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In part one of this three-part series, the beginnings of the theater were discussed. The Roman theater takes first prize for setting the stage for what theater looked during the 16th century.

Roman theater started the 16th century off with a strong start. The plays that were performed on the courts royalty were elaborate– they had highly structured stages, filled with music and dancing and intricate costumes. Along with precise settings, the performances were also very detailed. The term intermezzi means “intermediate pieces.” These pieces were stories that had a more complicated storyline. As the century continued on, the future was being created. The intermezzi performances and the details of the behind the scenes set the stage for opera.

Commedia dell’arte
Italy was where opera got its beginning, but Europe had a more popular genre of theater– commedia dell’arte. Commedia dell’arte is translated as comedy of the trade, which means professional actors are used. These actors would come to an area, set up their stage and perform to those passing by. This type of acting was more complicated because this meant the actors needed to know how to improvise and read the audience. While Roman and Europe were conquering the performances, London was focused on something more structured.

The theaters created before the 16th century in London were extremely notable in history but the man who got them started might be more notable. James Burbage created and named the first playhouse and he named it Theatre, rightfully so. He then created more– the Curtain and the Rose, the Swan After he passed, his sons tore down the original Theatre, used the lumber to create a new one called the Globe. With this magnificent structure of these playhouses, the English drama was influenced.

The famous writer himself started as an actor in the playhouses in London. He acted in several plays, Henry VI being one of the more popular ones, and he also wrote several plays of multiple genres. Many of Shakespeare’s plays were first seen at the Globe. At the young age of 18, he married his wife Anne Hathaway and then had his three children. Shakespeare was known for his writing skills for romance like Romeo and Juliet and his comedies such as Midsummer Night’s Dream but with the turn of the century and perhaps a shift in perspective, Shakespeare began to write some of the best tragedies such as Hamlet, Othello and King Lear. Shakespeare then passed in 1616.

The final part of this series will focus on the characters of the 17th and 18th century.