|An Elizabethan theater--restoration. The courtyards of London inns often served as playhouses before regular theaters were built. These inn yards furnished many suggestions for the early theaters, as the picture shows. The stage was in one end, and the open space in front served as the pit. The galleries around the sides afforded additional space for spectators.|
The plays were given in the afternoon, as artificial lighting was impossible. The occupants of the pit had the sky for roof, and had often to seek shelter from storm. There was almost total lack of scenery. For example, a painted sign alone indicated Prospero's Island in Shakespeare's Tempest.
The audience welcomed complicated plots and long monologues if these presented ideas of worth. The theater took the place of lectures, newspapers, and magazines. The plays of Ben Jonson and William Shakespeare were first given under such conditions.