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In chapter 14, John H. Astington considers the building put up at Whitehall Palace in 1606/7, and destroyed by fire early in 1619. Planned in the first few years of the king’s reign, the design of the interior in particular seems to have aimed to create a new style at Whitehall Palace. The architect was probably Robert Stickells. For plays, the king and his family might have wanted to be nearer to the actors; a royal seat brought forward to nearer the middle of the hall would have allowed space for rising ranks of seating to the rear. For masques, the area in front of the scenic stage was required for both orchestra and singers, and principally for the dancers, who performed in the area formed by the central floor of the building. Besides, Astington explains, the room was also used for court ceremonial of one kind and another: it was the largest gathering place within Whitehall Palace. Finally, Astington’s chapter also deals with what is known about the disposition of audience and performance space for these varying events, and suggests some conclusions about the role of the Banqueting House as a multiple-use space at a particular historical moment.
This book presents a new approach to the relationship between traditional pictorial arts and the theatre in Renaissance England. Demonstrating the range of visual culture in evidence from the mid-sixteenth to mid-seventeenth century, from the grandeur of court murals to the cheap amusement of woodcut prints, John H. Astington shows how English drama drew heavily on this imagery to stimulate the imagination of the audience. He analyses the intersection of the theatrical and the visual through such topics as Shakespeare's Roman plays and the contemporary interest in Roman architecture and sculpture; the central myth of Troy and its widely recognised iconography; scriptural drama and biblical illustration; and the emblem of the theatre itself. The book demonstrates how the art that surrounded Shakespeare and his contemporaries had a profound influence on the ways in which theatre was produced and received.