Queen Elizabeth I ruled over England from 1558 to 1603. Her era was a dynamic one, filled with a thirst for adventure, the development of new ideas, and the flourishing of literature, prose, poetry, and drama. Let's look at some of the characteristics of that literature.
First, Elizabethans were prolific in their writing. Plays, poems, pamphlets, treatises, and other works were created in abundance, widely circulated, and freely read and discussed. Just think of Shakespeare's work alone to illustrate this point. This great dramatist and poet wrote thirty-seven plays and 154 sonnets, as well as other works including The Phoenix and the Turtle.
Second, Elizabethans returned with gusto to the classics of Greek and Latin and made them their own. As part of the Renaissance movement, Elizabethan writers delved into the history and mythology of the classical past and created new works that explored and adapted classic themes. Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar is a fine example of this new classicism.
Third, at the same time, Elizabethans dared to reach out in new directions, into the world of romanticism, where they plunged into the adventures, wonders, and beauties of the supernatural and the natural world. Think again of Shakespeare here and his play A Midsummer Night's Dream, in which fairies abound and all sorts of fantastic events occur.
Fourth, Elizabethans developed their scholarly side as well. Many of them, including the queen herself, worked on translating the classics of Greek and Latin into English to make them more widely accessible (and probably to show off a bit as well).
Fifth, the Elizabethans were an independent lot. They may have borrowed from the classics, but they used what they borrowed in new and creative ways. Shakespeare and Spenser, for instance, developed sonnet forms of their own. The stage exploded with diverse plays that pushed boundaries. Prose works expanded as writers adapted the English language to a wide variety of needs. Indeed, the Elizabethans exhibited a scope of imagination and ingenuity that has keep us fascinated with their works for generations.