THE RENAISSANCE PERIOD | History of English Literature



In the history of English literature, the Renaissance has great importance regarding literary aspects and the exploration of new horizons in the world. It lasted from the years 1500-the to the 1600s and is also called the Age of Shakespeare. The rebirth of literature and the revival of learning occurred as B.R. Malik (2017) stated in his book 'History of English Literature’ that the essence of this movement was that, ‘Man discovered himself and the universe’ and that ‘man so long blinded had suddenly opened his eyes and seen’. It was started in Italy, and the main predecessors of the Renaissance were Boccaccio, Petrarch, and Dante. Henry VIII made himself the head of the Church of England in 1509 and ruled England until 1547. So the literature turned into new products in the sense of religious beliefs in the maximum genres of the period. Humanism became the most emphasized thing in the era of the Renaissance. During the age of Elizabeth, literature became rich then, as it was before 1558 in which most shining stars in literature, Sir Thomas More and Fisher were executed, and the persecution of Protestants and martyrdom of Ridley, Latimer, and Crammer happened during the reign of Henry VIII. On the other hand in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, the rise of Puritans occurred, and the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 also occurred. She was most interested in literature and aesthetic pleasure was promoted in the field of literary works in all genres, especially in Drama and the first theatre was established in 1576. 

Genres of the Renaissance Period:  

The genres in the Renaissance were drama, poetry, and prose, which were the most famous of the age.



Major Figures and Works of the Renaissance Period in the genre of Drama:

As far as major works and figures of the Renaissance Period are concerned it was rich in the field of drama. In the beginning, firstly, drama was written on the model of Latin drama, as such kinds of dramas were, ‘Grummer Gurton’s Needle’ written by John Still in 1562, and ‘Ralph Roister Doister’ written by Nicholas Udall in 1567, and the first tragedy in the history of English literature was ‘Gorbuduc’ by Thomas Sackville in 1562.

Secondly, drama is followed by the University Wits, a group of dramatists. They wrote remarkable works regarding this genre of literature in the history of English literature, and the most prominent figure of the group was Christopher Marlowe (1564–1593). 

In this group, John Lyly (1554–1606) is the author. He also wrote many plays, such as Compaspe in 1581, Sapho and Phao in 1584, Endymion in 1591, and Miles in 1592, which were the major works of Lyly.

Similarly, George Peele (1558–1597) was also a member of this group. He wrote, ''The Arraignment of Paris" in 1584, and "David and Bathsheba’ in 1599.

Thomas Kyd (1558–1595) was also a major figure in that group, and his most famous work is ‘The Spanish Tragedy’. 

Robert Greene (1560–1592) wrote for the entertainment of the people, and his work consists of dramas such as, ‘Orlando Furioso’, ‘Friar Bacon’, ‘Friar Bungay’, ‘Alphonsus King of Aragon’ and ‘George a Greene’. 

Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593) greatest dramatist of the University Wits, wrote a remarkable work in the field of drama even in their very short life as he was beheaded in a clash at the age of 29. His first play was ‘Tamburlaine’ written in 1587 and his famous work is, ‘The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus’. Moreover, ‘The Jew of Malta’ and ‘Edward II’ were also fine works of drama by Marlowe.

William Shakespeare (1564–1616) was the greatest dramatist of his age and in the history of English literature. The drama was at its peak in this era during the reign of Elizabeth, especially romantic drama and, later on after 1606 his tragedies. He started his work regarding under discussion genre of literature with chronicle and comedy plays such as Henry VI (Three parts), ‘Richard III’ and ‘Titus Andronicus’ were the chronicle plays and comedies such as, ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost, ‘The Two Gentlemen of the Verona’, ‘The Comedy of Errors’, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and a tragedy, ‘Romeo and Juliet’. This period lasted from 1577 to 1593. 

Afterward, Shakespeare wrote the same kind of dramas such as, ‘Richard II’, ‘King John’, ‘The Merchant of the Venice’, ‘Henry IV’, ‘Henry V’, ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, ‘The Merry Wives of the Windsor’, ‘Much Adu About Nothing’, ‘As You Like it’ and ‘Twelfth Night’ is the writings with the period of 1594 to 1601.

Another period of the great dramatist Shakespeare was from 1601 to 1608 in which he wrote the great tragedies and some comedies. At that time his most famous tragedies were of the part of his writings such as, ‘Julius Caesar’, ‘Hamlet’, All’s Well that Ends Well’, ‘Measure for Measure’, ‘Troilus and Cressida’, ‘Othello’, ‘King Lear’, ‘Macbeth’, ‘Antony and Cleopatra’, ‘Coriolanus’ and ‘Timon of Athens’ were famous in Renaissance era.

In the last unit of drama writings, Shakespeare wrote some comedies and romances. In this series, some dramas have been written such as, ‘Cymbeline’, ‘The Tempest’ and ‘Winter’s Tale’.

In the last in the field of drama Ben Jonson (1573-1637) was the one of famous dramatists of the Renaissance period. He also introduced Humor in drama such as, ‘Every Man in His Humor’ and ‘Every Man out of His Humor’ which was the mouthpiece of his humor concept. Moreover, he wrote satirical plays such as, ‘Valpone’ realistic plays like ‘Alchemist’ and a comedy of manner, ‘The Silent Woman’. ‘Bartholomew’ and two tragic plays, ‘Sejanus’ and ‘Cataline’ has also been written by Ben Jonson.



(Part III)

Major figures and works of the Renaissance Period in the genre of Poetry and Prose:

As far as poetry is concerned many prominent figures are the part of Renaissance including William Shakespeare, who wrote two narrative poems, ‘Venice and Adonis’, ‘The Rape of the Lucrece’ and also wrote 154 sonnets. Similarly, Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542) was one of the great figures in this genre and his great work was ‘Tottel’s Miscellany’ a poetical work by him and Earl of Surrey (1517-1547) which is considered the first English poetry in Renaissance Period.

Another poet of the age was Thomas Sackville (1536-1608) who wrote his famous work, ‘Mirror for Magistrates’ stating some kind of Englishmen conventions.

Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586) was the greatest poet of the Renaissance age having adaptable styles. His famous poetical work is ‘Apologise for Poetry, and sonnets ‘Astrophel and Stella’. Similarly, Edmund Spenser (1552-1599) was also a prominent figure in poetry and his greatest work is ‘Faerie Queen written in the form of allegory and about political issues. Moreover his ‘Shepherd’s Calendar’ is a beautiful rural poem written in classical style. ‘Astrophel’ is an elegy that is written on the death of Sidney and introduced the Spenserian stanza. 

In Prose:

In prose writing two prose writers were the most important figure of the age, John Lyly (1554-1516) wrote ‘Euphues’ which teach courtiers and the people to live with morality. Moreover, Sir Philip Sidney also wrote in prose writing as his ‘Arcadia’ is considered to be prose about a pastoral setting.

Two other figures were Malory who wrote the famous prose ‘Morte de Arthur’ and Richard Hakluyt wrote ‘Voyages’ written simply. 

A prose writer Francis Bacon (1597-1625), who wrote in the era of Renaissance and for the Jacobean and Caroline prose especially his ‘Essays’ were the most prominent prose writings. 


Post a Comment