The Renaissance
“The English Renaissance.” Prentice Hall Literature: The English Tradition.
Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall. 1989. 153-170.
“The Renaissance 1485 -1660”. Elements of Literature, Sixth Course.
Literature of Britain. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. 2000.
190- 212.
Some focus questions:
How do historical events influence the
literature of the era?
How does literature shape or reflect
How does the literature of one era carry
over or contrast from the previous one?
The Coming of the Renaissance: Beginnings of Tudor Rule
The End of the War of the Roses
• In 1485, Henry Tudor defeats
the Yorkist king Richard III
and establishes the Tudor
dynasty, which rules for 118
years. He unites the houses
of York & Lancaster.
• Henry marries Elizabeth of
York (Richard’s niece) to
secure his position, and acts
to ensure peace with foreign
powers. This house of Tudor
will rule until Elizabeth I, who
is the chief monarch during
Shakespeare’s time.
More things that pave the way for the coming of the
The Printing Press
around 1455
• The printing press is
invented by Johannes
in 1476
• William Caxton sets up a
press in England.
by 1500
• Books become widely available
throughout western Europe.
Definitions and Characteristics
Renaissance: rebirth; a flowering of literary,
artistic, and intellectual development that
began in Italy in the 14th century
It’s inspired by the arts and scholarship of
ancient Greece and Rome
The religious devotion of the Middle Ages,
with its emphasis on the afterlife, gave way
to a new interest in the human beings’ place
here on earth
Universities introduced a new curriculum
called the humanities, which included history,
geography, poetry, and modern languages;
more scholars are writing in the vernacular.
Renaissance Learning
The Renaissance
encouraged individual
curiosity and creativity.
Bold thoughts, beautiful
poetry, and powerful
dramatic works emerged.
The Ambassadors (1533) by Hans Holbein
the Younger. Oil on canvas.
The instruments shown in
this painting suggest the
ambassadors have
mastered astronomy,
mathematics, and music.
Some Other Key Terms and Concepts
Renaissance Man- someone who is interested in
science, art, literature, history and other subjects.
Example: Henry VIII or Thomas Jefferson
Utopia- a perfect society. Thomas More wrote on this
Reformation- The rejection of the Pope & church; to
change the church & its politics
Humanism- Renaissance writers who were part of an
intellectual mvt that combined traditional Christian
thought with Latin & Greek classics to teach people
how to live and to study themselves. More on next
Humanism—an intellectual movement that
greatly influenced Renaissance thinkers, writers,
and artists.
The humanists
• revived old Greek and Latin
• studied the Bible and the
classics to explore questions
such as “What is a good life?”
• made history, literature, and
philosophy popular again
The Tudor Dynasty in brief
Heirs of Henry VIII
Edward VI
(r. 1547–1553)
• sickly “boy king”
• rules in name only
• dies at age 15
Mary Tudor
(r. 1553–1558)
• “Bloody Mary”
• restores pope’s power
• hunts down and
executes Protestants
Elizabeth I
(r. 1558–1603)
• “The Virgin Queen”
• brilliant, successful monarch
England’s Greatest Monarch
History of the Times
• Elizabeth I inherits kingdom after deaths
of her brother Edward and sister Mary.
• England under “Bloody” Mary was torn by
religious feuds after she restored power
to Catholics and executed Protestants.
• Elizabeth’s first task was to restore law and
order and reestablish Church of England.
• The “Virgin Queen” foiled several murder
plots by her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots.
• Queen Elizabeth’s defeat of the Spanish
Armada was one of her finest hours.
England’s Greatest Monarch
Elizabeth I—literary connoisseur; beloved symbol
of peace, security, prosperity
• likely most brilliant,
successful British monarch
• excommunicated after
rejecting pope’s authority
• Parliament begs her to
marry; she refuses
• Rebuffs proposal from Philip
of Spain; unleashes navy on
his Spanish Armada
Elizabeth’s Influence: Literature of
the Times
• Armada’s defeat is a catalyst for Renaissance
writers, who celebrate Elizabeth I as a symbol of
peace, prosperity, and security.
• Poetry, drama, religious allegory, and
philosophical works flourish in this golden age.
• Elizabeth’s court becomes a center of literary
culture for gifted writers.
• The plays of William Shakespeare and his
contemporaries are created for the general
public, rather than aristocratic theater patrons.
Renaissance Images You Just
Need to Know!
Renaissance Images You Just Need to Know!
Literary Who’s Who
Sir Thomas Wyatt, who loved Anne Boleyn
from afar, travelled widely and brought the
sonnet from Italy to England
Sir Phillip Sidney wrote a great sonnet cycle
called Astrophel and Stella
Edmund Spenser, another poet who is best
known for the LONG allegorical work which
praises Elizabeth I: The Faerie Queene
Christopher Marlowe: noted playwright and
poet, contemporary of Shakespeare, died very
young (in his 20s) in a bar fight, has a rumor
circulated that he is the “true” author of
Shakespeare’s poems and that he faked his
More Literary Who’s Who
Sir Walter Raleigh: poet, historian, courier,
soldier, explorer, potential suitor to
Elizabeth…until she had him imprisoned.
Obviously, Shakespeare (more on him later…)
Ben Jonson: another poet, friend and rival to
Shakespeare who put together his works after
the bard’s death; said this of Shakespeare,
“He was not of an age but for all time.”
Francis Bacon, prose writer towards the end
of the Renaissance in time of James I. He
made many contributions to natural science
and philosophy
Literary forms and terms you
should know:
Lyric poetry: poetry that expresses the
observations and feelings of a single speaker.
Unlike a narrative poem, it presents an
experience or single effect, but it does not
tell a full story. Sonnets are good examples
of these. Odes and elegies are in this
category as well.
Pastoral: a genre the deals with the pleasures
of a simple, rural life that often has
shepherds and country people/scenes as its
subject. Think Wesley and Buttercup
It began…..
.....with the changes in people’s values, beliefs and
… Italy in the 14th Century.
The Humanists
People moved away from “church”
literature to Humanist literature to study
Humanists studied human nature; one’s
Erasmus was the most famous Renaissance
Sir Thomas More was another famous
humanist who wrote “Utopia”.
Both Erasmus and More helped shape
European thought and history.
What new technology helped
bring about the Renaissance
The Gutenberg Press helped spread
Humanist writing.
Before the press, all books were hand
written and hand copied.
The press (with movable type) was
invented by a German named Johannes
Gutenberg around 1455.
The first book he printed was the bible
(in Latin).
The Reformation…..
….was a movement to REFORM the corrupt church & Pope.
….forced people to question the Catholic Church’s
....made people object to the financial burdens placed
upon them by the church.
Henry VIII
…started the Reformation
mov’t b/c he wanted a divorce
from Catherine of Aragon.
…was a true Renaissance Man.
…created the Royal Navy which
led to the spread of England’s
Henry had 6 wives:
Catherine of Aragon –
divorced; mother of Mary
Anne Boleyn
-beheaded; mother of
Jane Seymour
-died naturally; mother
to Edward VI
Anne of Cleves
Catherine Howard
Catherine Parr
-only survivor
After Henry VIII….
1st Edward VI or the “Boy King”:
-only male son of Henry (& Jane Seymour-she died 12
days after his birth).
-became king at the age of 9 but his relatives ruled
for him.
-died at age 15 from TB.
-He was followed by……
“Bloody Mary”!
-1/2 sister to Edward, daughter of
Catherine of Aragon
-devout Catholic, returned power back
to Pope & Catholic church.
-earned her “name” b/c she hunted
down and killed Protestants (Henry’s
followers) including burning over 300
people at the stake.
- Married the King of Spain (England’s
biggest enemy at the time).
- ruled England for 5 years.
-died of a fever.
Return to Reformation….
The “Virgin Queen”….
-Elizabeth I followed Mary.
- was the last living heir of Henry VIII.
-1/2 sister to Mary and Edward VI, daughter of Anne Boleyn.
- ruled from 1558 – 1603.
-never married, no children or heirs.
-returned to her father’s policies, restored the Church of
-was intelligent & independent.
-executed Mary, Queen of Scots, for attempting to have her
killed. She was a cousin to Elizabeth.
-Under Elizabeth, the Royal Navy defeated the Spanish Armada
which secured England’s independence from ALL Catholic nations
in the Mediterranean (The Spanish Armada was sent by King
Phillip in response to Elizabeth executing Mary, Queen of Scots).
Hidden Messages….
How fashion impacted the
Renaissance Era
Colors and Clothing designs mean different things…
1. Green: love
2. White & Tawny: patience in adversity
3. White or Black: chastity
4. Pansies: sadness
5. Snakes: flattery
The 5 major Characteristics
of the Renaissance Period….
People expanded their worlds by reading classical
Greek & Roman writers rather than Christian
Spread of Humanism- focus on the here & now rather
than the “eternal life”.
The Gutenberg Press.
A growing Merchant class (Middle Class).
The spread of scholarly Latin made the sharing of
ideas possible.
The End of the
Renaissance Period…
Elizabeth I died.
She was followed by ineffective rulers:
-James I
-Charles I (son of James); beheaded for
-1649 – 1660 Parliament ruled w/o a
monarch; Charles II was exiled to France
-Charles II returned
Political and Secular (church) values
John Milton was the LAST great writer of
the period. He wrote “Paradise Lost”.

Renaissance Literature: Poetry