Elizabethan London


To fully understand the works of Shakespeare, it is important to know about his life and the society he lived in. Authors’ writings often reflect the beliefs and living conditions of their time, Shakespeare included. Shakespeare was a man of the Elizabethan Age, a period that began in the mid to late 1500s and ended in the early 1600s. The Elizabethan Age in London, England and present day are both similar in some ways, while being different in others. In this essay, I will focus mostly on the arts during Shakespeare’s time, because that was the area he was most influential in.

The Elizabethan age is considered one of the greatest periods for the growth of the arts. London was undoubtedly the center of this growth in England. Several public theatres were established in Shakespeare’s lifetime.

Citizens had an incomparable taste for music. Instead of reading material being available at shops, waiting customers could entertain myself with lutes that were set out for that purpose. After dinners, instead of engaging in activities such as reading or playing cards, families would pass out songbooks and sing. Men who could not read music were considered poorly educated. Most of Shakespeare’s plays called for music, with only one, The Comedy of Errors, excluding it completely. Today, music is popular, but average people can enjoy it over the radio or through CDs and mp3 players. Singing is still a popular hobby, but many people today do not enjoy it as much or are as educated in it as people in Elizabethan times were.

Drama first became popular being performed in various halls, inn yards, or even the streets. It eventually became so popular that a playhouse, “The Theatre”, was built in London’s suburbs, away from the mayor, who discouraged plays. Richard Burbage became one of the most famous actors of the age, and his father was the builder of The Theatre. Today, drama is still very popular, but in different ways. Movies and television shows are more common than live plays, and you can see your favorite actors and actresses in movie theaters and on TV. Even today, several of Shakespeare’s plays have been adapted into movies, more or less true to the text. These range from Much Ado About Nothing, to West Side Story, a musical adaptation of the play Romeo and Juliet, which is also popular on Broadway.

No matter the differences between the Elizabethan age and today, Shakespeare’s works remain timeless. People everywhere still enjoy his writings, and he remains the most quoted author of his time.

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