The Elizabethan Age in English Literature: Marlowe, Ben Jonson and Shakespeare
The Elizabethan age is another term for the Renaissance in England. It refers to the long reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England, and is generally considered to be one of the greatest periods in English history.
1533 Elizabeth is born as a child of King Henry VIII and his second wife Anne Boleyn
1558 Elizabeth is crowned
1587 Execution of Mary Queen of Scots
1588 Defeat of the Spanish Armada
~important sailor: Sir Francis Drake (1541-1596)
1590 William Shakespeare directs his first play "Comedy of errors"
1599 Construction of the Globe Theatre 1600 Foundation of the East India Company
1603 Elizabeth dies and is succeeded by James I, a son of Mary Queen of Scots
Political and religious situation
In the 16th century, political tension existed between the growing power of parliament and the monarchy. Related to this was the social and economic tension between the hereditary aristocrats and the increasingly wealthy middle class. Elizabeth’s remarkable reign was a balancing act between the two opposing forces of Protestants and Roman Catholics, whose conflict had its origin in the fact that her father Henry VIII had altered the church to be his own branch of Catholicism. His son Edward reformed the church to be more Protestant, and Elizabeth continued the trend. Catholics were upset at this and Protestants found her too moderate. Many extreme Protestants, known as Puritans emigrated to New England and the strict Catholics saw Mary Queen of Scots as the true successor to the throne. Nevertheless, Elizabeth managed that the conflict did not escalate and restored peace within her country.
Several times, she was urged to marry royalty from Spain or France to unify two empires, but in the end, she remained unmarried and did not have any heirs, for which James succeeded her after her death in 1603.
Economic and social situation
It was an age of comparative social contentment. The rapid increase of manufacturing towns gave employment to thousands of people and even some systematic care for the needy was attempted. The East India Company was founded and increasing trade brought enormous wealth to England. The defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 confirmed English naval superiority, thus the rising class of commercial interests even intensified its efforts to expand overseas trade. Sir Francis Drake sailed around the world from 1577 to 1580 and English explorers revealed new lands of fabulous riches.
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