The Life of Literature Museum
Presents Exhibit of Renaissance Writers
Exhibit on Renaissance Writers
Miguel de Cervantes
Miguel de Cervantes was a Spanish writer during the Renaissance. But before his career in literature took of, Cervantes spent many years as a soldier in a Spanish military unit in Italy. He also spent five years as a prisoner of a Turkish group. Cervantes’ life as a prisoner ended in 1580, and he turned his focus to writing. Cervantes’ first novel, La Galatea, was published in 1585. But Cervantes did not find fame from La Galatea. Despite his first novel’s lack of success, Cervantes continued to write. He wrote many sonnets, plays, and novels, but these also did not bring him fame or fortune. In 1605, however, he found success from the first part of his novel, Don Quixote. The second part of the story was published in 1615. Don Quixote is about an elderly man, Don Quixote, who is stuck in his own imagination. The novel tells about Quixote’s adventures fighting imaginary beasts and battling imaginary battles. One of the most famous scenes from the novel is when Don Quixote battles a windmill, confusing it for a giant. Don Quixote was very successful and influential. It was eventually translated into more than 60 languages, it has spread around the world, and it is still taught in schools today. His work has inspired many other authors, and Pablo Picasso has incorporated the story of Don Quixote into some of his paintings. Many people credit Cervantes with writing the first modern novel.
Edmund Spenser was a poet and a writer during the 1500s. Spenser was a well educated man who had many years of schooling. His first published work was a book of poems called The Shepherd’s Calendar. These poems were meant to be an allusion, or an indirect reference, to political and religious problems during his time. Another one of Spencer’s works was The Faerie Queene. Edmund Spenser intended to write twelve books in the Faerie Queene series, but he only managed to write seven. This series included many hidden meanings and symbols. For example, the fictional queen of the story symbolizes Queen Elizabeth of England, who was the monarch during Spenser’s time. The Faerie Queene also includes metaphors and allegories to political, social, psychological, and religious topics during his time. Another famous work of Edmund Spenser was the Complaints, which was a collection of small poems. During his life Spenser also invented a verse form known as the Spenserian stanza.
William Shakespeare was a poet and playwright during the Renaissance period. Not much is known about his personal history, but there is evidence that he made his living as an actor and a playwright in London. During his life he wrote an astounding 38 plays, 154 sonnets, and two narrative poems. His works were mostly written in iambic pentameter, or blank verse. Shakespeare adapted the traditional styles of literature and created his own style. Many terms and phrases that we use today were invented, or at least popularized, by Shakespeare. His plays were unique because they captured the complete range of human emotion and conflict. The connections Shakespeare made to human emotion is one reason why people loved, and continue to love, his plays. Most of Shakespeare’s plays were tragedies, histories, and comedies. Some of his most famous plays include Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, and The Winter’s Tale. Shakespeare and his business partners also built their own theatre, called the Globe, which is still used today for watching his plays. Shakespeare has had more theatrical works performed than any other playwright. Some consider him to be the greatest dramatist of all time.
John Milton was a well educated man who lived from 1608 until 1674. He was a religious man who came from a Catholic family, but he was actually Puritan. The Puritans sought to purify the Church of England from Roman Catholic practices. Because of Milton’s Puritan beliefs, many of his works were about religious and political controversies. Milton’s interest in science also influenced his work, and many of his books include scientific information. His travels around Europe were another influence on his writing. Milton also wrote books about divorce, which was a controversial subject in his time. His first great work was Comus, a Masque, which was written about the topic of chastity. His most famous book is Paradise Lost, which was about the creation of Adam and Eve.