The first major and striking difference between modern and Elizabethan theater had to do with gender roles. The actors were exclusively male, with female roles being played by male actors wearing female clothing. The audience was both genders with wealthy women wearing masks to hide their identities. Private theatre had small upper class audiences of both genders, but public theatre had large audiences of all classes and both genders.
Another major difference was that most Elizabethan drama was written in verse and most modern drama is composed in prose. The staging for Elizabethan drama was fairly abstract, and did not attempt the realism of the proscenium stage. Although Elizabethan theater had both tragedy and comedy, including short plays called "interludes", there was less diversity of genre and style than is the case with modern drama.