How did the audience behave at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre? Were they noisy, quiet, or disciplined?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Just as there existed a social stratum in Elizabethan society, so, too, did a social arrangement exist within the Globe Theatre.  As you know, the theatre had no roof and was arranged as an open courtyard with this end for the entry and exit of audiences.  The audience was made up of individuals from every walk of life. 

On the ground, the poorer, lower class audience stood as they could not afford seating; they came to be known as the Groundlings or Stinkards.  This group, who paid a penny by dropping it into a box (hence, "Box Office"), was rowdy, bawdy, and often known to throw things at the players who did not meet their approval. They thrived on the fight scenes, the sexual innuendos, and the puns and bawdy jokes of minor characters.  The well-to-do customers sat in covered galleries around the stage. They enjoyed the music of good language as did even the groundlings, delighting in puns and word games by the players.  They, too, were vigorous in their applause and approval, but not as rowdy as the Groundlings. While the upper classes enjoyed all these things, they especially loved and responded to the dignity and grandeur of poetry.  In most of his plays, therefore, Shakespeare satisfied all classes as he employed vigorous action, boisterous humor, and splendid poetry.