What might stand in the way of a woman during the Elizabethan Age who wants to see a production at the theater?
Let me begin by separating the venues: plays performed at court were by invitation of royalty; the audience was highborn, of both sexes; plays performed at the Inns of Court (basically schools for gentlemen) were also limited by class. But the public theatres, the Globe, the Curtain, the Rose, etc., were open to the public for a modest cost, and were attended by both the gentility and the low-born, the merchants and workers of London. In this atmosphere, women need only be careful of the same public menaces that were ubiquitous in any public crowd: rogues, riff-raff, etc. There were good and bad seats in these theatres, and we can assume that the more costly seats were safer for unaccompanied women, but the absence of female actors was not to be construed as an absence of women theatre-goers. While the South Bank of the Thames was not a desirable part of town, it was not necessarily dangerous for women. Remember that all performances were in daylight, the early afternoon. Secondly, there was a romantic (not Romantic) appeal of the actors, and many of the scenes, especially love scenes, depended on a female audience for their success. Violent scenes were not realistically bloody, although there were a few exceptions, and there is evidence that “bloodbags”, etc. were used. (But in the Jacobean and Carolinian eras they became more and more bloody and graphic, with real sheep’s hearts, for example, in John Ford’s ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore.)