William Shakespeare and Elizabethan theater are the words that go together when speaking about the theatric masterpieces. The Elizabethan theater refers to the English theaters during the reign of Queen Elizabeth and has specific reputation for being controversial yet at the same time rather popular. The most well-known theaters are the Rose, The Hope and the Globe built in the XV century. These theaters could hold thousands of people, standing in the open pit near the stage and only the rich and the most powerful could afford a seat on the side of the stage. Typically the theater performances were held in the afternoon after people had finished their daily toils. The following essay explores the concept of Elizabethan theater further to find out what made Shakespeare’s plays so popular not only during Elizabethan times but also at present.
Shakespeare’s popularity goes beyond his merely being a masterful writer and showed him as an actor and a marketer who understood the market needs and created the appealing product. History showed him to be an outstanding playwright and dramatist who spent a lot of time with the actors consulting them and promulgating his works. Most dramatists, including Shakespeare were actors too, so during his life Shakespeare could use his outstanding writing abilities and the propensity to understand the market needs together with his acting to please the public. Indeed his works clearly reflected the needs of the contemporary Elizabethan society making his plays especially appealing.
Elizabethan theater and English society
The reason why elements of Elizabethan society and the stagecraft of the time contribute to the universal appeal of his plays is because English Renaissance theaters were relatively new, exciting and innovative. They replaced the boring medieval theaters and presented funny, humoristic and very emotional plays. The Elizabethan society was changing. It gradually moved from religious plays to comedies and drama, to satiric performances and plays with sexual themes. Shakespeare who appears to be a reformer together with other playwrights fully exercised his talent and literary freedom to please the crowds. It is because Elizabethan society became mundane compared to the previous periods and Shakespeare was presenting mundane themes people simply adored his drama.
Characteristics of Shakespeare’s plays
Speaking about some of the characteristics of Shakespeare’s plays and why do they make 400-year-old plays some of the best theatre produced today one should point out the following important elements. The modern society is not religious as it was prior to Elizabethan times, so the themes are appealing even at present. At the same time just like in the past, at present the representatives of major religions do not like Shakespeare’s works because they make fun of people, even of members of various religions. Also, Jewish minorities probably do not like Shakespeare because he frequently made fun of Jews as greedy, crooked and evil. The second important reason why 400-year-old plays are so popular is because Shakespeare used the themes which are always going to be appealing. He commented on the matters of love, seduction, money, relationships, the fight for power, treason and treachery, the very things that interest modern day people, too. So as long as people have similar values and aspirations, Shakespeare’s plays are going to be liked.
Finally, it is necessary to note that Elizabethan theater, in my opinion can be considered the first modern theater in terms of the freedoms it gave to the playwrights. The Elizabethan society moved from the Dark Ages to the Renaissance taking interests in matters such as sex, seduction, love, money, career, and power. Shakespeare as well as many other popular playwrights understood the need and presented the right product for the market catering the interests of the crowds. Since after 400 years people have not changed in terms of their values, ideals, ethics and preferences, the works of Shakespeare are considered to be a true dramatic masterpiece, while numerous religious works based on biblical themes that existed prior to Shakespeare were forgotten.
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