This chapter discusses the theater, earlier an object of distrust and hostility, acquired a positive public role through the Enlightenment’s moral rehabilitation of the institution. In the theater, as in other areas of Enlightenment culture, the public assumed a new significance. Whether viewed as beneficent or corrupt, the power attributed to eighteenth-century theater audiences was symptomatic of the cultural importance the theater had acquired during the early modern period. In the early modern period, standing theaters designed exclusively for staging plays first arose during the sixteenth century. In London the earliest commercial theaters coincided with the flowering of the Elizabethan stage. Crucial to the transition from wandering stage to standing theater was the rise of the absolutist court. The court and the theater shared a natural affinity: literally as well as figuratively, the stage was a central medium through which early modern rulers displayed their power and prestige.