Religion and Spirituality
Science and Technology
Art, Literature and Music
Painting, Sculpture and the Graphic Arts
All of the arts flourished under Elizabeth I's reign, largely due to the Queen's love of the arts.
During the age of Elizabeth, painting was dominated by portraiture, particularly in the form of miniatures, while elaborate textiles and embroidery prevailed in the decorative arts, and sculpture found its place within the confines of tomb and architectural decoration.
The Queen herself took a keen interest
in her portraits, guiding artists such as Nicholas Hilliard and Marcus Gheeraerts in the creation of
stylized images of immense elegance, wealth and power.
Various artists such as Hilliard, Gheeraerts, Robert Peake the Elder, John de Critz, and George Gower received commissions
from the Crown, and employed techniques from European Mannerism and the School of Fontainebleau. These artists made
large-scale, full-length paintings that portrayed the noble class in richly decorative costumes
with armor, embroidery, ruffs, hunting gear, weapons, and lace. This artificial and decorative style became
characteristic of Elizabethan painting in general.
Additionally, some of the most famous Elizabethan works
of art are miniature paintings. Miniatures came from the tradition of illuminated manuscripts
and from Renaissance portrait medals, a revived classical form. It is said that the foreign artist
Hans Holbein, instructed Hilliard, one of the Queen's favorite artists, in the technique. Hilliard
produced miniatures painted on vellum or ivory or card, and such miniatures often functioned like lockets or cameos.
Intended for private viewing, portrait miniatures were often highly personal and intimate objects that often depicted lovers or mistresses.
Many of the larger court portraits of Elizabeth were based upon Hilliard's miniatures and portraits.
In the decorative arts, demand for domestic silver significantly increased during the mid-sixteenth
century because of rapid growth in population and subsequent expansion of the middle and upper classes.
Silver plates were often decorated with embossed sculptural vegetal forms, fruit, grotesque figures,
and strapwork. These intricate designs of foliage and patterning were also applied to suits of armor
and domestic textiles embroidered with colored silks and threads of gold and silver.
Architecture of the Elizabethan period became expression of wealth and status. Symmetry and ornateness
characterized the style of the English Renaissance, with tall houses and towers, for example, accented
by elaborate gardens and stables. Elizabethan style followed the Tudor style, and was succeeded
in the beginning of the 16th century by the purer Italian style introduced by Inigo Jones.
It responded to the Cinque-Cento period in Italy, the Francois I style in France, and the
Plateresque or Silversmiths style in Spain.
Literature and Poetry
Influenced by Italian sonnets, English writers of the period began introducing complicated poetic
structures in both verse and prose. The sonnets and plays of William Shakespeare
became exceptionally popular in England and eventually across Europe. Shakespeare's plays abounded in different
forms such as comedies, satires, tragedies, and romances, and included "Romeo and Juliet," "Hamlet," "Macbeth,"
"Julius Caesar," and "A Midsummer Night's Dream." As a result, theater became a national pastime across
social classes in England. In addition to Shakespeare,
playwrights Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson flourished during this era.
Marlowe was known for his magnificent blank verse, his overreaching protagonists, and his own untimely death.
Jonson was a dramatist, poet and actor, best known for his plays "Volpone" and "The Alchemist," his lyrics,
his influence on Jacobean and Caroline poets, his theory of humours, his contentious personality,
and his friendship and rivalry with Shakespeare.
Poets such as Edmund Spenser and John Milton produced works that demonstrated an increased interest
in understanding English Christian beliefs, such as the allegorical representation of the Tudor Dynasty
in "The Faerie Queen" and the retelling of mankind's fall from paradise in "Paradise Lost."
Music of this period became increasingly expressive and refined, and a knowledge and appreciation of
music set apart the truly genteel members of the high social classes. In addition, court musicians
gradually moved into their own music houses and guilds. Several different instruments became
popular during the Elizabethan era, including the lute (a forerunner of the guitar or cello),
viol (predecessor to the violin), spinet (a piano-like instrument), bagpipe, fife and cornet (a short trumpet).