Ïðåäñòàâèòåëè Ðåíåññàíñà (Representatives of the renaissance and thair contribution to the literature)
The works of Thomas More……………………………………………...6
Second period of the Renaissance………………………………………..8
The “Fairy Queen”……………………………………………………….11
The development of the drama. The theatres and actors…………………12
I have heard about the Renaissance not so long ago: last year when I
was in 10`th form, but do not think that I never knew about this period
earlier. Of course I knew but I just did not know how is it called.
Actually I always had a great interest to unusual and pleasantly sounding
words. So when I have heard the word “renaissance” my attention was
immediately attracted by it. My firs association to this word was something
magnificent, brilliant and rustling like a woman`s dress of 18`th century.
Soon I have known that the Renaissance is the period of English literature
and art. From that time my wish to know about its place in art was becoming
stronger and more strongly. I wanted to know more about this period in
English art: when did it start, who were the representatives of this period
and what did they write, what did they think about. It is not all what I
wanted to know about but I can not tell you all questions because I had
plenty of them.
Now I know more about this period of English literature but
nevertheless I still have not calmed down. I have many questions till today
and I want to clear up this business. So let`s investigate this period
together and find out some new facts…
The “dark” Middle Ages were followed by a time known in art and
literature as the Renaissance. The word “renaissance” means “rebirth” in
French and was used to denote a phase in the cultural development of
Europe between the 14th and 17th centuries.
The wave of progress reached the shores of England only in the 16th
century. The ideas of the Renaissance came to England together with the
ideas of the Reformation (the establishment of the national Church) and
were called the “New Learning”. Every year numbers of new books were
brought out, and these books were sold openly, but few people could read
and enjoy them. The universities were lacking in teachers to spread the
ideas of modern thought. So, many English scholars began to go to Italy,
where they learned to understand the ancient classics, and when they came
home they adapted their classical learning to the needs of the country.
Grammar schools (primary schools) increased in number. The new point of
view passed from the schools to the home and to the market place.
Many of the learned men in Italy came from the great city of
Constantinople. It was besieged and taken by Turks in 1453. All the great
libraries and schools in Constantinople had been broken up and destroyed.
The Latin and Greek scholars were driven out of the city, glad to escape
with their lives and with such books as they could carry away with them.
Being learned men, many of them found a welcome in the cities and towns in
which they stopped. They began to teach the people how to read the Latin
and Greek books which they had brought with them and also taught them to
read the Latin and Greek books which were kept in many towns of Europe, but
which few people at that time were able to read.
Foreign scholars and artists began to teach in England during the
reign of Henry VIII. In painting and music the first period of the
Renaissance was one of imitation. Painting was represented by German
artist Holbein, and music by Italians and Frenchmen. With literature the
case was different. The English poets and dramatists popularized much of
the new learning. The freedom of thought of English humanists revealed
itself in antifeudal and even antibourgeois ideas, showing the life of
their own people as it really was. Such a writer was the humanist Thomas
Thomas More, the first English humanist of the Renaissance, was born
in Milk Street, London on February 7, 1478, son Sir John More, a prominent
judge. Educated at Oxford, he could write a most beautiful Latin. It was
not the Latin of the Church but the original classical Latin. At Oxford
More met a foreign humanist, and made friends with him. Erasmus believed
in the common sense of a man and taught that men ought to think for
themselves, and not merely to believe things to be true because their
fathers, or the priest had said they were true. Later, Thomas More wrote
many letters to Erasmus and received many letters from him.
Thomas More began life as a lawyer. During the reign of Henry VII he
became a member of Parliament. He was an active-minded man and kept a keen
eye on the events of his time. The rich landowners at the time were
concentrating on sheep-raising because it was very profitable. Small
holders were not allowed to till the soil and were driven off their lands.
The commons (public ground) were enclosed and fields converted into
pastures. The mass of the agricultural population were doomed to poverty.
Thomas More set to work to find the reason of this evil. He was the first
great writer on social and political subjects in England.
Fourteen years after Henry VIII came to the throne, More was made
Speaker of the House of Commons. The Tudor monarchy was an absolute
monarchy, and Parliament had very little power to resist the king. There
was, however, one matter on which Parliament was very determined. That was
the right to vote or to refuse to vote for the money. Once when the King
wanted money and asked Parliament to vote him 800.000, the members sat
silent. Twice the King’s messengers called, and twice they had to leave
without an answer. When Parliament was called together again, Thomas More
spoke up and urged that the request be refused. After a long discussion a
sum less then half the amount requested by the King was voted, and that sum
was to be spread over a period of four years.
Thomas More was an earnest Catholic, but he was not liked by the
priests and the Pope on account of his writings and the ideas he taught.
After Henry VIII quarrelled with the Pope he gathered around himself all
the enemies of the Pope, and so in 1529 More was made Lord Chancellor
(highest judge to the House of Lords). He had not wanted the post because
he was as much against the king’s absolute power in England as he was
against the Pope. More soon fell a victim to the King’s anger. He refused
to swear that he would obey Henry as the head of the English Church, and
was thrown into the Tower on April 17. Parliament, to please the King,
declared More guilty of treason, and he was beheaded in the Tower on July
The Works of Thomas More
Thomas More wrote in English and in Latin. The humanists of al1
European countries communicated in the Latin language, and their best works
were written in Latin. The English writings of Thomas More include:
. Discussions and political subjects.
His style is simple, colloquial end has an unaffected ease. The work
by which he is best remembered today is “Utopia” which was written in Latin
in the year 1516. It has now been translated into all European languages.
“Utopia” (which in Greek means “nowhere”) is the name of a non-existent
island. This work is divided into two books.
In the first, the author gives a profound and truthful picture of the
people’s sufferings and points out the socia1 evils existing, in England at
In the second book More presents his ideal of what the future society
should be like.
The word “utopia” has become a byword and is used in Modern English to
denote an unattainable ideal, usually in social and political matters. But
the writer H.G. Wells, who wrote an introduction to the latest edition,
said that the use of the word “utopia” was far from More’s essentia1
quality, whose mind abounded in sound, practical ideas. The book is in
reality a very unimaginative work.
“Utopia” describes a perfect social system built on communist
While on business in Flanders, the author makes the acquaintance
of a certain Raphael Hythloday, a sailor who has travelled with the famous
explorer Amerigo Vespucci. He has much to tell about his voyages, Thomas
More, Raphael Hythloday and a cardinal meet together in a garden and
discuss many problems. Raphael has been to England too and expresses his
surprise at the cruelty of English laws and at the poverty of the
population. Then they talk about crime in general, and Raphael says:
“There is another cause of stealing which I suppose is proper and
peculiar to you Englishmen alone.”
“What is that?” asked the Cardinal.
“Oh, my lord,” said Raphael, “your sheep that used to be so meek and
tame and so small eaters, have now become so great devourers and so wild
that they eat up and swallow down the very men themselves. The peasants are
driven out of their land. Away they go finding no place to rest in. And
when all is spent, what can they do but steal and then be hanged?”
The disastrous state of things in England puts Raphael Hythloday in
mind of a commonwealth (a republic) he has seen on an unknown island in an
unknown sea. A description of “Utopia” follows, and Raphael speaks “of all
the good laws and orders of this same island.”
There is no private property in Utopia. The people own everything in
common and enjoy complete economic equality. Everyone cares for his
neighbour’s good, and each has a clean and healthy house to live in. Labour
is the most essential feature of life in Utopia, but no one is overworked.
Everybody is engaged in usefu1 work nine hours a day. After work, they
indulge in sport and games and spend much time in “improving their minds”
(learning)-All teaching is free, and the parents do not have to pay any
schoo1 fees. (More wrote about things unknown in any country at that time,
though they are natural with us in our days.)
For magistrates the Utopians choose men whom they think to be most fit
to protect the welfare of the population. When electing their government,
the people give their voices secretly. There are few laws and no lawyers at
all, but these few laws must be strictly obeyed.
“Virtue,” says Thomas More, “lives according to Nature.” The greatest
of all pleasures is perfect health. Man must be healthy and wise.
Thomas More’s “Utopia” was the first literary work in which the ideas of
Communism appeared. It was highly esteemed by all the humanists of Europe
in More’s time and again grew very popular with the socialists of the 19th
century. After More, a tendency began in literature to write fantastic
novels on social reforms, and many such works appeared in various
SECOND PERIOD OF THE RENAISSANCE
THE PREDECESSORS OF SHAKESPEARE
The most significant period of the Renaissance in England falls to the
reign of Queen Elizabeth. England’s success in commerce brought prosperity
to the nation and gave a chance to many persons of talent to develop their
abilities. Explorers, men of letters, philosophers, poets and famous actors
and dramatists appeared in rapid succession. The great men of the so-called
“Elizabethan Era” distinguished themselves by their activities in many
fields and displayed an insatiable thirst for knowledge. They were often
called “the Elizabethans”, but of course the Queen had no hand in assisting
them when they began literary work; the poets and dramatists had to push on
through great difficulties before they became well known.
Towards the middle of the 16th century common people were already
striving for knowledge and the sons of many common citizens managed to get
an education. The universities began to breed many learned men who refused
to become churchmen and wrote for the stage. These were called the
“University Wits”, because under the influence of their classical education
they wrote after Greek and Latin models. Among the “University Wits” were
Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Sackville, John Lyly, George Peele, Robert
Greene, Thomas Kyd and Thomas Nash; Christopher Marlowe being the most
distinguished of them. The new method of teaching classical literature at
the universities was to perform Roman plays in Latin, Later the graduates
translated these plays into English and then they wrote plays of their own.
Some wrote plays for the court, others for the public theatres. But
the plays were not mere imitations. Ancient literature had taught the
playwrights to seek new forms and to bring in new progressive ideas. The
new drama represented real characters and real human problems which
satisfied the demands of the common people and they expected ever new
plays. Under such favourable circumstances there was a sudden rise of the
drama. The great plays were written in verse.
The second period of the Renaissance was characterised by the
splendour of its poetry.
Lyrical poetry also became wide-spread in England. The country was
called a nest of singing birds. Lyrical poetry was very emotional. The
poets introduced blank verse and the Italian sonnet. The sonnet is a poem
consisting of fourteen lines. The lines are divided into two groups: the
first group of eight lines (the octave), and the second group of six lines
(the sestet). The foremost poet of the time was Edmund Spenser. He wrote in
a new, English, form: the nine-line stanza.
Edmund Spenser was born in London in 1552. Though his parents
descended from a noble House, the family was poor. His father was a free
journeyman for a merchant’s company. When Edmund came of age he entered
the University of Cambridge as a “sizar” (a student who paid less for his
education than others and had to wait on (to serve) the wealthier students
Spenser was learned in Hebrew, Greek, Latin and French. His generation
was one of the first to study also their mother tongue seriously. While at
college, he acted in the tragedies of the ancient masters and this inspired
him to write poetry.
Spenser began his literary work at the age of seventeen. Once a fellow-
student introduced him to the famous Sir Philip Sidney, who encouraged him
to write (Sidney was the author of an allegorical romance in prose called
“Arcadia” that had become very popular as light reading among the court-
ladies of Queen Elizabeth). At the age of twenty-three, Spenser took his
M.A. (Master of Arts) degree.
Before returning to London he lived for a while in the wilderness of
Lancashire where he fell in love with a “fair widow’s daughter”. His love
was not returned but he clung to this early passion; she became the
Rosalind of his poem the “Shepherd s Calendar”. Spenser’s disappointment in
love drove him southward - he accepted the invitation of Sir Philip Sidney
to visit him at his estate. There he finished writing his “Shepherd’s
Calendar”. The poem was written in 12 eclogues. “Eclogue” is a Greek word
meaning a poem about ideal shepherd life. Each eclogue is dedicated to one
of the months of the year, the whole making up a sort of calendar.
The publication of this work made Spenser the first poet of his day.
His poetry was so musical and colorful that he was called the poet-painter.
Philip Sidney introduced the poet to the illustrious courtier, the
Earl of Leicester, who, in his turn, brought him to the notice of the
Queen. Spenser was given royal favour and appointed as secretary to the new
Lord-lieutenant of Ireland. Thus he had to leave England for good.
The suppression of Ireland provoked many rebellions against the
English. English military governors were sent confiscate the lands of the
rebels and to put English people on them. Spenser was sent to such a place
near Cork. He felt an exile in the, lonely castle of Kilcolman, yet he
could not help admiring the, changeful beauty of the place.
The castle stood by a deep lake into which flowed a river (the Mulla).
Soft woodlands stretched towards mountain ranges in the distance. The
beauty of his surroundings inspired Spenser to write his great epic poem
the “Faerie Queen” (“Fairy Queen”), in which Queen Elizabeth is idealized.
Sir Walter Raleigh who was captain of the Queen’s guard, came to visit
Spenser at Kilcolman. He was greatly delighted with the poem, and Spenser
decided to publish the first three parts. Raleigh and Spenser returned to
England together. At court Spenser presented his “simple song” to the
Queen. It was published in 1591. The success of the poem was great. The
Queen rewarded him with a pension of 50 pounds, but his position remained
unchanged. Poetry was regarded as a noble pastime but not a profession; and
Edmund Spenser had to go back to Ireland.
The end of his life was sorrowful. When the next rebellion broke out,
the insurgents attacked the castle so suddenly and so furiously that
Spenser and his wife and children had to flee for their lives. Their
youngest child was burnt to death in the blazing ruins of the castle.
Ruined and heart-broken Spenser went to England and there he died in a
London tavern three months later, in 1599.
THE “FAIRY QUEEN”
The poem is an allegory representing each court of Queen Elizabeth.
The whole is an interweaving of Greek myths and English legends.
Spenser planned to divide his epic poem into twelve books. The 12
books were to tell of the warfare of 12 knights. But only six books of the
“Fairy Queen” were finished. The first two books are the best and the most
interesting. The allegory is not so clear in the rest.
Prince Arthur is the hero of the poem. In a vision he sees
Gloriana, the Fairy Queen. She is so beautiful that he falls in love with
her. Armed by Merlin he sets out to seek her in Fairy Land. She is supposed
to hold her annual 12-day feast during which 12 adventures are to be
achieved by 12 knights. Each knight represents a certain virtue: Holiness,
Temperance, Friendship, Justice, Courtesy, Constancy, etc., which are
opposed to Falsehood, Hypocrisy and others in the form of witches, wizards
Spenser imitated antique verse. One of the features of those verses
was the use of “Y” before the past participle, as “Yclad” instead of “clad”
(“dressed”). He was the first to use the nine-line stanza. In this verse
each line but the last has 10 syllables, the last line has 12 syllables.
The rhymed lines are arranged in the following way: a b a b b c b c c.
A gentle knight was pricking on the plain,
Yclad in mighty arms and silver shield, b
Wherein old dints of deep wounds did remain, a
The cruel marks of many a bloody field; b
Yet arms till that time did he never wield; b
His angry steed did chide his foamy bit, c
As much disdaining to the curb to yield; b
Full jolly knight he seemed, and fair did sit, c
As one for knightly jousts and fierce encounters fit. c
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE DRAMA
THE THEATRES AND ACTORS
The development of the drama in England was in close connection with
the appearance and development of the theatre. Since ancient times there
existed in Europe two stages upon which dramatic art developed. The chief
place of performance was the church, and second to it was the market place
where clowns played their tricks.
The church exhibited Bible-stories, called “Mysteries”; they also had
“Miracles” which were about supernatural events in the lives of saints.
Both, the miracles and mysteries were directed by the clergy and acted by
boys of the choir on great holidays. It has become a tradition since then
to have men-actors for heroines on the English stage.
Early in the 15th century characters represented human qualities, such
as Mercy, Sin, Justice and Truth, began to be introduced into the miracle
plays. The plays were called “Moral plays” or “Moralities”. They were
concerned with man’s behaviour in this life. The devil figured in every ply
and he was the character always able to make the audience laugh. Moralities
were acted in town halls too.
It was about the time of King Henry VIII, when the Protestants drove
theatricals out of the church, that acting became a distinct profession in
England. Now the actors performed in inncourt yards, which were admirably
suited to dramatic performances consisting as they did of a large open
court surrounded by two galleries. A platform projected into the middle of
the yard with dressing rooms at the back, There was planty of standing room
around the stage, and people came running in crowds as soon as they heard
the trumpets announcing the beginning of a play. To make the audience pay
for its entertainment, the actors took advantage of the most thrilling
moment of the plot: this was the proper time to send the hat round for a
The plays gradually changed; moralities now gave way to plays where
historical and actual characters appeared. The popular clowns from the
market-place never disappeared from the stage. They would shove in between
the parts of a play and talk the crowds into anything.
The regular drama from its very beginning was divided into comedy and
tragedy. Many companies of players had their own dramatists who were actors
As plays became more complicated, special playhouses came into
existence. The first regular playhouse in London was built in what had been
the Black friars Monastery where miracle plays had been performed before
the Reformation. It was built by James Burbage and was called “The Theatre”
(a Greek word never used in England before). Later, “The Rose”, “The
Curtain”, “The Swan” and many other playhouses appeared. These playhouses
did not belong to any company of players. Actors travelled from one place
to another and hired a building for their performances.
The actors and their station in life
During the reign of Queen Elizabeth the laws against the poor were
very cruel. Peasants who had lost their lands and went from town to town in
search of work were put into prison as tramps. Actors were often accused of
being tramps, so trave1ling became impossible. The companies of players
had to find themselves a patron among the nobility and with the aid of
obtain rights to travel and to perform. Thus some players called
themselves “The Earl of Leicester’s Servants”, others-“The Lord
Chamberlain’s Men”, and in 1583 the Queen appointed certain actors “Grooms
of the Chamber” All their plays were censored lest there be anything
against the Church or the government.
But the worst enemies of the actors were the Puritans. They formed a
religious sect in England which wanted to purity the English Church from
some forms that the Church retained of roman Catholicism. The ideology of
the Puritans was the ideology of the smaller bourgeoisie who wished for a
“cheaper church” and who hoped they would become rich one day by careful
living. They led a modest and sober life. These principles, though moral at
first sight, resulted in a furious attack upon the stage. The companies of
players were actually locked out of the City because they thought acting a
menace to public morality.
The big merchants attacked the drama because players and playgoers
caused them a lot of trouble: the profits on beer went to proprietors of
the inns and not to the merchants; all sorts of people came to town, such
as gamblers and thieves, during the hot months of the year the plague was
also spread strolling actors. Often apprentices who were very much
exploited by the merchants used to gather at plays for the purpose of
picking fights with their masters.
Towards the end of the 16th century we find most of the playhouses far
from the city proper.
So this is the end of my investigation of the Renaissance. Of course
this is not full information about this period of art and I do not deny it
— it is too sated with different kind of events and detailes that we will
never remember. Do not forget that the word “renaissance” means “rebirth” —
the appearance of something new and unordinary.
The period of the Renaissance has marked by itself the birth of new
directions of art and thoughts. For the first time we can see here the
birth of the real ideas of communism that were declared by Thomas More. For
the first time we can watch the appearance of fantastic novels on social
Great changes were in theatre too. The most important fact is that
theatres became not only city sightings but and the sightings of provinces
that made art accessible almost for everyone.
So I think that we have known many new and interesting facts from this
period, all important things were said. I hope that you, my reader, have
read this work with pleasure and without boredom.
“The World literature” – encyclopedia
“The collection of Spenser`s works”
THE REPRESENTATIVES OF THE
AND THAIR CONTRIBUTION TO THIS PERIOD
Student: Stepanov Michael Leonidovich
Teacher: Zolotukhina Lyudmila Alexevna