Although Queen Elizabeth reigned only from 1558 to 1603, her name has been appropriated by historians to identify an age – the Elizabethan – that actually begins before her birth in 1533 and extends beyond her death in 1603. For whatever happy combination of reasons, the arts flourished under her reign. It was a period of great poetry, prose and drama. England has not seen its like since, and most countries have never experienced such an age.
Something of Queen Elizabeth’s attitude toward the arts is indicated by her own efforts as a poet, and by the efforts of the men of action who surrounded her at court. Some examples of this courtly poetry are presented here.
Key forms during this period include the sonnet and the song/lyrics.