Theatre was not only popular for itself, then, but also for the opportunities it afforded the audience for social interaction and establishing hierarchy and dominance in a world where such social, economic, and political identities were in a state of massive flux.
From base to cultured, rich to poor, art to ostentation, it is the various contradictions inherent to Elizabethan theatre that made it such a popular form of entertainment during the period. These contradictions dovetailed nicely with the general Elizabethan way of life, which was itself marked by a distinct dichotomy between stated principles and allowances for freer ways of life. The degree of license that was taken in matters of work, business, love, and sex during the Elizabethan time is clearly observable in the drama of the period, which afforded an opportunity to both condemn and celebrate such licentiousness.
Elizabethans had no problem with the hypocrisy this seems to suggest, but rather this ambiguity had continued to make Elizabethan drama popular ever since.
“Elizabethan Entertainment.” Elizabethan Era.org. Accessed 13 November 2009. http://www.elizabethan-era.org.uk/elizabethan-entertainment.htm
Freedley, George and Reeves, John. A History of the Theatre. New York: Crown Publishers, 1941.
Kareti, Kavitha. “Elizabethan England: Popular Amusements and Entertainment.” Springfield. Accessed 13 November 2009. http://www.springfield.k12.il.us/schools/springfield/eliz/amusements.html
Shakespeare Info. “Elizabethan Theatres.” Accessed 13 November 2009. http://www.william-shakespeare.info/elizabethan-theaters.htm.