Internet Shakespeare Editions


A puritan's view of the audience

Reduced from the image on the site,
The History of Costume.

One (biased) account of the Elizabethan audience is recorded by Stephen Gosson*, a puritan who wrote an attack upon writers, poets, and, above all, dramatists. At plays (he writes) there were the most awful goings-on:

In our assemblies at plays in London, you shall see such heaving, and shoving, such itching and shouldering to sit by women; such care for their garments, that they be not trod on; such eyes to their laps, that no chips light in them; such pillows to their backs, that they take no hurt; such masking in their ears, I know not what; such giving them pippins [apples] to pass the time. . . such ticking, such toying, such smiling, such winking, and such manning them home, when the sports are ended, that it is a right comedy to mark their behaviour.

Whispering through masks--the masks worn to preserve anonymity.
Escorting, with a pun on manning in the sense of managing (compare "manning" a ship).

And the attack continues. . .


  1. Stephen Gosson

    In The School of Abuse (1579). Gosson had earlier been a poet, playwright, and probably a player as well. He later took Holy Orders and became rector of the church of St. Botolph's in Bishopsgate, London.