Much like the Victorian era would later be named to honor a queen, the Elizabethan age would become known as such in deference to the influential reign of one of England’s longest-serving monarchs. Queen Elizabeth I took the throne in 1558 and remained there until her death in 1603, ruling toward the end of the three-century Renaissance period -- a time of relative peace and stability, and cultural vibrancy.
Queen Elizabeth I was the daughter of King Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Elizabeth ascended to the throne after the death of her half-brother Edward, and the death of the subsequent queen, her half-sister, Mary. Elizabeth ruled after the peak of the Italian Renaissance, when aesthetic innovation and achievement in poetry and literature was largely centered in southern Europe. Elizabeth oversaw a time of comparative political stability, when religious turmoil between the Catholic Church and newly formed Protestant Church was held at bay. Meanwhile, England’s external issues with France were muted.
The Elizabethan era is widely regarded as England’s Renaissance, and the language arts flourished. Theater arts reached a new level of popularity, with an average of two companies performing six days a week in London. Wordsmiths, like playwrights, often found work -- including the English language’s best known playwright, William Shakespeare, who wrote and staged his plays during this period.
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