired an indoor playhouse at Blackfriars, which meant that they could then put shows on throughout the year. And what about the plays themselves.
Skip to 6 minutes and 12 secondsHow many plays would've been in their company's repertoire? And how long would they have been? Would people have hung around and watched the whole thing, or--? Yeah, again, there's quite a lot of evidence available here. Alas, not nearly as much evidence as we would want from Shakespeare's acting company. But the rival acting company led by the theatrical entrepreneur, Philip Henslowe, he kept all the details of his accounts, and payments. And also a day-by-day record of box office takings, and which play was put on, on which day. So from that, you can sort of reconstruct the repertoire.
Skip to 6 minutes and 45 secondsAnd there's no reason to suppose the repertoire of Shakespeare's company-- The Chamberlain's Men, which later became the King's Men-- no reason to imagine that was any different, in terms of range, from the repertoire of Henslowe's company, where, typically, there were maybe 30 plays in the repertoire, at any one time. And a different play would be put on each day of the week-- six days a week. No performance Sunday. Six different plays, per week. What seems to have happened is that most plays would be given, perhaps, two or three tryouts fairly early after they were first produced. And then, if they weren't a success, they would just disappear.
Skip to 7 minutes and 25 secondsIf they were a success, they would periodically come back, later in the season and in subsequent seasons. And there are great examples of Shakespeare's company being asked to revive old plays at quite short notice for special command performances. Question of whether people attended, as it were, from start to finish. Evidence is patchy there. But one thing about the theatre is that customs in the theatre tend to endure for a very long time. And it is striking, that in later years-- in the later 17th and 18th century-- there was a bit of a custom of the people being allowed in sort of at half price, after the interval.
Skip to 8 minutes and 2 secondsOr indeed, just allowed in to see-- in the theatre at that time there was a farce put on after the main play. And sometimes people would come just for the farce. And my guess would be, that would also have been the case in Shakespeare's time. Related to that would be the question of how long a play went on for? The answer to that is that the plays began at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. And the theatres had to be cleared by 5 o'clock. So three hours was the length. There's a famous reference in the programme to Romeo and Juliet to the two hours traffic of our time on stage.
Skip to 8 minutes and 35 secondsIn other plays there are references to three hours in the theatre. That three hours would also include a sort of dance and jig routine at the end of the play. So I think a typical play on the stage would be about two and a half hours worth of action. What's interesting from that is that the full printed texts of some of Shakespeare's plays-- especially some of the great tragedies, like Hamlet and King Lear, Richard III-- to play them in full, would be much longer than that, which suggests that a certain amount of cutting did take place. And we maybe need to think about Shakespeare's printed text and the plays actually performed, as having some variations in length. Great, thank you.
Skip to 9 minutes and 17 secondsThat takes us onto the object of the week. That was pretty close between the folio and the money pot this week. But since we're going to meet the folio again later, I thought we'd go for the money pot. It's a fascinating object. It must have been quite scary holding it for such a long period. Well, it was. And as I think I said in the film, the fact is, the money pots would be broken up and the money taken out. They didn't have sort of a hole in the bottom and a little thing to take out and put back on, like a children's money box does today. So for that reason, very, very few of them survive.
Skip to 9 minutes and 51 secondsSo it was a great thing to hold. But one of the things about the money pot, that I think is really interesting, is the notion that the gatherers, as they were called, who stood at the door and took the box-- the box office, the taking's named from the money box-- once they've done their work, it is possible that they then played the part of extras on the stage. One of the questions that I know was asked in some of the comments was to do with the size of the cast of Shakespeare's plays. The main actors in the company, the shareholders in the acting company, there were 10 to 12 of them. And there were about four apprentices, boy actors.
Skip to 10 minutes and 38 secondsAnd the main parts would have been distributed between them. But many of Shakespeare's plays have many more parts than that. In some cases, you can cover those extra parts through doubling, through an actor taking two or three small parts in different parts of play. But then when you require a big scene-- a crowd scene, or a battle scene-- it's quite possible that some of the, what we would now call the backstage staff or the technical staff, maybe even those people who gathered the money boxes, would've come on and formed the crowd. And, of course, if that was the case, we do know a lot of the gatherers were women.
Skip to 11 minutes and 11 secondsSo there's a sort of story out there that you never saw a real woman on the Elizabethan stage. It was only those cross-dressed boy actors. But actually, that's maybe not true. I really like the idea of the gatherers and maybe even, you know, the ladies who did the wigs and costumes coming on stage as extras for the great crowd scenes. Yeah, that's quite a thought. So next week we're on to Henry V. Quite a change from this week's play. Do you have any tips for the readers? Yeah, so we're moving from comedy to epic drama. We're moving from love to war.
Skip to 11 minutes and 45 secondsOne thing I think it's really worth thinking about is what sort of level of realism can you expect in a battle scene on the stage? Jokes were actually made by some of Shakespeare's rivals about how he tries to represent a huge battlefield with just a handful of extras with lath and plaster swords. And one rather nice way of sort of thinking about that would be to have a look at the old 1944 Laurence Olivier film of Henry V. We're lucky with Henry V. We've got three really good film versions-- the Olivier, the Kenneth Branagh film, and then the recent BBC one with Tom Hiddleston. And so you can really sort of compare different ways of doing it on film.
Skip to 12 minutes and 32 secondsThe Olivier one actually sort of begins by reimagining The Globe, the play being put on. But then it morphs, in the course of the play, into a more realistic kind of drama. So if you can get a hold of the old Laurence Olivier Henry V, that would be a very nice thing to look at, whilst you're reading the play. That's a good tip, Jonathan. Thank you. So I shall see you at the same time next week. See you all next week. Bye, now.
Week 3 round-up
In this video round-up Jonathan and Jennifer discuss themes that you raised in the week 3 activities.
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