Definitions for groundlingˈgraʊnd lɪŋ
This page provides all possible meanings and translations of the word groundling
Random House Webster's College Dictionary
a plant or animal that lives close to the ground or at the bottom of the water.
Category: Botany, Zoology
a person of unsophisticated tastes.
a person on the ground rather than in an aircraft.
a member of a theater audience sitting in one of the cheaper seats or, in an Elizabethan theater, standing in the pit.
Origin of groundling:
in Elizabethan theater: a playgoer in the cheap standing section
any of various plants or animals living on or near the ground, as a benthic fish or bottom feeder
by association, an individual of uncultivated or uncultured taste
in Elizabethan theater: an audience member (usually standing) in the cheap section
a fish that keeps at the bottom of the water, as the loach
a spectator in the pit of a theater, which formerly was on the ground, and without floor or benches
A groundling was a person who frequented the Globe Theatre in the early 17th century and was too poor to pay to be able to sit on one of the three levels of the theatre. By paying one penny, they could stand in "the pit", also called "the yard", just below the stage to watch the play. Standing in the pit was uncomfortable, and people were usually packed in tightly. The groundlings were commoners who were also referred to as stinkards or penny-stinkers. The name 'groundlings' came about after Hamlet referenced them as such when the play was first performed around 1600. At the time, the word had entered the English language to mean a small type of fish with a gaping mouth - this becomes pertinent when we realise that from the vantage point of the actor playing Hamlet, set on a stage raised around 5 feet from the ground, the sea of upturned faces may indeed have registered as something akin to wide-mouthed fish. Those who had paid to sit in the raised galleries would also have shared in this image, which clearly became popular enough to stick until this day. They were known to misbehave and are commonly believed to have thrown food such as fruit and nuts at characters they did not like, although there is no evidence of this. They would watch the plays from the cramped pits with sometimes over 500 people standing there.
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