Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy

Living Edition
| Editors: Marco Sgarbi

Theaters, Renaissance

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02848-4_1149-1


Between the disintegration of the Roman Empire and the sixteenth century, dramatic performances, provided by itinerant entertainers, took place in found spaces such as halls, inn yards, fields, and town squares. In liturgical drama, representations of biblical narratives moved out of the church into public spaces.

The Renaissance saw the introduction of the indoor theater, at first in temporary makeshift structures and later in permanent independent buildings. Italian architects studied Vitruvius and examined the remains of ancient theaters. The proscenium arch theater became the dominant model for later centuries. Theaters developed spectacular scenic effects, appealing to the senses and emphasizing perspectival vistas. From being a largely improvised and participatory experience, drama in the theater evolved into a fixed product in a fixed space, with the world of the play clearly demarcated from the audience.

At the same time, Renaissance theater in the public sphere stayed close to its popular base and drew on older traditions of stagecraft. The magnificent architecture and ingenious effects of Renaissance theater draw attention to themselves, in a striking parallel to metaphors in dramatic texts, which frequently comment on the illusory nature of the theatrical experience, and notions of reality and illusion more generally.

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Primary Reading

  1. Hewitt, Barnard, ed. 1958. The Renaissance stage: Documents of Serlio, Sabbattini and Furttenbach. Trans. Allardyce Nicoll, John H. McDowell, and George R. Kernodle. Coral Gables: University of Miami Press.Google Scholar

Secondary Reading

  1. Brockett, Oscar G., and Franklin J. Hildy, eds. 2010. History of the theatre. 10th ed. Boston: Pearson.Google Scholar
  2. Brown, John Russell. 2001. The Oxford illustrated history of theatre. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Butler, Martin. 2009. The Stuart court masque and political culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Cairns, Christopher, ed. 1996. Scenery, set and staging in the Italian renaissance: Studies in the practice of theatre. Lampeter: Edwin Mellen.Google Scholar
  5. Cairns, Christopher, ed. 1999. The renaissance theatre: Texts, performance, design. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  6. Chaffee, Judith, and Oliver Crick, eds. 2017. The Routledge companion to commedia Dell’Arte. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
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  8. Maus, Katherine E. 1995. Inwardness and theater in the English renaissance. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  9. Mulryne, J.R., and Margaret Shewring, eds. 1991. Theatre of the English and Italian renaissance. Seminar on English and Italian renaissance theatre: Papers. Basingstoke: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  10. Román, Carmen González. 2001. Spectacula: teoría, arte y escena en la Europa del Renacimiento. Málaga: University of Málaga.Google Scholar
  11. Thacker, Jonathan. 2007. A companion to golden age theatre. Woodbridge: Tamesis.Google Scholar
  12. Vince, Ronald W. 1984. Renaissance theatre: A historiographical handbook. Westport: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
  13. Wickham, Glynne. 1959-2002. Early English stages, 1300–1660. 5 vols. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  14. Wickham, Glynne. 1987. The medieval theatre. rev ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Winchester CollegeWinchesterUK

Section editors and affiliations

  • Marco Sgarbi
    • 1
  1. 1.University Ca' Foscari VeniceVeniceItaly