Types of Plays Written during the Elizabethan Period

by Leslie Carver
There were more than tragedies and comedies on the Elizabethan stage.

There were more than tragedies and comedies on the Elizabethan stage.

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Drama during the Elizabethan period is often associated with William Shakespeare; however, he was not the only playwright working at the time, and he wrote different types of plays. In fact, he was not even the most popular playwright of his time. Alongside the plays now known as classics from this period are others that were strictly for entertainment; some have been lost to time.


Comedies in the original dramatic sense were not the same as what we know as "comedies" today. In Elizabethan times, a comedy was a play with a happy ending; its characters were usually common people rather than royalty. "A Midsummer Night's Dream" by Shakespeare falls into the category of comedy.


Tragedies are the opposite of comedies; they have tragic endings and often involve noble characters such as kings. Among the best-known Elizabethan tragedies is Shakespeare's "Hamlet, Prince of Denmark." Tragedies often end with all of the main characters dead.


A lesser-known type of Elizabethan-era play is the jig. Jigs were rude and sexual plays that were performed after the main tragedy or comedy at the theater. Featuring singing, dancing and slapstick humor, jigs probably originated in the singing, clowning and general disorder of Medieval carnivals, May Games and other festivals that took place in rural areas.

Masters of Elizabethan Drama

The best-known Elizabethan playwright is Shakespeare; the only book more widely read than Shakespeare's work is the Bible. Other lesser-known Elizabethan playwrights were Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson. Marlowe was a contemporary of Shakespeare and was actually more popular in his lifetime; he wrote the play "Dr. Faustus." Ben Jonson's first major play was called "Every Man in His Humour," in which a young William Shakespeare played the lead role.

About the Author

Leslie Carver has been a professional author since 2009. Her work appears on multiple websites. She has an associate's degree in English with progress toward her bachelor's at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She has been awarded an Outstanding Student Award in English and twice nominated for creative writing awards.

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