English Renaissance

English Renaissance

Overview


The English Renaissance was a cultural
Cultural movement
A cultural movement is a change in the way a number of different disciplines approach their work. This embodies all art forms, the sciences, and philosophies. Historically, different nations or regions of the world have gone through their own independent sequence of movements in culture, but as...

 and artistic movement
Art movement
An art movement is a tendency or style in art with a specific common philosophy or goal, followed by a group of artists during a restricted period of time, or, at least, with the heyday of the movement defined within a number of years...

 in England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 dating from the late 15th and early 16th centuries to the early 17th century. It is associated with the pan-European Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 that is usually regarded as beginning in Italy in the late 14th century; like most of northern Europe England saw little of these developments for more than a century later. The beginning of the English Renaissance is often taken, as a convenience, as 1485, when the Battle of Bosworth Field
Battle of Bosworth Field
The Battle of Bosworth Field was the penultimate battle of the Wars of the Roses, the civil war between the House of Lancaster and the House of York that raged across England in the latter half of the 15th century. Fought on 22 August 1485, the battle was won by the Lancastrians...

 ended the Wars of the Roses
Wars of the Roses
The Wars of the Roses were a series of dynastic civil wars for the throne of England fought between supporters of two rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet: the houses of Lancaster and York...

 and inaugurated the Tudor Dynasty
Tudor dynasty
The Tudor dynasty or House of Tudor was a European royal house of Welsh origin that ruled the Kingdom of England and its realms, including the Lordship of Ireland, later the Kingdom of Ireland, from 1485 until 1603. Its first monarch was Henry Tudor, a descendant through his mother of a legitimised...

.
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The English Renaissance was a cultural
Cultural movement
A cultural movement is a change in the way a number of different disciplines approach their work. This embodies all art forms, the sciences, and philosophies. Historically, different nations or regions of the world have gone through their own independent sequence of movements in culture, but as...

 and artistic movement
Art movement
An art movement is a tendency or style in art with a specific common philosophy or goal, followed by a group of artists during a restricted period of time, or, at least, with the heyday of the movement defined within a number of years...

 in England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 dating from the late 15th and early 16th centuries to the early 17th century. It is associated with the pan-European Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 that is usually regarded as beginning in Italy in the late 14th century; like most of northern Europe England saw little of these developments for more than a century later. The beginning of the English Renaissance is often taken, as a convenience, as 1485, when the Battle of Bosworth Field
Battle of Bosworth Field
The Battle of Bosworth Field was the penultimate battle of the Wars of the Roses, the civil war between the House of Lancaster and the House of York that raged across England in the latter half of the 15th century. Fought on 22 August 1485, the battle was won by the Lancastrians...

 ended the Wars of the Roses
Wars of the Roses
The Wars of the Roses were a series of dynastic civil wars for the throne of England fought between supporters of two rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet: the houses of Lancaster and York...

 and inaugurated the Tudor Dynasty
Tudor dynasty
The Tudor dynasty or House of Tudor was a European royal house of Welsh origin that ruled the Kingdom of England and its realms, including the Lordship of Ireland, later the Kingdom of Ireland, from 1485 until 1603. Its first monarch was Henry Tudor, a descendant through his mother of a legitimised...

. But Renaissance style and ideas were slow in penetrating England, and the Elizabethan period in the second half of the 16th century is usually regarded as the height of the English Renaissance, which lasted until the mid 17th century, as Baroque
Baroque
The Baroque is a period and the style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, literature, dance, and music...

 style was also slow in reaching England.

Literature


England had long had a strong tradition of literature in the English vernacular, which gradually increased as English use of the printing press
Printing press
A printing press is a device for applying pressure to an inked surface resting upon a print medium , thereby transferring the ink...

 became common by the mid 16th century. By the time of Elizabethan literature
Elizabethan literature
The term Elizabethan literature refers to the English literature produced during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I .The Elizabethan era saw a great flourishing of literature, especially in the field of drama...

 a vigorous literary culture in both drama and poetry included poets such as Edmund Spenser
Edmund Spenser
Edmund Spenser was an English poet best known for The Faerie Queene, an epic poem and fantastical allegory celebrating the Tudor dynasty and Elizabeth I. He is recognised as one of the premier craftsmen of Modern English verse in its infancy, and one of the greatest poets in the English...

, whose verse epic The Faerie Queene
The Faerie Queene
The Faerie Queene is an incomplete English epic poem by Edmund Spenser. The first half was published in 1590, and a second installment was published in 1596. The Faerie Queene is notable for its form: it was the first work written in Spenserian stanza and is one of the longest poems in the English...

did not become a dominating influence on English literature in the way that some foreign equivalents did for their countries. Instead the lyrics of William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

, Thomas Wyatt
Thomas Wyatt
Thomas Wyatt may refer to:* Thomas Wyatt , English poet* Thomas Wyatt the younger , rebel leader* Thomas Henry Wyatt , British architect...

 and others, typically circulating in manuscript form for some time before they were published, and above all the plays of English Renaissance theatre
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...

, were the outstanding legacy of the period.

The English theatre scene, which performed both for the court and nobility in private performances, and a very wide public in the theatres, was the most crowded in Europe, with a host of other playwrights as well as the giant figures of Christopher Marlowe
Christopher Marlowe
Christopher Marlowe was an English dramatist, poet and translator of the Elizabethan era. As the foremost Elizabethan tragedian, next to William Shakespeare, he is known for his blank verse, his overreaching protagonists, and his mysterious death.A warrant was issued for Marlowe's arrest on 18 May...

, Shakespeare and Ben Jonson
Ben Jonson
Benjamin Jonson was an English Renaissance dramatist, poet and actor. A contemporary of William Shakespeare, he is best known for his satirical plays, particularly Volpone, The Alchemist, and Bartholomew Fair, which are considered his best, and his lyric poems...

. Elizabeth
Elizabeth I of England
Elizabeth I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana, or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty...

 herself was a product of Renaissance humanism
Renaissance humanism
Renaissance humanism was an activity of cultural and educational reform engaged by scholars, writers, and civic leaders who are today known as Renaissance humanists. It developed during the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth centuries, and was a response to the challenge of Mediæval...

 trained by Roger Ascham
Roger Ascham
Roger Ascham was an English scholar and didactic writer, famous for his prose style, his promotion of the vernacular, and his theories of education...

, and wrote occasional poems such as On Monsieur’s Departure
On Monsieur’s Departure
On Monsieur’s Departure is an Elizabethan poem attributed to Elizabeth I. It is written in the form of a meditation on the failure of her marriage negotiations with François, Duke of Anjou....

at critical moments of her life. Philosophers and intellectuals included Thomas More
Thomas More
Sir Thomas More , also known by Catholics as Saint Thomas More, was an English lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman and noted Renaissance humanist. He was an important councillor to Henry VIII of England and, for three years toward the end of his life, Lord Chancellor...

 and Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Albans, KC was an English philosopher, statesman, scientist, lawyer, jurist, author and pioneer of the scientific method. He served both as Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England...

. All the 16th century Tudor monarchs were highly educated, as was much of the nobility, and Italian literature had a considerable following, providing the sources for many of Shakespeare's plays. English thought advanced towards modern science with the Baconian Method
Baconian method
The Baconian method is the investigative method developed by Sir Francis Bacon. The method was put forward in Bacon's book Novum Organum , or 'New Method', and was supposed to replace the methods put forward in Aristotle's Organon...

, a forerunner of the Scientific Method
Scientific method
Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of...

. The language of the Book of Common Prayer
Book of Common Prayer
The Book of Common Prayer is the short title of a number of related prayer books used in the Anglican Communion, as well as by the Continuing Anglican, "Anglican realignment" and other Anglican churches. The original book, published in 1549 , in the reign of Edward VI, was a product of the English...

, first published in 1549, and at the end of the period the Authorised Version ("King James Version" to Americans) of the Bible (1611) had enduring impacts on the English consciousness.

Visual arts


England was very slow to produce visual arts in Renaissance styles, and the artists of the Tudor court
Artists of the Tudor court
The artists of the Tudor court are the painters and limners engaged by the monarchs of England's Tudor dynasty and their courtiers between 1485 and 1603, from the reign of Henry VII to the death of Elizabeth I....

 were mainly imported foreigners until after the end of the Renaissance; Hans Holbein
Hans Holbein
Hans Holbein may refer to two German painters:* Hans Holbein the Elder father of Hans the Younger* Hans Holbein the Younger , better known of the two, court artist to King Henry VIII of England...

 was the outstanding figure. The English Reformation
English Reformation
The English Reformation was the series of events in 16th-century England by which the Church of England broke away from the authority of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church....

 produced a huge programme of iconoclasm
Iconoclasm
Iconoclasm is the deliberate destruction of religious icons and other symbols or monuments, usually with religious or political motives. It is a frequent component of major political or religious changes...

 that destroyed almost all medieval religious art, and all but ended the skill of painting in England; English art was to be dominated by portraiture, and then later landscape art
Landscape art
Landscape art is a term that covers the depiction of natural scenery such as mountains, valleys, trees, rivers, and forests, and especially art where the main subject is a wide view, with its elements arranged into a coherent composition. In other works landscape backgrounds for figures can still...

, for centuries to come. The significant English invention was the portrait miniature
Portrait miniature
A portrait miniature is a miniature portrait painting, usually executed in gouache, watercolour, or enamel.Portrait miniatures began to flourish in 16th century Europe and the art was practiced during the 17th century and 18th century...

, which essentially took the techniques of the dying art of the illuminated manuscript
Illuminated manuscript
An illuminated manuscript is a manuscript in which the text is supplemented by the addition of decoration, such as decorated initials, borders and miniature illustrations...

 and transferred them to small portraits worn in lockets. Though the form was developed in England by foreign artists, mostly Flemish like Lucas Horenbout
Lucas Horenbout
Lucas Horenbout, often called Hornebolte in England, was a Flemish artist who moved to England in the mid-1520s and worked there as "King's Painter" and court miniaturist to King Henry VIII from 1525 until his death...

, the somewhat undistinguished founder of the tradition, by the late 16th century natives such as Nicolas Hilliard and Isaac Oliver
Isaac Oliver
Isaac Oliver was a French-born English portrait miniature painter.-Life and work:Born in Rouen, he moved to London in 1568 with his Huguenot parents Peter and Epiphany Oliver to escape the Wars of Religion in France...

 produced the finest work, even as the best producers of larger portraits in oil were still foreigners. The portrait miniature had spread all over Europe by the 18th century. The portraiture of Elizabeth I was carefully controlled, and developed into an elaborate and wholly un-realist iconic style, that has succeeded in creating enduring images.

Music


English Renaissance music kept in touch with continental developments far more than visual art, and managed to survive the Reformation relatively successfully, though William Byrd
William Byrd
William Byrd was an English composer of the Renaissance. He wrote in many of the forms current in England at the time, including various types of sacred and secular polyphony, keyboard and consort music.-Provenance:Knowledge of Byrd's biography expanded in the late 20th century, thanks largely...

 and other major figures were Catholic. The Elizabethan madrigal was distinct from, but related to the Italian tradition. Thomas Tallis
Thomas Tallis
Thomas Tallis was an English composer. Tallis flourished as a church musician in 16th century Tudor England. He occupies a primary place in anthologies of English church music, and is considered among the best of England's early composers. He is honoured for his original voice in English...

, Thomas Morley
Thomas Morley
Thomas Morley was an English composer, theorist, editor and organist of the Renaissance, and the foremost member of the English Madrigal School. He was the most famous composer of secular music in Elizabethan England and an organist at St Paul's Cathedral...

, and John Dowland
John Dowland
John Dowland was an English Renaissance composer, singer, and lutenist. He is best known today for his melancholy songs such as "Come, heavy sleep" , "Come again", "Flow my tears", "I saw my Lady weepe" and "In darkness let me dwell", but his instrumental music has undergone a major revival, and has...

 were other leading English composers.

The colossal polychoral productions of the Venetian School had been anticipated in the works of Thomas Tallis, and the Palestrina
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina was an Italian Renaissance composer of sacred music and the best-known 16th-century representative of the Roman School of musical composition...

 style from the Roman School
Roman School
In music history, the Roman School was a group of composers of predominantly church music, in Rome, during the 16th and 17th centuries, therefore spanning the late Renaissance and early Baroque eras. The term also refers to the music they produced...

 had already been absorbed prior to the publication of Musical transalpina, in the music of masters such as William Byrd.

The Italian and English Renaissances were similar in sharing a specific musical aesthetic. In the late 16th century Italy was the musical center of Europe, and one of the principal forms which emerged from that singular explosion of musical creativity was the madrigal
Madrigal (music)
A madrigal is a secular vocal music composition, usually a partsong, of the Renaissance and early Baroque eras. Traditionally, polyphonic madrigals are unaccompanied; the number of voices varies from two to eight, and most frequently from three to six....

. In 1588, Nicholas Yonge
Nicholas Yonge
Nicholas Yonge was an English singer and publisher. He is most famous for publishing the Musica transalpina , a collection of Italian madrigals with their words translated into English...

 published in England the Musica transalpina—a collection of Italian madrigals that had been Anglicized—an event which began a vogue of madrigal in England which was almost unmatched in the Renaissance in being an instantaneous adoption of an idea, from another country, adapted to local aesthetics. English poetry was exactly at the right stage of development for this transplantation to occur, since forms such as the sonnet
Sonnet
A sonnet is one of several forms of poetry that originate in Europe, mainly Provence and Italy. A sonnet commonly has 14 lines. The term "sonnet" derives from the Occitan word sonet and the Italian word sonetto, both meaning "little song" or "little sound"...

 were uniquely adapted to setting as madrigals: indeed, the sonnet was already well developed in Italy. Composers such as Thomas Morley, the only contemporary composer to set Shakespeare, and whose work survives, published collections of their own, roughly in the Italian manner but yet with a unique Englishness; interest in the compositions of the English Madrigal School have enjoyed a considerable revival in recent decades.

Architecture


Despite some buildings in a partly Renaissance style from the reign of Henry VIII, notably Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court Palace is a royal palace in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, Greater London; it has not been inhabited by the British royal family since the 18th century. The palace is located south west of Charing Cross and upstream of Central London on the River Thames...

, the vanished Nonsuch Palace
Nonsuch Palace
Nonsuch Palace was a Tudor royal palace, built by Henry VIII in Surrey, England; it stood from 1538 to 1682–3. Its ruins are in Nonsuch Park.- Background :Nonsuch Palace in Surrey was perhaps the grandest of Henry VIII's building projects...

, Sutton Place
Sutton Place, Surrey
Sutton Place, 3 miles NE of Guildford in Surrey is a Grade I listed Tudor manor house built c.1525 by Sir Richard Weston, courtier of Henry VIII. It is of great importance to art history in showing some of the earliest traces of Italianate renaissance design elements in English architecture. In...

 and Layer Marney Tower
Layer Marney Tower
Layer Marney Tower is a Tudor palace, composed of buildings, gardens and parkland, dating from 1520 situated in Layer Marney near Colchester, Essex, England.-History:...

, it was not until the Elizabethan architecture
Elizabethan architecture
Elizabethan architecture is the term given to early Renaissance architecture in England, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Historically, the period corresponds to the Cinquecento in Italy, the Early Renaissance in France, and the Plateresque style in Spain...

 of the end of the century that a true Renaissance style emerged, influenced far more by northern Europe than Italy. The most famous buildings are large show houses constructed for courtiers, and characterised by lavish use of glass, as at "Hardwick Hall
Hardwick Hall
Hardwick Hall , in Derbyshire, is one of the most significant Elizabethan country houses in England. In common with its architect Robert Smythson's other works at both Longleat House and Wollaton Hall, Hardwick Hall is one of the earliest examples of the English interpretation of the Renaissance...

, more glass than wall", Wollaton Hall
Wollaton Hall
Wollaton Hall is a country house standing on a small but prominent hill in Wollaton, Nottingham, England. Wollaton Park is the area of parkland that the stately house stands in. The house itself is a natural history museum, with other museums in the out-buildings...

 and Hatfield House
Hatfield House
Hatfield House is a country house set in a large park, the Great Park, on the eastern side of the town of Hatfield, Hertfordshire, England. The present Jacobean house was built in 1611 by Robert Cecil, First Earl of Salisbury and Chief Minister to King James I and has been the home of the Cecil...

 and Burghley House
Burghley House
Burghley House is a grand 16th-century country house near the town of Stamford, Lincolnshire, England...

, the style continuing into the early 17th century before developing into Jacobean architecture
Jacobean architecture
The Jacobean style is the second phase of Renaissance architecture in England, following the Elizabethan style. It is named after King James I of England, with whose reign it is associated.-Characteristics:...

. Lesser, but still large, houses like Little Moreton Hall
Little Moreton Hall
Little Moreton Hall is a moated 15th and 16th-century half-timbered manor house southwest of Congleton, Cheshire. It is one of the finest examples of timber-framed domestic architecture in England. The house is today owned by the National Trust. It has been designated by English Heritage as a...

 continued to be constructed and expanded in essentially medieval half-timbered styles until the late 16th century. Church architecture essentially continued in a late Gothic style until the Reformation, and then stopped almost completely, although church monument
Church monument
A church monument is an architectural or sculptural memorial to a dead person or persons, located within a Christian church. It can take various forms, from a simple wall tablet to a large and elaborate structure which may include an effigy of the deceased person and other figures of familial or...

s, screens and other fittings often had classical styles from about the mid-century. The few new church buildings were usually still Gothic in style, as in Langley Chapel
Langley Chapel
Langley Chapel is an Anglican church, built in 1601, located in a remote area approximately 1.5 miles to the south of Acton Burnell, Shropshire, England. It is now in the care of English Heritage, and is notable for having a complete set of original 17th century wooden furniture, and its lack of a...

 of 1601.

Comparison of the English and Italian Renaissances


The English Renaissance is different from the Italian Renaissance
Italian Renaissance
The Italian Renaissance began the opening phase of the Renaissance, a period of great cultural change and achievement in Europe that spanned the period from the end of the 13th century to about 1600, marking the transition between Medieval and Early Modern Europe...

 in several ways. The dominant art forms of the English Renaissance were literature
Literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

 and music
Music
Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...

. Visual arts
Visual arts
The visual arts are art forms that create works which are primarily visual in nature, such as ceramics, drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, design, crafts, and often modern visual arts and architecture...

 in the English Renaissance were much less significant than in the Italian Renaissance. The English period began far later than the Italian, which is usually considered to begin with Dante
Dante Alighieri
Durante degli Alighieri, mononymously referred to as Dante , was an Italian poet, prose writer, literary theorist, moral philosopher, and political thinker. He is best known for the monumental epic poem La commedia, later named La divina commedia ...

, Petrarch
Petrarch
Francesco Petrarca , known in English as Petrarch, was an Italian scholar, poet and one of the earliest humanists. Petrarch is often called the "Father of Humanism"...

 and Giotto in the early 14th century, and was moving into Mannerism
Mannerism
Mannerism is a period of European art that emerged from the later years of the Italian High Renaissance around 1520. It lasted until about 1580 in Italy, when a more Baroque style began to replace it, but Northern Mannerism continued into the early 17th century throughout much of Europe...

 and the Baroque by the 1550s or earlier. In contrast, the English Renaissance can only be said to begin, shakily, in the 1520s, and continued until perhaps 1620.

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
Jacob Burckhardt
Carl Jacob Christoph Burckhardt was a historian of art and culture, and an influential figure in the historiography of each field. He is known as one of the major progenitors of cultural history, albeit in a form very different from how cultural history is conceived and studied in academia today...

 in the 19th century. The idea of the Renaissance has come under increased criticism by many cultural historians
Cultural history
The term cultural history refers both to an academic discipline and to its subject matter.Cultural history, as a discipline, at least in its common definition since the 1970s, often combines the approaches of anthropology and history to look at popular cultural traditions and cultural...

, 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
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance...

, Michelangelo
Michelangelo
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni , commonly known as Michelangelo, was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art...

, Donatello
Donatello
Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi , also known as Donatello, was an early Renaissance Italian artist and sculptor from Florence...

) 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
Geoffrey Chaucer
Geoffrey Chaucer , known as the Father of English literature, is widely considered the greatest English poet of the Middle Ages and was the first poet to have been buried in Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey...

 was working. Chaucer's popularizing of English as a medium of literary composition rather than Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 occurred only 50 years after Dante
Dante Alighieri
Durante degli Alighieri, mononymously referred to as Dante , was an Italian poet, prose writer, literary theorist, moral philosopher, and political thinker. He is best known for the monumental epic poem La commedia, later named La divina commedia ...

 had started using Italian for serious poetry. At the same time William Langland
William Langland
William Langland is the conjectured author of the 14th-century English dream-vision Piers Plowman.- Life :The attribution of Piers to Langland rests principally on the evidence of a manuscript held at Trinity College, Dublin...

, author of Piers Plowman
Piers Plowman
Piers Plowman or Visio Willelmi de Petro Plowman is the title of a Middle English allegorical narrative poem by William Langland. It is written in unrhymed alliterative verse divided into sections called "passus"...

, and John Gower
John Gower
John Gower was an English poet, a contemporary of William Langland and a personal friend of Geoffrey Chaucer. He is remembered primarily for three major works, the Mirroir de l'Omme, Vox Clamantis, and Confessio Amantis, three long poems written in French, Latin, and English respectively, which...

 were also writing in English. Even during these war years, though, Thomas Malory
Thomas Malory
Sir Thomas Malory was an English writer, the author or compiler of Le Morte d'Arthur. The antiquary John Leland as well as John Bale believed him to be Welsh, but most modern scholars, beginning with G. L...

, author of Le Morte D'Arthur
Le Morte d'Arthur
Le Morte d'Arthur is a compilation by Sir Thomas Malory of Romance tales about the legendary King Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, and the Knights of the Round Table...

, was a notable figure. For this reason, scholars find the singularity of the period called the English Renaissance questionable; C. S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis
Clive Staples Lewis , commonly referred to as C. S. Lewis and known to his friends and family as "Jack", was a novelist, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian and Christian apologist from Belfast, Ireland...

, a professor of Medieval
Medieval literature
Medieval literature is a broad subject, encompassing essentially all written works available in Europe and beyond during the Middle Ages . The literature of this time was composed of religious writings as well as secular works...

 and Renaissance literature at Oxford and Cambridge
University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is a public research university located in Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in both the United Kingdom and the English-speaking world , and the seventh-oldest globally...

, 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
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

. 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
Early modern Europe
Early modern Europe is the term used by historians to refer to a period in the history of Europe which spanned the centuries between the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, roughly the late 15th century to the late 18th century...

" 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
Tudor dynasty
The Tudor dynasty or House of Tudor was a European royal house of Welsh origin that ruled the Kingdom of England and its realms, including the Lordship of Ireland, later the Kingdom of Ireland, from 1485 until 1603. Its first monarch was Henry Tudor, a descendant through his mother of a legitimised...

, culminating in Shakespeare and his contemporaries.

Major English Renaissance authors


The major literary figures in the English Renaissance include:
  • Francis Bacon
    Francis Bacon
    Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Albans, KC was an English philosopher, statesman, scientist, lawyer, jurist, author and pioneer of the scientific method. He served both as Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England...

  • Thomas Dekker
  • John Donne
    John Donne
    John Donne 31 March 1631), English poet, satirist, lawyer, and priest, is now considered the preeminent representative of the metaphysical poets. His works are notable for their strong and sensual style and include sonnets, love poetry, religious poems, Latin translations, epigrams, elegies, songs,...

  • John Fletcher
    John Fletcher (playwright)
    John Fletcher was a Jacobean playwright. Following William Shakespeare as house playwright for the King's Men, he was among the most prolific and influential dramatists of his day; both during his lifetime and in the early Restoration, his fame rivalled Shakespeare's...

  • John Ford
    John Ford (dramatist)
    John Ford was an English Jacobean and Caroline playwright and poet born in Ilsington in Devon in 1586.-Life and work:...

  • Ben Jonson
    Ben Jonson
    Benjamin Jonson was an English Renaissance dramatist, poet and actor. A contemporary of William Shakespeare, he is best known for his satirical plays, particularly Volpone, The Alchemist, and Bartholomew Fair, which are considered his best, and his lyric poems...

  • Thomas Kyd
    Thomas Kyd
    Thomas Kyd was an English dramatist, the author of The Spanish Tragedy, and one of the most important figures in the development of Elizabethan drama....

  • Christopher Marlowe
    Christopher Marlowe
    Christopher Marlowe was an English dramatist, poet and translator of the Elizabethan era. As the foremost Elizabethan tragedian, next to William Shakespeare, he is known for his blank verse, his overreaching protagonists, and his mysterious death.A warrant was issued for Marlowe's arrest on 18 May...

  • Phillip Massinger
  • Thomas Middleton
    Thomas Middleton
    Thomas Middleton was an English Jacobean playwright and poet. Middleton stands with John Fletcher and Ben Jonson as among the most successful and prolific of playwrights who wrote their best plays during the Jacobean period. He was one of the few Renaissance dramatists to achieve equal success in...

  • Sir Thomas More
    Thomas More
    Sir Thomas More , also known by Catholics as Saint Thomas More, was an English lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman and noted Renaissance humanist. He was an important councillor to Henry VIII of England and, for three years toward the end of his life, Lord Chancellor...

  • Thomas Nashe
    Thomas Nashe
    Thomas Nashe was an English Elizabethan pamphleteer, playwright, poet and satirist. He was the son of the minister William Nashe and his wife Margaret .-Early life:...

  • William Rowley
    William Rowley
    William Rowley was an English Jacobean dramatist, best known for works written in collaboration with more successful writers. His date of birth is estimated to have been c. 1585; he was buried on 11 February 1626...

  • William Shakespeare
    William Shakespeare
    William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

  • James Shirley
    James Shirley
    James Shirley was an English dramatist.He belonged to the great period of English dramatic literature, but, in Lamb's words, he "claims a place among the worthies of this period, not so much for any transcendent genius in himself, as that he was the last of a great race, all of whom spoke nearly...

  • Sir Philip Sidney
  • Edmund Spenser
    Edmund Spenser
    Edmund Spenser was an English poet best known for The Faerie Queene, an epic poem and fantastical allegory celebrating the Tudor dynasty and Elizabeth I. He is recognised as one of the premier craftsmen of Modern English verse in its infancy, and one of the greatest poets in the English...

  • John Webster
    John Webster
    John Webster was an English Jacobean dramatist best known for his tragedies The White Devil and The Duchess of Malfi, which are often regarded as masterpieces of the early 17th-century English stage. He was a contemporary of William Shakespeare.- Biography :Webster's life is obscure, and the dates...

  • Sir Thomas Wyatt


Further reading

  • Cheney, Patrick. "Recent Studies in the English Renaissance," SEL: Studies In English Literature (2007) 47(1): 199-275
  • Hadfield, Andrew. The English Renaissance, 1500-1620 (2001)
  • Hattaway, Michael, ed. A Companion to English Renaissance Literature and Culture. (2000). 747 pp.
  • Lamb, Mary Ellen. "Recent Studies In The English Renaissance," SEL: Studies in English Literature (Johns Hopkins); 2006 46(1): 195-252
  • Loewenstein, David. "Recent Studies in the English Renaissance," SEL: Studies in English Literature Spring 2011, Vol. 51 Issue 2, pp 199-278
  • Robin, Diana; Larsen, Anne R.; and Levin, Carole, eds. Encyclopedia of Women in the Renaissance: Italy, France, and England (2007) 459p.
  • Rowse, A. L.
    A. L. Rowse
    Alfred Leslie Rowse, CH, FBA , known professionally as A. L. Rowse and to friends and family as Leslie, was a British historian from Cornwall. He is perhaps best known for his work on Elizabethan England and his poetry about Cornwall. He was also a Shakespearean scholar and biographer...

     The Elizabethan Renaissance: The Life of the Society (2000) excerpt and text search
  • Sheen, Erica, and Lorna Hutson, eds. Literature, Politics and Law in Renaissance England (2005)
  • Smith, Emma and Garrett A. Sullivan Jr., eds. The Cambridge Companion to English Renaissance Tragedy (2010)

See also