Elizabethan Theatre & Drama

Elizabethan Theatre & Drama | Elizabethan Drama Summary & Analysis

Elizabethan Theatre & Drama
Elizabethan Theatre & Drama


  The Elizabethan age was the golden age of English drama. Elizabethan Drama is written and performed publicly in England throughout the reign of Queen Elizabeth. It started in 1550 and end in 1620. Elizabeth queen of England inspired all of England’s people with unbounded patriotism. Under her administration, English Literature reached the very highest point of its development.

Predecessor Of Elizabethan Drama

 In the Elizabethan age, the scholars of University wits were known as predecessors of Elizabethan drama. The term University wits refer to a group of young dramatist of the Early Elizabethan period, who were associated with the universities of Cambridge and Oxford. They are:

  • John Lyly
  • Christopher Marlowe
  • Thomas Kyd
  • Thomas Lodge
  • Thomas Nasche
  • Rebert Green
  • George Peel

Themes of Elizabethan Drama

a) Anti – Semitism
b) Revenge Tragedy
c) Supernatural Elements
d) Comedy of Humours

a) Anti- Semitism: – Among the popular themes was Anti-Semitism in Elizabethan society which is reflected in the plays Christopher Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta and Wiliam Shakespeare” The Merchant of Venice.

b) Revenge Tragedy: – Revenge was another popular theme Be it a ghost-like in Thomas Kyd’s “The Spanish Tragedy” or a prince in Shakespeare’s Hamlet The motive of revenge became the main counter-motive in drama, especially tragedies.

c) Supernatural Element: – Another theme that was prominent was the supernatural as the society of the time was highly superstitious with people believing in supernatural forms. Ghosts became the prime moving force in many tragedies.

d) Comedy of humours: – use of psychology was extensive and was founded on the theory of humor inside a human body, namely, blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile Ben Jon’s Every man is his humor is the best example of comedy of humor.

Dramatic Devices in Elizabethan Drama

Asides or private conversations and soliloquies are used to engage with the audience and have become quite popular.

lambic Pentameter with five two-syllable units or ‘feet was the most popular construction of the age Blank verse with iambic pentameter was the most popular construction of the age.

Blank verse with iambic pentameter was also used profusely in Elizabethan plays.

Dramatist of Elizbethan Era

Some of the most important dramatists come from Elizabethan Era, including:

  • Christopher Marlowe
  • William Shakespeare
  • Ben Johnson

Christopher Marlowe

            The first greatest dramatist of the time Queen Elizabethan Era was Christopher Marlowe. Though he lived a short life he wrote some powerful tragedies, which are counted among the great works of the English stage. His first tragedy Tamburlaine is written in Blank Verse with colorful images of power and violence.

            Marlowe ‘Dr. Faustus is based on the well-known story of a man (Faustus) who sold his soul to the devil in order to power and riches in life. In the next play, The Jew of Malta a rich Jew refuses to pay taxes to the governor of Malta so his property is taken from him, and in revenge, he begins a life of Violence. Edward the Second is probably Marlowe’s best play. It is comparable to Shakespeare’s best historical plays.

William Shakespeare

            William Shakespeare is taken as the finest dramatist of all time. He began his career as a play actor and then moved to playwriting. He had great dramatic as well as poetic gifts. His plays look like a living world of people. His characters have both individual and universal qualities.

            In the beginning, Shakespeare wrote historical plays. In all his historical plays he provides social commentary. Some of Shakespeare’s historical plays are – Richard The Second, Richard the Third, King Henry the Fourth, Fifth, and sixth.

            Shakespeare also wrote a good number of comedies. They are better than his historical plays. Among his famous comedies are – A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merchant Of Venice, Twelfth Night, and As you Like it.

            William Shakespeare also wrote tragedies. His four great tragedies are- Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth, and Othello.

            The central character in these tragedies are always great men like – King, Queen, Price, and so on.

Ben Johnson

            Ben Johnson is one of the greatest dramatists of the Elizabethan age. His plays are less beautiful and less attractive than Shakespeare’s.  He believes in three unities, which are the unities of place, time, and action. The ancient writer influenced much of Johnson’s Ideas.

            Everman in His Humour is his famous play. Johnson wrote approximately 20 plays alone with other playwrights. Among his comedies – Valpone, The Silent Woman, and The Alchemist are world-famous.


            So, now we can say that, In the development of English Literature, Elizabethan Drama and their dramatist have played a very important role.

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