Elizabethan Age (in English literature)
Elizabethan Age (in English literature): The second of five literary eras within the Renaissance Period in English literature, an age spanning the reign of Elizabeth I (1558—1603) that is often considered the height of the Renaissance in England. The Elizabethan Age, which reached its pinnacle with the English navy’s victory over the Spanish Armada in 1588, is closely associated with the transnational and transcultural Renaissance, or “rebirth,” of Western culture following the Medieval Period, the so-called “Dark Ages” of European history. The era is widely viewed as the golden age of English drama, having produced playwrights including Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare. Poetry and prose also flourished thanks to poets such as Sir Philip Sidney and Edmund Spenser and prose writers such as Francis Bacon and Sir Walter Raleigh.
The term Elizabethan is sometimes extended beyond Elizabeth I’s reign to include literature, particularly drama, of the Jacobean Age or even the Caroline Age. Indeed, the phrase Elizabethan drama is commonly used to refer to English drama from 1558 to 1642, the year in which the Puritan-dominated Parliament closed all theaters to suppress stage plays. As applied to authors, extended use of the term Elizabethan may cover both Elizabethan writers (Shakespeare and Bacon included) who also wrote during the subsequent Jacobean Age and authors whose careers were not fully established until the Jacobean era (such as the poet John Donne and the playwright Ben Jonson).