English Literature - Context - The Renaissance

Contextual information and key writers from the Neoclassical Period of English Literature.

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The Renaissance Period
Years: 14851660
The Elizabethan Period: the reign of Elizabeth I, 15861603
Jacobean Period: he reign of James I of England, 16031625
World view shifts from religion and after life to one stressing the human life on
Popular theme: development of human potential
Popular theme: many aspects of love explored
Unrequited love
Constant love
Timeless love
Courtly love
Love subject to change
The sonnet
Metaphysical poetry
Elaborate and unexpected metaphors called conceits
Written in verse
Supported by royalty
Tragedies, comedies, histories
Commoners welcomed at some play productions (like ones at the Globe) while
conservatives try to close the theatres on grounds that they promote brazen
Not all middleclass embrace the metaphysical poets and their abstract
Historical Context:
War of Roses ends in 1485 and political stability arrives
Printing press helps stabilize English as a language and allows more people to
read a variety of literature
Economy changes from farmbased to one of international trade
Key Writers:
William Shakespeare, Thomas Wyatt, Ben Jonson, John Donne,
Christopher Marlowe, Andrew Marvell, Robert Herrick, Katherine Phillips
The Metaphysical Poets ­ 17th Century

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A group of English poets whose writing is characterised by wit and
metaphysical conceits (farfetched/unusual simile and metaphor). Their poems
were often religious in content.
Key writers are: John Donne, George Herbert, George Chapman, Andrew
Marvell, Robert Southwell, Thomas Traherne, Henry Vaughan.
The Cavalier Poets ­ 17th Century
A group of English royalist poets, writing nonreligious poetry celebrating love,
beauty, nature and sensuality. They were known for their directness, simple
language, clear cutexpressions and images, ease of understanding and
concision.…read more


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