political implications in england

political implications in england during the Renaissance

The Renaissance period: 1550–1660


In a tradition of literature remarkable for its exacting and brilliant achievements, the Elizabethan and early Stuart periods have been said to represent the most brilliant century of all. (The reign of Elizabeth I began in 1558 and ended with her death in 1603; she was succeeded by the Stuart king James VI of Scotland, who took the title James I of England as well. English literature of his reign as James I, from 1603 to 1625, is properly called Jacobean.) These years produced a gallery of authors of genius, some ... (100 of 59,121 words)

Life in Renaissance England

What we normally refer to as the Renaissance in Western European history marks a break or transition from the Medieval period and leads toward our modern era. The Renaissance embraces a series of religious, economic, and political changes which ripple into areas of science, literature, and philosophy. Naturally one does not see these changes along clearly demarcated lines, but looking at the period as a whole, we are aware of a climate or culture which has, if not promoted change, at least tolerated it.

In Shakespeare's time some of the changes had already taken place and he was feeling their effects; others were actually taking place during his lifetime and still others were yet to come. For instance, the great religious upheaval, the Protestant Reformation, had occurred well before Shakespeare was born when first in 1517 Martin Luther in Wittenberg, Germany declared his independence from the Catholic Church, and later in 1536 when Henry VIII declared England's independence from Rome. In his plays, Shakespeare has little to say about religion, but this in itself is notable. Had he been writing 100 years earlier, it is barely conceivable that his work would not have strong traditional Christian overtones. Perhaps because there was so much religious ferment in Europe that had resulted in extraordinary persecution and bloodshed on all sides, Shakespeare opted, like his contemporary, Montaigne, in France, to stay out of the controversy not taking dogmatic positions on religious issues. Shakespeare does in Twelfth Night, poke fun at the growing puritan movement in England. Likewise in Loves's Labour's Lost and Measure for Measure, he finds newly reformed individuals who have "seen the light" a source of great humor. However, Shakespeare's themes and indeed the existence of his plays may have more to do with economic change than religious upheaval.

Renaissance Literature

Renaissance Literature

The Renaissance in Europe was in one sense an awakening from the long slumber of the Dark Ages. What had been a stagnant, even backsliding kind of society re-invested in the promise of material and spiritual gain. There was the sincerely held belief that humanity was making progress towards a noble summit of perfect existence. How this rebirth – for Renaissance literally means rebirth – came to fruition is a matter of debate among historians. What cannot be debated is that humanity took an astounding leap forward after hundreds of years of drift. The fourteenth through the sixteenth centuries in Europe witnessed a deliberate break with feudal modes of living. Aristocratic landowners lost their hegemony over the lower classes, as opportunities for growth and enrichment beckoned from the swelling urban centers. In Italy, for example, educated citizens rediscovered the grace and power of their classical, pagan traditions. Greek and Roman mythologies and philosophies served as the inspirational material for a new wave of artistic creation. Intellectuals adopted a line of thought known as “humanism,” in which mankind was believed capable of earthly perfection beyond what had ever been imagined before. The overwhelming spirit of the times was optimism, an unquenchable belief that life was improving for the first time in anyone’s memory. Indeed, the specter of the Dark Ages and the Black Death were still very fresh in people’s minds, and the promise of moving forward and away from such horrors was wholeheartedly welcome.

Several threads can be said to tie the entire European Renaissance together across the three centuries which it spanned. The steady rise of nationalism, coupled with the first flourishing of democracy, were traits common to the entire Continent. The first inklings of a middle class began to gain power in the cities, as trade and commerce became full enterprises in their own right. With the fear of contagion a distant bad memory, and people eager to get out of their homes and see more of the world, international and even global trade began to surge forward. Along with products and wealth, ideas also spread from one nation to another. Fashions in Venice soon became the fashions in Paris and eventually London. Speaking of the British Islands, the well-known practice of young privileged men “touring” the continent first began during the Renaissance. The ideas these travelers brought back to their homelands would influence culture, government, literature and fashion for many years thereafter. Until the Renaissance, Britain was regarded as something of a wilderness, lacking culture and refinement. Even the English language was disdained. The preeminent English philosopher Thomas More published his Utopia in Latin, and a vernacular English translation did appear until decades afterward.

political implications in england during the Renaissance