Staging the Henrician Court : Did the Tudors design sets?

This page last changed on Oct 07, 2009 by Eleanor Rycroft.

The idea of Tudor set design is potentially problematic. This is not to suggest that Henrician court drama was not very concerned about the staging or the setting in which it took place. Given the amount of money that appears to have been spent on court performances / masques and how elaborate the descriptions are in Hall's Chronicles, sets were important. It is, however, not clear in which order the sets and plays were put together, nor indeed the relative weight given to the various aspects of the performance. If dramas like 'The Play of the Weather' were performed in front of a seated engaged courtly audience then it is arguable that the words would be prioritised, however, if the audience had a more tentative or provisional relationship to the performance - if they were watching bits of the show or going in and out of the audience space, then the set, and indeed the costumes, would be particularly important. For example, if members of the audience only started watching the performance when the Millers were already on-stage they would need to be able to understand what was happening visually - in other words the Millers would need to be dressed in a way that gave the audience a very clear indication of who they were.

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