What is the Elizabethan Age and what are descriptions of this age?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

During the Elizabethan Age, the prosperity, optimism, confidence and energy of the time carried over into many aspects of life.  Certainly, these positive qualities generated the "The Elizabethan World Picture," as scholar E.M.W. Tillyard has termed it.  Belief in this "Great Chain of Being" in which every single element of the universe has its place and function produced a love of structure, intimate design, and elaborate ornamentation which is evidenced in the fashion, design, music, and literature of the period.

The greatest literature of the Elizabethan Period is in its poetry and drama; of course, the name of Shakespeare immediately comes to mind as his works of poetry and drama are unsurpassed.  He and Edmund Spenser, whose monumental work in praise of Elizabeth I, The Faerie Queen, adapted elements from the Italian sonnets into forms of their own.  In drama, advances were also made as plays moved from simple religious themes in plots to those of legends and myths, classical and secular themes, more intense characterization, and much emphasis upon poetic form.  And, because of its appeal to all levels of society, the theatre became more democratic.  At the Globe Theatre of Shakespeare, there was attendance by all levels of society.

While the reign of Elizabeth I was not always smooth--there was at least one serious attempt at rebellion and a series of bitter Parliamentary conflicts--the queen managed to maintain control until her death.  After she died, her cousin, King James VI of Scotland, succeeded her, thus uniting the two countries as King James I.

During the reign of Elizabeth I, England had one of its most glorious eras, for it was a country of tremendous achievement and promise.  In the literature, there is, indeed, much to be admired and appreciated.

missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Elizabethan age is the time during which Queen Elizabeth I reigned in England. A facinating character in history, Queen Elizabeth is known as the Virgin Queen. She never married, but used her position and availability to get the job done. Oftentimes, the proposition of a marriage between herself and a nearby monarch suggested peace among the peoples or a trade agreement.

The era was marked by:

  • influence of the Catholic church
  • beliefs in the four humors: water, air, earth, fire
  • SHAKESPEARE: Elizabeth loved the theatre. Although an actor and playright, William was not near as popular in his day as he was today.
  • The Globe Theatre
  • The Black Plague

Teacher Created Materials makes a workbook entitled "Shakespeare" that has about  50 pages of easy to understand Elizabethan Era culture.  As a teacher, I find it more valuable to myself when lecturing that it is for my students as research.


pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This term refers to the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England.  She reigned from 1558 to her death in 1603.

The term "Elizabethan Age" has connotations of a golden age for England.  England was strong militarily.  During this time it held off the attempted attack of the Spanish Armada.  It also started to colonize the New World during this time.   In addition, England was flourishing in terms of its cultural life.  This was the era of such great artists as William Shakespeare and Cristopher Marlowe, among others.

Because England was strong in terms of its foreign relations and peaceful and sophisticated at home.  This is why it is seen as a golden age.