The Elizabethan Era

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Social Studies
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The Elizabethan Era

Although many religions existed in the world during the Renaissance, in England there was primarily one: Christianity. However, there was still much religious conflict in England, due to the fact that most people during the time belonged to either one of two faiths within Christianity - Protestantism or Catholicism, with the latter being the larger and older branch. The Catholic Church was a very wealthy and powerful institution, owning large amounts of land and generating great amounts of income through tithes (a type of tax). It primarily used this money to support the clergy, which was composed of bishops, nuns, priests, and other Church officials. They believed that following sacraments (such as baptism and other religious ceremonies) could grant salvation, and tried to generate money by selling items. However, the Protestants (which were a recent religious reformation led by Martin Luther) disagreed with the idea that anyone or anything besides God himself could grant salvation, and also disliked the idea of selling off items to raise money. Because of this contrast in beliefs, there was much violence and hostility between the two groups. For example, in 1542, the Catholic Church established the “Holy Office”, an institution designed to eradicate “heretics”, which was essentially a blanket term which they used to describe anyone whose beliefs did not conform to their own, such as Protestants, Jews, and certain scientists (such as Galileo). Another example of religious conflict during the Renaissance is the Thirty Years War, which, as the name suggests, was a war that took place between 1618 and 1648, with the two opposing sides being Protestants and Catholics. With battles occurring all across western and northern Europe, casualties were devastating, with figures ranging as high as eight million. Finally, on October 24, 1648, a treaty was signed at Westphalia, granting every state within the empire independance. The religion of the state would be determined by the religion of the prince, meaning that Catholics and Protestants would not peacefully coexist with one another for centuries.

During the Renaissance, due to the number of artistic, social and scientific advancements, there were many people who were in the public spotlight, many of which are still famous to this very day. For example, Leonardo da Vinci was an artist, mathematician and engineer, whose work includes prototypes for a wing glider, helicopters and steam cannons, as well as famous pieces of art such as the Mona Lisa. Another famous artist was Christopher Marlowe, a playwright whose major writings include Doctor Faustus and the Jew of Malta, the latter of which acting as a heavy influence upon Shakespeare’s famous play “The Merchant of Venice”. Some other famous people include Jacques Cartier (a French explorer who discovered Canada) Francis Drake (the first English captain to sail the world), Martin Luther (a major figure of the Protestant Reformation), Sir Francis Bacon (pioneered the scientific method) and Galileo Galilei (an astronomer who famously developed the theory of Earth’s orbit around the Sun). There were also many members of royalty who were famous, with some notable examples being Henry VII, founder of the Tudor dynasty and largely responsible for restoring England’s wealth after the devastating War of the Roses, and Mary I, a queen so notorious for her ruthless executions of Protestants (and other “heretics”) that she was nicknamed Bloody Mary. These major figures provided both characters and events for Shakespeare to write about and draw influence from, with several of his plays focusing on real people (such as Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VI and Richard III, among others).

The Elizabethan Era

By Liam Title, Brian Tang and Jerry Chung

William Shakespeare, universally regarded as the ‘greatest writer who ever lived’, and as the ‘immortal bard’, lives up to all of those titles. Born in 1564, in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. Unfortunately, very little is known about his personal life. However, we know that Shakespeare wrote at least 37-38 plays during his lifetime. Many of his plays were performed at the Globe theatre, and were all usually very successful. Shakespeare's’ plays were histories, comedies and tragedies. His more acclaimed plays include: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Henry V, Hamlet, Othello, King Lear and many more. Not only was Shakespeare a play writer, but he also wrote poems. His best known poems are The Sonnets, published in 1609. Shakespeare died on April 23rd, in 1616. Shortly after, 36 of 37 of his plays were published for the first time ever, in a collection known as the ‘First Folio’. Unfortunately, none of Shakespeare’s original manuscripts have survived the test of time, so the ‘First Folio’ is the best (and really, only source) for what he originally wrote. There is a theory that exists, it suggests that Shakespeare didn’t actually write the plays he is said to have written, but rather written by several individuals. These individuals are said to have used Shakespeare as a ‘front’ to shield their identities. Possible candidates have been proposed throughout history, including Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, and even the 17th Earl of Oxford. However this theory has been around for several hundred years, and perhaps we’ll never know. What we do know nonetheless, is that Shakespeare will truly forever be known as the ‘immortal bard’.

Famous People


Shakespeare: The Man

Fashion in the 16th century was always evolving. The styles of clothing worn during this time period were actually rather extravagant in its way, with very intricate and complex textures and patterns adorning their garments. Take for example, the farthingale, a very stiff bell shaped skirt made to accentuate the female body. Yes, it may sound rather uncomfortable, but actually the skirt came with a bodice, forcing the torso into a very uncomfortable cone shape. This was not the time when people thought about ‘practicality over looking good’, it was a time where looking good was very important, and women were willing to do anything to look good, (even sacrifice their bodies to such garments as the farthingale). Generally, females wore clothes that covered them completely, and usually the clothing items were all very large, heavy, stiff, and tight (no baggy clothes here!). Surprisingly, men’s fashion was also very ostentatious during this time. It was just as complex and uncomfortable as the women’s clothing. During the Renaissance, comfort was not really a priority when it came to attire, what was really important however was showing off your wealth. Even the children got to follow along! The children usually wore miniature versions of the adult fashions.


The 1500’s was a great time for science, as well as for many inventors. It is widely regarded as the beginning of the modern era of science. For starters, in 1543, Copernicus published his ‘Heliocentric model’, which ultimately stated that the Earth and other planets orbit the Sun. His theory forever changed astronomy, and changed all of science. As well, inventors/scientists such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Galileo Galilei, Zacharias Janssen, all made profound discoveries or scientific advancements during the 16th century. However, science could not have evolved without religion. Religion may have halted the progress of science temporarily at the time, but in the end science ‘overcame’ religion and set itself on the pedestal it is on today. Not to sound blasphemous, but science and religion cannot exist without the other, solely based on the history they have shared and endured together.

Scientists/ Inventions