John Donne and Elizabethan England Context

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  • Donne Context
    • 1605 - Gunpowder plot
      • Reminder of possible Catholic resurrection
    • 1609 - Kelper's work confirms Earth revolves around sun
    • 1454 - Invention of Printing press
      • Democratisation of new ideas - previously literature controlled by church.
    • Landownership
      • Gave social and political status and authority
        • Birth was added glory
      • Agriculture
        • Employed overwhelming mass of population
    • Metaphysical poetry
      • Reflects concerns of a changing world
        • Position in universe altered
          • Challenged view which put Earth at centre of universe and God at the top of the chain of being
      • Style stems from poet's reactions against idealized Elizabethan poetry.
        • "The pleasure of poetry with the pleasure of puzzles"
    • Alchemy and chemistry
      • Hope in old science 'philosophers stone'
      • Mixing the right amount of base metals - transmuted into gold
    • Angels
      • Acted as intermediates between God and men
      • Seen as intelligent beings
      • Never conflicted with God
      • Supposed to direct turning of spheres in physical universe
    • Travel and discovery
      • ancient explorers believed Earth divided into three continents, all meeting about Mediterranean
      • Proved wrong with Columbus discovering America in 1492
      • 16th century navigators agrees to put USA on map
        • Still respected established authority by speaking as though world only had 3 parts
    • Donne born in 1572 (Strong anti-Catholic period in England)
      • Mother grand-niece of Catholic martyr Thomas More
        • Religion played a big part in his life.
      • 1593 - brother convicted of Catholic sympathies
        • died in prison soon after, causing Donne to question his faith
      • Married Anne More in private in 1601 (16 at time, he was 29)
        • He was improsoned
          • 1610 - renounced faith, got in King's favour
        • Died in 1617 giving birth to their 12th child
    • 1610 - Galileo's Sidreus Nuncius confirmed sun at centre of universe
    • Chain of Being
      • Whole system bound together in a divinely appointed order.
      • Chain stretched from foot of God's throne to inanimate objects
      • Man formed central vital link
        • Below man were animals, vegetables and inanimate objects
        • Above men celestial intelligences and orders of Angels


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