Elizabethan Drama

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Why was Elizabethan theater popular during the sixteenth century? How did Queen Elizabeth contribute? How did the permanent theaters contribute? How did these theaters effect society? Why was Elizabethan theater not popular among some?

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Theater became popular during the forty-four-year reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558–1603) for several reasons, which combined to create a unique Golden Age of English literature, comparable to Athens in the fifth century BCE or Rome under the Emperor Augustus. First, there were a great many talented playwrights at the...

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Theater became popular during the forty-four-year reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558–1603) for several reasons, which combined to create a unique Golden Age of English literature, comparable to Athens in the fifth century BCE or Rome under the Emperor Augustus. First, there were a great many talented playwrights at the time—preeminently Marlowe and Shakespeare, but also Greene, Peele, Kyd, Beaumont, Fletcher, Lyly, and many more. These writers revolutionized the theater and made it the most exciting and fashionable form of entertainment available.

The Elizabethan age saw the creation of a virtuous circle: it suddenly became possible for men of talent to make fortunes in the theater, which led to many of them choosing a profession that would not have offered such opportunities in previous generations. Until recently, theater had been mainly limited to morality plays and other anonymous dramas produced in a makeshift manner on temporary stages. The building of permanent theaters created stability and allowed playwrights and leading actors to make a good living.

Queen Elizabeth I assisted in this process by being a patron of the arts herself and licensing the building of theaters in London and the provinces. Her royal progresses around the country every summer, in which she stayed at the great houses of numerous aristocrats, encouraged these local magnates to stage lavish entertainments involving local theater companies.

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