Is the 'Elizabethan Theater' so named in honor of Queen Elizabeth I?

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robertwilliam's profile pic

robertwilliam | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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Yes. Queen Elizabeth was on the throne of England from 1533-1603, and the plays written during her reign tend to be referred to as 'Elizabethan', meaning simply that they were written at that time. Christopher Marlowe, all of whose work was written during Elizabeth's reign, might be said to be an Elizabethan playwright.

Shakespeare is a more tricky example: he starts writing in (probably, at least) the early 1580s, but writes his final plays in 1612, after Elizabeth's death. James I is then on the throne, and so some of Shakespeare's plays are 'Elizabethan', and strictly, some others (including, for example, Macbeth) are 'Jacobean' (meaning that they are written during the reign of James).

The problem is that we have so little information about the precise dates of Shakespeare's plays that scholars endlessly argue about which plays fall into which category. So don't be worried if you hear 'Elizabethan' or 'Jacobean' used more generally of Shakespeare: both terms are, strictly speaking, partly right and partly wrong.

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lit24 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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Yes, it is. There were three different types of playhouses during Queen Elizabeth I's reign (1558-1603).

1. Originally performances were held in private London inns, either indoors or in the yard. The audience capacity was about 500 people.

2. Plays were also performed in public outdoor structures resembling an amphitheatre. The audience capacity was about 2000 people. They were used mostly during the summer season.

3. Plays were also performed in small private indoor halls {noblemen's houses, The Inns Of Court, Oxford and Cambridge Colleges}. Tickets were expensive and audience capacity was about 500. They were used mostly during the winter months. 'The play within the play' in "Hamlet" belongs to this category. 

The exact dimensions of the amphitheatres have been lost but the sketch  of 'The Swan' by a dutch traveller Johannes de Witt(1596-8) and his diary note which was useful in reconstructing 'The New London Globe Theatre' {which was inaugrated on 12th June1997}  gives us a rough idea of the structure of an Elizabethan theatre. Another very important source of information regarding the dimensions and structure of the Elizabethan theatre are the details of the agreement of the builder of 'The Fortune Theatre' and its owner Philip Henslowe.

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