Elizabethan era

Eumenis Megalopoulos | Dec 20, 2022

Table of Content


The Elizabethan era is part of the Tudor period in English history during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603). Historians often call it the golden age of English history. The symbol of Britain (the female personification of Great Britain), first used in 1572 and often used thereafter, personified the Elizabethan era and characterized it as a renaissance that inspired national pride through classical ideals, international expansion and naval triumph over Spain. The historian John Guy (1988) argues that "England was economically healthier, more prone to expansion, and more optimistic under the Tudors" than at any time in a thousand years.

This "golden age" represented the apogee of the English Renaissance and was a period of flourishing poetry, music, and literature. This era is best known for its theater, for which William Shakespeare and many other playwrights created plays that went beyond the existing English theatrical style. It was an era of exploration and expansion, and in England itself the Protestant Reformation gained acceptance, especially after the Spanish Invincible Armada was defeated. It was also the end of the period of England as a separate kingdom, and the beginning of the union with Scotland.

The Elizabethan era stands in stark contrast to the previous and subsequent periods. It was a brief period of peace between the English Reformation and the religious battles between Protestants and Catholics, followed by the political battles between Parliament and the monarchy that spanned the rest of the seventeenth century. The disagreement between Protestants and Catholics was settled for a time by the Elizabethan Religious Agreement, and Parliament was not yet strong enough to challenge royal absolutism.

England lived quite prosperously compared to other countries of Europe. The Italian Renaissance came to an end under the weight of Spanish domination of the Pyrenees. France was embroiled in its own religious battles, which were (temporarily) settled in 1598 by the Edict of Nantes through a policy of toleration of Protestantism. Partly because of this, and because the English were driven from their last outposts on the continent by the Spanish terces, the centuries-old conflict between France and England was largely frozen for much of Elizabeth's reign.

The only serious rival was Spain, with whom England faced both Europe and America, which escalated from minor skirmishes into the Anglo-Spanish War of 1585-1604. Philip II's attempt to invade England with the Invincible Armada in 1588 was defeated, but England in turn made an equally unsuccessful expedition to Spain in 1589. The war continued until the signing of the Treaty of London a year after Elizabeth's death.

During this period England had a centralized, well-organized and efficient government, largely the result of the reforms of Henry VII and Henry VIII, and of Elizabeth's severe punishments of all dissenters. Economically, the country began to benefit greatly from the new era of transatlantic trade and the constant seizures of Spanish treasure.

The term "Elizabethan era" is firmly rooted in the English and British historical consciousness, long before Queen Elizabeth II came to the throne, and is still applied exclusively to the time of Elizabeth I.

The Victorian era and the early twentieth century idealized the Elizabethan era. The Encyclopedia Britannica states that "The long reign of Elizabeth I, 1558-1603, was the golden age of England. "Merry England," in love with life, found its expression in music and literature, in architecture and navigation." This tendency toward idealization was shared by Britain and Anglophile America. In popular culture the image of the brave sailors of Elizabethan times was embodied in the films of Errol Flynn.

As a peculiar reaction to this exaggeration, modern historians and biographers tend to treat the Tudor period much more dispassionately.

Elizabethan England was not particularly successful militarily, but she avoided major defeats and built up a powerful navy. Elizabeth can be said to have provided the country with a long period of if not absolute then at least relative peace, and generally increased the national wealth, largely through the seizure of Spanish treasure ships, raids on unprotected settlements, and the sale of African slaves. Having inherited a country practically in bankruptcy from the previous government, Elizabeth's frugal policies restored fiscal responsibility. Financial restraint allowed debts to be paid off by 1574, and ten years later the Crown had a surplus of £300,000. Economically, the founding by Sir Thomas Gresham of the Royal Exchange (1565), the first stock exchange in England and one of the first stock exchanges in Europe, proved to be an event of paramount importance to the economic development of England and then to the world at large. Thanks to lower taxes than in other European countries of the period, the economy grew; although wealth was extremely unevenly distributed, it is clear that at the end of Elizabeth's reign the aggregate wealth was greater than at the beginning. This universal peace and prosperity enabled the progressive endeavors emphasized by the proponents of the Golden Age.

Intrigue and Conspiracy

The Elizabethan era was also an era of intrigue and conspiracies, often political in nature, involving the upper classes of Elizabethan society. High officials in Madrid, Paris, and Rome tried to assassinate the Protestant Elizabeth and replace her with the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots. This may have been a prelude to a religious revival of Catholicism in England. In 1570 the Ridolfi plot was uncovered. In 1584 the Throckmorton plot was uncovered after Francis Throckmorton confessed his involvement in a conspiracy to overthrow the queen and restore the Catholic Church to England. Another major conspiracy was the Babington Conspiracy, the event that most directly led to Mary's execution. It involved a double agent, Gilbert Gifford, acting under the direction of Francis Walsingham, the queen's very effective chief of counterintelligence.

There was even a theatrical element in the Essex rebellion in 1601, because shortly before the rebellion supporters of the Earl of Essex, including Charles and Jocelyn Percy (younger brothers of the Earl of Northumberland), paid to perform "Richard II" at the Globe Theater, apparently in order to inflame public discontent with the monarchy. At the trial of Essex actor of the troupe "Servants of the Lord Chamberlain" Augustine Phillips said that the conspirators paid them forty shillings "above the usual" (that is, above their usual rate) for the production of the play, which, according to the actors, was too old and "out of fashion" to attract a large audience.

During the Collateral Plot of 1603, two Catholic priests planned to kidnap King James and hold him in the Tower of London until he agreed to be more tolerant of Catholics.

Most dramatic, however, was the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, whose participants planned to blow up the House of Lords during the opening of Parliament. It was discovered in time, and eight conspirators, including Guy Fawkes, who became a canonical figure of the traitor in English folklore, were executed.

The Royal Navy and the Defeat of the Armada

While Henry VIII created the Royal Navy, Edward VI and Mary I ignored it, and as a result it degenerated into a simple coastal defense system. Elizabeth made naval power her top priority. She risked war with Spain by supporting "sea dogs" like John Hawkins and Francis Drake, who preyed on Spanish merchant ships carrying gold and silver from the New World. Naval shipyards were leaders in technical innovation; captains developed new tactics. Parker (1996) argues that the full-sail ship was one of the greatest technological advances of the century and changed naval warfare forever. In 1573, English shipbuilders introduced a design, first demonstrated on the Dreadnought, that allowed ships to move faster and maneuver better and use heavier guns. Whereas earlier warships had tried to clash with each other so that soldiers could board an enemy ship, now they stood apart and fired volleys to sink the enemy vessel. When Spain finally decided to invade and conquer England, the invasion was a fiasco. Excellent English ships and the skill of the sailors prevented the invasion and led to the destruction of the Invincible Armada in 1588, the high point of Elizabeth's reign. Technically, the Armada failed because Spain's overly complex strategy required coordination between the invading fleet and the Spanish coastal army. Moreover, the poor design of Spanish guns meant that they were much slower to reload in close combat. Spain and France still had stronger fleets, but England was quickly catching up.

Reflecting on the terrible consequences of the Spanish landing of the invading army in 1588, Parker argued that the Spanish army was larger, more experienced, better equipped, more confident, and better funded. On the other hand, the English defense was weak and obsolete. England had too few soldiers, and they were at best only partially trained. Spain picked the weakest spot in England and probably could have taken London in a week. Parker adds that a Catholic uprising in the north and Ireland could have resulted in a total defeat.

Colonization of the New World

Christopher Columbus's discoveries electrified all of western Europe, especially maritime powers such as England. King Henry VII commissioned John Cabot to travel to find a northern route to the Molluca Islands in Asia; thus began the search for the Northwest Passage. Cabot sailed in 1497 and reached Newfoundland. The following year he made another voyage to America, but he and his ships were never heard from again.

In 1562 Elizabeth sent privateers Hawkins and Drake to seize booty from Spanish and Portuguese ships off the coast of West Africa. When the Anglo-Spanish wars intensified after 1585, Elizabeth approved further raids on Spanish ports in the Americas and on treasure ships returning to Europe. Meanwhile, influential writers Richard Hakluyt and John Dee began to push for England's own overseas empire. Spain firmly established itself in North and South America, and Portugal, in alliance with Spain since 1580, created an ambitious global empire in Africa, Asia, and South America. France explored new lands in North America. England was forced to establish its own colonies with an emphasis on the West Indies rather than North America.

In August 1576 Martin Frobisher landed at Frobisher's Bay on Baffin Land. He returned in 1577, declaring it on behalf of Queen Elizabeth as part of Britain, and on his third voyage attempted to establish a settlement in Frobisher Bay, but his plans failed.

From 1577 to 1580 Sir Francis Drake circumnavigated the globe. Combined with his daring raids on the Spaniards and his great victory at Cadiz in 1587, he became a famous hero; his exploits are still celebrated today. In 1583 Humphrey Gilbert sailed into Newfoundland, taking possession of St. John's Harbor along with all the lands within two hundred leagues north and south of it.

In 1584 the queen granted Sir Walter Raleigh a charter to colonize Virginia; the colony was named for her. Raleigh and Elizabeth planned to establish a base there for privateers to attack the Spanish treasure-carrying fleet. Raleigh sent a group of settlers to establish the colony of Roanoke; it is still a mystery why they all disappeared. In 1600, the queen created the East India Company by decree. She established trading posts, which in the following centuries became British India, on the coasts of modern India and Bangladesh. Larger-scale colonization began soon after Elizabeth's death.

England in that era had a number of positive aspects that distinguished it from modern continental European societies. Torture was rarely used because the English legal system allowed torture only for capital crimes such as treason, although some forms of corporal punishment were practiced, some of which were extremely cruel. In 1563 the persecution of witches began, resulting in the execution of hundreds of people, although it was nothing compared to the madness on the continent. Mary tried to create an aggressive anti-Protestant Inquisition, for which she was hated. Nevertheless, more Catholics were persecuted, expelled and burned alive under Elizabeth than under Mary.

Elizabeth succeeded in softening and suppressing the religious passions of the time, in stark contrast to previous and subsequent eras full of religious violence.

Elizabeth said: "I have no desire to break through windows into people's souls. Her desire to soften the religious persecution of earlier Tudor times - the persecution of Catholics under Edward VI and Protestants under Mary I - seems to have had a restraining effect on English society. Elizabeth, a Protestant but not a dogmatist, restored the 1552 Book of Common Prayer with changes that made it clear that the Anglican Church believed in the (spiritual) presence of Christ in Holy Communion, but without specifying exactly how, leaving it a mystery. It also removed the black rubric from the creeds: it allowed kneeling for communion without acknowledging the real and essential presence of Christ in the bread and wine; it itself believed this. Apostolic succession was preserved, the institution of the church continued without interruption (98% of the clergy remained in their posts), and the attempt to prohibit music in the church was defeated. The 1571 rulings forbade any doctrine inconsistent with the teachings of the church fathers and Catholic bishops. The queen's hostility to strict Calvinist doctrines blocked the way for radicals.

Little original theological thought emanated from the English Reformation. Instead, the Church relied on the Catholic consensus of the first four Ecumenical Councils. The preservation of many Catholic doctrines and customs was a prerequisite for the formation in the seventeenth century of a compromise called the Via Media. She spent the rest of her reign fiercely defending herself against radical reformers and Catholics who wanted to change the Settlement of Church Affairs: the Anglican Church was Protestant, "with its peculiar slow development, to put it in Protestant terms, and the specter of the old world of Catholic traditions and religious practices which it harbored within itself.

Elizabeth refrained for a number of years from persecuting Catholics because she was against Catholicism, not her Catholic subjects, as long as they did not cause any trouble. In 1570, Pope Pius V declared that Elizabeth was a heretic with no right to the throne and that her subjects were no longer obliged to obey her. The pope sent Jesuits and seminarians to secretly preach and support Catholics. After several plots to overthrow her, the Catholic clergy were largely considered traitors, and they were aggressively persecuted in England. Often after capture, priests were tortured or executed if they did not cooperate with the authorities. People who publicly supported Catholicism were suspended from their professions; sometimes they were fined or imprisoned. This was tried to justify the fact that Catholics were not persecuted for their religion but for their treachery and support of the Queen's Spanish enemy; in practice, however, Catholics perceived this as religious persecution and viewed those executed as martyrs.

Lacking a dominant genius or formal structure for scientific research (Sir Isaac Newton and the Royal Society were already in the next century), the Elizabethan era nevertheless witnessed considerable scientific progress. Important contributions were made by astronomers Thomas Digges and Thomas Harriot; in 1600 William Hilbert published his seminal study of magnetism, De Magnete. Considerable progress was made in cartography and geodesy. The eccentric but influential John Dee also deserves mention.

Most of this scientific and technological progress is related to the practical skills of navigation, in which the English of Elizabethan times made great strides. Between 1577 and 1581, Sir Francis Drake circumnavigated the globe and Martin Frobisher explored the Arctic. That was also when the first English attempt to colonize the east coast of North America occurred - the missing colony on Roanoke Island in 1587.

Although Elizabethan England is not considered a century of technological innovation, there was some progress. In 1564, Gilliam Boonen arrived from the Netherlands and became Queen Elizabeth's first carriage builder. Thus, he introduced a new European invention to England - the spring-suspended carriage, which replaced stretchers and other means of transportation. Carriages quickly became as fashionable as sports cars are nowadays; public critics, especially Puritan commentators, noted the "multitude of noble ladies" who rode "back and forth across the countryside" in their new carriages.

Since the 1960s, historians have investigated many aspects of Elizabethan social history, covering all classes of the population.


Although only a small fraction of the population lived in them, Tudor municipalities were overcrowded and plagued by unsanitary conditions. Most towns were unpaved, with poor sanitation. There were no storm drains or sewers, and garbage was simply dumped in the street. Animals such as rats were fine in these conditions. In large cities, especially London, diseases due to lack of sanitation, such as smallpox, measles, malaria, typhoid, diphtheria, scarlet fever and chickenpox, were common.

In 1498, 1535, 1543, 1563, 1589, and 1603 pandemics of the Black Death occurred. The reason for the rapid spread of the disease was an increase in the number of rats infested with fleas, carriers of the disease.

Infant mortality was relatively low compared with earlier and later periods, about 150 or fewer deaths per 1,000 infants. Those who lived to the age of 15 could count on another 40-50 years of life.

Houses and dwellings

The vast majority of the population were tenant farmers who lived in small villages. Their houses, as in earlier centuries, were huts with thatched roofs, with one or two rooms, although later in this period the roofs were also covered with tiles. Furniture was simple; stools rather than chairs were used more often. The walls of Tudor houses were often made of wood, clay, or brick; in richer houses stone and ceramic tiles were used. Walls were usually painted white with milk of lime, and wood was stained with tar to prevent rotting (but this was more typical of later Victorian times than Tudor times). The bricks were handmade and thinner than modern bricks. The wooden beams were hand-carved, which makes it easy to distinguish real Tudor houses from Tudor-style houses, because the beams are not quite straight in the real ones. The upper floors of Tudor houses were often larger than the lower floors, which created an overhang. This increased the size of the rooms upstairs while maintaining adequate street width. In the Tudor period, glass began to be widely used in the construction of houses, but it was still very expensive and difficult to make, so the panes were made small and held together with a lead grid. Those who could not afford it often used polished horn, cloth or paper. Chimneys were tall, thin, and often decorated with symmetrical patterns of molded or carved brick. Early Tudor houses and poor houses had no chimneys; smoke in these cases came out through a simple hole in the roof.

Mansions had many chimneys for the fireplaces needed to keep the huge rooms warm. They were also the only way to cook food. The houses of the wealthy of the Tudor era had many rooms to accommodate and feed a large number of guests and servants. Wealth was demonstrated by the extensive use of glass. Mansions were often symmetrical in plan, mostly "E" or "H" shaped.


About one-third of the population lived in poverty, and the rich were expected to give alms to help the helpless poor. Tudor laws were harsh on the able-bodied poor. Those who left their parishes in search of work were called vagrants and could be subjected to punishments, including flogging and putting them in the stocks.

The idea of a workhouse for the able-bodied poor was first proposed in 1576.


During the Tudor period there was an unprecedented growth in education. Prior to that time, only a small proportion of children went to school. Students were mostly the sons of wealthy or ambitious parents who could afford to pay tuition. Boys were allowed to start school at age 4, then moved on to literacy school at age 7. Girls were either left at home by their parents to help with household chores or sent to work to bring money into the family; they were not sent to school. Boys were taught to work, while girls were prepared for marriage and taught household chores so they could take care of the home and children when they married. Wealthy families hired tutors to teach boys at home. Many Tudor towns and villages had parochial schools where the local vicar taught boys to read and write. Brothers could teach these skills to their sisters. At the school, students learned English, Latin, and Greek, catechism, and arithmetic. The students practiced writing with quills by transcribing the alphabet and the Lord's Prayer. Books were scarce, so students were taught by hornbooks. Pages with the alphabet, prayers, or other texts were attached to wooden boards and covered with a thin transparent layer of cow horn. In Tudor times there were two types of schools: elementary schools (and grammar schools, in which the more able boys were taught English and Latin. Students usually attended classes six days a week. The school day began at 7 a.m. in winter and 6 a.m. in summer and ended around 5 p.m. In the elementary schools the school day was shorter, mainly so that the poorer boys could work. The order in schools was harsh and teachers were very strict, often beating students for bad behavior.

Education usually began at home, where children were taught basic etiquette, good manners, and respect for others. Boys were required to attend gymnasium, but girls were rarely allowed to attend any educational institutions except elementary schools, and then only with a limited curriculum. Elementary school were for all children between the ages of five and seven. Only the wealthiest could afford to educate their daughters, and only at home. During the Elizabethan era, fee-paying schooling became available. This meant that even boys from very poor families could attend school, but only a few towns were able to get the scholarship necessary for this.

Boys from wealthy families were taught at home by private tutors. When Henry VIII closed the monasteries, he also closed their schools. He subsequently reopened many of the former monastic schools - known as "royal schools" and located throughout England. During the reign of Edward VI, many free grammar schools were established, teaching at no cost. There were two universities in Tudor England: Oxford and Cambridge. Some boys entered university at the age of about 14.

Throughout most of Elizabeth's reign, food was plentiful in England; there was no mass starvation. Poor harvests caused problems, but they were usually localized. The worst crop failures were in 1555-1557 and 1596-1598. In the cities the price of staple foods was set by law; in hard times a loaf of bread was less.

The poor ate mostly bread, cheese, milk, and beer, with small portions of meat, fish, and vegetables, and sometimes fruit. Potatoes only appeared at the end of the described era and were becoming an increasingly important crop. The typical poor farmer sold his best produce at the market, leaving cheap food for the family. Stale bread was used to make bread puddings, and breadcrumbs were used to thicken soups, stews, and sauces. Families at a higher social level consumed a huge variety of meat, especially beef, veal, goat, lamb and pork, as well as chickens and ducks. A special treat was the feast goose. Many villagers and some townspeople tended a small garden where they grew vegetables such as asparagus, cucumbers, spinach, lettuce, beans, cabbage, carrots, leeks and peas as well as medicinal and aromatic herbs. Some grew their own apricots, grapes, berries, apples, pears, plums, currants, and cherries. Families without a vegetable garden traded with their neighbors, buying fruits and vegetables at a low price.

England was introduced to new foods (such as potatoes imported from South America), and new tastes developed at this time. The wealthier classes enjoyed a variety of food and drink, including new exotic beverages such as tea, coffee, and chocolate. French and Italian chefs appeared in country houses and palaces, bringing new ways of cooking and new flavors to the dishes. The English, for example, became addicted to sour foods-particularly upper-class oranges-and began to make extensive use of vinegar. The Gentry paid increasing attention to their gardens, growing new fruits, vegetables, and herbs; pasta, pastries, and mustard appeared on the table for the first time. At sumptuous banquets, apricots were a special treat. Roast beef remained a staple food for those who could afford it. The rest ate plenty of bread and fish. All classes enjoyed beer and rum.

In rich mansions and palaces, large, elaborate meals were served, usually accompanied by entertainment. The upper classes often celebrated religious festivals, weddings, unions, and the mere whims of the king or queen. During the summer months, celebrations were usually held to mark the "procession" of crowned rulers, when the king or queen traveled to the castles of the nobility to avoid the plague season in London and to relieve the royal treasury, which often became empty over the winter. On such a journey they would stay for a few days, or even a week, in the house of various aristocrats who, depending on their display of style, generosity, or imagination for entertainment, could obtain the necessary judgment in court or raise their status for months or even years.

After a feast or dinner there was a special meal, often served in a special room or outside gazebo with a table in the center filled with "medicinal" delicacies to aid digestion. These included waffles, sugar with anise and other spices, jelly and marmalade (denser than what we are used to), candied fruits, spiced nuts, and other such delicacies. They were eaten standing up, washed down with warm spiced wine (known as hypokras) or other beverages that aided digestion. It should be remembered that sugar in the Middle Ages and early Modern period was considered a medicine and was widely used for healing. It was consumed not only for pleasure, but also as a healthy food and to improve digestion. During such a buffet, those standing could show off their splendid new clothes, and the hosts could demonstrate the wealth of their estates, which had a special room specifically for such banquets.

The situation of women

While the Tudor era presents an abundance of material on noble women, especially royal wives and queens, historians have been able to find only scant records on the life of the average woman. Nevertheless, there has been extensive statistical analysis of demographic data that includes women, especially in their childbearing roles. The role of women in society, for the time, was quite large; travelers from Spain and Italy regularly, and sometimes quite caustically, spoke of the freedom enjoyed by women in England, unlike in their native countries. There were more educated upper-class women in England than in Europe.

The marital state of the queen was a major political and diplomatic theme. It also entered mainstream culture. Elizabeth's unmarried status engendered a cult of virginity. Poetry and portraiture portrayed her as a virgin, or a goddess, or both, rather than an ordinary woman. Elizabeth made virginity her virtue: in 1559 she said in the House of Commons: "And it will be enough for me if it is inscribed on a marble stone that the queen who reigned so long lived and died a virgin. The public tribute to the Virgin Mary had by 1578 become a coded statement of the queen's rejection of the marriage negotiations with the Duke of Alanson.

Unlike her father, who emphasized masculinity and physical strength, Elizabeth used the theme of motherhood, often saying that she was married to her kingdom and subjects. She explained, "I keep the goodwill of all my husbands-my people-because if they were not assured of my special love for them, they would not so readily obey me," and promised in 1563 that they would never have a mother as caring as she. Koch (1996) argues that her symbolic motherhood played a central role in her complex self-perception, shaping and legitimizing the idea of personal rule by a God-appointed female prince.

In the late 1500s and early 1600s, over 90% of English women (and adults in general) were married. The average age of the bride was 25-26 and the average age of the groom 27-28, with the most common age being 25-26 for grooms and 23 for brides. Among the nobility and gentry, the average was 19-21 for brides and 24-26 for grooms. Many urban women married for the first time between the ages of thirty and forty, and young orphan women often delayed marriage until they were in their thirties or even over thirty to support their younger brothers and sisters. About a quarter of the women who married were pregnant.


William Shakespeare at the height of his career, Christopher Marlowe and a host of other playwrights and actors who constantly packed halls - the culture of the Elizabethan Renaissance was best expressed in its theater. Historical themes were especially popular, as well as ordinary comedies and tragedies.


Wandering musicians were in great demand at court, in churches, in country houses, and at local festivals. Notable composers of the time included William Byrd (1543-1623), John Dowland (1563-1626), Thomas Campion (1567-1620), and Robert Johnson (c. 1583-1634). The composers worked on commissions from the church and royal court, and used two main styles: madrigal and air. Popular culture showed great interest in folk songs and ballads. At the end of the nineteenth century it became fashionable to collect and sing old songs of that era.

Fine Art

It is often said that the Renaissance came to England later than to Italy and other continental European states; the fine arts of Tudor and Stuart England were dominated by foreign and visiting talents, from Hans Holbein the Younger under Henry VIII to Antonis van Dyck under Charles I. Nevertheless, the local school of painting also developed within this general trend. Among the masters of Elizabethan times Nicholas Hilliard, "manuscript illustrator and jeweler" to the queen, is most widely known; but George Gower is also beginning to attract increasing attention and recognition as our knowledge of him, his art and his work expands.


In the Tudor period, theatrical productions became a very popular entertainment. Most towns sponsored the writing of plays played in the town squares. Actors then began to use the courtyards of taverns or inns as stages, after which the first real theaters began to appear, first large open-air amphitheaters and then indoor theaters, then called playhouses. The popularity of theater was aided by the rise of great playwrights such as William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, who staged their plays in London theaters such as the Globe. By 1595, 15,000 people were seeing plays in London every week. It was during Elizabeth's reign that the first real theaters were built in England. Before that, actors traveled from city to city and performed in the streets or in the squares in front of hotels.

Myracles, a type of mystery with reconstructions of biblical stories, were popular. They greatly influenced Shakespeare's work.

Fairs and festivals were a popular seasonal pastime.


In the Elizabethan era there were many different kinds of sports and entertainment. Animal sports included bear and bull baiting, dog fighting, and cockfighting.

The rich were fond of tennis, fencing, and jousting tournaments. Hunting was strictly limited to the upper class. Hunters had their own packs of dogs and hounds, trained to chase foxes, hares, and wild boars. The wealthy also enjoyed hunting small game and birds with hawks, known as falconry.

Knightly jousting was a very expensive sport, available only to the upper classes, in which warriors on horseback raced toward each other in full armor, trying to knock an opponent off his horse with a spear. It was a violent sport - King Henry II of France died in the tournament in 1559, as did many other lesser knights. King Henry VIII was the champion of the sport; he gave it up after he lost consciousness for several hours after a bad fall.

Other sports were archery, bowling, hammer throwing, staff fighting, skittles, wrestling, and medieval soccer.

Dice was a popular pastime among all social classes. Cards appeared in Spain and Italy around 1370, probably coming from Egypt. They began to spread throughout Europe and came to England around 1460. By the time of Elizabeth's reign, gambling was a common sport. Only the upper classes did not play cards. Many of the lower classes had access to playing cards. The suits of cards changed over time. The first Italian and Spanish decks had the same suits: swords, clubs

Festivals, holidays and celebrations

In the Elizabethan era, people looked forward to the holidays because recreational opportunities were limited and free time from hard work was limited to periods after church on Sundays. For the most part, the festivities took place on church holidays. Each month had its own festivals, some of which are listed below:


  1. Elizabethan era
  2. Елизаветинская эпоха
  3. ^ From the 1944 Clark lectures by C. S. Lewis; Lewis, English Literature in the Sixteenth Century (Oxford, 1954) p. 1, OCLC 256072
  4. John Guy (1988) Tudor England, Oxford University Press, p. 32 ISBN 0192852132
  5. Elizabeth I and England’s Golden Age. Britannica Student Encyclopedia
  6. Ulrich Suerbaum: Das elisabethanische Zeitalter. 2. Auflage. Reclam, Stuttgart 2007, S. 29–30, 143–144, 152–153.
  7. Ulrich Suerbaum: Das elisabethanische Zeitalter. 2. Auflage. Reclam, Stuttgart 2007, S. 29–30, 143–144, 155–156.
  8. Ulrich Suerbaum: Das elisabethanische Zeitalter. 2. Auflage. Reclam, Stuttgart 2007, S. 206–218, 236–238.
  9. John Guy (1988) Tudor England, Oxford University Press, p. 32 ISBN 0192852132

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