Why was theater so important to the Elizabethans?

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According to Hardin Craig and David Bevington in their introduction to The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Elizabethan England was a place of explosive economic growth as well as growing interest in foreign cultures, both of which fueled the public's interest in theater. Economic expansion provided capital for the building of permanent open-air theaters in London in the 1580s and 1590s, which gave plays a regular home. Despite opposition from those who feared that the theater was immoral and that large gatherings of people would reignite the plague, a prosperous and energetic society flocked to see the plays that were now performed on a regular and predictable basis.

Theater was important to the Elizabethans as a communal way to experience art, similar to how movies are important in many contemporary societies. In a society where many people only received rudimentary reading instruction and books were very expensive by today's standards, even with the printing press, theater was...

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