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Elizabeth I reigned as Queen of England from 1558 to 1603, and during and immediately after her reign, Elizabethan play was the most popular art genre. Drama used to be limited to interludes and straightforward morality plays, which were skits presented at the banquets of the Queen's father Henry VIII or in Eton's public schools. Plays with a great deal more moral complexity, vitality, and variety were created during the Elizabethan age.

The Elizabethan theatre
Themes of religion were prevalent in several plays from the start of the 16th century. These displayed both good and evil behaviour and were known as "morality plays." Others, referred to be "wonder plays," featured biblical scenes.

The "strolling players," or plays performed by roving troupes of actors, were the principal exception to this rule. Since these groups frequently performed plays that had little to do with religion, the government tried to outlaw them.

During Elizabeth's reign, the subjects of plays shifted, and English playwrights started producing comedies and tragedies. Playwrights like Marlowe, Johnson, and Shakespeare were producing their now-famous plays by the end of her reign.
Theatres were created in place of utilising inn courtyards as play watching became more prevalent. The Rose, Swan, and Globe Theatres were constructed in London between 1587 and 1598 as a result of the success of theatre performances.
The first Elizabethan plays, like the interludes, were performed for college students. They were modelled after Seneca's tragedies and the comedies of the Roman comedians Plautus and Terence.

The earliest theatres and playwrights

The first thriving English playhouse was constructed in Shoreditch in 1576 by actor and theatre builder James Burbage. Young playwrights from Cambridge and Oxford Universities backed the organisation, which was simply known as The Theatre. These young men, who came to be known as the University Wits, included George Peele, John Lyly, Thomas Nash, Thomas Kyd, and Robert Green. The horrific "tragedy of blood" plays that gained enormous popularity were modelled after Kyd's play The Spanish Tragedy. In order to accommodate the influx of patrons, The Curtain, another theatre, had to be constructed. An easer is the technical term for such a theatre. Burbage also owned a roofed home in Blackfriars. It was therefore utilised for plays during the winter. Burbage's son Richard, an even more well-known actor, played virtually every significant part in Shakespeare's plays. For his parts in the tragedies, he received praise. The epidemic was the sole thing that put an end to the plays; from June 1592 to April 1594, the theatres were closed.

The actors and the audience
The Elizabethan theatre was known for its wild performances. People conversed with the players as if they were real people while standing for the majority of the show. You can see hints of this even in Shakespeare's plays. It is true that teenage boy actors took on feminine parts, and as there was no artificial lighting, performances took place in the afternoon. Additionally, there was nothing in the way of scenery, and the characters' attire communicated their social standing to the viewer. Actors were allowed to dress above their station since sumptuary regulations limited what people may wear based on their class.

Shakespeare, the author of some of the finest plays in literary history, was drawn to the expanding number of theatres that appeared in and around London.. His plays continue to have an impact on all other plays from the time period and perhaps even on all plays that come after him.

Shakespeare, however, was not the earliest notable playwright of the Elizabethan period. Christopher Marlowe would be in it. When he was killed at the age of 29 in a dispute over a bar bill in 1593, many academics think that Marlowe might have rivalled Shakespeare. With his stories of overachievers like the title character in Tamburlaine the Great, Dr. Faustus, and Barabas in The Jew of Malta, persons whose thirst to power provided the motors for the plays, he was the first to alter the conventions of the early Elizabethan dramas. Marlowe transformed the very psychology of dramaturgy with his innovative use of blank, or unrhymed, verse.
Meanwhile, Lyly and Peele were penning light tales and comedies like Endymion. These plays were presented at court, which served as both a venue and a shield against the Puritans' anger because they believed theatre to be wicked. Shakespeare was a member of the Lord Chamberlain's Men, one of the companies that played at court. Under the support of James I, this company changed its name to the King's Men.

The Globe Theatre
Despite the Puritans' resistance to theatre, non-Puritans continued to love attending plays, thus the players were forced to construct theatres on the south bank of the Thames outside of London. The Globe Theatre, which served as the Lord Chamberlain's Men's residence, was the most well-known of these theatres. In fact, it was a new version of The Theatre, which Richard Burbage and his brother Cuthbert had moved and put back together before it was founded in 1599. The Chamberlain's Men gave a performance at The Curtain between The Theatre's closing and The Globe's debut.
Shakespeare's finest plays, including Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, and King Lear, had their world premieres at The Globe. Unfortunately, The Globe was destroyed in a fire during a performance of Shakespeare's Henry VIII, which was his final play and of such poor quality that some academics do not even think it was written by him. Its design had a significant impact on the design of future theatres. The Globe was restored in 1614 and stood there until it was destroyed in 1644 to make way for homes.

The Armada
According to historians, England's triumph over the Spanish Armada in 1588 sparked a wave of patriotism and national pride that helped the Elizabethan theatre flourish. In order to invade England, Philip II of Spain put together this fleet of ships. Due to a combination of arrogance, unfavourable weather, English resourcefulness, and some assistance from the Dutch, the conquest failed.

Shakespeare may not have started making significant contributions to Elizabethan dramaturgy until he was 24 years old, in 1588, even though he had already moved to London from his hometown of Stratford on Avon around 1585 to look for acting job. He expanded Marlowe's blank verse's scope, flexibility, and nuance as a dramatist. He produced his historical dramas in response to the nation's sense of patriotism. Of course, Shakespeare also wrote excellent comedies and tragedies in addition to these plays.

Late Shakespearean Drama
Shakespeare was friends with Ben Jonson, who was seen as his main opponent following the passing of Marlowe. But Jonson adhered to the rigid classical structure that characterised early Latin play. His plays include The Alchemist and Vulpine, or the Fox. John Webster, Francis Beaumont, and John Fletcher were among the other late Elizabethan playwrights active after her death. Along with Shakespeare, Richard Burbage also performed in the plays of Jonson, Beaumont, and Fletcher.

Elizabeth died in 1600, three years before the robustness of Elizabethan theatre started to wane. Elizabethan drama came to an end following Shakespeare's retirement in 1612 and his death in 1616.

Sriparna Mukherjee
Amity University Kolkata


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