We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

Who Were the English Renaissance Playwrights?

Jessica Ellis
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Language & Humanities is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Language & Humanities, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The English Renaissance was a cultural explosion that took place between the late 16th and early 17th centuries in England. Influenced heavily by similar artistic changes across Europe, particularly the Italian Renaissance, the movement promoted advances in arts, literature and philosophy. Theater was a principle area affected by the movement, and Renaissance playwrights Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, and William Shakespeare are considered by scholars to be among the greatest writers in history.

Christopher Marlowe was the earliest of the popular playwrights of the time. His work dealt with mainly tragic subjects, characterized by heroes brought down by their ego. He used his plays as a means of political activism, a dangerous concept in an era where dissenters were frequently beheaded by monarchs. Experts believe his plays contain magnificent passages of prose and poetry, and include Tamburlaine, The Jew Of Malta, and The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus.

The Massacre At Paris, one of Marlowe’s final plays, entered dangerous waters by dealing with a contemporary event and including characters based on political figures still active in Marlowe’s time. Marlowe was arrested in 1593 for libel and heresy, but was let go quickly. Ten days after his arrest, Christopher Marlowe was stabbed to death in mysterious circumstances. Evidence has not yet proved conclusive, but some experts suggest that Marlowe was murdered by order of Queen Elizabeth’s personal secretary, Thomas Walsingham.

The best known comedian of the English Renaissance was Ben Jonson, who had great success in the London theater scene in 1598 with the comical Every Man In His Humor. Jonson had a checkered youth, being branded on the thumb as punishment after killing a man in a fight. Frequently satirizing political officials, Jonson often found himself arrested or threatened by officials throughout his career. With the succession of James I to the throne of England in 1603, Jonson began writing masques for the royal court. Jonson often collaborated on these elaborate and expensive productions with Inigo Jones, a stage designer considered the father of modern stagecraft.

Most famous of the English Renaissance playwrights was William Shakespeare. Unlike Jonson and Marlowe, Shakespeare wrote extensively in all genres, from bawdy comedies like Love’s Labors Lost to epic tragedies such as Hamlet and Macbeth. Some experts believe Shakespeare began his career by emulating Marlowe’s lyrical style, but soon developed his own. Shakespeare is also credited with popularizing new genres of plays, including the tragicomedy or romance.

Prior to the Renaissance, theater in England had a precarious place. Depending on the religious and political views of the current monarch, plays were occasionally banned altogether. Most plays were either re-enactments of religious events performed for church festivals, or morality plays meant to impart a clear message from the church or monarchy to the audience. Traveling theater companies, particularly in the style of the Italian Commedia dell’arte, instilled a love of more complex plays in the English citizens. With the patronage of the theater-loving Queen Elizabeth, the Renaissance playwrights were given mostly free rein over subject matter and language.

The works of the Renaissance playwrights were revolutionary in their choice of subject matter, use of poetic language, and incredible popularity. Many scholars consider the works of Marlowe, Jonson and Shakespeare to be the greatest in theater history. Productions of their plays have remained popular since the 16th century, and continue to constitute a large portion of live theater repertoire.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis , Writer
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for Language & Humanities. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.

Discussion Comments

By anon109950 — On Sep 09, 2010

Other than Shakespeare, who wrote the most renaissance plays?

By anon31339 — On May 03, 2009

Nice. Very informative.

Jessica Ellis

Jessica Ellis


With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
Learn more
Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.