The inner stage technologies of the English Renaissance playhouse have been little studied due to the overriding assumption that they experienced little change. A crucial element in the architectural formula of these early, dedicated spaces was the Heavens, comprising a roof painted with the cosmos and a complex pulley system for suspending props and actors. Its addition necessitated other permanent features, including the upper stage or balcony and the two stage pillars—features that would fundamentally change the blocking options available in the plays of William Shakespeare and his contemporaries. In response to the limited critical conversation around the evolution of the Heavens, this essay first sketches a brief micro-history of this stage technology, and second, theorizes possible socio-economic factors that may have influenced its development. These nodes of possible influence include a boom in printed contemporaneous histories, a fad for Mediterranean plays, and the concomitant adoption of brownface stage paints. In doing so, I argue that the Heavens capitalized upon playgoers’ expanding shared knowledge of England’s place within a global history, and provided a cultural space in which to interrogate England’s changing relationship to its Mediterranean neighbors.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 193-217
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.