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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: March ::
Q: Physical Size of Elizabethans
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0210.  Friday, 15 March 1996.

From:           Michael Swanson <
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Date:           Thursday, 14 Mar 1996 12:04:58 -0500
Subject:        Physical Size of Elizabethans

One of the reasons typically used to explain how the Globe, Rose, etc., could
have housed 200 - 3000 spectators given their relatively small (by contemporary
st.andards) is that Elizabethans were small er people, on the average, than
20th century folks.  When I mentioned this in a dramatic literature class
today, one of my students laughed and refused to believe me -- humans couldn't
have changed that much in 400 years, he said.  In response, I found the most
recent reference to this size difference that I could remember, in Iain
Mackintosh's "Architecture, Actor, and Audience" (1993). But Mackintosh cites
no source, leaving the impression that this knowledge is simply understood.  I
wonder if there is other evidence out there which theatre folk are aware of
which would give more complete support for this assertion.  I've checked
Hodges's "The Globe Restored" and "The Third Globe," and Thomson's
"Shakespeare's Theatre" and "Shakespeare's Professional Career," and find no
other reference to the size of the Elizabethans.  Can anyone help?

Michael Swanson
Chair, Fine Arts Department
Director of Theatre
Franklin College of Indiana
 

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