Chapter Four: The Spanish Armada.

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Great English Monarchs and Their Times

Chapter Four: The Spanish Armada

England and Spain were enemies for many years. The King of Spain, Philip II, was angry with Elizabeth for several reasons: the religious conflict was a growing problem and Philip wanted to bring back the Catholic faith to England.

For many years English pirates and privateers attacked Spanish galleons and took their rich treasure. This exasperated Philip. In 1585 Elizabeth sent an army to help Dutch Protestants fight the Spanish. When Mary Stuart was beheaded, Philip was furious. He decided to invade England and take the throne from Elizabeth. The Pope strongly supported his plan.

The Spanish Armada had about 130 big ships and about 28,000 men. It was commanded by the Duke of Medina Sidonia. Elizabeth knew about Philip’s plan. She ordered her best captains, Sir Francis Drake, John Hawkins and Martin Frobisher to prepare for the attack.
England had a powerful navy of about 160 smaller ships and about 14,000 men. It was commanded by Lord Howard of Effingham, one of Elizabeth’s cousins.

In 1587 Drake attacked 30 Spanish galleons by surprise in Cadiz, Spain. “I have singed① the King of Spain’s beard,” he said proudly. His brilliant action pleased Elizabeth and hurt the Spanish. Elizabeth did not like war, but she was determined to defend England. Before the Spanish attack she visited her army and said, “I have the body of a weak … woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king!” She was a courageous woman.

① singed:烧焦。

In July 1588 the impressive Armada sailed up the English Channel. The weather was against the Spanish. The English attacked at Plymouth, using new tactics① to surprise the enemy. After several sea battles the Armada reached Calais. Lord Howard sent eight fireships② to Calais. When the Spanish saw them they were terrified and immediately left the port. There were other sea battles and both countries fought courageously. In the end the Armada was badly defeated and returned to Spain with only 67 ships. This was a glorious victory for England, but it was a disaster for Spain. After this defeat, Spain slowly lost its sea power.
By 1590 Elizabeth was almost 60 years old. She was still healthy and energetic, but her aspect③ changed. She wore a red wig④ and her face was covered with heavy white make-up. Her teeth were in very bad condition.

However, she was still vain. Every morning she spent more than two hours getting ready. She had about 3,000 magnificent dresses and innumerable⑤ splendid jewels. She was always very careful with her personal hygiene and took a bath once a month. She hated bad odours and loud noise. Elizabeth’s court was a centre for playwrights⑥, artists and musicians. Edmund Spenser’s famous work The Faerie Queen was dedicated to Elizabeth.

① tactics:策略。
② fireships:火攻船。
③ aspect:容貌。
④ wig:假发。
⑤ innumerable:无数的。
⑥ playwrights:戏剧作家。

English drama flourished① during this period. William Shakespeare was born on 23 April 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon. His father was a glove- maker②. He attended school at Stratford until he was fifteen. When he was eighteen he married Anne Hathaway and they had three children. He went to London in about 1587, before the sea battle of the Spanish Armada. With England’s brilliant victory over the Armada, the great English literary③ Renaissance began and Shakespeare became the most famous English writer of all time.

In London he worked as an actor and began to write plays and poetry. By 1592 William Shakespeare was famous in London. His plays were very successful and he became a rich man. He wrote 38 tragedies④, comedies⑤ and historical plays⑥. Some of his best known plays are Hamlet, Macbeth, The Merchant of Venice, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet. He and his group often performed for Queen Elizabeth and her court.

People of all social classes started going to the theatre. In London open air theatres became very popular. Shakespeare’s spectators were a noisy crowd. They talked, laughed, shouted, ate and drank during the performances. In open air theatres plays began in the afternoon when there was plenty of light. When it rained many of the spectators got wet. Women’s roles⑦ were played by young men, because women did not act in the theatre. Shakespeare’s plays were performed at the Globe, the Swan and the Rose Theatres.

① flourished:兴盛。
② glove-maker:手套制造者。
③ literary:文学的。
④ tragedies:悲剧。
⑤ comedies:喜剧。
⑥ historical plays:历史剧。
⑦ role:角色。

Shakespeare died on his birthday in 1616 and was buried in Stratford-upon-Avon. (The Globe Theatre was recently rebuilt so you can enjoy Shakespeare’s plays on the original site in London.) Other important Elizabethan playwrights were Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe. Elizabeth’s last favorite was the handsome Earl of Essex. She loved him dearly, although he was 34 years younger than her. She made him a military leader but he betrayed① her. He was accused of treason and beheaded in 1601.

In 1603 Elizabeth was 70 years old. She ate very little and was weak. She died on March 24, 1603, and was the last Tudor monarch. She named James VI of Scotland, the son of Mary Stuart, heir to the throne. Her people mourned her for a long time. Her reign lasted 44 years. Under Elizabeth trade grew, Spain was defeated and England became a European power②.

① betrayed: 出卖。
② power: 强国。

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