English French Theatre Similarities and Research Paper

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The machines were used to create vertical and horizontal movements which had not been done before. In other words, a god could be pictured using the machine as floating down onto the stage, or boats moving across it. Night or dawn could appear, or ghosts (Lawrenson 92). Most of these machine-plays were produced at the Theatre du Marais. There is a difference here, too. The French machine plays reached the public, whereas the English masques of the early century were performed mainly for royalty. Certainly the stage sets for court ballets and opera were more elaborate and special than the public designs since they were subsidized by the royal coffers.

Both English and French theatre took over the new Italian techniques for changing scenery. The French theatre abandoned triangular prisms used in conjunction with painted backdrops. At the beginning, these were painted simultaneously and dropped over or pulled back to reveal another scene (Lawrenson 85). The scenes or the built stage had all kinds of buildings: castles, fortresses, temples, palaces, mountains, prisons, gardens, terraces, tombs, forests, grottoes, town squares, landscapes, and street scenes were included. Lighting effects were used to indicate day and night, whereas in the English theatre lighting was typically done through natural light, windows, and positioning of the stage in addition to candles (see Graves). Later under the influence of Italian designers like Torelli, the use of flats and prisms allowed the scenery to change (Brockett and Hildy 197). This was the development of the flat wings that slid in grooves in the Baroque theatre. It was a "scenery changing system that differed from the angled wings and revolving wooden prisms . . . This new scenery consisted of a series of flat batten frames, covered with painted canvas and sliding sideways in grooves" (Berthold 420). Different aspects of the wings could be displayed to the audience, giving the impression of a scene change. This innovation increased the spectacle since changes in scenery appeared as if magically.

In England, the same technique of stage scenery adapted to the exhibition of scenes. Campbell says that "the shifting or changing of scenes was a spectacular device, desired because of its showy and startling possibilities" (Campbell 151). What was important was concealing the change of scenery through distraction -- lights and motion were directed elsewhere so that the change of scenery was scarcely discernible. She writes, "This method of dazzling the eyes of the spectators was evidently effective, for it was the usual method thereafter adopted by Jones for concealing a change of scene" (Campbell 173). Special effects tricks like smoke and flames coming through trap-doors on the stage, or a sea shown by shaking painted cloth, accompanied the spectacle. The use of movable scenes and machines in private rectangular theatres became common later than in France. This stage engineering served the public delight in spectacle.

The development of music is perhaps the best contrast. In England, professional singers were used rather than singing actors (actor-musicians) as in France. English playhouses employed groups of children singers (Munro 545-46). They sang consort songs accompanied by viols and lutes. There was music and dancing before, during interludes, and after the performance. Song seems to be more important than in France, and it is a style different from opera. In the plays, music was employed for weddings, funerals, military scenes, and for atmospheric music as during supernatural scenes (Munro 551). There is also a kind of stereotyped time when singing happens (as for example to show that a man is mad or in love). The boy singers sang to convey the master's emotions. The music of the masque was used to accompany and highlight dance. Brockett and Hildy write, "The major emphasis, however, was upon dance, which was performed by courtiers" (Brockett and Hildy 132). In France, courtiers would come to be separated from professional dancers, but not in England. The main dances were embedded in the masque, sometimes accompanied by children torchbearers. This trend continued in private theatres and royal halls alike. Small orchestras were employed. Incidental songs were frequent. There was a jig at the end. In addition, music tended to follow the[continue]

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