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It is clear to see that new purpose built structures were a big reason for the success of theatres, however both patronage and the rise in wealth throughout London at the time rival them for the main reason for the growing popularity of theatres.The first successful purpose built theatre named ‘The Theatre’ was built in 1576 by James Burbage, these new designs of places to perform and watch plays revolutionised the theatre and as a result drastically increased both the popularity and therefore the revenue the theatre had. The new design of these structures included many different and intelligent aspects that showed of the technological advancement that London was going through the time, and also were a big reason why these structures succeeded so much. The new structures included segregated areas for different social classes, from standing at the bottom of the stage known as the ‘pit’ to the more expensive and comfortable cushioned seats in the seated area above the pit. This new design allowed all classes- or levels of the great chain of being- to view the play while still allowing the wealthier and more ‘civilized’ to be kept away from the smell and commotion of the groundlings.
This was a huge upgrade from the previously used pop up theatres which would not be as welcoming to the wealthier in society. Along with these brand new designs, the technological advancements of the Elizabethan age were shown through the spectacular new features the theatres introduced. Above the main area of the stage, the balcony or the ‘heavens’ as it was called, directed all the special effects in the new and novel plays. This combined with the impressive trapdoor in the middle of the stage that allowed for props and people to come up through during the play was very exciting in comparison to pop up theatres the public were used too. These aspects of the brand new purpose built structures show that a big part of the growing success of the theatres was down to them.However, although these huge, brand new structures were responsible for a big part of the growing success of theatre, theatre companies were only able to operate and perform their plays to the public due to the patronage system.
Wealthy higher-classed men and women would become patrons of theatre companies, this was of great importance to the theatre companies as it protected them from the 1572 Act of Parliament that threatened to punish, ‘common players and minstrels not belonging to any Baron of this realm as they shall be judged to be rogues, vagabonds and sturdy beggars’. Being a patron had its advantages as well, theatregoers would think favourably of the patron and also they would receive some economic bonuses as the theatre was self-financing. The Queen herself became a patron of the theatre company ‘The Queen’s Men’ and allowed many companies to come and perform to her at her court. Because of this patronage system, it allowed theatre companies to carry on performing and growing, which shows its importance to the growing success of the theatre. Not only this, but the fact that the Queen seemed to approve the theatre by becoming a patron herself, convinced many Protestant leaders in the church and local government that play-going was an acceptable recreation, which again boosted the success of theatres dramatically by making it a completely harmless way to spend ones time.
Without this patronage system, the new purpose built structures would be of no use, as no theatre companies would be able to perform plays without being punished due to the laws passed in 1572. This shows that although the new structures were a big reason, they were not the main one.Thirdly, another very important factor in causing the growing success of the theatre was down to the increased economic stability and rise of the gentry in London. Both previous factors of the theatre proved to be very influential in its growing success, but the only reason people were able to pay for their tickets and enjoy the new buildings, or be in a position to become a patron of a whole theatre company, was down to the increase in peoples new disposable income and the rise of the gentry. Although the theatre was relatively cheap for any classes to enjoy, being just 1 penny to view the play from the pit, it was not a necessity that most people would have spent their hard earned money on. However, due to London’s increase in population, jobs and import and export of luxuries through its position on the Thames, the poorer and the richer all had more disposable income to spend on hobbies such as the theatre, and the rich were more financially stable due to the rise of the gentry, which allowed them to invest into small theatre companies to protect them from the authorities. The rise of the gentry allowed the patronage system to function properly and peoples new disposable income meant that going to the theatre was an option that everyone could enjoy.
Overall, both factors of the new purpose built theatres and the patronage system were very influential in the going success of the theatre, but the underlying, main factor that caused such an increase in popularity for the theatre was the growing wealth of London and its people due to populations booms and more jobs available, along with the ongoing rise of a more wealthy civilised class known as the gentry. This was the main reason that allowed both the new purpose built structures to thrive, but ultimately the whole theatre to grow dramatically in success.
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