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Elizabethan Drama Introduction

  • Date Submitted: 06/10/2012 08:18 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 45.6 
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Elizabethan Drama Introduction
From the Elizabethan Age come some of the most highly-respected plays in Western drama. Although it is generally agreed that the period began at the commencement of Queen Elizabeth I's reign in 1558, the ending date is not as definitive. Some consider the age to have ended at the queen's death in 1603, while others place the end of Elizabethan Drama at the closing of the theatres in 1642. Elizabeth I was a strong, resolute monarch who returned England to Protestantism, quelled a great deal of internal turmoil, and unified the nation. She was also a strong supporter of the arts, and this sparked a surge of activity in the theatre. During her reign, some playwrights were able to make a comfortable living by receiving royal patronage. There was a great deal of theatrical activity at Court, and many public theatres were also built on the outskirts of London. Theatre was a popular pastime, and people of all walks of life attended. Although women were not allowed onstage, they did attend performances and often made up a substantial part of the audience. The theatre also drew many unsavory characters, including pickpockets, cutpurses, and prostitutes. Because of the perceived bad influence of the theatres, the Puritans were vocally opposed to them and succeeded in shutting them down in 1642. Some of the most important playwrights come from the Elizabethan era, including William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, and Christopher Marlowe. These playwrights wrote plays that were patterned on numerous previous sources including the Greek tragedy, Seneca’s plays, Attic drama, English miracle plays, morality plays, and interludes. Elizabethan tragedy dealt with heroic themes, usually centering on a great personality who is destroyed by his own passion and ambition. The comedies often satirized the fops and gallants of society.


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