Elizabethan Age (1558-1603)

Elizabethan age is one of the widely popular age of English literature in terms of different fields development and one of them is English literature.

Let’s see how and what is the significance of Elizabethan Age? Why this Age is so popular? Why every literature student should read about Elizabethan Age? And who are important playwrights and poets of this age?

What is Elizabethan Age?

The Elizabethan Age is an era in which Queen Elizabeth ruled from a particular period of time in England.

During her reign, England experience peace and prosperity. Therefore, this period is named after Queen Elizabeth. Not only this but many historians considered this age as the “golden period” of England, because it was also a time of immense progress in the field of politics and economics. This age is also a witness of flourish of arts and literature.

How and why Elizabethan Age is important for English literature?

Elizabethan Age in English literature refers to the work produced during this time by different writers and authors. It is important because it was the age of Shakespeare. Therefore, this Age is also refer as ‘Shakespearian Age’ or ‘Renaissance period’ in English literature.

This age saw a tremendous progress in form of poetry like; sonnet, Spenserian stanza, dramatic blank verse, Shakespeare drama and variety of prose.

Which Topic/subject is popular during this era?

The subject like tragedy, comedy, extreme, love, hate etc. were some major topics of this era.

What are the characteristics of Elizabethan Age in English literature?

Elizabethan age was highly popular and deals with some major characteristics which are below:

  • Religious Tolerance
  • Strong national spirit
  • Patriotisms
  • Social content
  • Intellectual progress and
  • Unbound enthusiasm
  • Vigorous thinking

Also, simply it was the age of a time in which new idea and experiences were sought after.  This period was revolutionized with many aspects of English literature. The main focus of this age was that Elizabethan tragedy which dealt with heroic themes usually centering around the main character i.e. protagonist of the play who was so passionate and ambitious.

What are the feature of Elizabethan Age drama?

Elizabethan Age was not only had popular topics/subjects but some specific feature that made this age widely famous in English literature and i.e.

  • The theatre was open and plays are now performed in daylight
  • The flag system which indicated that play is going to be performed
  • People used to sit in gallery in front of stage while ordinary people stood to see the play as it was the cheapest.
  • During this age play had supernatural elements that excite audience

What is the significance of tragedy used in Elizabethan Age drama?

The tragedy in Elizabethan Age holds a special place in English literature. The Elizabethan tragedies marked by melodramatic scenes which used to be based on murder, bloodshed, rape, extreme outburst and excessive emotions.

For example; ‘Hamlet’ by Shakespeare is one of the greatest tragedy of all time and also is an example of Elizabethan revenge tragedy.

Who were the famous writers of Elizabethan Age?

This Age was remarkable period for many great writers whose work made this era even more successful;

  1. Poetry writers like; Thomas Sackville, Thomas Norton, George Gascoigene, Edmund Spenser, Thomas Wytt, Henry Howard, Sir Philip Sydney, Samuel Daniel, Michele Dryton etc.
  • Playwrights like;William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Thomas Middleton, John Webster, John Ford, Francis Beaumont, Philip Malsinger, Thomas Decker, Shirly, and Thomas Heywood etc.  
  • Prose writers like;Sir Philip Sydney, Raleigh, Hooker, William Webb, Francis Bacon etc.

Also, few writers included in ‘university wits’ who were highly educated like; John Lyly, Thomas Kyd, George Peele, Thomas Lodge, Robert Greene, Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Nash etc.

Which writer influenced Shakespeare?

John Lyly was the first writer who influenced Shakespeare so much.

Some most popular work written during this period

In this age the most famous work written which includes Shakespeare’s drama, Spenser’ allegorical work “The Feari Queen”, Shepherd’s “Calender” and Sir Philip Sydney’ sonnet.

Shakespeare’s drama has played the major role to made this age ‘Golden Age’ of English literature.

Also, John Lyly’s book ‘Eupheus the anadomy’ is one of the popular works in which Lyly has wrote the very famous tagline “everything is fair in love and war”, later this tagline translated in Hindi and used in many Bollywood movies.

In poetry, the very first name is Thomas Wytt, we can find traces of Italian influence in his poetry. He was the writer who likes to innovate and explores and new subjects and add in his poetry.

Henry Heywood, a poet who in the beginning of 16th century introduces Italian sonnet into England’s English literature. But Thomas Wytt was the one who wrote sonnet in English poetry as he wanted to make English language civilized.

He also borrowed Petrarch’s sonnet’s octave and as for sestet he was not clear so he created himself which has four lines and three quatrains and two lines rhyming couplet, this is how English literature sonnet form during this period.

Later, Shakespeare made changes in sonnet according to his desire and used in his sonnet which is of 154 in which 18th sonnet is the most famous Shakespearean sonnet till date in English literature.

Elizabethan’s most essential part was theatre and drama which was influenced by Italian literature. Elizabethan’s plays have root in Italy, we can say that slowly England’s literature was taking inspiration and influence from Italian culture.

Why Shakespeare’s drama was so popular in Elizabethan Age?

Shakespeare’s drama has variety like; history, comedy, tragedy and romance. He wrote great comedy, tragedy and history play and then he wrote some of the bestest works of his career like; Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, Romeo-Juliette, The King Lear etc. This works proved to be a milestone of his career.

After Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe was the biggest name of this era, He established blank verse and used along with Shakespeare in drama and this drama used to be performed before Queen Elizabeth. He also left a great impact on Shakespeare. It has been said that if he had not been dead at the young age, he could be the great playwright after Shakespeare. He was supposed to be the most important predecessor of Shakespeare as both were contemporaries.

His notable work like; Tamburlain- I, Tamburlain- II, Edward- II, The Jew of Malta, Massacre of Paris and Dr. Faustus.

Why only in this period English literature grow and became popular?

Because in this period Queen Elizabeth succeeded in maintaining the law and order and maintain peace between Catholics and Protestants.

Who was the most famous writer who made this age notable in history of English literature?

William Shakespeare, Edmund Spenser, Christopher Marlowe, Sir Philip Sydney and Ben Jonson were the most popular and greatest playwrights, poets who contributed to make this age as Golden Period of all time in history of English literature. Eventually, we can say that these writers were lucky who born and work during this era or we can say that Elizabethan period were lucky which had these writers.

Why Elizabethan period is also called Renaissance period?

Because during this time learning begin not only in the field of literature but in every field like; new discoveries, establishment of new theatre, introduction of blank verse and sonnet etc. Renaissance did not come directly but it started in Italy and in other European countries then it entered into England during Elizabethan time.

Why Elizabethan age also called Shakespearean Age?

Not the entire age of Elizabethan is supposed to be a golden age but that particular time when Shakespeare wrote some of his great work, that time made this age as “Golden Age”. Shakespeare was the biggest playwrights of this age, his time’s atmosphere was possessing, peculiar with reality which gave a touch of genius, a breath of divine to all men and great enthusiasm with some sensibility. He also maintained his quality and quantity of his work

We can say that Elizabethan Age really is a landmark period in history of English literature.

4 thoughts on “Elizabethan Age (1558-1603)

  1. Peace Truth 24 Jul 2022 / 6:20 am

    kindness wisdom thank you for sharing this History today 💥💥💥💥💥💥💥

    Liked by 2 people

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