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English theater companies were in existence (beginning in the 1570s) before Elizabeth I came to the throne, but they flourished under her reign. There were various companies based on the outskirts of London (theaters within the city were banned due to the plague) who performed in the outdoor and partially-enclosed theaters. Highly popular with all classes of the citizenry, the theaters allowed for different sections depending upon the cost the patron wished to pay. The largest theaters could hold as many as 10,000 spectators, though a crowd of 3000 was considered large, and the poorest attendants could enter for only one penny; between 1580 and 1640, this price remained constant at most venues, while private theaters charged at least five times the price of the larger public theaters. Plays were presented during the afternoon, since there was no appropriate lighting after dark. Men and women attended the shows, and it was considered the height of social interaction and activity. Food, drink and trade goods were often sold, though there were no facilities for public toilets. Actors played both male and female parts (women were not allowed to act onstage), and they were considered a lowly group of people and poorly paid. Playwrights generally received no more than 8 pounds per written play.
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