A London theatre was not as disciplined as a theatre of the modern times. The groundlings, those poor people who paid one penny to watch the play, made up the majority of the audience. These groundlings were composed of tanners, butchers, iron-workers, millers, seamen from the ships docked in the Thames, glovers, servants, shopkeepers, wigmakers, bakers, and countless other tradesmen and their families. They would keep standing throughout the play. If anyone wanted to sit, they had to pay an extra penny. If a person wanted to sit comfortably on a cushion, then he would have to pay an additional penny again.
One penny in Elizabethan times, it should be remembered, was the wage of an entire day! There were other galleries where one, if you paid more money, could sit more comfortably, and save himself from the jostling of the crowd below.
The atmosphere inside the theatre would be deafening. The groundings were more boisterous and uproarious than any modern day audience.
After all, their purpose of watching, the play was to relieve the tension and tedium of the entire day. They would shout, jostle about, be angry at each other, and get into brawls and even pickpocket the one in front. Loud and hot-tempered, they would, in all probability, refuse to calm down when the play started. It was often in the midst of such an undisciplined crowd that Shakespeare performed his plays.
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