Groundlings were audience members who paid the cheapest ticket prices for a play. They included students, apprentices and the lower classes, and were seen as socially louche and unruly. For a penny or so, they were allowed to stand in the three-sided open "yard" that surrounded the typical Elizabethan stage.

Ground"ling, n. [Ground + -ling.]

1. Zool.

A fish that keeps at the bottom of the water, as the loach.

2.

A spectator in the pit of a theater, which formerly was on the ground, and without floor or benches.

No comic buffoon to make the groundlings laugh. Coleridge.

 

© Webster 1913.

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