Spaces of Performance: Shakespeare’s Playhouse Inside Out



It is a truism that plays were written for the space in which they were to be performed: and that therefore to understand Shakespeare, one should understand his playhouses. But though much important work has been done on the physical aspects of Shakespeare’s playing spaces —how big they were, how many people they held, how their sightlines and acoustics worked— much less has been written about the way they were interpreted. This article sets out to explain how discrete bits of Shakespeare’s indoor and outdoor theatres were understood metaphorically. It argues that the interpretation of the physical structure for which a play was written was as important to audience as the structure itself. Considering five different aspects of the theatre space, I ‘On’; II ‘Along’; III ‘Above and below’; IV ‘Around’; and V ‘Outside’, the article posits that the spacial division of the theatre was as interpretatively important as the five acts in a play. Its conclusions about English performance space raises questions about Spanish golden age theatre too. How were the five geographical ‘acts’ of Spanish performance, on, along, above and below, around and outside, defined literally and metatheatrically? How do they complicate, refine or rethink the story told here?


Es bien sabido que las obras de teatro fueron escritas para el espacio en el que iban a ser representadas y que, por tanto, para entender a Shakespeare, hay que entender sus teatros. Sin embargo, aunque se han realizado muchos estudios importantes sobre los aspectos físicos de los espacios teatrales de Shakespeare —cuán grandes eran, cuántas personas cabían en ellos, cómo funcionaban sus líneas de visión y su acústica—, se ha escrito mucho menos sobre la forma en que se interpretaba todo esto. Este artículo se propone explicar cómo se entendían metafóricamente las distintas partes de los teatros al aire libre y techados de Shakespeare. Sostiene que la interpretación de la estructura física para la que se escribía una obra era tan importante para la audiencia como la propia estructura. Considerando cinco aspectos diferentes del espacio teatral, I. ‘Sobre’; II. ‘A lo largo’; III. ‘Encima y debajo’; IV. ‘Alrededor’; y V. ‘Afuera’, el artículo postula que la división espacial del teatro era tan importante desde el punto de vista interpretativo como los cinco actos de una obra. Las conclusiones sobre el espacio escénico inglés plantean también preguntas sobre el teatro español del Siglo de Oro. ¿Cómo se definían de modo literal y metateatral los cinco ‘actos’ geográficos de la representación española: sobre, a lo largo, encima y debajo, alrededor y afuera? ¿Cómo complican, mejoran o replantean la historia que aquí se cuenta?

PALABRAS CLAVE / KEYWORDS: Scene; Curtain; Genre; Metatheatre; theatrum mundi / Escena; cortina; género dramático; metateatro; theatrum mundi.


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Cómo citar

Stern, T. (2023). Spaces of Performance: Shakespeare’s Playhouse Inside Out. Anuario Calderoniano, 16, 21–40. Recuperado a partir de



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