Internet Shakespeare Editions


The staging of a morality play (2)

Richard Southern has argued that the playing area was constructed as a "ditch-and-hill" theater. In these theaters, the surrounding ring was filled with water, or another barricade, to obstruct non-paying spectators, while the paying audience was seated on a hill built just within the ring. Spectators could also sit or stand near the center and move freely around the playing area. Southern estimates that the theater was about 30 metres (126 feet) across and could accommodate an audience of a thousand or more. In addition to the center stage, scaffolds were situated around the ring to provide separate acting areas. These would have been connected to the center by walkways through the crowd.

Southern suggests that the play was probably performed by travelling professionals who would have to construct such a stage at every town on their tour. (The Medieval Theatre in the Round [London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1957].)