The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1833 Tuesday, 8 November 2005
Date: Friday, 4 Nov 2005 07:54:02 EST
Subject: 16.1814 Railed Stage
Comment: Re: SHK 16.1814 Railed Stage
>In his book The Open Stage (1953), Richard Southern stated that "The
>Elizabethan open stage was railed." Does anybody know of any evidence
>which may support or refute this claim?
Some "Elizabethan" stages apparently were railed. See R.A. Foakes,
*Illustrations of the English Stage* p. 72-3:
"One... of the features of the [*Roxana*] vignette that deserves
attention is the presence of stage-rails. These are referred to in
Thomas Middleton's *Black Book* (?1604), and perhaps in Shakespeare's
*Henry VIII* V.iv; there is however no mention of them in the extant
contracts for building theatres and none are shown in the de Witt
drawing of the Swan. Stage-rails are shown in the *Messalina*
frontispiece (1640) so it seems safe to conclude that they were a
familiar sight by the 1630s (a stage direction 'Sit on the Railes'
occurs in *The Hector of Germany*, printed in 1615)."
If one may generalize it seems as if stage-rails were not a feature of
[many? most? all?] public outdoor theatres [Swan; Fortune contract; Hope
contract] but were a feature of at least some private indoor theatres
[Paul's where Middleton was writing in 1604; Blackfriar's-- one of the
venues for which Henry VIII was written although it's famously
associated with the Globe fire]; Messalina which was staged at Salisbury
Court. However, Hector of Germany was acted at the public houses the Red
Bull and the Curtain, though it may have been written for another venue;
and the Messalina vignette may be based on the Roxana vignette and so
may not provide independent evidence.
So, some of them sometimes, but not all of them all the time.
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