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The English Renaissance was “both a worldly and religious age.”
It was birthed in Italy at about 1350 and moved north west to reach England in later years. This
era was sustained by the commerce and wealthy middle class who engaged deeper in topics
such as religion, arts, and knowledge in general. In England, it was also called the "age of the
Shakespeare" or "the Elizabethan era.”
The whole idea behind the English Renaissance was to bring about a glorious rebirth to
civilization, however the English seemed to have their own ideas about how the rebirth would be
handled. (The word renaissance is french for “rebirth”) The English wanted a rebirth, but they
wanted it to be handled their way. This idea makes sense because England has a history on
trying to control situations that involve it. (Think about their government- a monarch) In England,
the Renaissance adapted to the culture of the English, instead of the culture of the English
adapting to the Renaissance. Instead of focusing on exploration, art, exploration, and human
emotion, the English only focused on literature and music. The most noted poets and writers of
the time were William Shakespeare, Thomas Dekker, John Donne, and John Fletcher. One of the
main components of English life was theater wish such digniﬁed playwrights as, again, William
Shakespeare, John Ford, and John Webster. Many historians regard the Renaissance as a
transition into the modern world.
Literature and music was to the English Renaissance as paining and sculptures were to
the Italian Renaissance- they helped capture the attitudes and ideas of the people.
People found enjoyment in dramas, comedies, literature, and poetry, as well as a
release. People had new ideas about government, the church, love, and relationships
and these themes often found their way into the art of the writers who conveyed these
themes so masterfully. During the reign of Elizabeth I, English literature “came of age.”
Signiﬁcant developments became dominant in poetry when a shift from narrative to lyric
poetry prevailed. One of the most popular types of poems of the time were sonnets. “A
Shakespearean, or English, sonnet consists of 14 lines, each line containing ten
syllables and written in iambic pentameter, in which a pattern of an unemphasized
syllable followed by an emphasized syllable is repeated ﬁve times. The rhyme scheme in
a Shakespearean sonnet is a-b-a-b, c-d-c-d, e-f-e-f, g-g; the last two lines are a
rhyming couplet.” One of the major poets of this time was Edmund Spenser who was
known for his rich imagery.
drama and plays
Attending dramas and plays was a huge part of culture during the Renaissance era.
One of the most popular playwrights and literary ﬁgures to this day is William
Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s playing company, Lord Chaimberlain’s Men built the
Globe Theatre in 1599 in London to showcase the writers ideas and works.
Shakespeare rose to face because his ideas and themes were so original and
advanced, people found them fascinating. We are still enthralled with his works
because the stories are so modern and timeless.
Another playwright during this time was Christopher Marlowe. He is revered as the
foremost Elizabethan tragedian, next to William Shakespeare.
authors from the time period and their works
Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593)
Dido, Queen of Carthage, Tamburiaine, The Spanish Tragedy
Sir Walter Raleigh (1554-1618)
“What is Our Life”, “The Lie”, and “The Ocean to Cynthia (poems)
William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet
Sir Thomas More (1478-1535)
Sir Philip Sydney (1582-
Astrophel and Stella
Known as the greatest writer in the english language, he revolutionized the way authors
and people in general thought. His ideas on issues were revolutionary and still translate
into today’s society. He is most famous for his tragedies such as Hamlet, Julius Caesar,
Richard the Third and possibly his most famous Romeo and Juliet. In addition to his
magniﬁcent plays, Shakespeare also wrote 154 sonnets, 38 plays, and two long
narrative poems that are still read and enjoyed today.
Shakespeare attended school at Stratford Grammar School where he received all of his
formal education. By the age of seven, he was studying Greek and Latin. In November
of 1582, Shakespeare, 18, married Ann Hathaway, 28.
From 1594-1908, Shakespeare worked for the London Theatre World and in 1609, his
154 sonnets were published.
romeo and juliet
The play Romeo and Juliet is one of the most famous, if not the most famous, plays that Shakespeare
has written. It is classiﬁed as a tragedy about two teens who fall in love, but are from families who hate
each other which makes their love impossible. They have a secret marriage, but both end up dying in the
In this play, several themes are carried out. One of them is light. It is constantly talked about and Romeo
often compares Juliet to the light or, on the balcony scene, to the sun. Another theme, characteristic of
Shakespeare and a lot of authors at this time, is destiny. There are many references in the play about
‘what was in the stars’ for the main characters. Another main literary device used throughout the play is
dramatic irony. Even though the characters do not know what is going on or what is to happen, the
This play is a good representation of the work and themes authors wrote time as well as the literary
devices used. A few of the devices are: climax, couplet (a pair of rhyming lines), ﬁgurative language,
foreshadowing, imagery, metaphor, monologue, oxymoron (sweet sorrow), personiﬁcation, comic relief,
soliloquy (a long speech expressing the thoughts of a character alone or on stage), and, one of the most
characteristic of the time, blank verse (poetry written in unrhymed iambic pentameter line).
phrases from the english renaissance
In Shakespeare's play Macbeth a comic relief character delivers a 20 line monologue and satire that makes reference to events of that time it follows the pattern of
“knock knock” “who's there?” but it is done entirely by the character and knocks from off stage. The character is a hung over porter (in most performances drunk,
but in the original he was hung over) that pretends he is the porter to the gates of hell welcoming sinners of different professions:
(Macbeth Act II, scene iii)
“Knock, knock, knock! Who's there, i' th' name of Beelzebub? Here's a farmer that hanged himself on the expectation of plenty. Come in time, have napkins enough
about you, here you'll sweat for 't.
(this is a joke referring to a price drop in crops, as well as a joke about the heat in hell)
Knock, knock! Who's there, in th' other devil's name? Faith, here's an equivocator that could swear in both the scales against either scale, who committed treason
enough for God's sake, yet could not equivocate to heaven. O, come in, equivocator.
(this passage is believed to be a reference to a trial of the Jesuits who were charged with equivocation speaking unclearly or speaking with double meaning)
Knock, knock, knock! Who's there? Faith, here's an English tailor come hither for stealing out of a French hose. Come in, tailor. Here you may roast your goose.
(the tailor is accused of stealing cloth while making breches, this is a joke about a fashion trend in Shakespearian times, also a pun for roasting the tailor's iron with
the heat of hell)”
ll that glitters is not gold (The Merchant of Venice)
All's well that ends well (title)
Be-all and the end-all (Macbeth)
Dog will have his day (Hamlet)
Come what come may (Macbeth)
Eaten me out of house and home (2 Henry IV)
Forever and a day (As You Like It)
Jealousy is the green-eyed monster (Othello)
Heart of gold (Henry V)
In a pickle (The Tempest)
Kill with kindness (Taming of the Shrew)
Knock knock! Who's there? (Macbeth)
Wild goose chase (Romeo and Juliet)