Курс лекцій для студентів денної, заочної та екстернатної форм навчання Інституту іноземної філології Частина І херсон icon

Курс лекцій для студентів денної, заочної та екстернатної форм навчання Інституту іноземної філології Частина І херсон

НазваКурс лекцій для студентів денної, заочної та екстернатної форм навчання Інституту іноземної філології Частина І херсон
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Renaissance in England begins in the late 15th century. It was the age of the Tudor sovereigns, who brought political stability to the country: three generations of the Tudors ruled England from 1485 to 1603. Henry Tudor, the earl of Richmond, became Henry VII, the first Tudor monarch: he won his crown by defeating Richard III at Bosworth Field, ending the dynastic strife that had raged for more than thirty years between the noble houses of York and Lancaster. Henry VII was Lancastrian but he married Elizabeth of the house of York. The barons, impoverished and divided by the dynastic wars, could not effectively oppose the power of the Crown, and the church also generally supported the royal power. So Henry VII was able to counter the multiple and competing power structures characteristic of feudal society and to impose a much stronger central authority and order on the nation. He laid the foundations for one of the most fruitful periods in English history. His diplomatic skill in avoiding quarrels with the neighbours, his careful handling of state finances and his building of a powerful merchant fleet, which enabled England to dominate international trade, were important steps in establishing England as a world power.

Henry VII was followed by Henry VIII, who, though a brilliant scholar and an ambitious monarch in European politics, quickly dissipated his father’s carefully accumulated savings. His efforts to make England politically important in Europe, as the balance of power between Spain and France, came to nothing. When Henry VIII died Edward VI was too young to reign, and the country was governed by a council, composed of the members of the new nobility created by the Tudors. Mary Tudor (Bloody Mary), the Catholic daughter of Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon, became queen on Edward’s death, at the age of 16, in 1553. Mary was inflexible and imprudent. Her Catholicism was approved by the people, but when she married Philip of Spain, the common people rebelled against this union, thinking that it gave too much influence to foreign powers. Mary burnt hundreds of Protestants, which led to greater unpopularity. When she died, she was succeeded by Elizabeth, who had wisely been very discreet during Mary’s reign to avoid execution.

The reign of Elizabeth I began in 1558 and ended with her death in 1603. Elizabeth was one of the most remarkable political geniuses England has ever produced. She identified herself with England as no previous ruler had done. She was a force for peace, reconciliation and prosperity. She made the Church part of the state regime and tried to avoid open quarrels with Spain and France (both Catholic states), or marriages with their kings (so as not to disturb the delicate balance of power in Europe). Her reign was a golden age in the history of English literature. Elizabethan age produced a gallery of authors of genius, some of whom have never been surpassed.

James IV of Scotland became James I of England in 1603. He was a less popular monarch than Elizabeth. He was a firm believer in the Divine Right of Kings and tried to rule without Parliament. He narrowly escaped death in the famous Gunpowder Plot in 1605 when some Catholic conspirators, including Guy Fawkes, who is commemorated every 5th November on Bonfire Night, attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Elizabeth had left huge debts, so the new king needed to raise money with a new tax. Parliament wanted new rights in home and foreign policy in return, but James refused to grant them as he was a firm believer in the Divine Right of Kings. When the Thirty Years War broke out James refused to declare war against the Catholics in spite of Parliaments ardent wish. The quarrels about money continued until his death in 1625.

Seven years after Henry VII became king, Christopher Columbus sailed to America, and a few years later Vasco de Gama reached India by sailing around the Cape of Good Hope. The English were not pioneers in the exploration of the Western Hemisphere, but these explorations affected their place in the world, for in the next century they became great colonizers and merchants. Besides the Great Geographical Discoveries enriched people’s imagination, giving them an insight into other societies and other cultures.

Significant changes in trade and in the arts of war also marked the early years of the Tudor regime. Henry VII made commercial treaties with European countries; England, which had always been a sheep-raising country, was by now manufacturing and exporting significant amounts of cloth. As lands were enclosed to permit grazing on a larger scale, people were driven off the land to the cities, and London grew into a metropolitan market with sophisticated commercial institutions. At the same time the feudal order continued to decline, partly because the introduction of firearms made armoured knights on horseback obsolete. The “new men” who supported the Tudors and profited from their favour could adapt themselves more easily to a changed society than could the descendants of the great families of the 15th century.

About a decade before Henry VII won his throne, the art of printing was introduced into England by William Caxton, who had learnt and practiced it in the Lower Countries. This was a technological revolution which transformed both reading habits and the language itself: from now on there was a tendency to fix spelling, vocabulary and grammar. Literacy increased during the fifteenth century; estimates suggest that about 30% of the people could read English in the early fifteenth century and about 60% by 1530. Printing made books cheaper and more plentiful, providing more opportunity to read and more incentive to learn. Certainly, these changes were not as sudden and dramatic. Although Caxton introduced printed books, his publications consisted of long prose romances translated from French, collections of moral sayings, and other works that were medieval rather than modern. Also, tournaments continued at court for a century, and the approved code of behaviour was the traditional code of chivalry.

However, during the 15th century a few English clerics and government officials had journeyed to Italy and had seen something of the extraordinary cultural and intellectual movement flourishing in the city-states there. That movement, generally known as the Renaissance, involved a rebirth of letters and arts stimulated by the recovery and study of texts from classical antiquity and the development of new ethical norms based on classical models. It also unleashed new ideas and new social, political and economic forces that displaced the outwardly and communal values of the Middle Ages, emphasizing instead the dignity and potential of the individual and the worth of life on this world. It was not until Henry VII’s reign brought some political stability to England that the Renaissance could take root there, and it was not until the accession of Henry VIII that it began to flower.

The Renaissance was accompanied by an intellectual revolution, as the medieval worldview collapsed before the new science, new religion, and new humanism. The discoveries of astronomers and explorers were redrawing the cosmos in a way that was profoundly disturbing: “And freely men confess that this world’s spent, / When in the planets, and the firmament /They seek so many new .” (John Donne, The First Anniversary, 1611). The new scientific knowledge proved both man’s littleness and his power to command nature; against the Calvinist idea of man’s helplessness pulled the humanist faith in his dignity, especially that conviction, derived from the reading of Seneca, of man’s constancy and fortitude, his heroic and almost divine capacity for self-determination

A fundamental intellectual current in the Renaissance was humanism, the first major exponents of which in England were Sir Thomas More and ^ Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam. More’s Utopia, written in Latin, was a critique of European social, political, and religious institutions and practices from the vantage point of an imaginary society based on reason. More’s friend Erasmus spent some time in England, and his influence was widely diffused through his scripture translations and the commentaries and his writings on rhetoric and education.

Education – of the Christian prince, of the courtier of the Christian gentleman – was a prime concern of the English humanists. That education was ordered according to the subjects of the medieval trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) and the quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music) but with new emphasis in rhetoric and classical texts. The grammar studied was Latin, which was the language of diplomacy, of the professions, and of all higher learning.

In grammar schools, which were either attached to monasteries or founded by groups of merchants, the curriculum consisted of Latin, Greek, ancient history, religion and, increasingly, English. Typically, all the students of the school would be taught together in the same class by the same teacher. Discipline was strict and the school day started at six in the morning and end at six in the evening, when there was enough light to study. The students were the sons of the local middle class: merchants, farmers, lawyers and shopkeepers. At a lower level there were “dame” schools usually run by an old lady in the village who gave the rudiments of reading, writing and arithmetic. Girls were not normally sent to school. The only education considered appropriate for them was to learn how to run the house, to sew, to embroider and perhaps to play a musical instrument. A few enlightened families (such as that of Sir Thomas More) did provide for the formal education of their daughters by means of private tutors.

From the outset, English humanism was vitally concerned with Christianity as well as with classical learning. The second generation of humanists combined an earnest Protestantism with classical study. These men had a profound influence on the University of Cambridge, and Cambridge, in turn, educated many of the greatest writers of the age.

Humanists like Erasmus engaged in scholarly and critical study of the Scriptures; humanists like More satirized the corrupt and ignorant clergy and such abuses as the sale of papal indulgences and pardons. But neither Erasmus nor More followed the course that led to the Protestant Reformation: for both the unity of Christendom was an overriding value. For those who supported it, the Reformation was a return to pure Christianity – cleansing the church from all the corruption and idolatry that had accumulated over the centuries. From the perspective of later ages, it is a major factor in the breakup of Western Christendom, the secularization of society, the establishment of princely ascendancy over the church, and, consequently the identification of religion and nationalism.

Unlike Germany, in England the Reformation did not begin with ideological controversy. The split with the Church of Rome was caused by a man who considered himself a Catholic champion against Luther and his opinions: Henry VIII. Henry’s motives for the break with Rome were dynastic: he needed a legitimate son and his queen, Catherine of Aragon, could not give him one, and Rome did not grant him permission to divorce her. He then declared himself Supreme Head of the English church and required oaths of allegiance affirming his right to that role. He authorized a vernacular translation of the Bible, making it available in English to anyone who could read. In Edward IV’s reign the English Reformation acquired a strong doctrinal basis and the beliefs of the English church were officially defined in forty-two articles. Queen Elizabeth established the English church in terms acceptable to the vast majority of her subjects. She imposed a form of service (retaining much of the old Roman ritual), and although she compelled her subjects to attend it, she left their consciences to themselves. The Elizabethan manifesto of faith formulated the chief matters of doctrinal controversy in ambiguous terms. That compromise satisfied neither the Roman Catholics, who sought to return to Rome, nor the Puritans, who pressed for more radical reform. But it accommodated most of the populace who now looked to their own sovereign as the prime authority in religion and were unwilling to tolerate a plurality of religions in a supposedly unitary state.

From one point of view, this sudden renaissance looks radiant, confident, and heroic. Yet from another point of view, this was a time of unusually traumatic strain, in which English society underwent massive disruptions that transformed it on every front and decisively affected the life of every individual. This strain gives the literature of the period its unrivalled intensity. In this period England’s population doubled; prices rocketed. The merchant and ambitious lesser gentleman profited at the expense of the aristocrat and labourer, as satires and comedies complain. Behind the Elizabethan vogue for pastoral poetry lies the fact of the prosperity of the enclosing sheep farmer, who aggressively sought to increase pasture at the expense of the peasantry. The huge body of the poor fell even further behind the rich; Shakespeare’s King Lear, provides glimpses of a horrific world of vagabondage and crime, the Elizabethans’ biggest, unsolvable social problem.

^ Distinctive features of Renaissance literature. Humanism fostered an intimate familiarity with the classics that was a powerful incentive for the creation of English literature. Renaissance literature in England is full of influences from classical models. One may cite Romeo and Juliet’s suicide as an example of classical values rather than those of the Elizabethan church (which would condemn suicide). English literature, however, was also drawing on native tradition and gradually moving from a rigid classical basis. A character such as Hamlet is by far more retrospective than any personage from ancient drama. The use of ghosts in Renaissance drama evolved from rather solid figures in early plays to the sophisticated psychological devices in Shakespeare’s tragedies. Tragedy, understood as the fall of a single great person due to a fatal flaw, developed into Webster’s totally corrupt and brutal world.

^ Popular literary tradition also influenced the choice of imagery. Sir Philip Sidney, in England’s first neoclassical literary treatise, The Defence of Poesie (1595), candidly admitted that “the old song of Percy and Douglas” would move his heart “more than with a trumpet,” and his Arcadia is an instance of the continual cross-fertilization of genres in this period – the contamination of aristocratic pastoral with popular tale, the lyric with the ballad, comedy with romance, tragedy with satire, and poetry with prose. The language, too, was undergoing a rapid expansion that all classes contributed to and benefited from, sophisticated literature borrowing the idioms of colloquial speech, like Macbeth’s allusion to heaven peeping “through the blanket of the dark”. The Elizabethans’ ability to address themselves to several audiences simultaneously and to bring into relation opposed experiences, emphases, and worldviews invested their writing with complexity and power.

Classical effect was also modified by the simultaneous impact of the flourishing continental cultures, particularly the Italian. Niccolo Machiavelli who wrote The Prince in 1513, was enthusiastically hailed as the apostle of modern pragmatism. “We are much beholden to Machiavelli and others,” said Bacon, “that write what men do, and not what they ought to do.” The major influence on the English literature was not Dante but Petrarch, who established the language of love that dominated Renaissance in England and more generally in Europe. It was a strikingly revolutionary step: romantic love became part of life in the Western tradition. The Petrarchan concept of love lyrics is based on the veneration of the lady as a symbol of purity and virtue, and the concept of love as something transcending mere physical attraction and thus ennobling it. Translations of Ovid towards the end of the 16th century led to a rather franker erotic component in literature (for example, in Donne’s poetry). But love was still essentially courtly, and for the upper classes only. In fact, in Renaissance comedy lower class people in love was a stock comic situation designed to make people laugh.

The religious influence was all-pervasive in Renaissance literature, and there is nothing blasphemous in Donne’s image of God ravishing the poet as a Petrarchan lover might ravish a lady. In Elizabethan time shorter life expectancy, death in childbirth, infant mortality, violent deaths and public executions all combined to make death an everyday occurrence, something ever present. This explains the preoccupation with time as a destructive force, or with living for the moment in many works of the period.

Another characteristic of Renaissance literature is decorum and elegance. Since the Romantic period, more emphasis has been placed on sincerity and naturalness, but this was alien to Renaissance literature, which thus may seem artificial to modern eyes. Shakespeare’s comedies work out a simple theme: love conquers all; they are not intended to be realistic or plausible visions of human relationships. Renaissance aesthetics is characterized by intricacy of design: houses in the form of the letter E (for Elizabeth in the Elizabethan period), elaborate dances and gardens, complex harmonies in music. In high esteem was the abundance of words, poetic figures and ornament by means of which the poet could reveal his learning and virtuosity. Renaissance aesthetics was also concerned with models, conventions, and literary tradition. According to the subject matter, attitude, tone, values there were differentiated several modes in the period: pastoral, heroic, lyric, satiric, elegiac, tragic, and comic. According to their formal structure, meter, style, size, occasion they could be presented in such Elizabethan genres as epic, tragedy, sonnet, verse epistle, epigram, hymn, masque, funeral elegy, etc. The Elizabethans commonly placed epic at the pinnacle of their genre system and pastoral poems, at the base. The modes and the genres carried with them a whole range of culturally defined assumptions and values. Thus the pastoral mode presented a simple and idealized world inhabited by shepherds and shepherdesses who tend their flocks, fall in love, and engage in friendly poetry contests. The values of this mode are leisure and humble contentment that are

Renaissance drama. Drama was the greatest achievement of Elizabethan literature, if not of all time. The Middle Ages knew religious drama: the mysteries, miracles, and moralities. The mystery plays dramatized episodes from the Bible; the miracle plays, episodes from the lives of saints; morality plays were allegorical and dedicated to the struggle of the various virtues and vices and even the devil himself was shown in such plays in a comic aspect. Between the episodes of these plays were acted comic scenes that bore almost no relation to the story; these were called interludes. In the 16th century interludes, or short one-act plays, became fashionable. They were usually performed as part of an evening entertainment at a rich man’s house. The religious and moral themes of medieval drama, under the influence of Renaissance humanism, began to give way to closer attention to ordinary human characters.

There was another type of performance in English cities, the pageants. These were pantomimes enacting episodes from the history of that particular city. These pageants were the source of the histories for which the English Renaissance drama is famous.

The 16th century England also knew a third type of performance: plays staged by university students. They were plays by Roman dramatists acted in Latin. Later on original English plays written in imitation of these authors began to appear. Before Elizabeth’s time, the universities were mainly devoted to educating the clergy. But in the second part of the century the sons of the gentry and the aristocracy were going in increasing numbers to the universities and the Inns of Court (law schools), though often they did not take degrees or practice as lawyers. Their residence in these places was simply an educational preparation for public service or managing their estates.

In the middle of the century a schoolmaster, Nicholas Udall, wrote a classical comedy in English, based on the Latin comedies his students had been reading; he called it Ralph Roister Doister. At about the same time another comedy, putting vivid, native English material into classical form, was amusing the students at Cambridge. It was called Gammar Gurton's Needle. In the development of comedy as a genre the great classical models were the Latin comic playwrights Plautus and Terence, from whom English dramatists derived some elements of structure and content: plots based on intrigue, division into acts and scenes, and type characters such as the rascally servant and the cowardly braggart soldier. The latter type appears in Ralph Roister Doister and is a remote ancestor of Shakespeare's Sir John Falstaff in Henry IV. Comedy was generally taken to be a lower genre than tragedy, and the style often mixes prose and verse: middle- and lower-class characters tend to speak prose.

Elizabethan tragedy also began with a fusion of medieval and classical elements. The precarious position of men in high estate formed the basis for medieval notions of tragedy; it owed much to the Latin tragedies of Seneca (known throughout the Middle Ages) that portray the Roman goddess Fortuna turning her wheel, bringing low those that were high. This is the tragic vision of the narrative tales in Boccaccio's Falls of Illustrious Men, in Chaucer's Monk's Tale, in the collection of tales about the falls of princes called The Mirror for Magistrates (1559). A "mirror" in this sense is a warning, something to see oneself in and learn from; a "magistrate" is anyone in a position of power or authority.

When tragedies began to be dramatized, they took over very different elements from Seneca: violent and bloody plots, resounding rhetorical speeches, the frequent use of ghosts among the cast of characters, and sometimes the five-act structure. The first regular English tragedy using some of these elements was called Gorboduc, or Ferrex and Porrex; it was written by two lawyers, Thomas Sackville and Thomas Norton (1561). Significantly, Gorboduc was written in blank verse; its use here begins the establishment of blank verse as the accepted medium for English tragedy.

While Aristotle's Poetics did not provide rigid norms for tragedy in England as it did on the Continent, it did influence the conception of the genre. Particularly important were the Aristotelian principles that the tragic fall should be caused by some error or moral weakness in the protagonist; that the plot should involve a fall from eminent success into misery, marked by reversals and discoveries; that the characters should be persons of high estate, “better than we”; and that the tragedy should evoke pity and fear in the viewers, working at last to achieve a purgation (catharsis) of those emotions. Some of Shakespeare's great tragedies (e.g., Othello and King Lear) can be analyzed in such terms, although, like most other Elizabethan tragedies, they are far from classical in their use of subplots and comic relief, their violations of the unities of time and place, and their sheer expansiveness.

The first generation of professional playwrights was known collectively as the university wits. They were a group of young writers from Oxford or Cambridge who disdained a career in the Church in order to devote themselves to literature. They included Thomas Kyd, Robert Greene, Thomas Nashe, George Peele, Christopher Marlowe and John Lyly. They gave the Elizabethan drama some elements of classical form and contributed to the great outpouring of literature in the 1590s. But their lives testify to the difficulties they found trying to sustain themselves by writing. Their nickname identifies their social pretensions, but their drama was primarily middle-class, patriotic, and romantic. Their preferred subjects were historical or pseudo-historical, mixed with clowning, music, and love interest.

^ Christopher Marlow (1564-1593) was the most influential of the university wits. Son of a cobbler, the first major Elizabethan dramatist, Christopher Marlowe, was born in Canterbury in 1564. In 1580 he went to Cambridge University where he established a reputation for free thinking and atheism. Violence and disreputable behaviour seem to have characterized his student years, which culminated in a Bachelor of Arts degree four years later. Due to frequent absences (Marlowe was allegedly engaged by the government of the day - apparently in Elizabeth I's secret service in "matters touching the benefit of the country"), the university was reluctant to award him a Master's degree. Following a letter from the Privy Council (the Government), however, the mis­understanding was cleared up. Marlowe moved to London in 1587.

The spectacular success of Tamburlaine the Great (1587) resulted in his pursuit of a literary career, and he rapidly established himself as the most important playwright of the period. His death in a London tavern is still shrouded in mystery. Some critics have suggested that as a result of his political activities he may simply have known too much and had become “undesirable”.

During his brief life, Marlowe succeeded in writing five dramatic masterpieces: Tamburlaine the Great, Doctor Faustus, The Jew of Malta, Edward the Second and Dido, Queen of Carthage. He also wrote the unfinished Hero and Leander - one of the finest non-dramatic Elizabethan poems. His plays are among the first to embody the true spirit of the Renaissance, concentrating in their humanist fashion on man as opposed to God. Their themes are the lust for power, the desire to surpass the old restrictions of the Church, the limitations of knowledge, and the demands of ruthless ambition in the face of prevailing morality. Marlowe's works also represent a departure from the didactic spirit of the miracle and mystery plays of the 1500s, developing the more realistic elements of the sixteenth-century interludes. Characters were no longer simple personifications of virtues and vices, but were enriched by human passions and human limitations. Thus Tamburlaine’s aim is the conquest of an “earthly crown” consisting of power, luxury and the possession of beauty; Barabas in The Jew of Malta lusts for money; Faustus is a great scholar who has mastered all the arts and sciences and turns to necromancy, or black magic, as a means of gaining access to superhuman experience and knowledge and decides to sell his soul to the devil in exchange for twenty-four years of absolute power and knowledge.

Perhaps Marlowe's main contribution to English drama was the elaboration of blank verse. What Jonson was to later call “Marlowe's mighty line” became, in the dramatist’s hands, a more flexible and poetic means of expression, distinguishing his verse from what had been the custom previously and paving the way for what was to become the predominant form of dramatic expression in later Elizabethan and Jacobean drama. Marlowe's contribution to English letters is all the more astonishing when one considers his premature death at the age of 29.

During the Elizabethan period were developed several distinct varieties of tragedy. The Senecan influence, gave rise to a subgenre of revenge tragedy, in which a wronged protagonist plots and executes revenge, destroying himself (or herself) in the process. An early, highly influential example is Thomas Kyd's Spanish Tragedy (1592), and for all its psychological complexity Shakespeare's Hamlet is also of this kind. A related but distinct kind is the villain tragedy in which the protagonist is blatantly evil, as in Shakespeare's Richard III and Macbeth. Still another sort is the heroic tragedy, in which the hero is larger than life, continually challenging the limits of human possibility: Marlowe's Tamberlaine and Dr. Faustus are of this kind, as arc the two protagonists of Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra. Another Elizabethan kind is the history play: taking its subjects from English history, it was especially suited to reflect the nationalistic sentiment, the sense of epic destiny, and the moral complexities of gaining and holding on to sovereign power. Shakespeare offers the prime example in his two cycles of history plays based on English and Roman history.

Many varieties of comedy developed during the Elizabethan and Jacobean age (1603-1625), influenced by classical models and also by Italian and French examples. Romantic comedy calls for noble characters and a central love plot (as in Shakespeare's As You Like It and Twelfth Night). Domestic comedy has a domestic situation at the centre of the plot. City comedy typically has bourgeois characters, a London setting, and much satire. Humour comedy (such as Ben Jonson's Every Man in His Humour) has type characters created on the theory that the predominance of a particular fluid, or humour, in the body creates a specific temperament (melancholic, choleric, splenetic, or phlegmatic). Jonson also wrote classical intrigue comedy in The Alchemist and Volpone, with their complex, fast-paced plots and discoveries, their characters based on classical types, and their witty dialogue. Tragicomedy was a mixed kind, in which evils and problems that seem destined to end tragically are brought to sudden, happy resolution (as in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure and The Winter's Tale.

During the Jacobean Age court entertainments and dancing evolved into a new dramatic form: the court masque, which included dancing, singing, scenery and costume in an elaborate context of mythological reference and allegory. The courtiers themselves, and even the monarch, took part in the action. The most famous exponent of the masque was Ben Jonson (1572-1637), who composed nearly thirty. Apart from masques, Ben Jonson also produced a series of major plays such as Sejanus (1603), Volpone (1606), The Alchemist (1610), Bartholomew Fair (1614).

The flowering of English drama depended centrally on professional actors, a theatre, and an audience. The earliest English drama had been acted by members of the clergy in the church, and medieval miracle and mystery plays had been acted by amateurs—members of the local trade guilds—ordinarily on wagons in the streets of the towns. Moralities and interludes were produced by the servants of a lord in the hall of his castle, or by semi-professional travelling groups. Such actors did not have respectable status; they were classified with jugglers, acrobats, mountebanks, and other persons of dubious character. In 1545 they were classified by statute as idle rogues and vagabonds and as such were subject to arrest.

Some noblemen, however, maintained a company of actors as personal servants; because they wore the livery and badge of their master they were exempt from the statute and could travel when not needed by their master and practice their craft where they would. That is why the professional acting companies of Shakespeare’s time, including Shakespeare's own, attached themselves to a nobleman and were technically his servants (the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, the Lord Admiral’s Men), even though virtually all their time was devoted to, and their income came from, the public.

At first, the companies played in various places - great houses, the hall of an Inn of Court, on makeshift stages, or in London inn yards. In 1576 James Burbage, one of the earl of Leicester's players, built a structure to house their performances and called it The Theatre. It was in Shoreditch, outside the limits of the city of London and, accordingly, beyond the jurisdiction of the city authorities who were generally hostile to dramatic spectacles. Soon, other public theatres were erected, which could accommodate some 2,000 spectators: they were usually oval in shape, with an unroofed yard in the centre where the groundlings (apprentices, servants, and men of the lower classes) stood, and covered seats in three rising tiers around the yard for the spectators of higher social status. A large platform stage jutted out into the yard.

The structure of the Elizabethan stage had a great influence on form and technique in Elizabethan plays. In contrast to the modern theatre, where there is a curtain separating the actor from his audience and where bright lights focus on the stage whilst the audience remain in darkness, the Elizabethan actor would be on a central stage, which was surrounded by the audience and lit only by daylight, in much closer contact with the spectators. This is one reason why the soliloquy, which can seem faintly ridiculous in a modern theatre, was an important device in the Elizabethan playwright's repertoire, since the structure of the theatre meant that it seemed a perfectly natural form of communication between a character and the audience. The proximity of the audience also had an influence on acting technique, since there was no necessity for raising the voice. Subtle distinctions in gesture and expression were more possible, as was a high speed of delivery.

Plays were acted at high speed, without the act and scene breaks. Costumes were usually elaborate, but there was no scenery and few props. The theatre achieved its effects by a direct assault on the emotions and the imagination of the spectators. Performances were given in the afternoon and were subject to cancellation by bad weather or by epidemics of plague that periodically ravaged the city. Before long there were also enclosed private theatres; they were indoors, artificially lighted, and patronized by a more select audience. After 1608 Shakespeare's company had its regular public theatre, the Globe, and a private theatre, the Blackfriars.

The companies of players were what would now be called “repertory companies”—that is, they filled the roles of each play from members of their own group, not employing outsiders. They performed a number of different plays on consecutive days, and the principal actors were shareholders in the profits of the company.

Boys were apprenticed to actors just as they had been apprenticed to master craftsmen in the guilds; they took the women's parts in plays until their voices changed. The plays might be bought for the company from hack writers, or as in Shakespeare's company, the group might include an actor-playwright who could supply it with some of its plays. The text remained the property of the company, but a popular play was eagerly sought by the printers, and the company sometimes had trouble achieving effective control over its rights to the play. The editors of the first collected edition of Shakespeare's plays, the First Folio (1623), alluded to the prior publication of “divers stolen and surreptitious copies” of his plays, “maimed and deformed by the frauds and stealths of injurious imposers.”

Drama after Shakespeare. Under the early Stuart monarchs, James I and Charles I, there was a definite shift in moral view: Elizabethan confidence began to waver and a rather more cynical (and realistic) view of human nature and corruption began to hold sway. The dramatists of the day began to produce plays with a sharper satirical edge, and, as E.K.Chambers remarks in Elizabethan stage, by 1605 the players “do not forbear to represent upon their stage the whole course of the present time, not sparing either King, state or religion, in so great absurdity, and with such liberty, that any would be afraid to hear them”. Classical settings such as Venice or Rome gave way to portraits of the corruption and hypocrisy of contemporary London society, as exemplified in the plays of Thomas Middleton (1580-1627). This desperate worldview culminates in the tragedies of John Webster (1580?-1634?) which are unequalled in their gloomy vision of human nature. Most of his surviving work consists of plays written in collaboration with others, although his most celebrated works, the tragedies The White Devil(1609) and The Duchess of Malfi (1612), were his own work. The main characteristics of these plays are an obsession with violence, and a vivid, powerful style which has divided critics, some considering that his work is a mixture of melodrama and absurdity, others pointing out an artistic framework beneath the surface horror. (T.S. Eliot said: “Webster was much possessed by death/ And saw the skull beneath the ski”). Gradually the audience was also changing: Shakespeare’s move to the more exclusive Blackfriars Theatre in 1609 was a sign that the theatre was losing its appeal to the masses. By the time the Puritans closed the theatres in 1642 drama was in serious decline.

Renaissance poetry. English poetry burst into sudden glory in the late 1570s with a decisive shift of taste toward the graceful and sophisticated. The smoothness and apparent spontaneity of Elizabethan lyric conceals a consciously ordered and laboured artifice. The most distinctive voice in the poetry of the time was that of John Skelton (1460?-1529), tutor to Henry VII’s sons and author of an extraordinary range of writing, often in an equally extraordinary style. His works include a long play, Magnyfycence; an allegorical satire on court intrigue Bowge of Courte; satirical invectives, such as Collin Clout and Why Come Ye Nat to Courte?; and reflexive essays on the role of the poet and poetry, in Speke, Parrot and The Garland of Laurel.

It was also a notable period for courtly lyric verse. Though the courtly context in the poetry of ^ Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542) and Henry Howard (1517-1547), earl of Surrey, is of medieval origin, their most distinctive achievements look to the future. Poems like Wyatt’s They flee from me vibrate with personal feeling at odds with the medieval convention of anonymity, while Surrey’s translations from the Aeneid introduce blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter) into English for the first time, providing an essential foundation for the achievements of Shakespeare and Milton.

The sonnet form was to have a particularly strong influence on the next generation of poets. Wyatt and Surrey wrote sonnets based on a rather conventional situation of an anxious and dutiful lover addressing his rather proud and unreceptive mistress in a series of stock images. The poets who followed gave their own personal twist to the form. Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586) in his sequence Astrophil and Stella makes fun of some rather artificial conventions. William Shakespeare, with masterful wordplay and images, transforms the sonnet into a highly expressive means of conveying not just adoration or affection, but also disillusioned passion. As to Sidney, his greatest works were written towards the end of his short life. He wrote an eloquent treatise on English poetry, The Defence of Poesy, as well as a lively prose romance, Arcadia, existing in two radically different versions, Old Arcadia and New Arcadia.

One of the best Elizabethan poets was Edmund Spenser (1552?-1599) whose ambition was to write poems in English which could be compared with the classical epics by Homer and Virgil or with the newer Italian verse of Ariosto and Tasso. He wished to improve the English language and, at the same time, return to its roots in the popular stories and myths of an older tradition. The Fairie Queene by him is an extraordinary combination of the Medieval and the Renaissance, of popular and aristocratic features.

^ Ben Jonson (1572-1637), apart from his work in the dramatic field, also produced major poetic works, and was a profound influence on the poetry of the later 17th century, with his polished wit and urbanity, illumined by his wide-ranging knowledge of the classics. But in contrast to the Metaphysical poets, his work is essentially public, containing none of the agonizing introspection, but a smooth elegance and a profound sense of the poet’s role in the society.

^ Metaphysical poetry is a trend in the English literature of the early 17th century, under the early Stuarts. The major representatives are John Donne (1572-1631), George Herbert (1593-1633), Andrew Marvell (1621-1678). The term “Metaphysical” was coined by John Dryden who censured Donne for affecting “the metaphysics” and for perplexing “the minds of the fair sex with nice speculations of philosophy when he should engage their hearts … with softness of love”. The Metaphysicals were certainly influenced by the spirit of the times when religious and political tensions reached fever pitch, and a modern scientific and empirical viewpoint began to replace medieval scholasticism and theology. The Elizabethan poets had mostly been concerned with the expression of simple and conventional themes in an elaborate and artificial manner. The Metaphysicals were much more intellectual, both in subject matter and style, and expressed their interest in their own experience and in the changing world around them. Their poems are analytical and usually follow a logical order of development. Esteem for Metaphysical poetry achieved its climax in the 1930s and ’40s, largely because of T.S. Eliot’s essay The Metaphysical Poets (1921). Eliot pointed out that the works of these poets are a fusion of thought and feeling that later poets were unable to achieve because of a “dissociation of sensibility”, which resulted in works that were either intellectual or emotional, but not both at once.

One way of the combination of thought and feeling in Metaphysical poetry is in the striking imagery used. The Metaphysicals used the whole of their experience to illustrate a theme, thus leading to a wide range of emotions and a more subtle analysis of life and love. The work of metaphysical poetry is characterized by “conceit” or “wit” – an extended metaphor sometimes bringing together apparently unconnected ideas and things so that the reader is startled out of his complacency and forced to think.: a poet may express his relationship to his mistress using mathematical, astronomical or geographical terms. The most celebrated example is from Donne’s A Valediction Forbidding Mourning where he compares two lovers to a pair of compasses: ”If they be two, they are two so/ As stiff two compasses are two, / Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show /To move, but doth, if th’other doe”.

Another feature is the use of direct colloquial language: a far cry from the rather poetic and artificial diction of the Elizabethan poets. The poets made use of obliquity, irony and paradox that reinforced the dramatic directness of language and the rhythm of living speech.

^ Renaissance prose. Alongside with the scientific developments of the Renaissance went a blossoming of the art of prose. Renaissance prose displays a clear progress from the elaborate and ornamental style based on Cicero, dense with subordinate clauses, towards the more concise and clearer “Senecan” style, involving shorter sentences and less formal pattering.

Translations were an important part of the prose of the time. Of particular relevance were Sir Thomas North’s translations of ^ Plutarch’s Lives (which Shakespeare used on more than one occasion), as well as Golding’s verse translation of Ovid in the 1560s and Chapman’s translation of Homer in the early 17th century.

A leading figure among English Humanists was Sir Thomas More, whose Utopia, originally written in Latin, has come to be regarded as a classic of English literature. ^ Sir Thomas Elyot in his The Governor attempted to apply beneficial humanistic ideas to English life. Another key book was Sir Thomas Hoby’s translation of Castiglione’s treatise, The Courtier, which brought its analysis of the perfect Renaissance courtier in Italy over to England and was hugely influential. Richard Hooker’s Of the Laws of Ecclesiastic Polity, in 8 books, deals with the controversy between Puritans and moderates, and encompasses a general meditation on life and religion. Francis Bacon (1561-1626) represents a turning point in the history of prose, as well as of science. His clear style and insistence on empiricism herald the changes to come. With the advent of the Jacobean age, a certain melancholy tinge began to creep among young intellectuals, in particular with Robert Burton, whose The Anatomy of Melancholy reflected the spirit of the times.


SIR THOMAS MORE (1478 – 1535)

Thomas More was one of the most versatile and most enigmatic figures of the English Renaissance.

He was born in London, the son of a prominent lawyer. As a boy he served as a page in the household of Archbishop Morton. He studied at Oxford and at the Inns of Court, and was deeply torn between the appeal of a life of ascetic devotion and an active role in public affairs. His literary interests appeared early. He became a close friend of Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) and, like him, was a great humanist.

More’s masterpiece is Utopia. Designed for the educated readers of all Europe, Utopia was written and published in Latin. However, it has become a classic of English literature.

Emphasis on classical learning was at the heart of the humanist movement, but the Latin and Greek classics were not monuments to dead cultures for More and his friends. He was profoundly influenced by Plato's Republic when he wrote his Utopia, but he was also fascinated by accounts of the recent explorations of Amerigo Vespucci (1507). Newly contacted lands with their strange customs provided a fresh perspective from which to view the older societies of Europe, burdened by wars, fierce economic rivalry, and feudal hierarchies.

Book 2 of Utopia, a description of the laws and customs of an imagined society, was written first. Though the name of the country denotes “nowhere located”, More presents its geography, history and economy, as well as mineral resources, marriage customs, religions, and other aspects of life. In More’s ideal country there is no division between city and rural inhabitants: every citizen completes a two-year stint in the country. Utopians have scorn for gold or silver; and while they eat from earthenware dishes and drink from glass cups, their chamber pots and the chains of their slaves are made of “precious metals”. Women do not marry till they are eighteen, nor men till they are twenty-two. Premarital intercourse brings severe punishment: the guilty parties are forbidden to marry for their whole lives; their father and mother suffer public disgrace for having been remiss in their duty. Divorce is allowed only in case of adultery or intolerably offensive behaviour. The guilty party suffers disgrace and is permanently forbidden to remarry. A divorce never takes place through old age or illness. There is freedom of religion, and there are different forms of religion on the island. Some worship as a god the sun, others the moon, still others one of the planets or a man of past ages, conspicuous either for virtue or glory. “The vast majority of Utopians, however, believe in a single power, unknown, eternal, infinite, inexplicable, far beyond the grasp of the human mind, and diffused throughout the universe, not physically, but in influence.” After Utopians heard the name of Christ, and learnt of his teachings, many of them gladly converted to Christianity. There is no private property in Utopia, free education for everybody, obligatory work for all, a nine-hour working day, exercise of arts and sports in free time.

When More came to write the introduction to it, book 1, his dramatic instincts led him to make it a dialogue, an argument between a character named More and a returned traveller named Raphael Hythloday. Their debate focuses on a subject that greatly troubled the real More personally: should the scholar participate in government or should he confine himself to the ivory tower?

More is a very ironic and witty writer. In this he resembles his friend Erasmus, who dedicated his ^ Praise of Folly to More. Erasmus's title, in the original Latin, is Moriae Encomium (“Praise of More” as well as "Praise of Folly,” because the Greek word for a fool is “moros”). Central to the constitution of Utopia is community of property, for which More had a precedent in Plato and in the rules of the monastic orders of More's own time. No fundamental reform in society is possible; the reader is led to believe, until private property is abolished. Yet a standard defence of private property is put into the mouth of the character named More, against the position of the main speaker, Hythloday.

About the same time that he wrote Utopia More undertook his very important English work, the History of King Richard III. Although it was never finished, it had tremendous influence. More's characterization of the last Yorkist king was adopted by the chroniclers Edward Half and Richard Grafton and so came down to Shakespeare, whose Richard III (1597) fixed the portrait of Richard as a deformed, malicious, hypocritical villain.

More's sense of obligation to active citizenship and statesmanship finally won out over his monastic inclinations, and his rise to high office under Henry VIII was spectacular: master of requests, privy councillor, speaker of the House of Commons, and finally, lord chancellor, the highest office under the crown. He resigned this post when the king married Anne Boleyn and when he was required to take the oath of allegiance. He could not, in con­science, affirm that Henry was supreme head of that spiritual body, the church. From the point of view of the government, his refusal was treason, and in 1535 he was beheaded. Four hundred years later he was canonized by the Catholic church as St. Thomas More.

^ EDMUND SPENSER (1552-1599)

Edmund Spenser was the greatest non-dramatic poet of the Elizabethan era. Though his parents descended from a noble house, the family was poor. He studied at the University of Cambridge as a "sizar", or poor scholar.

Spenser was learned in Hebrew, Greek, Latin and French. His generation was one of the first to study also their mother tongue seriously. While at college, he acted in the tragedies of the ancient masters and this inspired him to write poetry. Spenser began his literary work at the age of seventeen. At the age of twenty-three, Spenser took his M.A. degree.

Before returning to London he lived for a while in the wilderness of Lancashire where he fell in love with a "fair widow's daughter". His love was not returned but he clung to this early passion; she became the Rosalind of his poem Shepheardes Calendar. The poem about ideal shepherd life was written in 12 eclogues. Each eclogue is dedicated to one of the months of the year, the whole making up a sort of calendar. The publication of this work made Spenser the first poet of his day. His poetry was so musical and colourful that he was called the poet-painter.

Spenser was given royal favour and appointed as secretary to the new Lord-lieutenant of Ireland. Thus he had to 1eave England for good. He felt an exile in the lonely castle of Kilcolman, yet the beauty of his surroundings inspired him to write his great epic poem the Faerie Queen ("Fairy Queen").

The poem had a success. The Queen rewarded him with a pension of 50 pounds, but his position remained unchanged. Although he tried continually to get appointments in England he spent the rest of his life in Ireland, holding various minor government posts. In this period he married Elizabeth Boyle and wrote the Amoretti sonnets to celebrate their courtship and Epithalamion for their wedding. In 1596 he wrote, perhaps, his strangest work, a prose treatise defending English colonialist regime and displaying a virulent contempt for the Irish, A View of the Present State of Ireland. The end of his life was sorrowful. When the next rebellion broke out, the insurgents attacked the castle and Spenser and his wife and children had to flee for their lives. Their youngest child was burnt to death in the blazing ruins of the castle. Ruined and heart-broken Spenser went to England and there he died in a London tavern three months later. He was buried near his beloved Chaucer in what is now called the Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey.

Spenser cannot be put into neatly labelled categories. He was strongly influenced by Puritanism in his early days, remained a steadfast Protestant all his life, and portrayed the Roman Catholic church as a villain in The ^ Fairie Queene, yet his understanding of faith and sin owes much to Catholic thinkers. He is in some ways a backward-looking poet who paid homage to Chaucer, used archaic language and compared his own age unfavourably with the antique world. Yet as British epic poet he is a forerunner of Milton and the Romantics. He experimented with meters, adapting some but mostly inventing. He is sometimes called the “poet’s poet” because so many later English poets learned the art of versification from him. He brought a melody to the English verse that had never been there before.

Spenser invented his own stanza – now known as the nine-line “^ Spenserian” stanza. In this verse each line but the last has 10 syllables, the last line has 12 syllables. The rhymed lines are arranged in the following way: a b a b b c b c c.

A gentle knight was pricking on the plain, a

Yclad in mighty arms and silver shield, b

Where in old dints of deep wounds did remain, a

The cruel marks of many a bloody field; b

Yet arms till that time did he never wield; b

His angry steed did chide his foamy bit, c

As much disdaining to the curb to yield; b

Full jolly knight he seemed, and fair did sit, c

As one for knightly jousts and fierce encounters fit. c

Spenser’s masterpiece, The Faerie Queene, is an epic poetic allegory set in Medieval times in a Mythical Fairy Land. The principal characters are Queen Gloriana, the glorious Fairy Queen (symbolic of Queen Elizabeth); Prince Arthur, hero of heroes (embodying all virtues in one); the six commissioned knights: Red Cross (epitome of holiness), Guyon (hero of temperance), Palmer (patron of prudence), Britomart (defender of chastity), Artegall (champion of justice), and Caldore (sovereign of courtesy).

The Faerie Queene is a whirlwind of action and a complication of plot that rivals the most intense modern thrillers. Holiness, justice, and chastity are presented as virtues in the symbolic form of mighty knights, whose duty is to battle vice. Wizards, witches, dragons, and giants serve as extended metaphors in this moral conflict, portraying the hosts of evil wrestling against the good within us.

Alongside these extensive allegories Spenser also addresses the political atmosphere and historical conflicts that dominated Elizabethan England. Gloriana, the Fairy Queen, represents the supreme virtue and authority of Queen Elizabeth’s position; crucial issues of the time, such as the conflict in Ireland are shown through Irena’s restoration to her throne. Thus, Spenser’s moral and historical fable serves not only to entertain the modern reader, but also to give insight into daily Elizabethan life.

Story overview: In the highest court in Fairy Land, knights and warriors of great virtue received their commissions from Gloriana and set out upon great adventures, inaugurating the ultimate victory and perfection of virtue over vice.

Red Cross Knight must chaperon the maiden Una, or truth, on her journey home, and to rescue the kingdom of her family from domination of a hideous dragon. Realizing his mission he has to fight with the evil half-woman, half-dragon Error, is seduced by the witch Duessa who imprisons him in the House of Pride, where he finds himself at the mercy of the giant Argolio. Una liberates Red Cross Knight with the aid of the noble Prince Arthur. Having recuperated at the House of Hope, Red Cross fights with the flaming dragon that holds Una’s ancestral lands in terror. Fulfilling his commission, Red Cross marries Una with the blessing of all.

Guyon, representing the virtue of temperance, is commissioned to destroy the Bower of Bliss, where the enchantress Acrasia transforms her victims into gluttonous beasts. In his quest Guyon repeatedly calls upon humility and godliness, powers which enable him to conquer Braggadocio, or boastfulness, Pryocholes, or anger, and Cymocles, or the the lure of sensual pleasure. Ultimately, his companion Palmer, the epitome of prudence, helped him to resist the enticements of Mammon in the Cave of Riches, which lay at the gate of hell. In the Bower of Bliss Guyon and Palmer repulsed the wiles of the sorceress Acrasia. Thus Guyon withstood the threat to his temperance.

The warrior maiden Britomart, who represented chastity, sought the conquest of lust by virtue. She freed the chaste damsel Florimel from Foster, who tried to compromise her, and left in search of her dear Artegal. In Gloriana’s court Britomart and Artegall took their wedding vows, and Artegall set off on a mission to dispense justice, his ultimate goal being to restore Queen Irena to her kingdom, Ireland, which had been subdued by the mighty ogre Grantorto.

But once restored to power, Irena’s court was besieged by a triad of strifes: Envy, Detraction, and the Blatant Beast of slander. Sir Caldore, sovereign of courtesy, captured the Blatant Beast. But the latter escaped and spread its cancerous venom throughout wayward lands for generations thereafter.

The battle between virtue and vice raged on, with no apparent end in sight. At last, however, the Fairy Queen’s commissions culminated in a trial against Mutability, a Titaness who had gained control over the earth and who sought to rule the heaven as well. Nature, as judge, cast her verdict against Mutability.

However, while affirming the rights of goodness and virtue, this verdict did not eradicate the influence of corruption in human affairs. The verdict served to assign humanity outside the Fairy Land the responsibility of carrying on the great virtuous quest to achieve victory over vice.


Although Shakespeare is widely regarded as one of the greatest dramatists in England and even in the world, very little is known about his life; much must be inferred from indirect evidence, such as other people's writings, legal documents and so on. He was born in 1564 at Stratford on Avon and was christened on 26th April, the third child of John Shakespeare and Mary Arden. His father was a glover, and a prominent figure in local affairs, who later became a bailiff and a Justice of the Peace (a kind of local magistrate) in 1568. Shakespeare was presumably educated at the local grammar school, but he never went to university, which was to cause some resentment among his contemporaries, the writers known as the University Wits.

In 1582 he married Anne Hathaway, who was several years older than him and he had three children by her in the period 1582/85: Susanna, and the twins Judith and Hamnet. It is possible, but not certain, that Shakespeare worked as a country schoolmaster in this period; it is thought that his marriage was unhappy, and it is known that by 1592 he had left for London to establish himself on the literary scene. He was first an actor and then a playwright; his success immediately created jealousy among colleagues, such as the pamphleteer Robert Greene, who wrote in 1592 of Shakespeare: "For there is an upstart crow beautified with our feathers, that with his tiger's heart wrapped in a player's hide, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you; and being an absolute Johannes fac totum, is in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in a country".

In 1593 the theatres closed due to an outbreak of plague; Shakespeare found a patron, the Earl of Southampton, a rich young nobleman to whom he dedicated the poems Venus and Adonis (1593) and The Rape of Lucrece (1594). In these years he also became a founder member of the Lord Chamberlain's Company, a kind of cooperative of actors, for whom he was the resident playwright. They soon became the leading company in London and were often invited to perform in private before Elizabeth I and her court. His son Hamnet died in 1596 and a year after it is recorded that he bought a large house, New Place, in Stratford on Avon, so presumably he was fairly successful. His acting career continued, and we know that in 1598 he acted in Ben Jonson's play, Every Man in his Humour.

The year 1599 saw the opening of the Globe Theatre which had been built for the company in Southwark, south of the River Thames. The period in which the Globe flourished, until it burned down in 1613, coincides with Shakespeare's greatest works. In 1603, on the accession of James I to the English throne, the company became The King's Men because of their high prestige and in 1608 they acquired the Blackfriars Theatre.

In 1610 Shakespeare retired to Stratford where he died in 1616. He wrote 37 plays, none of which were published in authorized editions during his lifetime; in fact they were collected in an edition known as the First Folio in 1623.
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