Introduction

  • Elizabeth story Donno
Chapter
Part of the Great Writers Student Library book series

Abstract

One of the traditional dates for the beginning of the English Renaissance is 1485, a date commemorating the defeat of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field and inaugurating with Henry VII the more than century-long rule of the Tudors. Such a chronological starting point neatly accords with the political rule of a single dynasty in the 16th century; it also neatly accords with the emergence of intellectual forces that shape so much of the literary output for the next two centuries. But it offers problems in that certain writers (like Stephen Hawes, Alexander Barclay, and “Beastly” John Skelton, as Pope calls him) either in terms of technique or of subject matter seem to have at best a transitional if not indeed a medieval cast. Moreover, the problem of dating is intensified by the curious curve of literary development in the century. Those poets at the court of Henry VIII who introduced the “sweet new Italian style,” as the critic Puttenham characterized them, represent a spot of brilliance just as the humanists connected to his court represent an intellectual ferment that we associate with the devolving concepts of the Renaissance, but this is followed by a poetic lag or slacking of achievement that has notoriously been labelled the “Drab Age.” Then at the end of the 1580’s there is a sudden proliferation of writers who are, in C. S. Lewis’s terms, “golden” in manner and in matter. After the turn of the century they are succeeded by others pursuing different literary styles and approaches in a fragmenting of humanistic values until these values may be said to be reconstituted in Milton’s Paradise Lost.

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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1983

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  • Elizabeth story Donno

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