Question:

Actors in Shakespearean and Elizabethan times.

by Guest4406  |  earlier

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Hi, I am a year 10 drama student and i have an assignment regarding Actors during Shakespearean times. I was wondering what would be the daily function/procedure of an apprentice actor in the early 1600s? Thank you so much for your help!!!

 Tags: actors, elizabethan, Shakespearean, times

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  1. Guest23269002

    Hi Bianca,

    Actually, \"apprentice\" is a somewhat misleading term when it is applied to actors in Elizabethan times. The Statute of Apprentices, a 1563 law that officially established the rules for Apprenticeship, excluded those in the households of the nobility and gentry, which included actors (who were considered to be part of the household of whoever their patron was).

    However, there were, in effect, apprentices in the Elizabethan/Jacobean actor’s world. Although apprenticeship was not a necessary qualification for becoming an actor, few actors that we have record of became one without undergoing an apprenticeship. A boy might be apprenticed in his early to mid teens for two or three years to an actor-sharer (an actor who was a major partner in an acting company) who maintained him in his household and taught him the art of acting. These boys could be bought and sold, between actors, and could be hired to the acting companies themselves to do work for them as well.

    The actors who took the boy apprentices into their homes were married men with families, often large ones. Letters of the time indicated generally a happy and efficient schooling, and many of the boys climbed or were propelled up the ladder by their mentors to mature as capable players. We do know that these apprentices were not their master's household servants. They were there to learn a trade and their days were spent at the playhouse or on tour learning the skills of acting and the way play production worked.

    The training was exacting. A book of the time (1616) laid down the prerequisites for a capable actor: dancing, activity, music, singing, elocution, a good memory, skill in handling weapons and 'pregnancy of wit'. Unlike the boy actors who were in the Children's Companies (and played all sorts of parts), the apprentices to the actors of the Men's Companies were in a different class. They worked to learn the art of acting and eventually were allowed to play women's roles until their voices changed, at which time they might graduate to full male roles.

    These apprentices did not get much public attention. Since there are few records and documents of the day, other than the occasional letter (which scarcely mentioned apprentices) and financial documents (which would not have included anything about them other than expenses for their hire), there is little known of their actual daily activities. Their days were likely spent memorizing, learning swordsmanship, practicing elocution and the skills of vocal stage work. Apprentices learned on the job, playing minor roles in which they were coached by their masters, learning to fence, dance, play instruments. Additional duties might have included making themselves useful on tour - packing and unpacking the cart with props and costumes, setting out benches for performances, helping their masters with their changes and refreshments and helping in other ways. Basically they were there to learn the art and craft of acting and that's what their day would consist of.
     

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