The Mirror of Literature

  • A. L. Rowse


These dramatic events—from the revolution of 1399 all the way through the Wars of the Roses to Bosworth—bore an extraordinarily rich harvest in literature. Not only in contemporary ballads and topical verse as events unfolded; subsequently these provided the matter for the most important works of the new humanist history and biography, of traditional narrative poetry, of both Elizabethan historical writing and chronicle plays on the stage culminating in Shakespeare’s history-plays. It is as if the interest in the astonishing story of the previous century, with its sombre, blood-stained happenings, gripped the public mind more and more as the Elizabethan age ripened to its own achievement. Of course, the conflict between Lancaster and York provided fine material for histories and plays; but it takes more than that to account for it. It is part of the heightened self-awareness, the consciousness of the past as part of present experience, that is signally characteristic of the Elizabethan age. Shakespeare himself, like all the greatest creative writers, was a backward-looking man, inspired by the past.


Fifteenth Century Previous Century Creative Writer Public Mind English History 
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  1. 1.
    The play is printed as an appendix to The True Tragedy of Richard III, ed. Barron Field. Shakespeare Soc., 1844.Google Scholar

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© A. L. Rowse 1966

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  • A. L. Rowse

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