Exploring the Various Jobs That Groundlings Performed

Have you ever wondered what people did for a living during Shakespeare’s time? One group of people that often comes to mind are the groundlings. These were the commoners who attended performances at the Globe Theatre and stood in the yard in front of the stage. But what did they do for work when they weren’t watching plays?

Groundlings came from all sorts of backgrounds and had a variety of occupations. Some were craftsmen, working as carpenters, blacksmiths, or tailors. Others worked in the service industry, as cooks, innkeepers, or merchants. Many of them were laborers, working in fields or factories. Some even pursued careers in the arts, as musicians or actors themselves.

Despite coming from diverse backgrounds, the groundlings all had one thing in common: a love for the theatre. Though they may have spent long hours working hard in their various trades, they eagerly awaited the opportunity to see a new play at the Globe. For them, it was a chance to escape reality for a few hours and be transported to a world of drama, poetry, and laughter.

Definition of Groundlings

During Shakespeare’s time, Groundlings referred to the audience who stood in the open yard of the Globe Theatre. These people preferred to save money by paying just a penny for entry, to watch the plays performed in front of them. The term “groundlings” comes from their habit of standing on the ground throughout the performance. They were the commoners, and people from all walks of life, including apprentices, servants, and tradespeople, who could not afford seats in the galleries. Shakespeare’s plays were written and performed to appeal to both the gentry seated in the galleries and the groundlings standing on the open yard floor.

Theater industry during the Renaissance era

The theater industry during the Renaissance era was in its prime and thriving. The emergence of the first public theaters in the mid-16th century in London gave birth to a new form of entertainment that became the center of cultural life for the people during this era. London’s first public theater was built in 1576, known as The Theatre, which was soon followed by others like The Globe and The Rose.

What jobs did groundlings do?

  • Groundlings: The groundlings were the people who stood in front of the stage. They were also known as the ‘stinkards’ or the ‘ground-haunters.’ They paid only a penny for a ticket and stood for the entire play. The groundlings were the rowdiest and noisiest members of the audience. They were the ones who interacted with the actors on stage, heckling them, cheering them, or throwing rotten food at them. Groundlings had no assigned seating and they had to arrive early to grab the best spot.
  • Actors: The actors of the Renaissance era were mainly men who played both male and female roles. Acting was not viewed as a respectable profession in those times, and female actors were considered no better than prostitutes. However, some actresses did perform on stage but were not celebrated like their male counterparts.
  • Theater Managers: The theater managers were known as the sharers, who were also shareholders in the theater. They were responsible for choosing the plays, casting the actors, setting the stage, and everything else related to running the theater.

The role of the church in the theater industry during Renaissance era

One of the significant factors that shaped the theater industry during the Renaissance era was the church’s influence. The church did not approve of theater and believed it corrupted the morals of people. However, it did allow morality plays, which were performed mainly during religious festivals. These plays were about the struggle between good and evil and had a religious message embedded in them. Eventually, secular plays became more popular, and the church’s influence on the theater industry declined.

The impact of the Renaissance era on the theater industry

The Renaissance era was a crucial time for the theater industry as it marked the beginning of a new form of entertainment. The emergence of public theaters gave people access to plays and performances that were previously only available to the wealthy. The theater industry also changed the way people thought about art and culture. The plays performed during this time dealt with subjects like love, passion, revenge, and tragedy, which were relatable to people of all classes. The Renaissance era laid the foundation for modern-day theater and continues to influence it in many ways.

Popular plays during the Renaissance era Playwrights
The Merchant of Venice William Shakespeare
Romeo and Juliet William Shakespeare
Doctor Faustus Christopher Marlowe
The Spanish Tragedy Thomas Kyd

The plays written during the Renaissance era continue to be performed and adapted today, proving the enduring significance of this period in theater history.

Characteristics of the Globe Theatre

The Globe Theatre was one of the most famous playhouses in the world during the 16th and 17th centuries. It was a circular, open-air theatre in London that could accommodate up to 3,000 spectators. Here are some of the characteristics that made the Globe Theatre unique:

  • Thrust stage: The stage extended into the center of the circular audience, allowing for more intimate performances
  • Minimal scenery: There were no elaborate sets, and scenery was limited to a few props and a painted backdrop
  • Open roof: The open-air design allowed for natural lighting during performances, and also made the theatre accessible for performances in the daytime

The Globe Theatre was an entertainment hub during the Elizabethan era and employed many people to keep the productions running smoothly. Here are some of the jobs that were available to the groundlings:

Job Title Description
Actor Performed on stage and rehearsed lines with fellow actors
Playwright Wrote plays and worked with actors to bring the plays to life on stage
Costume Maker Designed and created costumes for actors to wear during the performances
Prop Master Managed the props and set pieces used during performances
Musician Provided live music during performances, playing instruments such as the lute or violin
Groundling Stood in the courtyard, watching the performances and interacting with actors during the show

Despite its popularity, the Globe Theatre faced many challenges during its existence, including closures due to the bubonic plague and a fire that destroyed the original building. However, its legacy lives on through the plays that were performed within its walls and the countless people who were employed by its productions.

The Role of Groundlings in Theatre

The term “groundlings” originally referred to the poorer members of the audience who stood in the open yard of a theatre during a performance. However, over time, the term came to be associated with a specific type of performer who played a crucial role in theatrical productions during the Elizabethan era.

Groundlings were actors who performed on the ground, rather than on a raised stage. They were often apprentices to the more experienced members of the company and were responsible for playing minor roles, filling out crowd scenes, and providing necessary sound effects. While they were not as highly regarded as the leading actors of the company, groundlings were still an essential part of any successful production.

Here are four specific ways in which groundlings contributed to theatrical performances:

  • Crowd scenes: Groundlings were often used to create a sense of realism in crowd scenes. By filling the stage with people, they could simulate bustling city streets, crowded marketplaces, or cheering crowds at a sporting event.
  • Sound effects: Groundlings were responsible for creating many of the sound effects used in a production. They might clap their hands to create the sound of thunder, or stomp their feet to imitate the sound of horses galloping.
  • Minor roles: While the leading actors of a company were responsible for the major roles in a production, groundlings would often be called upon to play minor characters. They might need to bring a tray of food on stage, deliver a message to a main character, or provide comic relief.
  • Chorus: In many productions, groundlings would be called upon to perform as a chorus. They might recite a poem, sing a song, or provide commentary on the action of the play.

The Global Reach of Groundlings

Groundlings were not unique to the Elizabethan era, and similar performers could be found in other parts of the world, performing in a variety of different cultural contexts. For example:

In Japan, there is a long history of “haya-kabuki” performances, which feature ground-level acting on a bare stage. The performers, known as “kuroko,” wear black clothing and perform many of the same functions as groundlings in Elizabethan theatre.

In Indonesia, “wong cilik” (which translates to “little people”) are performers who specialize in physical theater. They might stand on stilts or wear elaborate masks to create larger-than-life characters.

Location Name Job Description
England Groundlings Performers who played minor roles, filled out crowd scenes, and provided sound effects
Japan Kuroko Performers in haya-kabuki performances who wear black clothing and perform ground-level acting
Indonesia Wong Cilik Performers who specialize in physical theater and might stand on stilts or wear elaborate masks

While the specific roles and functions of groundlings may have varied from place to place and time to time, their importance as a vital part of theatrical productions remains a constant. Without the energy, enthusiasm, and talent of groundlings, theatre would not be the rich, diverse, and impactful art form that it is today.

Jobs available for Groundlings

As an aspiring actor or artist in Elizabethan England, it was not easy to make a living. However, if you were a member of the groundlings, there were several jobs available to you. These included:

  • Actor: Groundlings who showed talent as actors could join a theater company and perform on stage.
  • Playwright: Some groundlings had a knack for writing and could pen their own plays.
  • Costume Designer: Creating costumes for stage productions was a vital role in the theater, and groundlings with sewing skills were in demand.
  • Musician: Live music was an essential part of performances, and groundlings who could sing or play an instrument could join a company as a musician.
  • Stagehand: There was always a need for people to help with set construction, moving props and set pieces, and other backstage duties.

Additionally, being a groundling meant you had the opportunity to make a bit of money on the side. Many groundlings sold refreshments like ale, nuts, and apples to other audience members during performances. Some even offered to hold coats for a fee. It may not have been lucrative work, but it helped supplement their income.

Here is a table that shows the estimated wages for groundlings who worked in various roles in a theater company:

Role Wages per week
Actor £1 – £2
Playwright £2 – £3
Costume Designer £1 – £1.50
Musician £1.50 – £2.50
Stagehand £0.50 – £1

While the wages may seem low by today’s standards, they were decent for the time. The groundlings may not have had the social status of the upper-class theater-goers, but they had opportunities to make a living doing what they loved.

Typical day of a Groundling

Groundlings performed a variety of jobs during Shakespearean times, including some that were quite unusual by today’s standards. Here is a breakdown of what an average day might look like for a Groundling:

  • Wake up before dawn to attend morning church service
  • Head to the market to purchase fresh produce, meat, and other necessary items for the day
  • Return home to prepare breakfast for the family
  • Depending on their specific job, they may spend the morning working in fields, shops, or other trades
  • Attend afternoon performances at the Globe Theatre, standing in the pit for several hours to watch the plays
  • After the play, visit a local tavern to socialize with friends and colleagues over food and drink
  • Return home to prepare dinner and tend to household chores before going to bed and starting the routine all over again the next day.

It’s important to note that Groundlings were not a homogenous group of people with identical lifestyles. Their specific daily routine would depend on their individual jobs, social status, and family obligations. However, attending at least one or two plays at the Globe Theatre each week was a common pastime for many people in Shakespearean England, regardless of their other responsibilities.

Here is a table outlining some of the common jobs held by Groundlings during this time:

Job Title Description
Farmer Tilled land, planted crops, and cared for livestock
Apprentice Learnt a trade, such as carpentry, blacksmithing, or shoemaking from a skilled artisan
Mercer Traded in textiles, often specializing in silk or other luxury fabrics
Barber-Surgeon Provided haircuts, shaves, and basic medical care
Actor Performed in plays at the Globe Theatre or other venues

Overall, the life of a Groundling was one of varied activities and hard work. But attending the theatre was a popular form of recreation, and the chance to see some of the greatest plays ever written by Shakespeare and his contemporaries was a highlight of their week.

Influence of Groundlings on Shakespearean Plays

The term “groundlings” referred to the lower class audience members who stood in the pit of the Elizabethan theaters during Shakespeare’s time. These members were the majority of theater-goers and had a significant impact on the plays of Shakespeare.

  • 1. Influence on Dialogue: Shakespeare’s plays included a lot of puns and wordplay, which was often targeted towards the groundlings. Since they were the ones who made up the majority of the audience, it was important for Shakespeare to keep them engaged through witty and humorous lines.
  • 2. Influence on Themes: The groundlings were drawn to themes of violence, sex, and corruption, which is why many of Shakespeare’s plays included these elements. It was important for Shakespeare to cater to the interests of his audience to ensure that his plays were successful.
  • 3. Influence on Atmosphere: Groundlings added to the lively atmosphere of the Elizabethan theater. Their reactions, such as cheering or jeering, could affect the mood of the entire audience and even influence the actors.

The groundlings also gave Shakespeare the opportunity to experiment with different forms of writing. According to some scholars, the groundlings were especially receptive to the supernatural elements in Shakespeare’s plays, which allowed him to explore themes beyond the boundaries of reality.

While Shakespeare’s plays have been beloved by audiences for centuries, it’s important to remember the significant role that the groundlings played in their creation and reception.

Below is a table that shows the pricing of tickets for theater-goers during the Elizabethan era, including the groundlings:

Type of Ticket Price
Gentlemen’s Rooms 6 pence
Lord’s Rooms 10 pence
Gallery Seating 1 shilling
Standing Room (Groundlings) 1 penny

As you can see, groundlings were the most affordable option for theater-goers, making up the majority of the audience and therefore, having the most significant impact on the plays performed.

What Jobs Did Groundlings Do?

1. What were groundlings?
Groundlings were people who stood in the open yard of a theater, as opposed to sitting in the galleries or boxes.

2. What were the jobs of groundlings?
Groundlings usually had manual jobs, such as craftsmen, laborers, apprentices, and domestic servants.

3. Why did groundlings go to the theater?
Groundlings went to the theater to watch plays and enjoy entertainment, which was a popular pastime in Elizabethan England.

4. How did groundlings afford to go to the theater?
Groundlings paid one penny to stand in the yard, which made theater accessible to many people who could not afford more expensive seats.

5. What did groundlings eat and drink at the theater?
Groundlings typically brought food and drink from home, such as bread, cheese, fruit, and ale, which they consumed during the performance.

6. How did groundlings react to the plays?
Groundlings were a lively audience and interacted with the actors by cheering, jeering, booing, and throwing objects.

7. What was the experience of being a groundling like?
Being a groundling was a sensory experience, where one could see, hear, smell, and feel the performance and the crowd.

Closing Thoughts

Thanks for taking the time to read about the jobs of groundlings in Elizabethan theater. Despite their low social status, groundlings played an important role in shaping the cultural and artistic heritage of England. If you want to learn more about history and culture, visit us again for more articles.