Beds on the Early Modern Stage


  • Leslie Thomson University of Toronto



staging conventions, bed scenes, discovery scenes, stage directions, Red Bull, Blackfriars, Globe, curtains, large stage properties


Bed scenes remind us how little we know about staging practices in early modern London playhouses. Stage directions often say that a bed was 'discovered' but not where or how. And if it had curtains, were they on the bed or over an opening in the tiring house wall? Was the bed a four-poster, even though such a structure would have blocked sightlines and been cumbersome? Given the extra staging demands bed scenes entailed, why did playwrights include them? This study focuses on these and related matters with reference to all bed scenes in plays written between 1580 and 1642.

Author Biography

Leslie Thomson, University of Toronto

Leslie Thomson ( is professor emeritus of English at the University of Toronto. She is co-author (with Alan C. Dessen) of A Dictionary of Stage Directions in English Drama, 1580–1642 and editor of Anything for a Quiet Life in The Collected Works of Thomas Middleton. She has published articles and essays on various aspects of early modern staging and stage directions including ‘Blackfriars Stage Sitters and the Staging of The Tempest, The Maid’s Tragedy and The Two Noble Kinsmen', Shakespeare Embodied; ‘“As it hath been publiquely played”: The Stage Directions and Original Staging of The Three Ladies of London’, Performance as Research in Early English Theatre Studies: The Three Ladies of London in Context; ‘Confinement and Freedom in The Tempest’, Shakespeare Survey 67 (2014): 384–95; and ‘Dumb Shows in Performance on the Early Modern Stage’, Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England, 29 (forthcoming October 2016): 17–45.