The Elizabethan Theater elizstg2.gif

Designed and Produced By:

Jose Cadena, Jazmin Colin, Steven Di Stefano, Krystle Marshall, Sophia Rivera, Noel Zavala

Welcome to group six's wiki space! With our page we hope to pass on what we believe to be very interesting information. Our research for this page is broadly focused on the Elizabethan theater and drama. The research done concerning Elizabethan theater includes the following fields of expertise: Elizabethan history and context, themes and genres, fashion, props, hair and make-up and sword fighting. Using our new knowledge of Elizabethan theater we were able to relate our research to The Shoemaker's Holiday, an Elizabethan drama written by playwright Thomas Dekker. Incorporating our research and analysis of The Shoemaker's Holiday we have also produced a remake of a scene in Thomas Dekker's play. Enjoy!

History and Context
The Elizabethan period marks the rule of female monarch Queen Elizabeth I. The last of the Tudor monarch, Queen Elizabeth I reigned during the time of the English
Tudor London
Renaissance. And it was at this particular era in England's history that many historians refer to as the "Golden Age". Elizabethan England gained much influence from the ideals and notions of the early Renaissance so after being hindered by the institution of the Catholic Church, Elizabethan theater was able to flourish. With the growing merchant class and the newly conceived notions of social mobility, Elizabethan theater was able to capitalize. However this type of social mobility expanded further beyond the realm of theater entering into the merchant class structure, even going as far to reach gender roles and constructions in terms of class and social mobility.
Queen Elizabeth
In the scholarly article, written by Mihoko Suzuki, Gender, Class, and the Social Order in Late Elizabethan Drama she discusses the social movement within class and gender as enacted in Elizabethan theater. Mihoko Suzuki argues that in the late Elizabethan era there was an increase in social mobility as well as what Suzuki calls “gender instability” and that these issues were implemented in Elizabethan theater (32). When Suzuki discusses social mobility she directly touches upon the fact that social mobility was not only moving up a hierarchy but also it was losing class titles and moving down the hierarchical system. She states that this ambivalence of social mobility caused a certain scare among nobility and those of upper class. In addition to class Suzuki situates women and gender constructs as also being in accordance with the resulted anxiety of social mobility. Mihoko Suzuki uses three specific plays which were all written in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries to prove her main argument. Suzuki states that Arden of Faversham, A Warning for Fair Women, and Twelfth Night are plays in which there was a dramatizathumbnail.jpgtion of the anxiety felt by social mobility and the anxiety felt by gender instability (32). She discusses the roles, plots of social mobility and representations of women characters in these plays to argue that the anxiety felt by late Elizabethan society were one in the same. Much of Mihoko Suzuki addresses is in direct relation to Thomas Dekker’s play The Shoemaker’s Holiday. Written and performed just at the ending of the Elizabethan era, Dekker’s The Shoemaker’s Holiday demonstrated this type of social and gender hierarchy in his dramatization of these “anxiety raising” issues. For example, social identification was determined by exterior appearances, gender roles were clearly distinct and even a relatively thought of as lowly shoemaker could move up the social class latter. The Shoemaker’s Holiday brought attention to the concept that social and gender constructions were perhaps more so based on appearances and behavior rather than birth and divine power.

Elizabethan Themes and Genres
It is called the Elizabethan era of theater because during her tenure as queen, the genre of plays had changed over time. Before the Elizabethan era, the theater had focused more on the genre of religion. Morality plays were of the most popular such as the play Everyman. Plays that focused on religion were used in an attempt to teach the audience the difference between right and wrong. However, the Elizabethan Era of theater is different because more genres were involved and the raunchier the plays were the better. The theater had become more of a bar scene where people went to let their inhibitions go freely. Three types of genres that gained significant interest by the audiences were historical plays, comedies and tragedies. Shakespeare was a huge player in the theater writing the historical plays of Richard III (1591) and Henry V (1599). He had also written the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. Although the time period varies, it was written in the mid 1590’s. A comedy that we dealt with was The Shoemakers Holiday that was written by Thomas Dekker. Because of the Elizabethan era, plays in the theater had evolved to many types of genres that would suit different audiences.

Elizabethan Drama
Elizabethan Drama

Elizabethan Fashion
Theater costumes during the Elizabethan era was similar to that of the upper and middle class. According to an article called Elizabethan Era Clothing, the clothes worn during this era were influenced by geometric shapes rather than the shapes of the body. For example, padding was used to emphasis the shoulders and the hips. Thus, clothes were worn in a layered effect to achieve this type of look. Sometimes servants were even needed to help assist them when getting ready. Fashion was designed to give the impression of a small waist. Clothing during this era was reflected on class. The articles of clothing a person was wearing provided others with information about that persons status. It was also reflective of the sumptuary laws. According to Wikipedia, "The word sumptuary

comes from the Latin word which means expenditure. Sumptuary Laws were imposed by rulers to curb the expenditure of the people! Such laws might apply to food, beverages, furniture, jewelry and clothing. These laws were used to control behavior and ensure that a specific class structure was maintained." Sumputary Laws were of huge importance and people who did not follow these laws faced penalties. Some of these penalties for violating
Elizabethan Clothing
these laws "could be harsh-fines, the loss of property, title and even life! (Wikipedia). This is because clothing truly provided a way of knowing who was who. These laws provided strict guidelines of what they could and could not wear and it helped maintain the class system. Whether an individual was high class or middle class they were not allowed to wear whatever they liked. Under these laws royalty or individuals with higher status wore clothes "trimmed with ermine, while nobels wore clothes that were trimmed with fox."


The types of fabrics worn between each class had huge differences as well. Upper class people wore expensive clothing made of stain, furs, silk and cotton. They also used dye on their clothings to show bright and rich colors. Although their clothing was made out of these nice, rich, and bright fabrics, their clothing was often very uncomfortable for them. The clothing would usually be very tight in order to achieve this certain type of look, while peasants wore more loose fitting/comfortable clothing. A majority of womens attire consisted of a layered effect that included: smok, stockings, petticoat, gown, separate sleeves, ruffs, shoes, and a hat. Usually men's attire consisted of a layered effect that included: shirt, stocking, codpiece, corset, separate sleeves, breeches, belt. shoes and hat. However, many more articles of clothing was often worn.

In the play The Shoemaker's Holiday, Thomas Dekker presents us with a play depicting a fantasy of middle-class life. Thus, I believe that the costumes of the performers in the play is of huge importance. By showing upper class individuals such as Lincoln and Lacy with more expensive and elaborate costumes will help show the differences between the classes. This play is all about social class. It is one of the main reasons why Lincoln and Oatly do not want Lacy to marry Rose. They recognize the differences in their social class. Therefore, by portraying individuals in costumes according to their social class it will not only help distinguish the social differences between the two classes but will also help deliver the message that Dekker intended.

Theater Props
During the Elizabethan Period and the beginning of the Jacobean Period, theater was brought to life through the use of sets and props. In order to achieve an effective performance, the stage had to be visible. Props were utilized to make the action believable to the audiences. According to the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, a prop is “an object used by the actors performing in a play or film.” The props used during these periods were nothing similar to what we see in today’s plays and movies. Performers during the Elizabethan and Jacobean Period had to use the resources they had to make their plays real. For example, curtains were used to let the audience know of intermissions. If curtains were not present, performers had to do a “momentary blackout”. This meant turning off lighting tools if any. The curtains and the “momentary blackout” were used to let audiences know that there was a break in the play. Today we still use these techniques, in films however audiences are easily transported to another scene in an instant through a much faster “momentary blackout”. Performers during this era used several real objects as props and several non-real objimages4.jpgects. Some real objects they utilized were tables, beds, and chairs. Such objects were used as “a throne on the stage”. The use of fabricated materials was essential. These materials were specially created props for any play. These included: removable beards, trees, cages, alters, swords, clothes specifically for the play, etc. It was through all of these materials that audiences could comprehend plays without much effort. Performers had to make their plays as "realistic as possible".


Elizabethan Hair and Make-up

Hair and make up during the Elizabethan era ranged from moderate to extreme. Numerous hair and make up styles were geared towards Queen Elizabeth, an avid trend setter. Both men and women would strive to emulate the physical elegance of Queen Elizabeth, sometimes resulting in death. Cosmetics and hair was a common feature on stage, but the spectrum would differ depending on the actor and the importance of their character. male_hair_lt_per._1Men’s hair style varied and revolutionized itself as the Elizabethan period progressed. Men’s hair style varied from a cropped bob cut to a short mass of curls. The short length of men’s hair was influenced by their “Spanish couture” costumes which were constructed with high collars (Eras of Elegance). In addition, the style of beard was determined by costumes as well. “The beards could be cut in various styles including pointed, square, round, or omakeup101_1.jpgblong,” (del Prado). Adhesives such as starch and gum were used to keep the beard in place, not always the most sanitary material. Wigs were used for costume effect or if the male actor was bald. Wig color was typically blond or white. In accordance with class status, wigs signified wealth and riches. However, if a wig was used for a comedic character, his wig would be outrageously staged for a humorous effect. Mustaches were applied as well and typically followed the same guidelines as wigs.
Often times, make up worn by actors was hazardous and deadly. Procedures of make up focused on skin whitening, hair coloring, and other cosmetic adornments (Drew-Bear). According to Drew-Bear, "Ceruse was one of the more common ingredients which was made of white lead and vinegar a hazardous mixture in itself." The best cosmetics were known to come from Venice, Italy and were in popular demand. Male actors, who portrayed women, were most at risk because of the heavy make up that was applied as a means of transformation. Corrosive chemicals are used on both the face and body, resulting in chemical burns and scarring. “Cosmetics, according to this model, carry in them the seeds of their own destruction: like sirens, their seductive promises of beauty mask an underlying ugliness and death” (Pollard). Class identity and social mobility according to Pollard, "can infiltrate the system as well contaminate as system in regards to the pretense of appearing to be someone else" (24). In respects to religion, make up was viewed as another pretense and concealment of truth and physical appearance. In addition, make up worn by women was viewed as an opportunity for contradictory practices from the church and behavior as an opening for promiscuous and adulterous behavior (Karim-Cooper). In correlation to this, make up was viewed as a form of tainting one’s soul and internal corruption (Pollard).
Karah Karim-Cooper delves into the issue and the prevalence of cosmetics is Renaissance Drama. Karim-Cooper believes that perhaps cosmetics were influenced by society and culture at the time. Make-up was viewed as a re-creating of the exterior of oneself, something which could create a sense of social mobility. Karim-Cooper also states, “populari[zed] by the stage, the cosmetic materials, language and face painting scenes enraptured audiences” (32). She describes the “beautification” of women in plays and how cosmetics have a role both in the play and in society. Toward the end Karim-Cooper bring to attention the argument of religion and how make-up interferes, influences, and creates anxieties in those aspects.

Sword Fighting and Acrobatics
Sword fighting the way we like it

Although contemporary theater goers enjoy more action in sword fights, Elizabethan theater attendees would not have appreciated it. Due to the fact that attendees more than likely had some sort of combat training (private dueling was still ), the goal of actors and directors was to make every fight scene as authentic as possible, otherwise the attendees would know it wasn't real. Typically fight scenes were performed with either a rapier or the broadsword.

Such as this


The main project of Charles Edelman’s Brawl Ridiculous is to clarify how combat in the theater would have happened in the Elizabethan era, focusing on the fights and duels of Shakespeares’ plays. The very first point Edelman makes is that combat onstage had to appear as real as possible otherwise the audience would have known it was false and they would lose a certain “suspension of disbelief”. This was a time in which many of the audience members would have had experience with dueling and fencing, studying different fencing manuals, even attending lessons with masters. Also something not shown much in contemporary productions is that in the plays duelists would have been using a rapier and a dagger. As a result fight scenes would have depicted some of the most skilled fencers performing difficult passes at one another. However, when it came to staging any type of combat there were two different means to depict any type of battle: onstage or off. Not all stages were the same, some may only be twelve feet tall with enough room for four actors, while others could accommodate twenty or so. If a scene called for a large battle on a small stage, most of it would occur offstage with clanging of swords and shields while someone narrated the action to the audience.
In Thomas Dekker's Shoemaker's Holiday there was no need to be concerned about how good the actors were at fencing because there is no fight scene. The closest the play ever comes to any combat is in scene 18 where Rafe and his fellow shoemakers confront the conniving Hampton about his desire to marry Jane.

Possible Interpretations and Production Plans of The Shoemaker's Holiday

  1. Instead of shoemakers, a modern audience can relate to the topic of class differences trough a line of workers in restaurants. The concept of social classes can be better comprehended by audiences if set in southern California. The contrast between the two social classes would be better understood if the concept of race was present. To cast a modern The Shoemaker’s Holiday, it would be best to hire Caucasian and Hispanics. For example, Lacy can be played by Tom Cruise whereas Rose can be played by Jennifer Lopez. Interracial love would add to the drama of the play. Other important factors that can reiterate the theme of class differences and the want to maintain norms can be the use of music. Music is an aspect that can easily give audiences a feeling of different social standing. --Jose Cadena
  2. Although there are numerous interpretations to plays, I decided to take on the approach of a Shakespearean-style play. There is a class distinction which comes through in the form of costume wear and importance of characterization. Set in present day, this would help readers relate and connect to the play in a more modern setting, while still conveying the purpose of the play. Both make up and hair would be somewhat minimalist , yet costumes would abide the Shakespearean aspect which would help provide the aesthetics of social class and its distinction.--Jazmin Colin
  3. As opposed to keeping the traditional location of England I see my play taking place in modern day Mexico, preferably a border city like Tijuana which is as busy as London would have been. As opposed to having my actors portray shoemakers I would have them changed to the noble trade of the taquero, otherwise known as the taco vendor. In order to maintain the class structure Simon Eyre would be the owner of multiple carts which his apprentices operate; Sir Oately would be a grocer as he is in the play while the Earl of Lincoln is a wealthy land owning alfalfa farmer. There would have to be a massive overhaul on the language not only to make it fit the era but also the locale . It would be a mix of English-Spanish and contain a lot of slang in order to maintain the bawdy references of the original play. --Noel Zavala
A possible production of The Shoemaker's Holiday is by emphasing class differences. I truly believe Dekker intended to show that middle class individuals run this play. I would thus show class differences through costumes. However, I feel that I would use more modern costumes as opposed to the standard Elizabethan fashion according tot he stumtuary laws. I would also put an emphasis on the shoes. There would be various different types of shoes throughout the different scenes in the production. I believe this would show that these two classes cannot escape each other, even when they try.---
Krystle Marshall

5. If I had the opportunity to put a new twist on the Shoemakers Holiday, I would like it to involve the fans of two rival sports teams. To incorporate the difference in class, I would pick the fans of the San Diego Chargers being the upper class, while fans of the Oakland Raiders would be the lower class. It would take place in the parking lot after a game because this is when emotions are at their highest. It would still have the resemblance of how Thomas Dekker wanted social classes to be addressed.

Steven Di Stefano
  1. For a new twist on the production of The Shoemaker's Holiday, my performance production would be based upon my interpretation of strong female characters. Characters, settings and themes will all be centered around the female roles and in doing so I hope to portray these women characters as fierce and defiant rather than a subservient role, which is often depicted. My production will take place in the WWII era and at this particular point in time especially because women were joining the labor force in record numbers. The production plan will primarily be based upon the women who played Major League baseball in the United States.-- Sophia Rivera

The Shoemaker's Holiday : Scene Eighteen

Our chosen production plan was centered around humor, sword fighting and also class structure and how this was portrayed through costume, props and appearance in The Shoemaker's Holiday.

Works Cited

Alchin, Linda. "Elizabethan Era Clothing"27. Oct. 2008

Barfield, Lesley. “Hairstyles of the Elizabethan Period.” Google . 12 Nov. 2008 ?

Burris, Barbara. Baker, John. ""Shakespeare Matters." Costume Dating. 18 Oct. 2008.

“Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary”. Definition for: Props. 2008

Charney, Maurice. "Painted Faced on the Renaissance Stage: The Moral Significance of Face-Painting Conventions."Renaissance Quarterly 50.1 (1997): 275-276. Research Library Core . ProQuest. 5 Oct. 2008 < ? >

Edelman, Charles. Brawl Ridiculous: Swordfighting in Shakespeare’s Plays. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1992.

“Elizabethan England.” Shakespeare’s England 12 Nov. 2008 < ? >

“Elizabethan Hair Styles.” Elizabethan Hair Styles . 12 Nov. 2008 < ?>

"English Renaissance theatre." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 8 Nov 2008, 04:10 UTC. 14 Nov 2008 <>.

Kalas, Rayna. "Staged Properties in Early Modern English Drama." Shakespeare Studies 32 (2004): 377.

Phillippy Patricia. "Cosmetics in Shakespearean and Renaissance Drama. " Comparative Drama 41.3 (2007): 389-392. Research Library Core. ProQuest. 10 Nov. 2008 <>

"Queen Elizabeth." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Reynolds, George F. "What a Theatre for Shakespeare Should Be." Shakespeare Quarterly 1 (1950): 12-17.

"Sumptuary Law." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 12 Nov. 2008.

Suzuki, Mihoko. "Gender, Class and the Social Order in Late Elizabethan Drama." Theatre Journal 44(1992): 31-45