No drama, however great, is entirely independent of the stage on which it is given. In a great period the drama forces its stage to yield to its demands, however exacting, till that stage becomes plastic. At a time of secondary drama, plays yield to the rigidities of their stage, making life conform to the stage, not the stage to life. Consequently, just as different periods have seen different kinds of drama, they have seen different kinds of stage. In the trope the monks acted in the chancel near the high altar, to come out, as the form developed, to the space before the choir screen under the great dome of the cathedral where nave and transepts met. In that nave and in the adjoining aisles knelt or stood the rapt throng of worshipers. Forced by numbers who could not be accommodated in the cathedral and by other causes, the monks, after some generations, brought their plays out into the square in front of the cathedral. That all might see them to the best advantage they were ultimately given on raised platforms. Certainly by the time these plays passed from the hands of the churchmen to the control of the trade guilds, they were on pageant cars, a construction not unlike our floats for trade processions except that they contained two stories, the lower high enough to use for a dressing room. These pageant cars the journeymen drew, between daylight and dark, from station to station across a city like York or Chester. At each station people filled the windows of the houses, the seats built up around the sides of the square, and even the roofs. The very nature of this platform stage forbade scenery, though elaborate properties seem to have been used. By contrast, on the Continent, especially in France, constructions resembling house fronts, city gates, or walls could be freely set up on the large, fixed stage for miracle plays which was built in some great square of the city. To this one place flocked all the would-be auditors. The point to remember is that down to the building of theatres the stage meant a platform, large or small, movable or stationary, in some public place. Simply treated, as was the case when it was movable, it would have a curtain at the back, shutting off a space where costumes could be changed and where the prompter could stand: scenery was out of the question. Elaborately treated, when it was stationary, constructions suggesting houses, ships, town walls, etc., might be shown at the back or side of the stage, but they seem never to have been shifted from the beginning to the end of the performance. Such houses, walls, etc., were used when needed, but when not in use were treated as non-existent.

In the sixteenth century when playing passed from the hands of the guilds to groups of actors, the latter sought refuge from the noise and discomforts of the public square in the yards of inns. In those days galleries like the balconies of our theatres were on all four sides of such an inn yard, sometimes two and sometimes three. The players, erecting a rough platform opposite the entrance from the street, hung a curtain from the edge of the first gallery to their stage. In the room or rooms behind this they dressed. Thus they gained a front stage; a rear stage under the first gallery to be revealed when the curtain was drawn; an upper stage in the first balcony representing at will city walls, a balcony for Romeo and Juliet, or an upper room. High above all this one or more galleries rose which could be used for heavens in which gods and goddesses appeared. In the yard stood the pittites; in the side and end galleries sat the people who paid the higher prices.

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