Elizabethan theatres were much different than the theatres of today. They were open aired and circular in design. The stage and acting areas were also mcuh different than in theatres today.
The most important feature of the Elizabethan stage was that it was a thrust stage. This means that it was extended into the audience, similar to fashion "catwalks" of today. There was no procenium arch and no curtains on the stage. This affected the way that scene changes occurred in Shakespearean plays, and also tells us why little or no props were used on stage. The stage was risen off the ground, and could be watched from all three sides by the audience. The actors entered the stage from curtained doors at the back of the stage which let out to the tiring house.
On the main stage, there was a trapdoor, which could be used to raise and lower ghosts and other supernatural figures. The area below the stage which was accessed by the trapdoor was called the "hell". Above the main stage there was a ceiling, called "The Heavens" which was painted with pictures of stars and protected the players somewhat from inclimate weather. Through a trapdoor in the heavens there was machinary which could be used to lower and actor on to the stage, such as a God coming down from heaven.
At the back of the main stage it is believed that there was an "inner stage". The existance of this inner stage is still being debated, but many believe that it was a small 3 walled room with a curtain covering the entrance. This inner stage could have been used in such scenes as the "play within a play" in Hamlet, the tomb in Romeo and Juliet, and the curtain of the inner stage could have been used in the scene from Hamlet when Polonius is stabbed while hiding behind the rug.
Above the stage in