Will's Wenches
external image Shakespeare2.JPG
Laura Coyle Taylor Melligan
Meaghan Kinzle Erin Simpkins
Sasha Crawford Ashley Macquarrie
Jessica Price

“This world, after all our science and sciences, is still a miracle;
wonderful, inscrutable, magical and more, to whosoever will think of it.”
-Thomas Dekker

Welcome to our Wiki site, in which we explore various aspects of Elizabethan and Jacobean theater, with special emphasis on Thomas Dekker's The Shoemaker's Holiday. Throughout the Elizabethan era, many new ideas and aspects of plays came about. New light was shed on lighting, costumes, music, different sword-fighting techniques, etc. Here, you can explore our in-depth analysis of each particular aspect, which will help to enlighten you and teach you about how each aspect came together. This page features our own production of a scene from The Shoemaker's Holiday.

Queen Elizabeth

Beauty Ideals of the Elizabethan Theater
During the Elizabethan era, beauty ideals were largely influenced by Queen Elizabeth I and other royalty on the court. Men and women alike shared many of the same beauty practices in both hair and make-up. The hair and make-up styles of this time period signified wealth, power, status, delicacy and purity. Certain hair and make-up rituals could only be seen on people of the royal court or other prominent, wealthy figures. Because beauty played such a big role in society at this time, it was only natural for the theater to incorporate the use of the same techniques in productions. Some of these techniques were exaggerated in order to add to the comedic appeal of the play. Shakespeare is one playwright who loved to play around with different make-up and hairstyles for certain characters to enhance their exuberant and wild personalities. ("Elizabethan Make-up")

Outside of the theater, women of the court set the ideals for beauty and the way cosmetics was used to define the standards of that era. The attributes of an Elizabethan woman that were considered admirable included bright eyes, snow-white skin, red cheeks and lips, and fair hair ("Elizabethan Make-up).
These beauty practices may seem strange to us today, but to people in the Elizabethan era, only those with enough wealth and nobility could afford to look this way, therefore it was truly admired. The only other way people could wear these cosmetics during these days was on the stage, where men and not women captured the image of Elizabethan beauty.
To achieve the alabaster complexion, people used "ceruse", a mixture of white lead and vinegar. People applied this concotion to the neck and bosom. This particular mixture was extremely poisonous and some say that it lead to the skin becoming "grey and shriveled"(Leed). Other popular mixtures that achieved the same pale skin effect were a paste composed of alum and tin ash, sulphur, and some other foundations made from boiled egg white and talc powder. Uncooked egg whites were also used to glaze the skin for a smooth effect and to cover wrinkles (Leed). Someti
Stage Make-up Kit
mes false veins were painted on to make the skin look a little more natural. Face paint, which was called "fucus" back then, came in red and different variants of red. This was used on cheeks and lips to contrast the paleness of the skin. Other substances used to add a little color to the face were Madder, cochineal, and ocre-based compounds. Vermillion was most popular among royal women due to it's thick consistency. Because these cosmetics were mad of materials that were very harsh to the skin, blemishes, acne, and rashes were not uncommon. To help treat the skin, people would use lemon juice or rose water to calm the irritation. Ass's milk was commonly used by nobility to bathe and wash in. (Leed)
To achieve the bright-eyed look, women would put drops of "belladona" in their eyes and outline the eyes with kohl to make them appear larger. (Leed)

"My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun
Coral is far more fair then her lips fair
If snow be white, why then, her breast is dun
If hair be wires, black wires grow on her head
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks..."

-William Shakespeare mocks the beauty ideals of his time in one of his most famous sonnets
Women were portrayed on the stage by men and young boys. To recreate the look of women on stage, men would have to undergo transformations by going through the same beauty rituals that their women counterparts did. The pale skin, big eyes, red lips and cheeks were all part of being on stage.
The substances that were used in the Elizabethan era as make-up were discovered to be very toxic and harmful to the people wearing it, men and women. In recreating productions from this time period today, modern stage make-up can still achieve the same look of pale face and red lips, without being hazardous to the performers' lives. (Leed)

This video shows the make-up process for an actor with the Lamplighters Theater doing the Shakespeare production of Much Ado About Nothing.

The Shoemaker’s Holiday- Pacific Beach Style Production Plan
Nothing beats the sun, the sand, and the surf in San Diego. People who live here can’t get enough of it and people who visit here don’t ever want to leave it. The beach culture of San Diego has everyone in flip-flops all day, every day. Even the rain doesn’t stop people from trekking out into the foreign wetness in their Rainbow or Reef sandals. But what do people do when all the wear and tear on their flip-flops creates a hole in the sole or a snap of a strap? Head down to Pacific Beach and you’ll find a sandal and flip-flop repair shop on the boardwalk where skaters, surfers, and people of all ages bring their beloved foot apparel to be restored to their original glory. In the production of The Shoemaker’s Holiday, which will be performed at SDSU in early 2009, Simon Eyre, is the owner of this small repair store, who later becomes the Mayor of San Diego.

Scholarly EssayIn the article from the Oxford Journal, Yon Plumed Dandebrat: Male “Effeminacy” in English Satire and Criticism, by Susan C. Shapiro, male effeminacy during the pre-Renaissance and Renaissance eras is discussed. Several male characters in literature and drama had a lot of feminine qualities, but were still characters as heterosexual. Shakespeare’s portrayal of Antony shows him completely giving into Cleopatra, losing himself and his masculinity. The Old English Dictionary lists as one of the definitions of effeminate as, “degraded by subjection to a woman.” Antony displays this in the play when he himself admits, “You did not know how much you were my conqueror; and that my sword, made weak by affection, would obey it at all cost” (III. Xi. 66).
The men during this time would take on women’s mannerisms, their dress, and often times their hairstyles. Today, these men would be viewed as homosexuals, transgendered, or metrosexual. In the Renaissance period, these effeminate men were wooers of women right along with the manlier men. An example of an effeminate man from a play we have read in class is Slender from The Merry Wives of Windsor. He is not tough like some of the other men in the play and he is very coy in pursuing Anne Page. Even though he was not homosexual, he fits the characteristics of the effeminate male that is discussed in the article.

Make-Up by: Jessica Price


"The play seems out for an infinite run.
Don't mind a little thing like the actors fighting
The only thing I worry about is the sun.
We'll be all right if nothing goes wrong with the lighting".

(It Bids Pretty Fair - from Steeple Bush - 1947)

external image TheatreLights1.gif

Back in Shakespeare's time, it was nearly impossible to perform plays during the night hours because of the lack of lighting throughout the theatre. As a result, plays generally, if not always, took place during the daytime when light was (hopefully) inevitable. If it was night, someone would come out and declare to the viewers, "it's night." Today, because of technological advancements, we are able to produce artificial lighting and plays can be performed at any hour. According to "The Encyclopedia Britannica," "In 1822 gas was first used in a Parisian theatre, next came the oxyhydrogen lime light, used for special effects, and now electric lighting is rapidly surpassing all the other kinds." With electric lights, special effects become more "effective" and easier to perform. However, basic forms of lighting are still pertinent and relevant in today's stage plays.

As a direct result of lighting, actors and/or props can become enhanced by the position of the lighting. Heavily correlated with hair and make-up, they can become enhanced or hidden or with wonderful aspects of lighting. At the same rate, blocking can be used in the same effective manner. If something, or someone, needs to be hidden, blocking can also cause that effect as well. Illumination, which is basically to highlight or brighten with light, becomes significant because according to Wikipedia, "Any lighting design will be ineffective if the audience has to strain to see the characters; unless this is the explicit intent." More simply put, illumination is "the simply ability to see what is occurring on stage." Not only is illumination an important sourse in lighting, but other particular aspects, such as "relevation of form, focus, mood, location and time of day, projection/stage elements, plot, and composition" (wikipedia.com) are all important contributions to artistic effect for stage lighting.

  • What was lighting used for during this time period?
  • How did the use of lighting benefit actors and/or props during this time period?
  • What was used for lighting during this time period?
  • How did the concept of lighting evolve from this time period to more modernized lighting usage?

During this time period, as previously stated, lighting was used to not only symbolize daytime, but it was used to enhance or illuminate certain characters or specific aspects of the scene. In the same regard, if the presence of light was minimal, it symbolized another period during the day, such as evening or nighttime. Dimmer lights or enhancements were used during the evening and nighttime periods so that the viewer becomes aware of the significant time change. According to Bill Williams, lighting during Dekker's time was what is now actually considered "modern lighting." "Modern stage lighting design began to flourish with the development of the incandescent lamp in the late 1800's. This invention allowed for the development of small, safe, portable lighting fixtures that could be easily placed anywhere around the stage, and then controlled by a remote electrical dimmer system. Previously during the gas lighting era, complex stage lighting did indeed exist however, it was limited by this awkward smelly technology, with its many inherent problems. During the gas lighting era, a great numbers of theatres were destroyed by fire."

There are many different objectives to lighting, which are "VISIBILITY, NATURALISM, COMPOSITION and MOOD, (or ATMOSPHERE)" (http://www.mts.net/~william5/sld/sld-100.htm). As also previously stated, each aspect plays an important role.
For example, the objective of visibility can be considered the most simple and basic aspect to lighting. According to Bill Williams, "what we don't see, we don't understand." Meaning that is not only how strong and intense the lighting may be, but it is also "contrast, size, color and movement all can influence visibility. Distance, age and the condition of the eye also play important roles in visibility. "Good visibility is essentially selective. Its purpose is to reveal things selectively in terms of degrees of acuity"(http://www.mts.net/~william5/sld/sld-100.htm).
Naturalism, on the other hand, has much to do with the setting of a play. "NATURALISM provides a sense of TIME and PLACE. Stage settings may be highly realistic or completely abstract, absurd, or stylized. If time of day is important or the place is realistic, then MOTIVATION is often provided by sunlight, moonlight, firelight, lamplight, or other naturalistic stage sources" (http://www.mts.net/~william5/sld/sld-100.htm).
The composition as an objective "refers to the overall pictorial aspect of the stage, as influenced by the lighting. Composition also deals with the FORM of an object. A stage scene may be broadly flooded with soft, even lighting, revealing every object equally, or it may be illuminated by highly localized lighting on the actors only - or anything in between. So, composition in lighting must reveal actors, objects and scenery in proportion to their importance, by building a visual picture. Composition concepts include: balanced, unbalanced, symmetrical, asymmetrical, simple, complex, abstract, geometric, fragmented, symbolic, dynamic, linear, random, crude, horizontal, vertical, diagonal, and many more. Style concepts include: naturalistic, unnaturalistic, realistic, surrealistic, pointilistic, futuristic, minimalistic, impressionistic, expressionistic, expansionistic, abstract, modern, religious, romantic, Victorian, primitive, gothic, Elizabethan, Georgian and many, many more" (http://www.mts.net/~william5/sld/sld-100.htm).
Finally, "MOOD considers the basic psychological reactions of the audience. If other lighting elements have been properly applied, the result is a specific MOOD, created by the lighting design. Lighting can cause an audience to feel a wide range of different emotions. Feelings of 'happy, sad, content, horrified, excited, (and often 'bored'), all depend on a wide number of psychological and physiological factors. This is also true in respect to how the audience interprets naturalistic or atmospheric moods, such as sunny, cloudy, rainy, lightning, etc. The stage lighting designer rapidly learns that: "Things are not what they are, things are what they appear to be" (http://www.mts.net/~william5/sld/sld-100.htm). Put simply, if the lighting is bright and cheery, the audiences' emotions will coincide with the lighting. However, if the lighting is dimmed and gloomy-seeming, then it is likely that the audiences' emotions will once again follow the pattern of the lighting.

For my group, I am researching the lighting aspect to play productions. Since I am familiar with certain aspects of lighting, I was able to determine some information that I posted on my Wiki off of the top of my head; other information, however, I obtained from a scholarly journal off of The Johnson Hopkins University Press. I was able to find some relevant information pertaining to the usage of lighting systems years ago, before technological advances occurred. I was also able to find some information on the advancement of technology in the lighting field, which also helped with my particular subject matter.
Frontal lighting, as learned from this article, "uses lensed spotlights from the balcony front and from the 'chandelier' or 'beam' position" (416). Consequently, this particular lighting technique allows for the spotlights to enhance certain objects, including the actors. The "beam" was projected on the object that was to be enhanced, and in doing so, the viewers were able to acknowledge who or what was the intended specific viewing object. This was the most basic, if not essential, usage of lighting. However, I did also learn from page 427 of this article that candles, however small they may be, were also an important form of lighting, used even in Shakespeare's Hamlet as "built-in dimmers." Talk about technological advancement!
Natural sunlight was actually used for ligthing
Natural sunlight was actually used for ligthing

On page 419 of this article, I found pertinent information regarding the progression of lighting. "As the technology of electrical sources and lighting instruments progressed, so, too did the development of theatrical lighting techniques. The desire for better and more natural lighting in the theatre preceded both." As many people already know, Shakespearean plays weren't given the option of acting in artificial light, since it was non-existent during this time. However, in order to specify to the play-goers about the time of day the scene was enacted in, a commentator generally just announced "Night-time!" And it was known that it was now dark out, even if it was noon.
As also mentioned in my Wiki portion of our group project, there are many different types of lighting techniques, some becoming more advanced than others, although each technique plays an important, integral role. I found this specific information on a website that had valuable information. However, upon entering into my Wiki, I found that it had erased, most likely because another member from my group saved their work and it accidentally deleted mine. Thankfully, I was able to get it back and learned from the good old source, Wikipedia that "any lighting design will be ineffective if the audience has to strain to see the characters; unless this is the explicit intent." More simply put, illumination is the "simple ability to see what is occurring on stage." Not only is illumination an important source in lighting, but other particular aspects, such as "revelation of form, focus, mood, location and time of day, projection/stage elements, plot and composition" are all important contributions to artistic effect for stage lighting. (Wikipedia.com).
I plan on using the different techniques of lighting to enhance our group's performance. Although we do not and will not struggle with the problem of having to perform only during the daytime, we will most likely choose to portray our scene in the daytime light. If however, our chosen scene does fall into "night," it would be easy for our group to shut off the light(s) and make it known to our viewers that the time of day has changed.

All in all, even though lighting seems to be the least thought about aspect by play-goers, it plays such a significant role in the production of plays! Think about it...without lighting, you can't have a play at night without the declaration of "it's night!" And more than that, lighting contributes to so much more than just the time of day it is. It helps to enhance particular objects and persons and draws attention to specific things as well. So much goes into the production of a play, and lighting plays such a huge, important role, that it is certainly safe to say that without technological lighting advancements, plays would undoubtedly not be where they are today! Thank goodness for lighting!

An insight on my PRODUCTION PLAN:
By adapting to a more modern scene with a more modern setting in a more modern time period, viewers would be able to better relate to the text. They would be able to further understand and relate to the text more if the characters wore more modern attire and spoke in a language that they could understand and relate. If I were Thomas Dekker in this day and age, although he did an extraordinary job devising such a wonderful play, I would certainly make minor fluctuations, such as those previous discussed, so that my readers and viewers could interpret and enjoy the text!

Lighting by: Meaghan Kinzle

Costume and Dress in the Elizabethan Era

Costumes and Materials

During the Elizabethan period, theatrical costumes were often similar to the everyday dress of the upper and middle classes, if the play was reflective of everyday citizens of course--gentlemen wore high collars with frills (called "ruffs,") full billowy sleeves, intricately embroidered breeches, and short capes adorned with braided trimming or large rectangular collars. Men and women alike wore silk and cotton stockings, although women did not expose their legs. Men wore lavish hats made of felt or velvet, adorned with a dashing feather, or plainer ones that bore a similarity to the modern day bowler hat. Author Michael Geen writes that "ear-rings were worn by fops and dandies"(Theatrical Costumes, 45).
A design drawing for "The Twelfth Night"

Women, on the other hand, wore long gowns decorated with braiding, lace, pearls, and beads. The bodices were worn low-cut, and the dresses contained boning to keep a lady's figure in tact. The colors and materials used to make these clothes varied based on social class, and were even enshrined in law (known as Sumptuary Laws) to distinguish one class from the next. Upper class women wore velvet, fur, lace, taffeta, and cotton. In addition to these ornate gowns, women wore corsets, stockings, a hooped skirt, a petticoat, a cloak, a hat, and gloves, to name a few items, making the dressing routine a rigorous one (http://www.elizabethan-era.org.uk/elizabethan-costume.htm). Since women were not allowed on the stage during this period, men were forced to don these uncomfortable layers instead. Fortunately, men's and women's shoes alike were mostly flat or low heeled, though adorned with bows and other flourishes.

The working classes, or "groundlings" as they were known inside the theater, wore simple clothes of wool and cotton, much plainer and less eye-catching than the wealthy. The Sumptuary Laws prevented the working classes from wearing clothing made of materials reserved for the wealthy, as well as colors that denoted an upper-class standing.

Fabric color was key to identifying a citizen's place in society during this period. Each social class had its own distinct colors and any transgression against these standards was punishable under the law. The monarchy, elite, and authorities could be identified by wearing the colors red, purple, white, and black. Lower classes and servants wore blue, green, orange, brown, and yellow.

All of these rules and regulations were meticulously replicated on the stage. According to Wikipedia, "Since Elizabethan theatre did not make use of lavish scenery, instead leaving the stage largely bare with a few key props, the main visual appeal on stage was in the costumes. Costumes were often bright in color and visually entrancing. Costumes were expensive, however, so usually players wore contemporary clothing regardless of the time period of the play. Occasionally, a lead character would wear a conventionalized version of more historically accurate garb, but secondary characters would nonetheless remain in contemporary clothing" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_Renaissance_theatre).


During the Elizabethan period, the so-called "Woman Controversy" raged, which was a debate concerning the true nature of womankind. One of the fronts of this debate was the ongoing "problem" of women dressing in men's clothing, which was denounced in polite society and roundly condemned in the 1620 text entitled Hic Mulier (or, The Man-Woman.) This work criticized women who dressed as men, calling them monstrosities and arguing that women should be unfailingly feminine. Cross-dressing was denounced by King James as well as other prominent members of society, including the Bishop. The problem with cross-dressing was that it was a direct challenge to the established gender hierarchy, and invited the question of whether there was truly anything innate in gender dynamics that made some more deserving of social respect than others. In other words, if women could act like men and be treated like men, why should they be in a lower social caste just because of their sex?

Such confusion would not be tolerated by the state, and therefore cross-dressing was labelled a crime and was punishable by imprisonment, whipping, and public humiliation. These punishments varied based on the social class of the offender, and thus wealthy women who trespassed against the law endured lighter sentences, while lower class women risked imprisonment and physical punishment. There is little evidence to suggest that men of the time were punished at all for these crimes (Edith Frampton, lecture 11/3/08).

The author of The Shoemaker's Holiday, Thomas Dekker, co-authored another play called The Roaring Girl that dealt with the social confusion caused by women cross-dressing. The hero, Moll Cutpurse, outwits the men who seek to destroy her for her supposedly outrageous lifestyle, and in the end is vindicated when all ends well and she proclaims that she will never be married. Such a direct challenge to the social order that sought to subjugate women was dangerous indeed.

The fact that men routinely dressed as women on the stage did not help matters either. Thus, cross-dressing was yet another method of challenging the social hierarchy in the context of the theater.

Costume as Social Subversion

In the Elizabethan era, class distinctions were rigorously maintained through laws of dress, or sumptuary codes. In English Renaissance Drama, author David Bevington writes, “Although such rules were widely flouted, the connection between class and clothing remained much tighter than it is today” (xxix). These crimes against the hierarchical structure were confused in the context of the theater. On the stage, there was no way to police lower class actors dressing as merchants, lords, and kings. Thus, theatrical costumes became a way of erasing the otherwise strictly regulated class differences. Often times this erasure became a theme of the plays themselves. For example, in Thomas Dekker’s The Shoemaker’s Holiday, the characters of Simon Eyre and his wife Margery represent upwardly mobile citizens who go are moved from the lowly shoemaker class to a more elite sphere when Simon is granted the post of Lord Mayor. As Bevington points out, “When Simon Eyre is elected sheriff…he enters ‘wearing a gold chain’ (10.142.1) as befits his office and bestows his wife a fashionable French hood” (xxix).

The actors who took on roles as monarchs and merchants often wore the actual attire of the aristocracy, which could be bought in secondhand condition. According to Bevington, the cost of these secondhand garments often outweighed the cost of the entire production.

The audience in the playhouse also arrived in their finest attire. Spectators were able to buy highly visible seats in the playhouse that may have limited their view of the stage but put them and their finery on display for everyone to see. The entire spectacle was troubling to the authorities, who felt powerless to enforce the sumptuary laws in this context. As Bevington puts it, “If an actor could don a costume and persuasively impersonate a king or an aristocrat, what distinguished one class from the other?” (xxx). Thus, theatrical costumes and dress in the theater-going crowd provided a method for subverting the Elizabethan social caste system.

Production Plan

I read Margery and Firk as a sort of Punch and Judy pair, so I have envisioned a production of this play as a puppet show. Marionettes would be ideal for comic effect because their movements are so awkward, yet they are flexible and you can really do anything with them. Since the action is in the characters, simple backdrops would suffice for the setting of the scene. There would be a backdrop for the shoemaker’s shop, one for the great hall in the end, one for the street where the showdown between Hammon and the shoemakers takes place, and so on. The fight scene would be a dramatic and very funny scene with the marionettes, swords lodged in their little wooden hands, lunging at one another and colliding in battle. One can imagine the hilarity that would ensue watching these puppets attack one another with their jerky movements, faces and bodies knocking, swords clashing. When I read the fight scene it seemed more like chaos than a serious battle to me, and this is why I envision the scene being played out so ridiculously.

Costumes by: Taylor Melligan


The man hath no music in himself
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils...Let no man be trusted."
(The "Merchant of Venice," 5.1.83)

"Music was so highly regarded that one was not considered to be a gentleman unless he was able to sing tolerably" (Wikipedia)
Music during the Elizabethan Era (the 1500s) was a huge influential form of entertainment for all classes of people in society. According to wikipedia, it is even noted that a "guest to remain from singing was considered very rude." Music, whether listening to it or playing it, was for all classes of people though. While the higher-class society chose to attend musical theatre plays, the lower-class, who couldn't afford to attend musical plays, chose to simply entertain their ears with self-musical entertainment while they worked or, even when they went into towns and listened to musically-equipped towns people. Music in the Elizabethan society captured audiences everywhere and anywhere possible. There are in fact distinctive features of Elizabethan music, as noted in Wikipedia, that this "style of music was recognizable for its rhythm." The outbreak of music in England forever changed society, bringing forth not only admirers, but talented performers, and even new musical schools as well.

According to both Linda Alchin, the author of "Elizabethan Music" and Kashmira Lad, the author of Buzzle.com's "Elizabethan Music," there are many different types of musical instruments that were played that include: Stringed Musical Instruments, Wind Musical Instruments, Percussion Musical Instruments, and Keyboard Musical Instruments (Alchin and Lad further elaborate as follows):

Stringed Musical: The Lute, an example of a stringed instrument, was probably the "most popular instrument" during the Elizabethan era. Many people during the Elizabethan Era were widely interested in the lute, which was generally associated with "storytelling." People who played the lute were "renowned for playing extremely fast." Many lute players eventually became known as being part of "Dowland's generation." Audiences both then and now have forever known how hard and delicate playing the lute is. The lute, regarded as the "earliest form of today's guitar, was limited to three main strings running down the entire length of it's 'body.'" Other instruments similar to the lute were the cittern, the rebec, and the viol.
The Infamous Lute

Wind Musical: The Wind Instruments solely included the clarions, trumpets, sackbuts (trombone), recorders, and flutes. Wikipedia mentions that: "trumpets were used for the announcement of the arrival of royalty [to let everyone know in town that someone important was there]."

Percussion Musical: Instruments that included mainly the drums

Keyboard Musical: Instruments that included the spinet and virginal

When Music was played
During festivals: During all celebrations music was played and was essentially, what today's society would call the "life of the party."

During dinners: As noted by Wikipedia, music at the dinner table was "highly regarded as the one time that a family got together as a group and sung a song together." This could mean that eating was associated with music. Music to the Elizabethan's was probably today's societies after dinner dessert. If all of the family members could not sing or play music for the family, that was okay because a lot of "middle class households had at least one servant who was capable of playing a musical instrument."

For the royalty: Since Queen Elizabeth herself played musical instruments, it comes as no surprise that she had around "70 hired musicians and composers for her court." Types of music fitted for the queen included English ballads, church music, and dance music (yes, even the Queen liked to boogie-down!).

Types of Music
  • Town Music: Town music, played by the Waits, included instruments like the high-pitched pipes or hautboys (the early version of the oboe). In most cases, the town music would include payed musical bands that would perform basically for free for everyone and anyone.
  • Court Music: With the inventions of new instruments, new "refined" sounds emerged during the time. With that in mind, the "ability to play a musicial instrument was an essential skill at the court of Queen Elizabeth."
  • Street Music: Due to the fact that traveling was not permitted in the Elizabethan government without a license, street and tavern music became extremely popular. Street music was played at markets, feasts, fairs, and festivals. In consideration to the fact that some instruments weighed a lot, most street musicians played light and easy-to-carry instruments. Some of these lighter and smaller instruments included the fiddles, the lute, and recorders.
  • House Music: With the growing of music and its popularity throughout the country, it was stated by Alchin that "every nobleman employed his own musicians." If a person could not actually employ a musician, due to money issues, it was then stated that they "employed at least one servant who could also play a musical instrument." If a person of the upper or middle class couldn't read and play music, than one would be looked down upon. Essentially though, anyone could potentially learn from John Dowland's "First Booke of Songes or Ayres," which became available in 1597.
  • Theatre Music: Theatre music was "enhanced" greatly after the emergence of music. The music that was played during plays needed to be "capable of communicating many different moods reflecting the plots of the plays and heightening the drama (Alchin)." This idea of heightening the play's music during certain parts of the play often did so in a way in which it related to its audiences moods themselves. An example of how important and essential music was pertaining to plays, is that William Shakespeare himself used over "500 references to music in his plays and poems!" From this idea alone, in modern times, we now can see why "art" is linked to music. Not only did music accompany plays during the Elizabethan era, but it also accompained the reciting of poems.
  • Church Music: Due to the church, Choral Polyphony emerged as a new form of music. Choral polyphony is a type of music choir. "Starting with the simple, lyrical melodic lines of plainsong, the church composers of the period wrote music that was both passionate and serene, transcending the bitter struggles between differing and conflicting religious beliefs" (Best, Michael. "Policy on Quality Content." Internet Shakespeare Editions, University of Victoria, 2005.)
    The Queen herself with her musical instrument

Three types of musicians were known as Waits , Street musicians , and Minstrels . Waits were regarded as the town musicians, and would be classified in today's modern society as today's town's bands; probably less famously renowned. The main distinctual factor of the Waits was their high-pitched pipes. The Waits' main role in the Elizabethan society was to "perform at public occasions of the viewing pleasure of the town." Musicians that were looked down upon my the Elizabethan society were the traveling minstrels and the street musicians. They were looked so down upon that they were eventually replaced with tavern musicians and theatre musicians. Street music was performed in the middle of town so that all could hear, and those musicians would generally play instruments which uncluded fiddles, lutes, recorders, etc. Their music was defined as "a far cry from the sophiscticated and refined musicof the Elizabethan court."

Famous Musicians of the time (as further explained by Wikipedia)
Due to the fact that music was "exploding" during the Elizabethan era and was probably liked by all people, new composers began to show their faces. Composers like William Byrd, John Bull, John Dowland, and even Henry VIII (Queen Elizabeth's father) started to be highly liked. William Byrd is considered to be "the greatest of all the Elizabethan composers." That title given to Byrd must have meant that he was treated like royalty because of his talent. He was so talented that not only was he the leading composer of religious music, but he organized and performed for Queen Elizabeth. John Bull is regarded as "the best-known organist of the [time]." During the era, we also see John Dowland, who during that time was a leading composer of the lute, and even wrote his renowned book of songs. Noting that Henry VIII liked to create his own music, lets everyone know that making music was not soley limited to renowned composers.

Religion and Music
Music in churches was a huge source to all people because they all heard it every Sunday. Many of the church's music composers were so brillantly talented that they would sing for the royalty. The type of style that was sung during church was called "Choral Polyphony." Many of the hymns that were written during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I are still generally sung today in modern times.

Scholarly EssayIn Christopher Goodwin article, "Lutes of Fire," he tells his readers how many people during the Elizabethan Era were widely interested in the lute and how those who couldn't actually play the instrument themselves, were fascinated by the people who could play the delicate instrument. People who played the lute, were renowned for "playing extremely fast" (325). Many lute players eventually became known as being part of "Dowland's generation." Dowland's generation preferably sought "a more lyrical style" and somewhat looked down upon previous brilliant lute performers (325). One of the oldest and hardest lute books of the time is Giovanni Antonio Terzi's. Goodwin mentions Nigel North, a lute player of the time, whose "mastery of the instrument is complete, with beautiful sound, impeccable phrasing, clarity in bringing out the inner part-writing, and characteristically thoughtful interpretations..." (325). With this in mind, audiences have forever known how hard and delicate playing the lute is. Goodwin also mentions the "lute revival with the four-course Renaissance guitar" (325). The four-course Renaissance guitar was one instrument that people during the 16th century began to crave again due to its production of nice music to the ears. Finally, Goodwin goes on to introduce new generations of Italian lute players, like Rafael Bonavita, Piccinini, Kapsberger, and Castaldi. Bonavita is described as someone who likes to "spring surprise after surprise on the listener, where [the music] has many changes of tempo, dynamic and mood" (325). Moving farther along in the present, Goodwin describes another brillant lute player, Joachim Held. In Held's "Che Soavita--Italian lute music of the Baroque," he plays music from seven different prints by Piccinini, Galilei, Castaldi, and Kapsberger. Goodwin also compares Bonavita to Held, and regards Held more highly. We get to learn more about Spanish music when Goodwin describes Francesco Guerau perfection with the baroque guitar. All together, these men make up the majority of the best lute players that the world has ever seen.

Production Plan For Better or WorseBeing in love is an extraordinary feeling, especially when a person’s love is new. Set in the modern, present day, this production plan will be based in San Francisco where love seems to encompass everyone. Theoretically, I would like to have the stage be in the shape of a heart. Some examples of a full heart would be when couples like Lacy and Rose sulk about not being together, when Ralph and Jane separate and reunite, and even when Hammon tries to buy Jane from Ralph because he is so in love. Then, I would like to have a broken heart for when Simon Eyre and Margery appear.
Music by: Laura Coyle

Sets and Props

During the Elizabethan era, many plays were performed in large, outdoor amphitheaters. This allowed public audiences to see plays such as The Shoemaker’s Holiday, among others. The Swan is one example of a public theatre. Private theatres, such as Blackfriars Theatre, were generally smaller and enclosed.

Theaters during this time did not have elaborate sets. David Bevington states that moveable scenery was not available and therefore not used. Instead, the back façade of a building on stage would act as any number of things, including “a castle under siege, a house facing out on a garden or street, or a great house in the country”. Fixed scenery or painted back drops were not used as changes to this surface was not practical. Bevington further asserts that rather than go through the trouble of changing the building for each play to enhance a set, props were heavily used. Actors relied on props to visually enhance their performances and to create a more interactive space.

A wide assortment of props were used including chairs, swords, bottles of wine, crowns, thrones, beds, books and flowers (list of other props) Ojects could be carried onstage, pushed or worn. To convey death, animal blood was used greatly in addition to fake heads and tables with holds in it to stage decapitations. Such violence was acted out rather dramatically. Thomas Larque, in "A Lecture on Elizabethan Theatre" pointed out that even animals have been brought on stage, “Some plays bring dogs onstage, although it has been suggested that Shakespeare only once used a dog in his plays because the animal proved to be more trouble than it was worth”.
Example of props in use on stage

Often, props were placed on stage before the play and would remain for the duration, whether being used or not. The use of a prop would allow audience members to better understand what may be happening off stage or indicate the time of day. For example, the use of a lantern could suggest the scene is happening at night. Traveling acting troupes were unable to adequately store props. The use of props greatly increased with the building of theaters such as the Globe, where storage space was available.

Scholarly Essay
Rayna Kalas discusses props in her article,“Staged Properties in Early Modern English Drama”.
She states that staged properties can include costumes, fixtures and handheld objects. Such objects were mobilized for performances and were used for various purposes both in and out of the playhouse. To obtain costumes, Kalas asserts that public theatres were involved with pawn broking and the trade of secondhand clothing. It’s interesting to note that while women were not in the plays themselves, they can be credited for participating in the clothing trade (gathering and putting together costumes) and hairdressing. She goes on to state that many objects on the stage, including drinking vessels, were loaned by pawnshops and that the playhouse may have functioned as both a household and marketplace. A man’s beard may also be considered a prop, since it’s always removable; it could aid in promoting a character’s masculinity. Kalas summarizes that the arrangement of household furnishings is important to pay attention to as well, as the placement of a table could hold a particular significance, or none at all. For example, a bed may symbolize one thing, but really it may act as a stage within the stage. She concludes with claiming that the initial appearance of an object, such as a bracelet, may seem to stand for one thing but by the end of the play it’s introduced as something else. Props are available for numerous interpretations by actors and audiences alike; “Staged Properties very effectively moves past presumptions about theatre as purely symbolic or imaginative register, and challenges us to consider not if but how theatrical performances is a social and material practice as well.”

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Production Plan
Individuals today may find it challenging to relate to the dramas of the Elizabethan era. The language and plot may seem distant to the English we speak and conflicts we encounter. However, with a little creative modification, plays like The Shoemaker’s Holiday can come alive and acquire a new found appreciation. A high school would be an ideal setting for this play because of its broad appeal. This high school would be presented as more the stereotypical high school with jocks and cheerleaders, the “cool kids” and the more laid back bunch. Additionally, as in Dekker’s original play, select characters will serve in the military, an aspect already prevalent in our daily lives. Combining these elements do not alter the original vision of this play, however enhance it to allow more audiences to understand and appreciate it. By speaking in modern English, dressing modernly and incorporating the use of cell phones, computers and cars even, this play will be reflective of 2008.

Sets and Props by: Erin Simpkins

Stage Combat and Acrobatics

The history of stage combat can be traced back to mock battles from the Roman gladiators and any public duels in the Medieval Ages. According to Wikipedia, the "depiction of violence in theatre can also be traced to Antiquity, with Aristotle quoted as noting that 'conflict is the essence of comedy'". Stage combat incorporates many different weapons from that time, and current fighting styles. The actors must go through combat rehearsals so that they can learn the fighting moves step by step. Actors need training and experience in order to endure safety for themselves and the audience. (wikipedia).

Actors use stage combat as a way to have the audience believe the fighting that is taking place on stage without actually causing any physical harm to the actors. Audiences in the sixteenth century craved violence, so, many plays at that time tried to have them as action-packed as possible. The actors at the time would have had to learn how to fight with rapiers, and then apply those skills to their performances on the stage. (Castillo).

Since the rapier was as much part of a man’s dress as any other article of clothing was, an actor also had to hold himself with confidence and handle the rapier competently. For audiences at that time, sword play was part of their everyday lives, so making it look real and believable on stage was very important. The audience would be able to tell if there was a mistake in foot work or technique. Many actors employed teachers to get them ready and well prepared to fight on the stage using rapiers. An actor would have to be a good performer, and he would also have to know up to date techniques and styles of fencing. Actors had the job of taking the fencing techniques that they learn and transfer them to be safely performed on the stage.(Castillo).

Production Plan
Lacy disguising himself as a German or Dutch shoemaker, for me, is the aspect of the play that has the most humor in it. I used my idea for his transformation from Lacy to Hans as a jumping off point for my production plans. I feel that it would be the most affective towards the audience’s understanding of the play, for it to be presented in a type of modern light. I would have the play set in the time that it was originally intended, but give it a modern feel, so that it would be more palatable for the audience.
When Lacy decided to disguise himself as a German or Dutch shoemaker, he pretty much played up to the stereotypes of Germans. He spoke in broken English and a very thick accent in order to sell himself as a German to Eyre and the other shoemakers. When I think of Lacy hamming up his German shoemaker character, I think of him in Liederhosen and having rosy cheeks. The audience would then completely understand what Lacy is doing when he is dressed in modern stereotypical German clothing. .
When casting the play, I would definitely have to make sure that the actors understand the language and the meaning behind it. Margery should be a vivacious woman, of a normal size. When her husband calls her anything akin to “fatso”, there would be more incredulousness from the audience, because she is obviously not fat.Thomas Dekker’s play is still interesting to us today, so a good way to present it to an audience in our time period would to be to give it a modern feel. I would have it set in the original time period, but give it some 20th century elements.

Stage Combat and Acrobatics by: Sasha Crawford

Acting Techniques

Acting: Natural or Formal?
According to Bernard Beckerman in his book Shakespeare at the Globe, critics have long debated whether Elizabethan acting was “formal” or “natural.” Natural acting involves an attempt to create “an illusion of reality,” the actor striving to make the character seem as real as possible. This style is exemplified in modern acting by the “method” approach. In method acting, the actor attempts to fully embody a character, delving into their own psyche to relive emotions from their own memories and apply them to those the character is feeling.

Formal acting, on the other hand is symbolic and representational, recitation of lines on a page rather than real (or at least seemingly real) conversation and emotion. Though we have no recordings or means of proving what exactly Elizabethan acting was like, the majority of scholars agree that a formal acting style was the prevalent one during the Elizabethan era (109). Elizabethan acting was likely highly melodramatic and emotionally overwrought, utterly devoid of subtlety or nuance and mainly dependent on exaggerated movements and a loud speaking voice to convey a character's inner turmoil.

This was in part due to the large, typically rowdy audiences in attendance; a quiet, profoundly emotional performance would simply not be heard. But of even greater significance in scholars research of Shakespearean acting techniques are the records of performances kept by acting troupes. In Secrets of Acting Shakespeare, Patrick Tucker writes that records indicate it was not at all uncommon for an Elizabethan troupe to have a rotating repertory of twenty or more plays, or to perform six plays in six days, a different play for each day of the week. This left little time for rehearsal, and indeed most plays were not rehearsed so much as quickly memorized. Actors were not even given the entire script, only their own lines and the few lines before it (their cues) on a scroll, or paper rolled around a piece of wood, possibly the origin of the term “role” (9). Generally there would be only one copy of the play in full, due in part to the time and expense involved in having a scribe write out an entire script but also because each play was the property of the company producing it and had to be kept from rival troupes.

There was little opportunity for most actors to specialize in a particular character or type of character. The modern practice of typecasting of actors was unheard of. The exception of course was the casting of young boys in female roles until puberty, and there is some evidence that a few actors became known for often playing fool or tragic characters.

Scholarly Essay
Jeremy Lopez offers an entirely different theory about Elizabethan casting in “Imagining the Actor's Body on the Early Modern Stage.” He suggests that the acting company had greater importance in the early theatre than previously thought and that playwrights such as Shakespeare wrote for specific actors. As evidence of this he points out characters from several different plays who share similar traits. Lopez gives the example of Ceasar and Polonius and Brutus and Hamlet, whom he said were probably played by the same actors in the repertory. He also suggests that Shakespeare may have written for a company with “two particularly strong boy actors, of notably different height and temperament,” which would explain the many pairs of female characters that appear in his plays, i.e. Helena and Hermia and Mistresses Ford and Page.

Production Plan
I would set my production in the post-war U.S. With this time period, it still makes sense for Ralph to have been wounded in the war in France, and adds a layer of intrigue to Lacy's choice of a German immigrant as a disguise. My production would focus less on the relationship aspects the story, and Simon Eyre's rise to power, and more on the shoemakers, especially Firk and Hodge. In some respects this production would be similar to a buddy comedy: two lowly shoemakers who ultimately gain power and respect, culminating with “the King's” honoring of them and their fellow workers in the final scene. The respective love stories of Lacy and Rose and Jane and Ralph would be present but much more in the background, while the shoemakers and issues of class would be brought to the foreground.

Acting Techniques by: Ashley MacQuarrie

The Shoemaker's Holiday: Scene 10

As performed by puppets.
Part 1

Part 2


  • Bevington, David, et al. English Renaissance Drama. W.W. Norton & Company: New York, 2002.
  • Elizabethan Era Clothing. 13 November 2008. http://www.elizabethan-era.org.uk/elizabethan-clothing.htm.
  • Frampton, Edith. "Elizabethan Cross-Dressing." San Diego State University. 3 November 2008.
  • Geen, Michael. Theatrical costume and the amateur stage : a book of simple method in the making and altering of theatrical costumes, including a brief guide to costumes through the periods to the present day. Boston : Plays, inc., 1968.
  • Wikipedia. English Renaissance Theater. 31 October 2008. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_Renaissance_theatre




Acting Techniques
  • Beckerman, Bernard. Shakespeare at the Globe. London: Collier 1969.
  • Lopez, Jeremy. "Imagining the Actor's Body on the Early Modern Stage." Medieval & Renaissance Drama in England.
  • Oxford Companion to Shakespeare. "Acting, Elizabethan."
  • Tucker, Patrick. Secrets of Acting Shakespeare. New York: Routledge 2002.
  • Wikipedia. "Method Acting" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Method_acting

Sets and Props

Stage Combat and Acrobatics