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Costumes on the Elizabethan Stage

  • Date Submitted: 01/03/2011 11:16 AM
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Alex Nahas
Mrs. James
English IIC
22 February 2010
Costumes on the Elizabethan Stage
The clothing we wear affects our attitudes and characteristics in our everyday life. In a drama, costumes can explain the characters and be a viewing pleasure for the audience. In Elizabethan drama, the costumes illustrated the setting of the play by adding sophistication and glamour; the social class by separating the rich and the poor, and the personality to express individualism for each character on stage.
In Shakespeare’s day, the costumes had a direct effect on how the costumes were being used to illustrate the setting. Costumes on the Elizabeth stage had to follow The English Sumptuary Law of 1574 (The Statues of Apparel) which stated the following: “…servant from wearing nay cognizance of his master, or henchmen, heralds, pursuivants at arms; runners at jousts, tourneys, or such martial feats, and such as wear apparel given them by the Queen…” (Alchin). During the age of Shakespeare “The English dress…reflected the vitality and the high points of the period” (“Costumes and Sets in Shakespearean Theatre”). The costumes on the Elizabethan stage had classy, gorgeous, and elaborate styles to them. These three particular styles were mainly used for the upper social class; these three styles had more beading, sequence, and more designs to them to appeal more to the audience. These styles were used to reflect the time during the play the actors and actresses were performing in and the costumes from Shakespeare’s day influenced the production of the plays.
The costumes on the Elizabethan stage showcased personality to express individualism and gender for each character that was on stage. In Elizabethan drama, the costumes were used to express the characters personality by their outfit. In Shakespeare’s time, many of the women’s roles in plays were played by men and since many of the roles were played by men the makeup had to look like a women and the costumes had to fit...


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