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The Influence of Renaissance Ideals on Elizabethan Literature: By Ellie Guyon AP Euro 1/3/2017
The Renaissance of the fourteenth-sixteenth centuries was a time of exploding culture, education, individualism, reformation of religion, and humanist ideals. This led to the Elizabethan Age in England, a golden age that introduced the iconic writers, Thomas More, Christopher Marlowe, and William Shakespeare. These writers were able to capture the essence of Renaissance ideals; individualism, the lessening of religious domination of everyday life, and the new moral and societal values of Renaissance England, in their work. This paper will examine the influences that the Renaissance had on the work of Thomas More, Christopher Marlowe, and William Shakespeare. In French the word translates as “rebirth” (Guisepi). This meant that the Renaissance was a Golden Age of new art, music, technology, culture, and intellectual thought. It introduced new ideas about the moral standards and norms of society, encouraging individualism, education, emotion and deviation from religion. Following the Middle Ages, the Renaissance started in Italy. Throughout the 14th-16th century there were developments in technology, education, and exploration and a movement of blossoming philosophy, art and literature. Revival of the Greek and Roman works of philosophers like Aristotle, led to reevaluation of the role of religion in society and encouragement of experimentation and questioning. One of the main changes in thought at this time was the movement of humanism, in which it was considered that the individual had potential and individualism was encouraged. Another ideal of the Renaissance was secularism, which separated religion from reality and put greater emphasis on education and 1
realism. It was around these earlier years in the Renaissance that Thomas More was born, in 1478, England. Chancellor to King Henry VIII, Thomas More worked in the government at the cusp of the Renaissance, right before King Henry’s daughter Elizabeth took over and began the Elizabethan age in England. Though he was executed for his vocal opinions towards King Henry’s rule, before the start of the Elizabethan Age, his work was right at the cusp of it, and it embodies many humanist characteristics of the Renaissance. Humanism is a philosophical stance brought into popularity in the Renaissance by humanist writers like Erasmus, Thomas More, Martin Luther, and Petrarch. It emphasizes the value of human beings and encourages critical thinking and reasoning over religious explanations. It also stressed human compassion and emotion and the importance of the individual. Humanism maintains its prominence because it has been tied to many successful movements, the most notable of which being the Renaissance. It started in Italy and Spain but when it reached England at the time of Queen Elizabeth’s rule it sparked a Golden Age of culture, art, and literature.