In approximately 1598, William Shakespeare wrote a comedy about magic, mystery, mischief and, above all else- love.
The play was "A Midsummer Nights Dream" and is the text I have been prescribed to do my specialist study on. I have chosen to study the aspect of design, and to focus on set, costume, and make up.
However, before designing anything, I had to carry out extensive research into the social, historical and theatrical context in which the play was written, and how this would relate to any modern day design concepts.
England in 1598 was under the reign of Queen Elizabeth the first. Religiously, the country was changing- although QE1 did not ban Catholicism, she aspired for it to "die out naturally". This, however, caused fellow Catholic countries, such as France and Spain, to turn their backs on England, which inevitably led to war and a huge tax rise for the English. The country was not only at an economic low, but the great plague had just stuck, leaving behind it hundreds of deaths.
Theatre however was on its way to becoming a well respected art form. It was at a stage between a seedy, underworld career, to something all, including royalty, could enjoy.
This had led to most companies acquiring a patron- a royal/lord- who would not offer financial support, but would protect the company from trouble from the law.
This created the chance for companies to perform in great halls, such as Hampton Court, where "The Chamberlains Men" (Shakespeares" company, who were under patronage form the king and his court), performed Shakespeares" work.
Most theatre, however, did not take place in these great halls. It would take place in large, open air theatres, which would hold up to 2500 people. Although this was a huge audience, the apron/thrust staging of these spaces created an intimacy, especially when the actors delivered soliloquies or monologues, as they could seem to be speaking right to the audience.