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In what era did Shakespeare write his plays?

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bvdv2445 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 13, 2010 at 1:33 AM via web

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In what era did Shakespeare write his plays?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 13, 2010 at 1:44 AM (Answer #1)

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I guess this depends some on what you mean by "era."  In terms of simple dates, Shakespeare wrote most of his plays between 1589 and 1613.

If you are talking about what literary era he was writing in, people tend to say that he was part of the English Renaissance.

If you are asking about historical eras, most people associate Shakespeare with Elizabethan England.  Queen Elizabeth I ruled from 1558 to 1603 and was, therefore, the queen during the first half or so of Shakespeare's career.  King James succeeded Queen Elizabeth and was ruling at the time Shakespeare died.

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ssandhu05 | TA , Grade 11 | (Level 1) Honors

Posted January 14, 2015 at 4:21 AM (Answer #2)

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William Shakespeare lived during the Renaissance period, which was 1500 through 1600 A.D. So, most definitely, this was when he had written his poems and plays. This was also time when Europe was "opening" up, when there was the rise of the monarch vs. the church (Protestant Reformation), and when Queen Elizabeth I had reigned over England, which was known as the Elizabethan Era in history. 

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nathangarton | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted January 15, 2015 at 9:57 AM (Answer #3)

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In addition to the previous answers, Shakespeare's language is what we call 'Early Modern English'. The English Language has gone through many centuries of evolution and it is common to call Shakespeare's language, 'Old English', when in fact this is not true. Old English was the language spoken by the Anglo Saxon conquerors of the British Isles and it is close to Old Icelandic. This was the language in which Beowulf was written. It is very foreign to modern English and quite unrecognisable.

Norman conquest of England in 1066 began what we call 'Middle English'. This was the language of Chaucer and is much more familiar to us today than Old English - though still quite different.

Then we come to the English Renaissance and a linguistic change known as The Great Vowel Shift that completed around the mid 16th century. After this and into the late 16th to the 17th centuries, we have writers such as Donne and Milton, and later Shakespeare and Marlowe writing in Early Modern English.

The changes that shaped the English Language following the Industrial Revolution marks the point where we see genuine modern English that is quite familiar to us today. Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, George Elliot etc.

So Shakespeare's 'Era' is a complicated topic! Since Shakespeare is a literary figure, it would be relevant to consider his 'era' from a linguistic perspective too.

I hope that helps!

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