5. INDOOR THEATRES

Simultaneously with the growth of the outdoor theatres, a number of indoor ones were built for the companies of Boy Actors. It was these theatres that developed from the pattern of the Great Halls. They were smaller than the outdoor theatres and, like the Halls themselves, they were rectangular, roofed and lighted by candles. They were attended by a somewhat different class of audience; admission was more expensive and they housed something like 700 spectators. In 1596, three years before the Globe wa s built, James Burbage had converted an old monastery in London to become the Blackfriars Theatre and to house performances by a Boys' Company. Various difficulties followed, however, and when Burbage died in 1597 it had still not been used for the purpose he had intended. His sons, Richard and Cuthbert then formed a syndicate and by 1600 the 'Children of the Chapel', a company of Boy Actors, was giving regular performances there. Then, in 1608 the Children's Companies were suppressed and the Blackfriars was taken over for winter performances by slide 15 Shakespeare's company, which since the accession of James I in 1603 had been known as the King's Company. Slide number 15 is a conjectural reconstruction of the inside of the Second Blackfriars Theatre. In the out door theatres all performances took place in the afternoons - 3.00 o'clock in the summer and 2.00 o'clock in the winter, but even this on a dreary English winter day would mean that it would be dark and cold before the play was over. Thus, the Blackfriars Theatre was an important acquisition for Shakespeare and his Company and it is probable that several of his later plays were written for performance in this theatre.

This page is part of Dr. Hilda Spear's Lecture on The Elizabethan Theatre