Everybody! Just like today, theatre tickets cost different amounts depending on where you sat. Merchants could buy stools in boxes next to the stage, which were expensive but not too flashy. Nobles bought seats on the stage because they could be seen by the whole audience. They went to the theatre to show off their clothes and be admired by the lower classes.
A seat in the gallery on the first or second floor cost two or three pennies, and for a penny more you could have a cushion. Even poor people could afford to go to the theatre – a standing ticket in front of the stage cost just one penny. People who stood were called ‘groundlings’. Hamlet refers to them when he’s complaining about actors who ‘split the ears of groundlings’ by shouting too loudly.
The only person who did not go to the theatre was Queen Elizabeth I herself – but she loved plays too. She ordered plays to be written and commanded special performances at court. Twelfth Night was commissioned by the Queen – to be performed as part of the celebration of the Twelfth Night after Christmas, which was the end of the Christmas celebrations. This timing is the only reason for the play’s name – it has nothing to do with what happens in it!
Did you know?