The people who stood in front of the stage to watch the plays were called __________.This is a question on my research project for theater arts & I cannot find it on any site! If anyone knows...

The people who stood in front of the stage to watch the plays were called __________.

This is a question on my research project for theater arts & I cannot find it on any site!

If anyone knows the answer i'd greatly appreciate it.

2 Answers | Add Yours

MaudlinStreet's profile pic

Posted on

The people who stood in front of the stage were called "Groundlings" during the Elizabethan era, & the name has carried through the centuries. The name derives from the fact that the patrons stood on the ground, rather than sitting in the seats of the balcony.

People who sat in the balcony were typically upper-class members of society who could afford to keep dry & clean while watching the play. The groundlings paid a penny to stand in "The Pit", also called "The Yard", just below the stage and watch the play. Standing in the pit was uncomfortable, and most times people were packed like sardines, keeping each other standing. Also, they were exposed to the elements, as the theatre itself was not covered.

Shakespeare used the term in Hamlet; the title character uses it as a derogatory label for the poorer members of the theatre audience. Also, a very popular LA-based improv group has been using the name for about 35 years, carrying on the classic theatre tradition.

pohnpei397's profile pic

Posted on

The term you are looking for here is "groundlings."

The groundlings were the poorest people, such as apprentices, who could afford to go to the theater.  They could not afford to pay for seats, so they stood in the pit in front of the stage.

The area in which these people stood would have been very dirty and uncomfortable so it would not have been a lot of fun for anyone who could afford better.

Because this was the lower class area, it would also have been the scene of a lot of activity, like gambling, that you don't really associate with Shakespearean plays, which we now think of as really high class.

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