Реферат: The Renaissance

The Renaissance

The«dark» Middle Ages were followed by a time known in art andliterature as the Renaissance. The word «renaissance» means«rebirth» in French and was used to denote a phaze in the  culturaldevelopment of Europe between the 14th and 17th centuries.

The wave ofprogress reached the shores of England only in the 16th century. The ideas ofthe Renaissance came to England together with the ideas of the Reformation (theestablishment of the national Church) and were called the «New Learning».Every year numbers of new books were brought out, and these books were soldopenly, but few people could read and enjoy them. The universities were lackingin teachers to spread the ideas of modern thought. So, many English scholarsbegan to go to Italy, where they learned to understand the ancient classics,and when they came home they adapted their classical learning to the needs ofthe country. Grammar schools (primary schools) increased in number. The newpoint of view passed from the schools to the home and to the market place.

Many of thelearned men in Italy came from the great city of Constantinopole.  It was besieged and taken by Turks in 1453.All the great libraries and schools in Constanstinople had been broken up anddestroyed. The Latin and Greek scholars were driven out of the city, glad toescape with their lives and with such books as they could carry away withthem.  Being learned men, many of themfound a welcome in the cities and towns in which they stopped.  They began to teach the people how to readthe Latin and Greek books which they had brought with them and also taught themto read the Latin and Greek books which were kept in many towns of Europe, butwhich few people at that time were able to read.

 Foreign scholars and artists began to teach inEngland during the reign of Henry VIII. In painting and music the first period of the Renaissance was one ofimitation.  Painting was represented byGerman artist Holbein, and music by Italians and French men.  With literature the case was different.  The English poets and dramatists popularizedmuch of the new learning.  The freedom ofthought  of English humanists revealeditself in antifeudal and even antibourgeois ideas, showing the life of theirown people as it really was.  Such awriter was the humanist Thomas More.

Thomas More


Thomas More, thefirst English humanist  of theRenaissance, was born in London in 1478. Educated at Oxford, he could write a most beautiful Latin. It was notthe Latin of the Church but the original classical Latin.  At Oxford More met a foreign humanist, andmade friends with him.  Erasmus believedin the common sense of a man and taught that men ought to think for themselves,and not merely to believe things to be true because their fathers, or thepriest had said they were true.  Later,Thomas More wrote many letters to Erasmus and received many letters from him.

Thomas More beganlife as a lawyer.  During the reign ofHenry VII he became a member of Parliament. He was an active-minded man and kept a keen eye on the events of histime.  The rich landowners at the timewere concentrating on sheep-raising because it was very profitable.  Small holders were not allowed to till thesoil and were driven off their lands. The commons (public ground) were enclosed and fields converted intopastures.  The mass of the agriculturalpopulation were doomed to poverty. Thomas More set to work to find the reason of this evil.  He was the first great writer on social andpolitical subjects in England.

Fourteen yearsafter Henry VIII came to the throne, More was made Speaker of the House ofCommons.  The Tudor monarchy was anabsolute monarchy, and Parliament had very little power to resist the king.  There was, however, one matter on whichParliament was very determined.  That wasthe right to vote or to refuse to vote for the money.  Once when the King wanted money and askedParliament to vote him 800.000, the members sat silent.  Twice the King's messengers called, and twicethey had to leave without an answer. When Parliament was called together again, Thomas More spoke up andurged that the request be refused. After a long discussion a sum less then halfthe amount requested by the King was voted, and that sum was to be spread overa period of four years.

      Thomas More was an earnest Catholic, buthe was not liked by the priests and the Pope on account of his writings and theideas he taught. After Henry VIII quarrelled with the Pope he gathered aroundhimself all the enemies of the Pope, and so in 1529 More was made LordChancellor (highest judge to the House of Lords). He had not wanted the postbecause he was as much against the king's absolute power in England as he wasagainst the Pope. More soon fell a victim to the King's anger. He refused toswear that he would obey Henry as the head of the English Church, and wasthrown into the Tower. Parliament, to please the King, declared More guilty oftreason, and he was beheaded in the Tower in 1535.

The Works ofThomas More

Thomas More wrotein English and in Latin. The humanists of al1 European countries communicatedin the Latin language, and their best works were written in Latin. The Englishwritings of Thomas More include:

* Discussions andpolitical subjects.

* Biographies.

* Poetry.

His style issimple, colloquial end has an unaffected ease. The work by which he is bestremembered today is «Utopia» which was written in Latin in the year1516. It has now been translated into all European languages.

        «Utopia» (which in Greek means«nowhere») is the name of a non-existent island. This work is dividedinto two books.

      In the first, the author gives a profoundand truthful picture of the people's sufferings and points out the socia1 evilsexisting, in England at the time.

      In the second book More presents his idealof what the future society should be like.

The word«utopia» has become a byword and is used in Modern English to denotean unattainable ideal, usually in social and political matters. But the writerH.G. Wells, who wrote an introduction to the latest edition, said that the useof the word «utopia» was far from More's essentia1 quality, whosemind abounded in sound, practical ideas. The book is in reality a veryunimaginative work.

      «Utopia» describes a perfectsocial system built on communist principles.


First book

  While on business in Flanders, the authormakes the acquaintance of a certain Raphael Hythloday, a sailor who hastravelled with the famous explorer Amerigo Vespucci. He has much to tell abouthis voyages, Thomas More, Raphael Hythloday and a cardinal meet together in agarden and discuss many problems. Raphael has been to England too and expresseshis surprise at the cruelty of English laws and at the poverty of thepopulation. Then they talk about crime in general, and Raphael says:

      «There is another cause of stealingwhich I suppose is proper and peculiar to you Englishmen alone.»

      «What is that?» asked theCardinal.

      «Oh, my lord,» said Raphael,«your sheep that used to be so meek and tame and so small eaters, have nowbecome so great devourers and so wild that they eat up and swallow down thevery men themselves. The peasants are driven out of their land. Away they gofinding no place to rest in. And when all is spent, what can they do but stealand then be hanged?»

Second Book

The disastrousstate of things in England puts Raphael Hythloday in mind of a commonwealth (arepublic) he has seen on an unknown island in an unknown sea. A description of«Utopia» follows, and Raphael speaks «of all the good laws andorders of this same island.»

There is noprivate property in Utopia. The people own everything in common and enjoycomplete economic equality. Everyone cares for his neighbour's good, and eachhas a clean and healthy house to live in. Labour is the most essential featureof life in Utopia, but no one is overworked. Everybody is engaged in usefu1work nine hours a day. After work, they indulge in sport and games and spendmuch time in «improving their minds» (learning)-All teaching is free,and the parents do not have to pay any schoo1 fees. (More wrote about thingsunknown in any country at that time, though they are natural with us in ourdays.)

For magistratesthe Utopians choose men whom they think to be most fit to protect the welfareof the population. When electing their government, the people give their voicessecretly. There are few laws and no lawyers at all, but these few laws must bestrictly obeyed.

      «Virtue,» says Thomas More,«lives according to Nature.» The greatest of all pleasures is perfecthealth. Man must be healthy and wise.

Thomas More's«Utopia» was the first literary work in which the ideas of Cornmunismappeared. It was highly esteemed by all the humanists of Europe in More's timeand again grew very popular with the socialists of the 19th century. AfterMore, a tendency began in literature to write fantastic novels on socialreforms, and many such works appeared in various countries.



The mostsignificant period of the Renaissance in England falls to the reign of QueenElizabeth. England's success in commerce brought prosperity to the nation andgave a chance to many persons of talent to develop their abilities. Explorers,men of letters, philosophers, poets and famous actors and dramatists appearedin rapid succession. The great men of the so-called «Elizabethan Era»distinguished themselves by their activities in many fields and displayed aninsatiable thirst for knowledge. They were often called «theElizabethans», but of course the Queen had no hand in assisting them whenthey began literary work; the poets and dramatists had to push on through greatdifficulties before they became well known.

Towards themiddle of the 16th century common people were already striving for knowledgeand the sons of many common citizens managed to get an education. Theuniversities began to breed many learned men who refused to become churchmenand wrote for the stage. These were called the «University Wits»,because under the influence of their classical education they wrote after Greekand Latin models. Among the «University Wits» were ChristopherMarlowe, Thomas Sackville, John Lyly, George Peele, Roberk Greene, Thomas Kydand Thqmas Nashe; Christopher Marlowe being the most distinguished of them. The new method of teachingclassical literature at the universities was to perform Roman plays in Latin,Later the graduates translated these plays into English and then they wroteplays of their own.

Some wrote playsfor the court, others for the public theatres. But the plays were not mereimitations. Ancient literature had taught the playwrights to seek new forms andto bring in new progressive ideas. The new drama represented real charactersand real human problems which satisfied the demands of the common people andthey expected ever new plays. Under such favourable circumstances there was asudden rise of the drama. The great plays were written in verse.

The second periodof the Renaissance was characterised by the splendour of its poetry.

Lyrical poetryalso became wide-spread in England. The country was called a nest of singingbirds. Lyrical poetry was very emotional. The poets introduced blank verse andthe Italian sonnet. The sonnet is a poem consisting of fourteen lines. Thelines are divided into two groups: the first group of eight lines (the octave),and the second group of six lines (the sestet). The foremost poet of the timewas Edmund Spenser. He wrote in a new, English, form: the nine-line stanza.



Edmund Spenserwas born in London in 1552.  Though hisparents descended from a noble House, the family was poor. His father was afree journeyman for a merchant's company. When Edmund came of age he entered the University of Cambridge as a«sizar» (a student who paid less for his education than others andhad to wait on (to serve) the wealthier students at mealtimes).

Spenser waslearned in Hebrew, Greek, Latin and French. His generation was one of the firstto study also their mother tongue seriously. While at college, he acted in thetragedies of the ancient masters and this inspired him to write poetry.

 Spenser began his literary work at the age ofseventeen. Once a fellow-student introduced him to the famous Sir PhilipSidney, who encouraged him to write (Sidney was the author of an allegoricalromance in prose called «Arcadia» that had become very popular aslight reading among the court-ladies of Queen Elizabeth). At the age oftwenty-three, Spenser took his M.A. (Master of Arts) degree.

Before returningto London he lived for a while in the wilderness of Lancashire where he fell inlove with a «fair widow's daughter». His love was not returned but heclung to this early passion; she became the Rosalind of his poem the«Shepherd s Calendar». Spenser's disappointment in love drove himsouthward — he accepted the invitation of Sir Philip Sidney to visit him at hisestate. There he finished writing his «Shepherd's Calendar». The poemwas written in 12 eclogues. «Eclogue» is a Greek word meaning a poemabout ideal shepherd life. Each eclogue is dedicated to one of the months ofthe year, the whole making up a sort of calendar.

The publicationof this work made Spenser the first poet of his day. His poetry was so musicaland colourful that he was called the poet-painter.

Philip Sidneyintroduced the poet to the illustrious courtier, the Earl of Leicester, who, inhis turn, brought him to the notice of the Queen. Spenser was given royalfavour and appointed as secretary to the new Lord-lieutenant of Ireland. Thushe had to leave

England for good.

The suppressionof Ireland provoked many rebellions against the English. English militarygovernors were sent confiscate the lands of the rebels and to put Englishpeople on them. Spenser was sent to such a place near Cork. He felt an exile inthe, lonely castle of Kilcolman, yet he could not help admiring the, changefulbeauty of the place.

The castle stoodby a deep lake into which flowed a river (the Mulla). Soft woodlands stretchedtowards mountain ranges in the distance. The beauty of his surroundingsinspired Spenser to write his great epic poem the «Faerie Queen»(«Fairy Queen»), in which Queen Elizabeth is idealised.

Sir WalterRaleigh who was captain of the Queen's guard, came to visit Spenser atKilcolman. He was greatly delighted with the poem, and Spenser decided topublish the first three parts. Raleigh and Spenser returned to Englandtogether. At court Spenser presented his «simple song» to the Queen.It was published in 1591. The success of the poem was great. The Queen rewardedhim with a pension of 50 pounds, but his position remained unchanged. Poetrywas regarded as a noble pastime but not a profession; and Edmund Spenser had togo back to Ireland.

The end of hislife was sorrowful. When the next rebellion broke out, the insurgents attackedthe castle so suddenly and so furiously that Spenser and his wife and childrenhad to flee for their lives. Their youngest child was burnt to death in the blazingruins of the castle. Ruined and heart-broken Spenser went to England and therehe died in a London tavern three months later, in 1599.


The poem is anallegory representing ihe court of Queen Elizabeth. The whole is an interweavingof Greek myths and English legends.    

Spenser plannedto divide his epic poem into twelve books. The 12 books were to tell of thewarfare of 12 knights. But only six books of the «Fairy Queen» werefinished. The first two books are the best and the most interesting. Theallegory is not so clear in the rest.

Prince Arthur isthe hero of the poem. In a vision he sees Gloriana, the Fairy Queen. She is sobeautiful that he falls in love with her. Armed by Merlin he sets out to seekher in Fairy Land. She is supposed to hold her annual 12-day feast during which

12 adventures areto be achieved by 12 knights. Each knight represents a certain virtue:Holiness, Temperance, Friendship, Justice, Courtesy, Constancy, etc., which areopposed to Falsehood, Hypocrisy and others in the form of witches, wizards andmonsters.

Spenser imitatedantique verse. One of the features of those verses was the use of «Y»before the past participle, as «Yclad» instead of «clad»(«dressed»).  He was the firstto use the nine-line stanza. In this verse each line but the last has 10syllables, the last line has 12 syllables. The rhymed lines are arranged in thefollowing way: a b a b b c b c c.

A gentle knightwas pricking on the plain,                    a

Yclad in mightyarms and silver shield,                         b

Wherein old dintsof deep wounds did remain,              a

The cruel marksof many a bloody field;                       b

Yet arms tillthat time did he never wield;                      b

 His angry steed did chide his foamy bit,                        c

As muchdisdaining to the curb to yield;                        b

Full jolly knighthe seemed, and fair did sit,                   c

As one forknightly jousts and fierce encounters fit.        c



First Period

The developmentof the drama in England was in close connection with the appearance anddevelopment of the theatre. Since ancient times there existed in Europe twostages upon which dramatic art developed. The chief place of performance wasthe church, and second to it was the market place where clowns played theirtricks.

The churchexhibited Bible-stories, called «Mysteries»; they also had«Miracles» which were about supernatural events in the lives ofsaints. Both, the miracles and mysteries were directed by the clergy and actedby boys of the choir on great holidays. It has become a tradition since then tohave men-actors for heroines on the English stage.

Second Period

Early in the 15thcentury characters represented human qualities, such as Mercy, Sin, Justice andTruth, began to be introduced into the miracle plays. The plays were called«Moral plays» or «Moralities». They were concerned withman's behaviour in this life. The devil figured in every ply and he was thecharacter always able to make the audience laugh. Moralities were acted in townhalls too.

Third Period

It was about thetime of King Henry VIII, when the Protestants drove theatricals out of thechurch, that acting became a distinct profession in England. Now the actorsperformed in inncourt yards, which were admirably suited to dramaticperformances consisting as they did of a large open court surrounded by twogalleries. A platform projected into the middle of the yard with dressing roomsat the back, There was planty of standing room around the stage, and peoplecame running in crowds as soon as they heard the trumpets announcing thebeginning of a play. To make the audience pay for its entertainment, the actorstook advantage of the most thrilling moment of the plot: this was the propertime to send the hat round for a collection.

The playsgradually changed; moralities now gave way to plays where historical and actualcharacters appeared. The popular clowns from the market-place never disappearedfrom the stage. They would shove in between the parts of a play and talk thecrowds into anything.

      Theregular drama from its very beginning was divided into comedy and tragedy. Manycompanies of players had their own dramatists who were actors too. 

As plays becamemore complicated, special playhouses came into existence. The first regularplayhouse in London was built in what had been the Blackfriars Monastery wheremiracle plays had been performed before the Reformation. It was built by James

Burbage and wascalled «The Theatre» (a Greek word never used in England before).Later, «The Rose», «The Curtain», «The Swan» andmany other playhouses appeared. These playhouses did not belong to any companyof players. Actors travelled from one place to another and hired a building fortheir performances.

The actors andtheir station in life.

During the reignof Queen Elizabeth the laws against the poor were very cruel. Peasants who hadlost their lands and went from town to town in search of work were put intoprison as tramps. Actors were often accused of being tramps, so trave1lingbecame impossible.  The companies ofplayers had to find themselves a patron among the nobility and with the aid ofobtain rights to travel and to perform. Thus some players called themselves «The Earl of Leicester'sServants», others-«The Lord Chamberlain's Men», and in 1583 theQueen appointed certain actors «Grooms of the Chamber» All theirplays were censored lest there be anything against the Church or thegovernment.

But the worstenemies of the actors were the Puritans. They formed a religious sect inEngland which wanted to purity the English Church from some forms that theChurch retained of roman Catholicism. The ideology of the Puritans was theideology of the smaller bourgeoisie who wished for a «cheaper church»and who hoped they would become rich one day by careful living. They led amodest and sober life. These principles, though moral at first sight, resultedin a furious attack upon the stage. The companies of players were actuallylocked out of the City because they thought acting a menace to public morality.

The big merchantsattacked the drama because players and playgoers caused them a lot of trouble:the profits on beer went to proprietors of the inns and not to the merchants;all sorts of people came to town, such as gamblers and thieves, during the hotmonths of the year the plague was also spread strolling actors. Oftenapprentices who were very much exploited by the merchants used to gather atplays for the purpose of picking fights with their masters.

Towards the endof the 16th century we find most of the playhouses far from the city proper.

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