Both public and private theatres were open to anyone who could pay. However, the indoor/private theatres were more expensive than outdoor/public playhouses. Therefore, the audience of private theatres was wealthier. Public playhouses were bigger than private ones and could provide 2-3,000 people with the seats.
Private theatres were roofed, and the performances could be conducted in winter. Meanwhile, public playhouses were used during the warm months. However, the stage was roofed.
The stages looked similar in both theatres. The stage was surrounded by the audience on three sides. Such closeness between the actors and the audience created an interactive relationship. However, the audience of private theatres was more restrained because of the social status.
There were three well-known public theatres: the Globe, the Swan and the Fortune. The New Blackfriar’s was a famous private playhouse.
During the Elizabethan era, one of the most prominent playwrights was Shakespeare. Shakespeare and his acting company performed in the Globe theatre and private playhouses. The acting companies functioned under the sponsorship either of a well-known member of the nobility or a member of the royal family. Shakespeare’s company was under the patronage of Lord Hunsdon and later under the protection of his son. That acting company was called ‘Lord Chamberlain’s Men’ because Lord Hunsdon held the office of Lord Chamberlain in the court. Later, Shakespeare’s company was taken under the royal patronage. King James I became their sponsor. Therefore, the name of the company was changed to ‘the King’s Men.’
In the company, each actor focused upon a certain type of role. For example, one actor could play the comic characters only, and another one played the leading tragic characters. Shakespeare wrote his plays according to the talent of a certain performer. Only boys and men could become the actors in the companies. The apprentices played the roles of children and women.