3/28/2019

What is Renaissance?. The Impact of Renaissance in English Literature.


Renaissance
The Renaissance Period is the glorious era in the history of
English social life and literature.  According to M.H.Abrams, the
period started in 1500 and ended in 1660. But the Renaissance began
with the fall of the then Constantinople in 1453. Mohamad-II
defeated the Christians in the same year and occupied the city. He was the sultan of the Ottoman Turks and a crusader. We know that Constantinople was the then capital city of the Byzantine empire. It was the centre of classical learning. After the defeat, the Christian scholars fled to different parts of Europe. They tried to spread their knowledge there. Thus ancient learning started reviving. This revival of the classical knowledge is called renaissance. But in England, Renaissance started at the beginning of the 16 century. It was more or  less influenced by the Italian renaissance. It dominated and brought changes in society and in literature very much.

The term "Renaissance" is a French word which means rebirth, revival, reawakening or regeneration. It was both a revival of ancient classical mythology, literature and culture. It was also a re-awakening of the human mind after the long sleep of the dark Middle Ages. On the influence of Renaissance, mankind felt as if they had awakened from a long sleep and looked at the glory of nature with astonishment. According to a French historian, Michel, “Renaissance means the discovery of the world and the discovery of
man, by man". In brief, to know the unknown and to see the unseen is called the Renaissance. The periods of Regeneration or Renaissance are the great ages of the world.

Renaissance in Literature
The Medieval world was curiously limited and narrow. It was limited spiritually, intellectually and physically. At the beginning of the
century this limited narrow world had began to decay. In Italy, the study of Greek literature had been revived. Keen interest was being taken in the culture of ancient Greece and Rome.
Moreover, the invention of the printing press multiplied books and
carried the fruits of classical Renaissance to the people at large in the various countries of Europe. The geographical and astronomical
methods of the ancients were also revived. In this way, there was a
break-down of the closed universe of the Middle Ages.

Renaissance in England started after many years of Italy. After 1490, some English young men like William Grfocyn, Thomas Linacre and John Colet went to Italy to learn Greek. They tried to spread their achieved knowledge to the seeker after knowledge. The root of the Renaissance in England is humanism. John Wyclif is the  morning star in the sky of humanism. But Erasmas and Colet are regarded as the innovator of the Humanism Movement. Thus the Reformation Movement started in England. King Henry-VIII and Thomas More played a very important role to the development of Renaissance in England. The wise policies of Queen Elizabeth also helped in this respect. She was herself cultured and refined. Her policies were able to promote art and literature. So literature and art
were peace-time activities and patronized by this great Queen.

The influence of the Renaissance and the impact of the queen
combined to make the age the Golden Age of English literature. The
revival of ancient Greco-Roman culture had a profound impact on
the ideals of life. This ideal found reflection everywhere in Renaissance literature. The zest for life instinctively and naturally
found its expression in song. England was transformed into veritable nest of singing birds. Everyone sang down from the flowery courtier to the man in the street. Wyatt, Surrey, Sidney, Spenser and Shakespeare wrote many songs, sonnets and other chivalric love poems. Their innumerable songs reflected in the colourful world of the Elizabethan Period.

The impact of the Renaissance on the Elizabethan drama is so great. The allusions and references to ancient literature and mythology are heavily overloaded in the dramas of the time. Classical drama gave to English drama a new dimension. English drama got its divisions into scenes and acts as well as the unities of time, place and action. It achieved its rules of artistic composition.
The translations and borrowings from the Latin and Greek literature
provided raw materials for the Elizabethan dramatists. They were
dealt with an endless variety of themes. The Elizabethan dramatists
do not invent their own plot. Because there is no need for them to do so. They generally alter, reshape and modify the originals according to their own. They also add new characters and plots if necessary.

It is the Renaissance impulse which accounts for the Roman or Mediterranean setting of the Elizabethan drama. It paves the way for the extensive use of blank verse. Christopher Marlowe and Shakespeare have greatly used it in their dramas for the first time.
Norton and Sackville, Nicholas Udall, Thomas Kyd and other playwrights at the beginning of the Renaissance have written a great number of tragedies and comedies being more or less influenced by  the Roman writers. Greek and Roman mythology was able to influence the Elizabethan drama and dramatists very much. Many classical dramatists like Aeschylus, Sophocles, Plautus, Terence and Seneca had a powerful influence over the Elizabethan dramatists.

Thus the Elizabethan dramas have been saturated with the variety of
themes, styles and language. So it has justly been called the Golden
Age of drama.

From the discussion above, we can say that the great Elizabethan literature had its rise in the middle of a multitude of works of ancient and foreign literatures. The Elizabethans craved for entertainment. In response to this demand, there came the drama and the novella. The drama and the short story are the characteristic modes of expression in the Elizabethan era. Actually, novel and short story foreshadow in this time. Different kind of poetry including songs, sonnets, romances, elegies and epic has met a very desirable development. All forms of writing including Bacon's essays have gotten a wonderful dimension. The Elizabethan literature becomes
very pregnant for the impact of Renaissance. In this way, the
Elizabethan age is worthy of regarding as the Golden Age of English literature. But we should not forget that in this period drama and
poetry have been developed beyond expectation and novel and shot
story have not been developed desirably.

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