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Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 392
The bubonic plague, or “Black Death,” was one of the worst natural disasters in history. Between 1347 and 1352, the plague swept through Europe causing widespread hysteria and death. One third of the population of Europe died from the outbreak. It affected many aspects of daily life and was also reflected in the art and literature of the time. Philip Ziegler’s The Black Death (1969) provides an in-depth look at this horrific catastrophe.
The Globe Theatre has been rebuilt in Bankside, London, just a few yards from the site where the original playhouse once stood. Theatrical entrepreneur Sam Wanamaker did extensive research in order to be as authentic as possible to the original. The story of the theatre’s reconstruction and the research that went into this ambitious project makes for fascinating reading and also provides a great deal of information about the Elizabethan theatre in general. One book on the subject is Shakespeare’s Globe Rebuilt (1997), edited by J. R. Mulryne, Margaret Shewring, Andrew Gurr, and Ronnie Mulryne.
Will Kempe was one of the principal actors of Shakespeare’s company. He was famous for his comic roles, and Shakespeare wrote many of the clown characters in his early plays specifically for Kempe. He originated the roles of Bottom and Falstaff. The other members of Shakespeare’s company were interesting characters in their own right. There have also been many intriguing Shakespearean actors down through the ages, and their lives make for fascinating reading. Bernard D. N. Grebanier’s Then Came Each Actor: Shakespearean Actors, Great and Otherwise, Including Players and Princes, Rogues, Vagabonds, and Actors Motley, from Will Kempe to Olivier and Gielgud and After (1975) provides a look at what went on behind the scenes during Shakespeare’s time and also contains some insightful information about Shakespearean actors that were to follow.
In the latter part of the sixteenth century, Spain was the major international power. Spain’s leader, King Phillip II, was very disturbed that Elizabeth had converted England to Protestantism, and he pledged to conquer the heretics in England and convert them to the Church of Rome. To accomplish this aim, he sent his “Invincible Armada” of 125 ships sailing toward the English Channel in May of 1588. His fleet was met by English ships and soundly defeated. John Tincey’s The Spanish Armada (2000) is a thoroughly researched look at this fascinating battle.