The English Renaissance was a cultural and artistic movement in England dating from the early 16th century to the early 17th century. It is associated with the pan-European Renaissance that many cultural historians believe originated in Tuscany in the 14th century. This era in English cultural history is sometimes referred to as “the age of Shakespeare” or “the Elizabethan era”, the first period in English and British history to be named after a reigning monarch. “Renaissance” literally means “rebirth. It refers especially to the rebirth of learning that began in Italy in the fourteenth century, spread to the north, including England, by the sixteenth century, and ended in the north in the mid-seventeenth century (earlier in Italy). During this period, there was an enormous renewal of interest in and study of classical antiquity. Yet the Renaissance was more than a “rebirth. ” It was also an age of new discoveries, both geographical (exploration of the New World) and intellectual.
Both kinds of discovery resulted in changes of tremendous import for Western civilization. In science, for example, Copernicus (1473-1543) attempted to prove that the sun rather than the earth was at the center of the planetary system, thus radically altering the cosmic world view that had dominated antiquity and the Middle Ages. In religion, Martin Luther (1483-1546) challenged and ultimately caused the division of one of the major institutions that had united Europe throughout the Middle Ages–the Church.
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In fact, Renaissance thinkers often thought of themselves as ushering in the modern age, as distinct from the ancient and medieval eras. Poets such as Edmund Spenser and John Milton produced works that demonstrated an increased interest in understanding English Christian beliefs, such as the allegorical representation of the Tudor Dynasty in The Faerie Queen and the retelling of mankind’s fall from paradise in Paradise Lost; playwrights, such as Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare, composed theatrical representations of the English take on life, death, and history.
Nearing the end of the Tudor Dynasty, philosophers like Sir Thomas More and Sir Francis Bacon published their own ideas about humanity and the aspects of a perfect society, pushing the limits of metacognition at that time. England came closer to reaching modern science with the Baconian Method, a forerunner of the Scientific Method. Study of the Renaissance might well center on five interrelated issues.
First, although Renaissance thinkers often tried to associate themselves with classical antiquity and to dissociate themselves from the Middle Ages, important continuities with their recent past, such as belief in the Great Chain of Being, were still much in evidence. Second, during this period, certain significant political changes were taking place. Third, some of the noblest ideals of the period were best expressed by the movement known as Humanism.
Fourth, and connected to Humanist ideals, was the literary doctrine of “imitation,” important for its ideas about how literary works should be created. Finally, what later probably became an even more far-reaching influence, both on literary creation and on modern life in general, was the religious movement known as the Reformation. Renaissance thinkers strongly associated themselves with the values of classical antiquity, particularly as expressed in the newly rediscovered classics of literature, history, and moral philosophy.
Conversely, they tended to dissociate themselves from works written in the Middle Ages, a historical period they looked upon rather negatively. According to them, the Middle Ages were set in the “middle” of two much more valuable historical periods, antiquity and their own. Nevertheless, as modern scholars have noted, extremely important continuities with the previous age still existed. Criticism of the idea of the English Renaissance The notion of calling this period “The Renaissance” is a modern invention, having been popularized by the historian Jacob Burckhardt in the 19th century.
The idea of the Renaissance has come under increased criticism by many cultural historians, and some have contended that the “English Renaissance” has no real tie with the artistic achievements and aims of the northern Italian artists (Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Donatello) who are closely identified with the Renaissance. Indeed, England had already experienced a flourishing of literature over 200 years before the time of Shakespeare when Geoffrey Chaucer was working. Chaucer’s popularizing of English as a medium of literary composition rather than Latin occurred only 50 years after Dante had started using Italian for serious poetry.
At the same time William Langland, author of Piers Plowman, and John Gower were also writing in English. The Hundred Years’ War and the subsequent civil war in England known as the Wars of the Roses probably hampered artistic endeavor until the relatively peaceful and stable reign of Elizabeth I allowed drama in particular to develop. Even during these war years, though, Thomas Malory, author of Le Morte D’Arthur, was a notable figure. For this reason, scholars find the singularity of the period called the English Renaissance questionable; C. S.
Lewis, a professor of Medieval and Renaissance literature at Oxford and Cambridge, famously remarked to a colleague that he had “discovered” that there was no English Renaissance, and that if there had been one, it had “no effect whatsoever”. Historians have also begun to consider the word “Renaissance” as an unnecessarily loaded word that implies an unambiguously positive “rebirth” from the supposedly more primitive Middle Ages. Some historians have asked the question “a renaissance for whom? ,” pointing out, for example, that the status of women in society arguably declined during the Renaissance.
Many historians and cultural historians now prefer to use the term “early modern” for this period, a term that highlights the period as a transitional one that led to the modern world, but attempts to avoid positive or negative connotations. Other cultural historians have countered that, regardless of whether the name “renaissance” is apt, there was undeniably an artistic flowering in England under the Tudor monarchs, culminating in Shakespeare and his contemporaries. 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. The single greatest innovation of the Renaissance era was the printing press, put into service around 1440 by Johannes Gutenberg.
Rudimentary presses had existed for a long time, but Gutenberg’s design maximized printing efficiency in a way that changed the world of arts, letters, and ideas forever. His greatest innovation was a means to rapidly produce movable typesets, meaning that new sheets of text could be set in place and printed with far less effort than had previously been the case. The revolutionized printing press allowed for the fast and relatively cheap reproduction of work. Certainly it is no coincidence that literacy rates saw a measurable uptick in the decades following the press’s invention.
The religious upheaval known as the Protestant Reformation would not have been possible without the capacity to make many copies of a document quickly and with minimal effort. Martin Luther’s famous “95 Theses” spread like wildfire through Continental Europe thanks to the newfound ease of reproduction. Even more so than easy reproduction, printing changed the whole social economics of reading and learning. No longer was literature a rarefied, privileged domain. The effect of having readily available literature was almost inconceivably profound in its democratization of the written word.
Another overlooked aspect of this innovation is the effect that it had on the act of reading. Previously, one document was read aloud to a group of people. In the oral tradition, biblical or humorous stories were memorized and then passed down. Thanks to the sudden increase in printed material, communal reading and the oral tradition gradually gave way to silent, individual reading. At the time, silent reading was considered something of a novelty, and there were even those who looked upon the practice with suspicion.
Nevertheless, the image of the individual engaged with the text on a solitary journey of interpretation is a quintessential Renaissance image. Every nation in Western Europe experienced its own incarnation of the Renaissance. In different nations, even different cities within the same nation, the manifestations of Renaissance art and thought were unique. Whereas in one region, architecture might be the most obvious outlet for new creative energies, in other regions literature might take the most prominent position.
At every locale, however, the rebirth of passion and creativity had undeniably world-altering effects. Although the Italian Renaissance is most familiar to students, the literary output of Renaissance England rivals anything else of the period. Spanning the years 1500-1660, the English Renaissance produced some of the greatest works of literature the world has known. The spirit of optimism, unlimited potential, and the stoic English character all coalesced to generate literature of the first order. At the same time, England graduated from an overlooked “barbarian” nation to a seat of commercial power and influence.
This power naturally translated into a literature that was bold, sweeping, innovative, and trend-setting. Poets experimented with form, and dramatists revived and reinvented the classical traditions of the Greeks and Romans. The dominant forms of English literature during the Renaissance were the poem and the drama. Among the many varieties of poetry one might have found in sixteenth century England were the lyric, the elegy, the tragedy, and the pastoral. Near the close of the English Renaissance, John Milton composed his epic Paradise Lost, widely considered the grandest poem in the language.
Conventions played a large part in how particular poetic styles were manifested. Expectations about style, subject matter, tone, and even plot details were well-established for each poetic genre. Even the specific occasion demanded a particular form of poetry, and these tried and true conventions were tacitly understood by all. Not infrequently, poetry of the era was intended to be accompanied by music. In any case, the general consensus among critics is that the chief aim of English Renaissance verse was to encapsulate beauty and truth in words.
English poetry of the period was ostentatious, repetitious, and often betrayed a subtle wit. One attribute that tended to set English letters apart from the Continent was the willingness to intermix different genres into a sort of hodgepodge, experimental affair. This pastiche style is exemplified in Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queen, a long poem which mingled elements of romance, tragedy, epic and pastoral into an entertaining and still cohesive whole. English court life and the opinions of noble patrons had a profound influence on the direction of the arts.
Being close to the king or queen was desirable, but also dangerous. The literature reveals that courtiers were exceedingly clever with their use of language, employing double meanings and sly wit to protect their own interests. The verbal duels one might have overheard in the court naturally found their way into the poetry and drama of the time. The nuanced communication style of Shakespeare’s vivid characters, for example, had its genesis in the court of the English royalty. In the area of drama, no one matched William Shakespeare in terms of variety, profundity, and exquisite use of language.
His subject matter ran the gamut, from classical Greco-Roman stories to contemporary tales of unrequited love. Shakespeare is known for his ability to shift between comedy and tragedy, from complex character study to light-hearted farce. He is likewise highly regarded for the exquisite formal structure which all of his plays demonstrate. This goes beyond just acts and scenes, but encompasses the emotional and psychological arc of the action in the drama. More than anyone else, he elevated the English language to a level of sumptuousness that previous generations would not have thought possible.
In particular, Shakespeare’s sonnets display a verbal pyrotechnics seldom seen even today, with images layered one on top of another in a kind of sensory collage. Strangely enough, very few details of the playwright’s life are known today. His uncertain biography has led to numerous conspiracy theories, even to the point of questioning whether he was in fact a single person. One of the profound difficulties in ascribing authorship to any piece of literature from so long ago is that copyright, in the modern sense of the term, did not exist.
A writer simply did not own his or her own words, an inconceivable state of affairs The theatre in Renaissance England steadily evolved from a village festival attraction to a bona fide cultural institution. During the Middle Ages, troops of vagabond actors would perform morality plays, essentially live-action sermons, to delighted provincial audiences. In 1567, the Red Lion was erected on the outskirts of London, one of the first commercial playhouses. From the very beginning, the theater had its detractors.
Locals despised the crowd and the noise that the popular houses attracted, and the pubs and brothels that inevitably cropped up nearby. Many saw the theater as an invitation to laziness, with children abandoning their studies and laborers leaving work to see the plays. Others found the subject matter distasteful and wicked. The Puritans, in particular, aimed their barbs directly at the Elizabethan stage. The intensely conservative offshoot of Protestantism, the Puritans feared that the cross-dressing and playacting one found at the theater would lead to sexual corruption among the general populace.
One of the greatest stumbling blocks for artists and writers during the English Renaissance was the ever-present need to somehow eke a living out of their craft. The system of patronage was one means by which talented and creative individuals sustained themselves. A patron was an independently wealthy noble person who had a taste for the finer things, and lavished money and attention on artists who catered to that taste. In some cases, the patron surrounded themselves with poets and dramatists as a mere pretence.
On the other hand, many patrons had a deep and genuine appreciation for artistic creation. From the point of view of the starving artist who reaped the benefits of such generosity, it did not really matter either way. The freedom to pursue one’s craft to the utmost would certainly have been a blessing in sixteenth century England. Original manuscripts which have survived the ravages of time bear witness to the importance of securing the blessings of a wealthy patron. Typically such works are dedicated to the patron who provided the funds for its production.
Or, the writer may be seeking the good favor of a patron who has yet to loosen their purse strings. There are even accounts of a single piece of literature being reproduced and dedicated to several potential patrons, a kind of wide net approach that demonstrates the business savvy required of the Renaissance artists. In the majority of cases, artists had to give much of their time to a career in some other more lucrative field and only pursue their craft as a sort of hobby. Four hundred years have done little to change that unfortunate reality.
The unbounded optimism and humanist spirit of the Renaissance could not go on forever. By the middle of the seventeenth century, the quest for human perfection had given way to decadence, cynicism, and an introversion which would stifle creativity for a long time to come. In England, the rise of Puritanism, itself an offshoot of Renaissance philosophy, put the brakes on the pursuit of knowledge and aesthetic endeavors. Another factor leading to the end of the English Renaissance was the failure of Queen Elizabeth to produce an heir.
All of England adored their Queen, yet she was literally the end of a line. The power vacuum she left behind was immense, and set the stage for shocking violence and intrigue. In a nation fraught with such political uncertainty, the arts invariably suffered a decline. The Humanist Philosophy The new interest in secular life led to beliefs about education and society that came from Greece and Rome. The secular, humanist idea held that the church should not rule civic matters, but should guide only spiritual matters.
The church disdained the accumulation of wealth and worldly goods, supported a strong but limited education, and believed that moral and ethical behavior was dictated by scripture. Humanists, however, believed that wealth enabled them to do fine, noble deeds, that good citizens needed a good, well-rounded education (such as that advocated by the Greeks and Romans), and that moral and ethical issues were related more to secular society than to spiritual concerns. A common oversimplification of Humanism suggests that it gave renewed emphasis to life in this world nstead of to the otherworldly, spiritual life associated with the Middle Ages. Oversimplified as it is, there is nevertheless truth to the idea that Renaissance Humanists placed great emphasis upon the dignity of man and upon the expanded possibilities of human life in this world. For the most part, it regarded human beings as social creatures who could create meaningful lives only in association with other social beings. In the terms used in the Renaissance itself, Humanism represented a shift from the “contemplative life” to the “active life. In the Middle Ages, great value had often been attached to the life of contemplation and religious devotion, away from the world (though this ideal applied to only a small number of people). In the Renaissance, the highest cultural values were usually associated with active involvement in public life, in moral, political, and military action, and in service to the state. Of course, the traditional religious values coexisted with the new secular values; in fact, some of the most important Humanists, like Erasmus, were Churchmen.
Also, individual achievement, breadth of knowledge, and personal aspiration (as personified by Doctor Faustus) were valued. The concept of the “Renaissance Man” refers to an individual who, in addition to participating actively in the affairs of public life, possesses knowledge of and skill in many subject areas. (Such figures included Leonardo Da Vinci and John Milton, as well as Francis Bacon, who had declared, “I have taken all knowledge to be my province. ) Nevertheless, individual aspiration was not the major concern of Renaissance Humanists, who focused rather on teaching people how to participate in and rule a society (though only the nobility and some members of the middle class were included in this ideal). Overall, in consciously attempting to revive the thought and culture of classical antiquity, perhaps the most important value the Humanists extracted from their studies of classical literature, history, and moral philosophy was the social nature of humanity.
Rebirth of Classical Studies The rebirth of classical studies contributed to the development of all forms of art during the Renaissance. Literature was probably the first to show signs of classical influence. The Italian poet Petrarch (1304-1374) delighted in studying the works of Cicero and Virgil, two great writers of the Roman age, and he modeled some of his own writings on their works. Although he often wrote in Latin, attempting to imitate Cicero’s style, Petrarch is most renowned for his poetry in Italian.
As one of the first humanists, and as a writer held in high esteem in his own time, he influenced the spread of humanism–first among his admirers, and later throughout the European world. Spiritual Matters During the Renaissance, a churchman named Martin Luther changed Christianity. On October 31, 1517, he went to his church in the town of Wittenburg, Germany, and posted a list of things that worried him about the church. His list included the church’s practice of selling indulgences, a means by which people could pay the church to reduce the amount of time their souls must spend in purgatory instead of atoning for their sins via contrition.
Luther also requested that, when appropriate, Mass be said in the native language instead of in Latin so that the church’s teachings would be more accessible to the people. This request for reform ignited the beginnings of the Protestant Reformation. Many other Christians agreed that the church needed to change, and several new Christian religions were established during this time. The old church became known as Roman Catholic, and new Christian sects were known by their leaders-among them Lutherans (Luther) and Calvinists (John Calvin). Major English Renaissance figures
The major literary figures in the English Renaissance include: •Francis Bacon •Thomas Dekker •John Donne •John Fletcher •John Ford •Ben Jonson •Thomas Kyd •Christopher Marlowe •Phillip Massinger •Thomas Middleton •John Milton •Sir Thomas More •Thomas Nashe •William Rowley •William Shakespeare •James Shirley •Sir Philip Sidney •Edmund Spenser •John Webster •Sir Thomas Wyatt Thomas Tallis, Thomas Morley, William Byrd(List of Compositions) and John Dowland were the most notable English musicians of the time, and are often seen as being a part of the same artistic movement that inspired the above authors.
Elizabeth herself, a product of Renaissance humanism trained by Roger Ascham, wrote occasional poems such as On Monsieur’s Departure at critical moments of her life. English Renaissance theatre English Renaissance theatre, also known as early modern English theatre, refers to the theatre of England, largely based in London, which occurred between the Reformation and the closure of the theatres in 1642. It includes the drama of William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe and many other famous playwrights. English Renaissance Theatre is sometimes called “Elizabethan theatre. The term “Elizabethan theatre”, however, properly covers only the plays written and performed publicly in England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth (1558–1603). As such, “Elizabethan theatre” is distinguished from Jacobean theatre (associated with the reign of King James I, 1603–1625), and Caroline theatre (associated with King Charles I, 1625 until the closure of the theatres in 1642). “English Renaissance theatre” or “early modern theatre” refers to all three sub-classifications taken together. Most famous plays were written and performed during the Elizabethan era.
Background Renaissance theatre derived from medieval theatre traditions, such as the mystery plays that formed a part of religious festivals in England and other parts of Europe during the Middle Ages. The mystery plays were complex retellings of legends based on biblical themes, originally performed in Cathedrals, but later becoming more linked to the secular celebrations that grew up around religious festivals. Other sources include the morality plays and the “University drama” that attempted to recreate Greek tragedy.
The Italian tradition of commedia dell’arte as well as the elaborate masques frequently presented at court also contributed to the shaping of public theatre. Companies of players attached to households of leading noblemen and performing seasonally in various locations existed before the reign of Elizabeth I. These became the foundation for the professional players that performed on the Elizabethan stage. The tours of these players gradually replaced the performances of the mystery and morality plays by local players, and a 1572 law eliminated the remaining companies lacking formal patronage by labeling them vagabonds.
The performance of masques at court by courtiers and other amateurs came to be replaced by the professional companies with noble patrons, who grew in number and quality during Elizabeth’s reign. The City of London authorities were generally hostile to public performances, but its hostility was overmatched by the Queen’s taste for plays and the Privy Council’s support. Theatres sprang up in suburbs, especially in the liberty of Southwark, accessible across the Thames to city dwellers, but beyond the authority’s control.
The companies maintained the pretence that their public performances were mere rehearsals for the frequent performances before the Queen, but while the latter did grant prestige, the former were the real source of the income professional players required. Along with the economics of the profession, the character of the drama changed toward the end of the period. Under Elizabeth, the drama was a unified expression as far as social class was concerned: the Court watched the same plays the commoners saw in the public playhouses.
With the development of the private theatres, drama became more oriented toward the tastes and values of an upper-class audience. By the later part of the reign of Charles I, few new plays were being written for the public theatres, which sustained themselves on the accumulated works of the previous decades.  Playwrights The growing population of London, the growing wealth of its people, and their fondness for spectacle produced a dramatic literature of remarkable variety, quality, and extent.
Although most of the plays written for the Elizabethan stage have been lost, over 600 remain. The men (no women were professional dramatists in this era) who wrote these plays were primarily self-made men from modest backgrounds.  Some of them were educated at either Oxford or Cambridge, but many were not. Although William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson were actors, the majority do not seem to have been performers, and no major author who came on to the scene after 1600 is known to have supplemented his income by acting.
Not all of the playwrights fit modern images of poets or intellectuals. Christopher Marlowe was killed in an apparent tavern brawl, while Ben Jonson killed an actor in a duel. Several probably were soldiers. Playwrights were normally paid in increments during the writing process, and if their play was accepted, they would also receive the proceeds from one day’s performance. However, they had no ownership of the plays they wrote. Once a play was sold to a company, the company owned it, and the playwright had no control over casting, performance, revision or publication.
The profession of dramatist was challenging and far from lucrative. Entries in Philip Henslowe’s Diary show that in the years around 1600 Henslowe paid as little as ? 6 or ? 7 per play. This was probably at the low end of the range, though even the best writers could not demand too much more. A playwright, working alone, could generally produce two plays a year at most; in the 1630s Richard Brome signed a contract with the Salisbury Court Theatre to supply three plays a year, but found himself unable to meet the workload.
Shakespeare produced fewer than 40 solo plays in a career that spanned more than two decades; he was financially successful because he was an actor and, most importantly, a shareholder in the company for which he acted and in the theatres they used. Ben Jonson achieved success as a purveyor of Court masques, and was talented at playing the patronage game that was an important part of the social and economic life of the era.
Those who were playwrights pure and simple fared far less well; the biographies of early figures like George Peele and Robert Greene, and later ones like Brome and Philip Massinger, are marked by financial uncertainty, struggle, and poverty. Playwrights dealt with the natural limitation on their productivity by combining into teams of two, three, four, and even five to generate play texts; the majority of plays written in this era were collaborations, and the solo artists who generally eschewed collaborative efforts, like Jonson and Shakespeare, were the exceptions to the rule.
Dividing the work, of course, meant dividing the income; but the arrangement seems to have functioned well enough to have made it worthwhile. (The truism that says, diversify your investments, may have worked for the Elizabethan play market as for the modern stock market. ) Of the 70-plus known works in the canon of Thomas Dekker, roughly 50 are collaborations; in a single year, 1598, Dekker worked on 16 collaborations for impresario Philip Henslowe, and earned ? 0, or a little under 12 shillings per week—roughly twice as much as the average artisan’s income of 1s. per day.  At the end of his career, Thomas Heywood would famously claim to have had “an entire hand, or at least a main finger” in the authorship of some 220 plays. A solo artist usually needed months to write a play (though Jonson is said to have done Volpone in five weeks); Henslowe’s Diary indicates that a team of four or five writers could produce a play in as little as two weeks.
Admittedly, though, the Diary also shows that teams of Henslowe’s house dramatists—Anthony Munday, Robert Wilson, Richard Hathwaye, Henry Chettle, and the others, even including a young John Webster—could start a project, and accept advances on it, yet fail to produce anything stageworthy. (Modern understanding of collaboration in this era is biased by the fact that the failures have generally disappeared with barely a trace; for one exception to this rule, see: Sir Thomas More. ). Genres Genres of the period included the history play, which depicted English or European history.
Shakespeare’s plays about the lives of kings, such as Richard III and Henry V, belong to this category, as do Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II and George Peele’s Famous Chronicle of King Edward the First. History plays dealt with more recent events, like A Larum for London which dramatizes the sack of Antwerp in 1576. Tragedy was a popular genre. Marlowe’s tragedies were exceptionally popular, such as Dr. Faustus and The Jew of Malta. The audiences particularly liked revenge dramas, such as Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy.
The four tragedies considered to be Shakespeare’s greatest (Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth) were composed during this period, as well as many others (see Shakespearean tragedy). Comedies were common, too. A sub-genre developed in this period was the city comedy, which deals satirically with life in London after the fashion of Roman New Comedy. Examples are Thomas Dekker’s The Shoemaker’s Holiday and Thomas Middleton’s A Chaste Maid in Cheapside. Though marginalised, the older genres like pastoral (The Faithful Shepherdess, 1608), and even the morality play (Four Plays in One, ca. 608-13) could exert influences. After about 1610, the new hybrid sub-genre of the tragicomedy enjoyed an efflorescence, as did the masque throughout the reigns of the first two Stuart kings, James I and Charles I. Bibliography ?http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/English_Renaissance ?http://classiclit. about. com/library/bl-etexts/rfletcher/bl-rfletcher-history-5-lyric. htm ? http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Elizabethan_theatre ?http://www. bartleby. com/213/0101. html ?http://www. online-literature. com/periods/renaissance. php
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