Elizabethan Theatre refers to the type of plays that were popularized in England under Queen Elizabeth’s reign from 1562 to 1603. Elizabethan Theatre emerged from an academic emphasis on rhetoric and reenactments of Greek and Latin performances in English schools. These schools would occasionally give performances for the Queen, and from this trend, the idea of a theatre performance became popularized throughout England. This gave rise to new plays being written for an English audience, along with the establishment of permanent theaters, such as the Globe Theatre in London. The establishment of permanent theaters throughout England made performing in an acting troupe a viable career, although this often included traveling to different cities and towns throughout England.
Elizabethan theatre performances originally included all male actors, even for roles written for females. Generally, roles for female characters were played by younger males. William Shakespeare is the most famous Elizabethan playwright, and his plays have become synonymous with Elizabethan theatre. The types of plays performed in theaters included comedies and tragedies, often with plots based on historical events, such as Julius Caesar, or elements of fantasy, such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The themes often involved tales of desire and revenge. The costumes were extravagant and considered one of the main highlights of the theatre. The plays were performed for both commoners and aristocrats alike, with both groups being in attendance at the same performance, although divided into different seating areas.
Elizabethan theatre can be seen to have influenced modern world theatre, particularly in how it expanded the types of plays being performed to incorporate different genres, rather than strictly being historical reenactments. However, one main difference is that Elizabethan performances were considered events and often accompanied with feasts and loud audiences, while modern theaters emphasize only the performance, and audiences are expected to remain seated and quiet.