Overview
Religion and Spirituality
Science and Technology
Art, Literature and Music
Daily Life
Key Personalities

Elizabeth I (1533-1601)

Elizabeth I was the daughter of Henry VIII and his queen, Anne Boleyn. At three years of age, her mother was beheaded and she herself was bastardized by an Act of Parliament. By a later Act, however, the succession to the throne was conditionally secured to her. Elizabeth was carefully educated, attaining, under the direction of Roger Ascham, considerable proficiency in Latin, French, and Italian, and some knowledge of Greek. She was also brought up in the Protestant faith.

Although marriage projects were early set before her and she entertained numerous suitors, she never married. At the age of twenty-five, Elizabeth ascended the throne. Known as the "Virgin Queen," she quickly gained popularity among her British subjects. Elizabeth was integral in the establishment of English Protestantism. She brought stability to her nation, native England, as well as elevated the nation to become a major European power.

The Queen also experienced her share of political woes at the hands of adherents to the Romish system, Catholics and Puritans. Pope Paul IV refused to acknowledge Elizabeth's title, while Pius V and Sixtus V published bulls of excommunication against her, and absolved her subjects from their allegiance. Marked by personal tragedy, religious conflict and violence, her reign nonetheless was characterized as a great age of literary and scientific progress and economic prosperity.


William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright who is widely regarded as the greatest writer of the English language, as well as one of the greatest in Western literature, and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He wrote thirty-eight plays and 154 sonnets, as well as a variety of other poems. Already a popular writer in his own lifetime, Shakespeare's reputation became increasingly celebrated after his death and his work adulated by numerous prominent cultural figures through the centuries. Shakespeare is believed to have produced most of his work between 1586 and 1616, although the exact dates and chronology of the plays attributed to him are often uncertain. He is counted among the very few playwrights who have excelled in both tragedy and comedy, and his plays combine popular appeal with complex characterisation, poetic grandeur and philosophical depth.

Shakespeare was born at Stratford-upon-Avon, and he was the son of a tradesman and Alderman of Stratford, John Shakespeare in 1564. William, the eldest son, and third child (of eight) was baptized in 1564 and probably educated at Stratford Grammar School, but little is known of his life up to his eighteenth year. In 1575 when he was eleven, there was a great plague in the country and Queen Elizabeth journeyed out of London to avoid its consequences and stayed for several days at Kenilworth Castle near Stratford enjoying "festivities" arranged by her host Lord Leicester. It is probable these events may have made a strong impact on the mind of young William. At the age of Eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway, eight years his senior. Five years later, he left for London. William worked at the Globe Theatre and appeared in many small parts. He first appeared in public as a poet in 1593 with his "Venus and Adonis" and the following year with "The Rape of Lucrece." He became joint proprietor of The Globe and also had an interest in the Blackfriars Theatre.

The play writing commenced in 1595 and of the thirty-eight plays that comprise the Shakespeare Cannon, thirty six were published in the 1st Folio of 1623, of which eighteen had been published in his lifetime in what are termed the Quarto publications. "Love's Labour's Lost" and "The Comedy of Errors" appear to be among the earliest, being followed by "The Two Gentlemen of Verona" and "Romeo and Juliet." Then followed "Henry VI," "Richard III," "Richard II," "Titus Andronicus," "The Taming of the Shrew," "King John," "The Merchant of Venice," "A Midsummer Night's Dream," "All's Well that Ends Well," "Henry IV," "The Merry Wives of Windsor," "Henry V," "Much Ado about Nothing," "As You Like It," "Twelfth Night," "Julius Caesar," "Hamlet," "Troilus and Cressida," "Othello," "Measure for Measure," "Macbeth," "King Lear," "Timon of Athens," "Pericles," "Antony and Cleopatra," "Coriolanus," "Cymbeline," "A Winter's Tale," "The Tempest," "Henry VIII" and "The Two Noble Kinsmen." When he retired from writing in 1611, he returned to Stratford to live in a house which he had built for his family. In 1616, Shakespeare was buried in the Church of the Holy Trinity the same Church where he was baptised in 1564. Tradition has it that he died after an evening's drinking with some of his theatre friends.