Romeo and Juliet: theatrical conventions of the period

Romeo and Juliet: theatrical conventions of the period

Theatrical Conventions of the Elizabethan Age

  • The Elizabethan age, when Shakespeare wrote “Romeo and Juliet”, had very specific theatrical conventions that the playwright followed.
  • Performances took place during daylight hours, typically in the afternoon, because there was no availability of artificial lighting.
  • The auditoriums in which plays were conducted, such as The Globe, were open-air theatres with a stage at one end and audience in the round.
  • The Four Humours system, a common understanding of personality types during the Elizabethan era, influenced the portrayal and understanding of characters.
  • Plays including “Romeo and Juliet” would be performed in verse, typically iambic pentameter, which added a rhythmic and musical quality to the performances.

The Stage and Performers

  • Men and boys were the only performers. Female characters like Juliet, Nurse, and Lady Capulet were portrayed by young boys, as it was illegal for women to act.
  • The stage used was a thrust stage, which extended into the audience, offering various angles of viewing. This led to a more interactive, intimate performance style.
  • The sets were sparse and representational rather than realistic. For example, a chair and table might suggest a dining room. The language of the play conveyed the settings more than the physical elements.

Costumes, Props, and Audience Interaction

  • Elaborate costumes were used to denote social status and character not only because of the audience’s distance from the stage, but also due to the minimal set.
  • Symbolic props such as swords, potions, or letters were used to drive the plot and generate symbolic value.
  • The use of soliloquies was popular where a character would speak directly to the audience, providing an insight into their thoughts and feelings.
  • Audience interaction was far more common than it is in many modern theatires. Actors would often directly address, and even interact with, the audience.

Acting Style

  • The acting style was larger than life, combining naturalistic delivery for emotional monologues, and stylised, exaggerated gestures for comedic or dramatic scenes.
  • Interruptions and distractions were common, as theatres served multiple functions like bear-baiting and prostitution.

Remember: It’s crucial to understand the societal values, beliefs and laws of the time when exploring the character motivations and portrayal in “Romeo and Juliet”.