The Elizabethan Era is the period associated with the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558–1603) and is often considered to be a golden age in English history. Shakespeare was born a few years after Elizabeth had become queen and he had a strong influence on that era, which was the height of the English Renaissance.
Culture: It was the flowering of English literature and poetry. Elizabethan theatres flourished and William Shakespeare, among others, composed plays that broke away from England’s past style of plays and theatre.
New approaches: It was an age of expansion and exploration abroad, while at home the Protestant Reformation became well-established in the national mindset.
Elizabethan Age is viewed so highly because of the contrasts with the
periods before and after. It was a brief period of largely internal
peace concerning the battles between Protestants and Catholics and the
battles between parliament and the monarchy that surrounded the
Politics: The one great rival was Spain, with which England conflicted
both in Europe and the Americas. These conflicts exploded into the
Anglo-Spanish War of 1585–1604. An attempt by Philip II of Spain to
invade England with the Spanish Armada in 1588 was famously defeated.
during this period had a centralised, well-organised, and effective
government. Economically, the country began to benefit greatly from the
new era of trans-Atlantic trade.
The Elizabethan World Order
The theory of the universe was of great
importance to Shakespeares contemporaries and was used by him in
developing events in his plays. According to this idea:
everything in the world has its position fixed by God
Earth = center of the universe. Stars move around it
God is the head of everything
everything in the world has its order
Society reflected this order with fixed classes from highest to lowest – kings, churchmen, nobles, merchants and peasants.
The animals had their own degrees too, lion = “king”.
Plant life and minerals, too. Among flowers, it was the rose.
Any break in the chain (such as killing the king) ensured chaos
Fate = main controlling force in life. Ups & downs
The Elizabethans called this hierarchical structure The Great Chain of Being
Theatre was of a very specific kind back in Shakespeares days. Here are the main characteristics:
one of the most common form of mass entertainment
people of all classes went to the theatre
beautiful costumes and (sometimes) funny language
most people stood in front of the stage (was cheaper)
audience often took part in the performance: screamed, booed, cheered, helped
stage: right in the middle of the audience
actors were only male
female parts were played by adolescent boys in women's costume
Shakespeare is the greatest author of the Elitabethan age, if not the most important English author of all times. His works inspired hundreds of directors, films and writers. Even today in England you can hardly call yourself a good actor without having participated in a Shakespeare play. Private life: William Shakespeare was born in
Stratford-upon-Avon, England, in 1564. He most likely
attended King Edward VI Grammar
School in Stratford, where he learned
Latin grammar and literature. In 1582,
he marriedAnne Hathaway at
the age of 18 and had three children together. First plays: Between 1589 and 1590, William is
believed to have written his first
play, Henry VIII (part I). The next
year, he completed the second part
of the play.By 1592, William had begun a career
as a playwright in London. Two
years later, he was an actor and
part-owner of a playwright company,
Lord Chamberlain’s Men. The company
was successful and was adopted by King
James I. It was then renamed The King’s
Men. By this time, William was
well-known throughout the London theatre
In 1595, William
wrote some of his most famous
stories including A "Midsummer’s Night Dream" and "Romeo and Juliet", which
is arguably the most famous love
story and tragedy of all time. In
1596, William wrote "The Merchant of Venice".Later works: After writing "Julius Caesar" in 1599, Shakespeare is thought to have written "Hamlet",
historically thought of as his greatest
masterpiece. To this day "Hamlet" is probably his
most quoted and reproduced tragedy.
It is also Shakespeare’s longest
play. In general: Concerning Shakespeares work you have to differ between the "early
plays", for example "Romeo and Juliet" or "Henry V", and the "great
tragedies", which he created later on. The latter he wrote between 1599
and 1606 and include „Othello“, „Macbeth“, „King Lear“ und „Timon of
Athens“.He also wrote 154 sonetts during his life.
This drama is one of the great tragedy themed plays by William
Shakespeare. The themes illustrated include ambition, fate,
deception and treachery. Three witches decide to confront the great
Scottish general Macbeth on his victorious return from a war between
Scotland and Norway. The Scottish king, Duncan, decides that he will
confer the title of the traitorous Cawdor on the heroic Macbeth.
Macbeth, and another General called Banquo, happen upon the three
witches. The witches predict that he will one day become king. He
decides that he will murder Duncan. Macbeth's wife agrees to his plan.
He then murders Duncan assisted by his wife. The crown passes to Macbeth. More murders ensue and the bloodied
ghost of Banquo appears to Macbeth. Lady Macbeth's conscience now
begins to torture her and she imagines that she can see her hands
covered with blood. She commits suicide. Macduff kills Macbeth. Malcolm becomes king.
Old Hamlet, King of Denmark, is dead and has been succeeded by his
brother. The new king has also married Gertrude, the widowed queen.
Hamlet, Gertrude's son, is already distressed by his father's death and
the hasty remarriage; when his father's ghost appears to tell him that
he was murdered by his own brother, Hamlet vows revenge. To cover his
intentions, he feigns madness. Polonius, councillor to the court, whose
daughter Ophelia is all but betrothed to Hamlet, believes that his
madness is caused by love. Spied on by Polonius and the king, Hamlet
encounters Ophelia and violently rejects her. Hamlet asks a group of actors to perform a play, hoping that its
similarity to the murder of his own father will force the king to reveal
his guilt. Hamlet's suspicions are confirmed. He visits his mother,
reviling her for her hasty marriage, and accidentally kills Polonius,
who is hiding in the chamber.
The king sends Hamlet to England, planning
to have him murdered. Laertes, Polonius' son, demands revenge for his
father's death. His sister, Ophelia, maddened by grief, has drowned.
Hamlet returns and confronts Laertes at her funeral. The king,
meanwhile, has plotted with Laertes to kill Hamlet in a fencing match in
which Laertes will have a poisoned sword. The plot miscarries and
Laertes dies. Gertrude drinks from a poisoned cup intended for Hamlet,
and also dies. Hamlet, wounded by the poisoned sword, kills the king
before he, too, dies. Young Fortinbras of Norway arrives and lays claim
to the throne of Denmark.