How did Elizabethan times influence writers and artists of that time?

  • What sort of monarch was Queen Elizabeth? What is she most famous for?
  • Find out what you can about Elizabethan views on young love and parental obedience.
  • Discover what you can about Elizabethan views on suicide.
  • What did people believe about the influence of the stars on people's lives during Elizabethan times?

Queen Elizabeth (September 7th, 1533- March 24th, 1603)

"I may not be a lion, but I am a lion's cub, and I have a lion's heart"

Queen Elizabeth I, c.1585-90 (panel)
Queen Elizabeth I, c.1585-90 (panel)
external image allposters.gif?AID=64001&PSTID=1&LTID=2Queen Elizabeth was a very powerful woman. She was not just a figurehead like today's monarchs, but was very much a ruler. She had to make all the major decisions of government by herself (though she did not do everything by herself. She had officials to help her govern justly and fairly). No law could be passed without her consent. She could decide the religion of the country, decide when parliament was going to sit and what they could discuss, decide when and if the country was going to go to war, make decisions about education, the welfare of her people, even what food her people could eat and the clothes they were to wear. She also was responsible for choosing the men to help her govern, and had the power to send men or women to prison and order executions. Everyone in the country had to obey her. Not to obey her was against the law, and could be treason, for which the penalty was death.

There are many key characteristics during the Elizabethan times that influenced the writers and artists of its time. The things that writers and artists were exposed to in their lives directly influenced what writers wrote about, how actors/actresses acted, what painters drew, and generally, how they portrayed what was on their mind.


  • 1572: Parliament passed two acts, damaging thesbian status:
    • The Queen forbade“‘the unlawful retaining of multitudes of unordinary servants by liveries, badges, and other signs and tokens (contrary to the good and ancient statutes and laws of this realm)’” in order to “curb the power of local grandees”
      • One result of this was that some of the actors, now considered superfluous, were turned away.
    • “‘Acte for the punishment of Vacabondes’” , in which actors were declared “vagabonds and masterless men and hence were subject to arrest and imprisonment”
      • Because of this, some actors declared themselves as servants of noble masters and pretended that the public and profitable performances were rehearsals for private performances before that high court official.
        • The company Shakespeare wrote for in the 1590s called itself the Lord Chamberlain's Men and did such as the declaring themselves as servants.


High Treason was usually dealt with by the Queen and her ministers and carried a death sentence. For other serious crimes, such as murder, a person was also put to death. Lesser crimes were punished by imprisonment or the stocks, or sometimes both.


  • Elizabethan clothing varied amoung different social classes, or if the person was rich or poor. The clothing every woman wore had undergarments along with over clothes. For undergarments, they wore: a smock, stockings, a corset, a hooped skirt (farthingdale), a roll, and more. Over all of that, seperate sleeves, a gown, a ruff, cloak, shoes and hat were worn. Men had under clothes and over clothes, as well. Underclothes for men contained: stockings, a shirt, a codpiece, and also a corset. Their overclothes are: seperate sleeves, breeches, a doublet, a belt, a ruff, shoes, hat and a cloak.These types of clothes can be different materials depending on how much the person ca n spend on the clothes. ----

Women's clothing during the Elizabethan Times
Women's clothing during the Elizabethan Times

Men's cothing during the Elizabethan Times
Men's cothing during the Elizabethan Times


  • People believed in old magic and the mystical properties of animals and herbs.
  • Many traditional English customs were based on the mythical relationship to superstitions. These superstitions dated back to the Dark Ages and even further back to the Romans and their Gods and Goddesses.
  • A major superstition that affected Elizabethan life greatly was the fear of witchcraft. Women were usually the ones accused of being witches.
  • Witches were blamed for unexplainable events. These events included the Bubonic Plague, bad harvests, crop failures, the death of animals, and unexplained fires.
  • Due to peoples' fears in witches and their supernatural abilities, other superstitions arouse:
    • Witches are able to fly (this explained how witches could move quickly across impossible distances. A broomstick was then added to the superstition as these became common household articles used by women)
    • Witches keep animals like the Cat, Frog, Pig, Raven, Goat, Wolf, Goose, Crow, Bat and Mouse which were believed to be the forms adopted by a Witches Familiar (an evil spirit, in animal form, who was used by the witch to perform evil deeds and cast evil spells).
    • Witches brew magic potions over a cauldron
  • There were also superstitions that didn't have to do with witchcraft:
    • Elizabethans believed that the devil could enter a person's body when they opened their mouth to sneeze. Therefore, saying the blessing, "God Bless You" after someone sneezed warded off the Devil.
    • The seventh son of a seventh son was believed to possess supernatural powers.
    • The eye-shape on the feathers of peacocks were seen as the Evil-eye. That was the reason behind why it was unlucky to keep the feather of a peacock.
    • Touching wood guarded a person against bad luck. This Celtic superstition dated back to the Dark Ages when it was believed that a tree possessed magical powers.
    • It was bad luck to walk under a ladder because ladders were considered bad luck since they are associated with the gallows and executions.
    • Putting a shoe on the table was bad luck because it was believed that this action would invite an imminent death.
A depiction of witchcraft during the Elizabthan Times
A depiction of witchcraft during the Elizabthan Times


  • Children in the Elizabethan time had strict rules to listen to and obey their parents all the time. They believed that as their parents gave them life, they shall obey by their rules; in return, the parents gave their children an education and nurture them.
  • When a marriage took place, the women paid a dowry, or a payment. The newlyweds are expected to have children at some time.

Daily Life

    • Daily life in Elizabethan England varied for different people because of their status and location.
    • There were many new ideas during that time in areas such as science, literature and all the aspects of Elizabethan daily life because it was during the time of the Renaissance.
    • New ideas, information, and facts that affected the daily life in Elizabethan had to do with education, religion, career opportunities, leisure, the movement form country life to town life, the monarchy, and the New World.

A painting during the time of the Renaissance
A painting during the time of the Renaissance


    • There were different types of tournaments and sports that provided entertainment for the citizens living in Elizabethan.
    • Other types of entertainment included:
      • Games
      • Gambling
      • Bear and bull baiting
      • Hawking and hunting
      • Fairs and festivals
      • Banquets
      • Feasts

The famous play, Romeo and Juliet
The famous play, Romeo and Juliet
A fair during the Elizabethan Times
A fair during the Elizabethan Times


    • Acrobat- they were known to do amazing stunt just to entertain people
    • Apothecary- dispensed herbal medicines which were created from the blend of plants, herbs, and roots.
    • Blacksmith- even though it was a lowly occupation, it was regarded as the most significant occupation of the time. Blacksmiths were the people who forged weapons, repairs broken armor, and even sharpened weapons.
    • Bottler- they manage the storing and giving out of wines.
    • Candlemaker- as the name implies, they were the one responsible in the production of candles, lanterns, and torches.
    • Cordwainer- someone who manufacture shoes.
    • Herbalists- they planted and sustain medicinal plants.
    • Jester- also known as the Fool, they would entertain the Queen to laugh.
    • Page- this is a work than includes a very young man, usually 7 years old. They are tasked to wait at the table and oversee the Lord's clothes as well as assist in dressing.
    • Potter- they were the one who produced pots and anything made of clay and ceramics.

A blacksmith
A blacksmith
A jester


  • During periods of plague, theatrical displays were suspended.
  • Illnesses during the Elizabethan times included:
    • Bubonic Plague (Bubonic plague is a potentially fatal bacterial infection called "Yersina pestis." Symptoms of infection includes: swollen, tender lymph nodes (called "buboes"), high fever, chills, headache, hemorrhages under the skin, causing blackish discoloration of the skin).
    • Typhoid (Typhoid fever is an acute illness associated with fever caused by the Salmonella typhi bacteria.
    • Dysentery (bloody diarrhoea - is one of the most dangerous types of diarrhoea. In general. it is more severe and more likely to result in death than other forms of acute diarrhoea).
  • The cause of many of the Elizabethan illnesses was from the lack of sanitation. This was especially true in large towns or cities such as London. There were open sewers in the streets that were filled with garbage. This was occasionally removed and waste was dumped into the nearest river, including the Thames. Diseases were easily spread in this unsanitary environment where fleas, lice and rats all flourished. There also wasn't any running water
  • The citizens during the Elizabethan times received health care depending on their class and whether they could pay the fee.
    • Elizabethan Physicians - Only the very wealthy would receive care from an Elizabethan Physician. He or she would have received an education at one of the Universities and the College of Physicians. The usual fee would be a gold coin worth 10 shillings, which was usually well beyond the means of most Elizabethans.
    • Elizabethan Surgeons - Lower in position to Physicians. They had a similar reputation to the barbers, whom they associated and belonged to the Company of Barber Surgeon
    • Barbers - The Barbers were lower in position to the Surgeons. Even though they also belonged to the Company of Barber Surgeons, they were only allowed to pull teeth or let blood.
    • Elizabethan Apothocary - People usually took the path of visiting the apothecary, or dispenser of drugs. The Apothocaries belonged to the Grocer's Guild and sold sweets, cosmetics and perfumes as well as drugs.
    • The Church - The Church provided some comfort for the poor
    • The local 'Wise Woman' - The local 'wise woman' was often the first person contacted by poor people.
    • The Elizabethan Housewife: The ordinary Elizabethan housewife used various herbs to produce home made medicines and potions.

A physician during the Elizabethan Times
A physician during the Elizabethan Times


    • In around 1590-1620, 10 percent of the local population (London) went to the theater regularly. This influenced the writers and authors of this time because plays available had to change often.
    • Ampitheaters: The sun lit the stages, so performances began between noon and two o'clock and ran without a break for two or three hours.
      • Often, the plays would end with a jig, fencing display, or some other nondramatic exhibition. This influenced the writers and authors of this time because they had to consider a way to incorporate some kind of a nondramatic display into their ending.
    • Indoor theaters were lit by candles, which melt and need replacing, snuffing, and trimming. Because of this, intermissions were added to productions. This influenced the writers and authors of this time because they had to consider good places for intermissions in their works.
      • In the early modern "private" theater, musical perormances filled the intermissions.
    • Political and social satire was introduced as a popular subject, even in tragedy. This influenced authors and writers of this time because it was the popular thing at the time, so they had to incorporate some of these subjects into their pieces.
      • Some political issues that may have been addressed could be: The war with Spain (officially started in 1585 after years of underhanded conflict, and ended with the Queen's death), Queen Mary of France and Scots (who also claimed herself Queen of England), and the religious massacres occuring in France.

Elizabethan Views on Suicide

According to "Framing Diseases Studies in Cultural History: Studies in Cultural History" suicide at this time in England was a very "heinous crime". If someone took their own life and then were found to have not been insane at the time they were buried by a road with a wooden stake through their grave. Because the act of taking ones life was thought to be an act brought on by the devil. Felones de se were those who were mentally stable when they killed themselves and then there were non compos mentis who were those who were mentally unstable at the time. People often committed suicide to escape from being killed by someone else or like in Romeo and Juliet's case to be together.