With the defeat of the Spanish in 1588, England's position as a world power was secured. This occurred as a kind of crowning achievement for Queen Elizabeth and her administration after a period during which other disorders and problems that had plagued the country had been mostly resolved. There was no question now about the fact that England had severed itself from Roman Catholicism. Mary Stuart, Elizabeth's Catholic rival, had been executed for treason, though with the very reluctant approval of the Queen. The now stable situation in England was a far cry from what it had been a century earlier in the immediate aftermath of the Wars of the Roses and the seizing of power by Elizabeth's grandfather, Henry Tudor, who became Henry VII and began the Tudor dynasty.
These triumphant events were an encouragement for artistic achievement and splendor. In the plays of Shakespeare, Marlowe, and the other writers of the period, one feels a confidence, a sense that these men were self-consciously creating the art of a people who had achieved greatness and, though it's only in hindsight that we know this, whose language would one day become the lingua franca of the world, as Latin had become for Europe.
The historical plays often deal with violent past conflicts which have been resolved. Shakespeare's Henry V is about victory over France; Richard III is about the defeat of the Yorkists to end the Wars of the Roses. In plays dealing with ancient history, there are parallels implicitly drawn with Elizabethan England. In Julius Caesar, for example, when Cassius says, "Some to the common pulpits, and cry out, / 'Liberty, freedom and enfranchisement!'," and follows this later with, "How many ages hence / Shall this our lofty scene be acted over / In states unborn and accents yet unknown?", my opinion is that this is, by extension, a reference to English liberty. However, the overall message of the play is an ambivalent one, where we cannot ultimately decide whether Caesar was, in fact, "the noblest man that ever lived in the tide of times," or whether the conspirators were champions of freedom. The fact that these political and philosophical questions were openly aired in drama is evidence of a spirit of freedom and of an enthusiasm in the public consciousness for ideas, made possible, at least in part, by the stability and achievements of the Queen's reign.
Though it is partly true that the suppression of Roman Catholicism represented the denial of freedom of thought, at the same time, issues affecting religion and philosophy were openly dealt with in both Shakespeare's and Marlowe's plays. Marlowe's Doctor Faustus is concerned with a man who strives for more than a devout, religious life. Shakespeare, especially in Hamlet and King Lear, presents characters in situations where they speculate on the hereafter and on existential issues in a way that would not have been possible in an earlier time. In conclusion, we can say that the Elizabethan age was one in which triumph and stability in the political and social realm contributed to, and were reflected by, the achievements in English drama.