Culture of the Elizabethan Era Morgan Stebens 6th period


The arts, religion, and clothing helped create the unique culture of the Elizabethan Era.


During the Elizabethan Age, people were able to know the class of one another from what they were wearing. "In Elizabethan England one's clothing provided an observer with instant knowledge of one's social status." (Sonia) People were very judgmental of each other. What they wore made them who they were and could tell someone how rich or poor they were.

For most events, it was common in this time for people to get very dressed up in extravagant outfits. "The Elizabethan Era is known for the elaborate outfits that men and women wore to court and elite social functions." (Bumgardner) Paintings sometimes will show them wearing huge dresses, tops, or head accessories, with prints, feathers, and more to make what they wore seem even more over the top.

Queen Elizabeth passed strict laws people had to follow regarding clothing. "Strict rules regulated clothing." (Bumgardner) These laws were much like dress codes now. Some of these laws included what the social classes were allowed to wear, and what types of things people could wear to work.

People mostly enjoyed getting dressed up for important events such as parties and holiday functions. "The English also enjoyed dressing up for masques, pageants, and plays at Christmas and other special times." (Bumgardner) People also liked wearing lots of other things, such as makeup and wigs to these events. And even though some would want to get dressed up, the clothing laws didn't allow them to do so.

The higher classes wanted to keep it clear that they were the highest, so they held onto their ways of wearing different and nicer clothes. "With a growing middle class, the rich and powerful clung to their age-old distinction of wearing clothes that made it immediately clear that they outranked others." (Sonia) Higher classes continued to dress nicer to prove to others that they were the best, because they were prideful and felt superior to others. So by continuing to dress better, it still showed they were higher.

Painting of the fancy outfits men and women wore to special events and functions.
Drawing showing different types of clothing people were allowed to wear. Middle class clothing on the left, and higher class clothing on the right.


Later on in Elizabeth's reign, she was looking for Catholics and was against them. Anyone who went against the church was killed, because it was considered to be like betraying the country and its government. "In the latter half of Elizabeth’s reign, she actively persecuted Catholics... a number of people were executed for activity opposing the established church. By law, such action could be regarded as treason." (Bumgardner) In the beginning, Queen Elizabeth wasn't against Catholics. She began to no longer allow Catholicism because she was unwilling to tolerate them threatening her as the Queen.

Church was something that all Elizabethans participated in. "All Elizabethans attended church on a Sunday..." (Alchin) There was one main church that people were expected to go to since there was really only one religion that Queen Elizabeth allowed. Religions were also a strict during this time, so most people weren't really given a choice whether they could go or not.

Inside view of the main worship room, in the Church of England.

At first, the Queen didn't particularly care for Catholicism, but she didn't treat people any different because of their views. "Elizabeth also resumed the Reformation movement by integrating Protestant religious policy into the Church of England. Despite Catholic animosity toward this decision, the queen did not persecute Catholics during her early years." (Caffrey) In her later years, the Queen began to execute Catholics because they were against her and the church.

Baptism was most commonly done within the first few days of a baby's life. However, it was against church law to be baptized at home not by an official. "Soon after birth, the baby would be taken to the parish church for baptism, commonly called christening: this was supposed to happen on Sunday or holy day within a week or two of the birth. Christenings at home or by anyone but a clergyman were against church law." (Singman) Strict church laws controlled every aspect of the church, including the religious practices and what people were allowed to do.

Queen Elizabeth wanted to fix the Church of England. She wanted to try and win over the Catholic's by making church better for them too. "One of her first acts was to re-establish the Church of England. Initially, she tried to win Catholic support by making the church services more traditional." (Morrill) Queen Elizabeth wanted to keep peace and try and stop problems from occurring. So in order to do that, she attempted to make the church geared more towards the Catholics beliefs and traditions.

Church of England from outside at night.


Entertainment was important to people in this time, and music was something that their lives were surrounded with. "Music was an important form of entertainment to the people who lived during the Elizabethan era." (Alchin) Music was mostly used in church to play and sing hymns, tell stories and poems, and act in plays.

Wealthier people were expected to know how to play music and to play at special events. "People liked music, and wealthy people were expected to play musical instruments on social occasions." (Bumgardner) Many people knew how to play music and wealthier classes had to play at church, plays, and events such as dances or party's.

Drawing of a band playing music at a dance.

Different types of art were used in early years to demonstrate stories from the Bible. "Paintings, frescoes (paintings done on wet plaster), tapestries, and stained-glass windows were created to show stories or figures from the Bible." (Sonia) The Church of England has many pieces of art that tell bible stories. Inside there are huge stained-glass windows, telling different Bible stories; some include, Christ dying on the cross, Christ being born, and people worshiping God.

Queen Elizabeth's subjects were required to know how to play instruments, sing, and dance. "She kept about seventy musicians in the royal court, and she expected her courtiers to sing, play musical instruments, and dance with grace and ability." (Sonia) Musical talents allowed Queen Elizabeth's royal court to entertain her. With these talents they could also entertain at events that the Queen held.

Painting of Queen Elizabeth I dancing with someone, while music is being played for her.

Boys were the only gender that appeared on stage. Boys acted for all roles, including women's. "Women never appeared on the professional stage. Boys played women's roles, and some acting companies consisted entirely of boys." (Novick) Even in the original Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare, Juliet's character, and all the other roles, were played by boys. So it may have been odd for them to kiss each other, during the kissing scenes in certain parts.

Drawing of William Shakespeare's play, Romeo and Juliet, being put on for Queen Elizabeth I.

Works Cited:

Alchin, Linda K., editor. Elizabethan Age. 2015, Accessed 5 Dec. 2016.

Bumgardner, Jake. “Elizabethan Age.” World Book Advanced. World Book, 2016. Web. 1 Dec. 2016.

Caffrey, Cait. “Elizabethan Era.” Salem Press Encyclopedia. EBSCO Host, Accessed 10 Dec. 2016.

Ed. Sonia G. Benson and Jennifer York Stock. Almanac. Vol. 1: Detroit: UXL, 2007. p141-194. COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning

Morrill, John S. “United Kingdom, History of the.” World Book Advanced. World Book, 2016. Web. 12 Dec. 2016.

Novick, Julius. “Drama.” World Book Advanced. World Book, 2016. Web. 12 Dec. 2016.

Singman, Jeffrey L. Daily Life in Elizabethan England. E-book, Westport, CT, Greenwood Press, 1995.


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