From the early 16th century until well into the 17th, England felt the grips of a revolution that would change the face of the country forever. This revolution had nothing to do with wars or land or expansion; unless you consider the expansion of the minds of the people all over Britain. It was back during the 14th century in the country of Italy in which the renaissance first started and slowly spread across the entire European continent. Known as the pan-European Renaissance, by the 16th century when the ruler of England was Queen Elizabeth and Shakespeare was the talked about name anywhere you went, the English Renaissance began.
It was during this time period which many refer to as the age of Shakespeare or as the Elizabethan Era in which the English Renaissance was in full swing. It was during this time period in which England gave birth to famous poets like John Milton and Edmund Spencer. These two poets focused on the production of works from which the nation was able to understand the English Christianity beliefs. Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare created a vast array of plays in which the concept was the focus on the English way of life and their take on it. It was people like Sir Thomas More and Sir Francis Bacon who during this time period wrote about humanity and perfect societies. It was the philosophers, artists, playwrights and poets who gave birth to the English Renaissance back during the 16th century.
Of course it had taken a while for the pan-European Renaissance to make its way to England because the English mind was considered to be steadfast and accustomed to the way things were and did not want change. For centuries, life in England ran a certain way and the masses had preferred to hold on to these beliefs and ways of life. Of course it would only be a matter of time in which these beliefs would finally be let go of and new marvellous things would be introduced and created by the English. It was to be the War of the Roses that would pave the way and open up the minds of the English and allow the renaissance to finally begin.
The most profound works of literature were born during this era and much of which is still commonplace in the hearts and minds of people, not just in England, but all over the world. From A Midsummer Night’s Dream to Through the Looking Glass, people all over the world today can attest to having read these as a child or having seen them in the movies. Of course for the vast majority, thanks to Walter Disney, Alice and her looking glass became known as Alice in Wonderland; complete with the Cheshire Cat.
While the pan-European Renaissance was considered to have started in Italy, there are a number of major differences between the two renaissances. Take for example Italy’s focus on Art and visual cultural art forms whereas the English was focused on literature and the written art forms. At the time that the English Renaissance began, the Italian Renaissance was already past the Mannerism period and beginning to start the Baroque period. Most historians will agree that the English Renaissance began in or around 1520 and continued on for a hundred years until 1620. Of course while there were many differences, there were also similarities such as the expansion and focus on music. The poetry and stage works in the period could be associated with having musical influences in their creations.
It was during the 19th century that historian Jacob Burckhardt coined the time period as the English Renaissance and since that time period a number of historians have chosen to argue the fact that the concept of it being a renaissance is ridiculous as that concept was considered to be a modern invention. Their main claim is that there is no actual tie between the Italian Renaissance and the English during the time and therefore could never be considered part of it. Furthermore, even more insist that the English and literature dated back another 200 years, but unfortunately for them, no one really remembers any of those works other than that of Geoffrey Chaucer. As a result of these beliefs, many historians have even gone as far as calling the concept bloated and that had there actually been a renaissance in England, it had no affect on the English what so ever.
Irregardless as to how you look at the time period, whether it was the English Renaissance or even the Early Modern Era, one thing is for certain, the likes of Christopher Marlowe, John Milton, William Shakespeare, William Rowley and a lot more, changed the way literature was written in England forever and made names for themselves which has so far stood the test of time without faltering.
Original Authors: Nick
Edit Update Authors: M.A.Harris
Updated On: 06/03/2009