Internet Shakespeare Editions


The death of Elizabeth I

Elizabeth I. This portrait is one of many by the accomplished English miniaturist, Nicholas Hilliard. Victoria and Albert Museum.

On 24 March 1603, Queen Elizabeth's forty-four year reign came to an end. After months of depression and failing health, she lost all will to live, refusing to eat and losing the ability to speak. She slipped into a coma and died at age 69. Click to learn more about her.

The funeral

The Queen's funeral was held five weeks after her death, on April 28th. A procession of over one thousand people accompanied her body from Westminster, and tens of thousands lined the streets. John Stowe records that her mourners raised "such a general sighing, groaning and weeping as the like hath not been seen or known in the memory of man."

Shakespeare and the Queen

According to Ben Jonson, Shakespeare's plays were admired* by Elizabeth. Indeed, during the last ten years of her reign, the Lord Chamberlain's Men performed at court thirty-two times, compared to thirty-seven performances by all other companies combined.

There is also a tradition that The Merry Wives of Windsor was written because of the Queen's desire to see Falstaff in love.


  1. Shakespeare and the Queen

    Jonson wrote that Shakespeare's plays delighted the Queen:

    Sweet Swan of Avon! What a sight it were
    To see thee in our waters yet appear
    And make those flights upon the banks of Thames,
    That so did take Eliza, and our James.

    (Ben Jonson on Shakespeare)