Playwrights in Shakespeare’s time supplied language to describe ‘special effects’ lot of the time; but acting companies could likewise produce verydramatic special effects. Thunder and also lightning filled the theatre because that storms. There to be a variety of effects to imply magic to be at work. Many special results needed one-of-a-kind ingredients. Buying these do a performance an ext expensive, so special results were not offered all the time.

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How were special effects produced?

The easiest way to make the noise that thunder to be to beat drums offstage or roll a cannonball throughout the floor of the Heavens end the stage. Some companies provided a thunder device – a wooden box well balanced like a seesaw. A cannon ball might be rolling from one finish to the various other to make a thundering noise. Storms necessary lightning, too. Lightning flashes were made by throw a flour made native resin right into a candle flame. That lit through a flash. The companies might make lightning bolts, too. The machinery for this was dubbed a swevel. They addressed a cable from the roof to the floor the the stage. They resolved a firecracker come the wire and lit it as soon as they want the effect. The firecracker shot native the peak of the wire to the bottom, do sparks all the way.

Were the special effects dangerous?

Sometimes, distinct effects might go wrong. On 29 June 1613, the Globe burned down throughout a power of Shakespeare’s Henry VIII. It was big news. The is i can not qualify anything this spectacular happened really often. However, plenty of of the ingredients used to produce special impacts smelt very, really bad. Sulphur has actually a rotten egg smell, when saltpetre (made indigenous dung) smells negative when combined up and also even worse when collection alight. Both were used to make gunpowder. When the witches in Macbeth room making their spells and one of lock talks about ‘the fog and also filthy air’ the air inside the theatre may have been awful to breath in, if no actually dangerous.

Did you know?

On 29 June 1613 there was a performance of Shakespeare’s Henry VIII in ~ the Globe. Some tiny cannon were fired. The company didn’t use cannon balls, but they walk use real gunpowder, hosted down by wadding. A piece of burn wadding captured in the thatch and collection the theatre alight. It burned down in around an hour.


Firecrackers were made by filling rolls that thick document with gunpowder, which produced sparks and then a bang. You could buy gunpowder native grocers or ironmongers.

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What around magic?

Magical spirits, devils and gods and also goddesses often show up in plays native Shakespeare’s time. Good spirits and gods and goddesses usually gotten in through a trapdoor in the Heavens. The actors to be lowered top top a rope or a wire. This was called ‘flying in’. Angry spirits and also devils came up native Hell, under the stage, v a trapdoor in the stage. Service providers often set off firecrackers as soon as devils showed up or magic was used. In one manufacturing of Dr Faustus the actors play devils also put firecrackers in your mouths to suggest they to be breathing fire!

Theatre companies offered smoke mostly as a magic effect, although the was periodically used to suggest a fire. They could make black, white, yellow and red acting – relying on the chemistry they blended together. They offered real fire as small as possible, that was an extremely dangerous in a wood and also thatch building. If they necessary flames lock burned solid alcohol mixed with a variety of salts, depending on the colour they wanted the flames come be.

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