The concise history of English literature, the Elizabethan Period

The concise history of English literature, the Elizabethan Period

By Larbi Arbaoui

Morocco World News

Taroudant, Morocco, Dec 22, 2012

“The concise history of English literature” is a delightful article that will be published in a series of short articles covering, in a chronological order, eras, movements and events that have shaped and formed the English literature. Through these series, the reader will have a very concise and informative glimpse into the colourful history and evolution of the English literature.

In the previous article we have talked about the Medieval literature and had an idea about all the works composed during the middle Ages roughly from “the fall of the Western Roman Empire ca. AD 500 to the beginning of the Florentine Renaissance in the late 15th century”. Now, we will try to shed light on the literary genres that characterised the Elizabethan period and the poets who had tremendous contributions to the richness of this era.

The Elizabethan Period

The Elizabethan era is the period of English history associated with the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603). However, many critics expand the term to include the changes that started to take place in England and therefore in the English literature since the Renaissance, precisely, from the death of Chaucer (1400) and continued until the death of Shakespeare, in 1616. Yet, the second half of the sixteen century was significant to the English literature, and in the very particular sense of the word, to the Elizabethan era. During this period the great Queen Elizabeth ascend the English throne (1558-1603) and the distinguished English playwright Shakespeare composed his immortal drams.

The Elizabethan Era, which is generally considered one of the golden ages in English literature, was a great boom in literature, particularly in the area of the tragedy. William Shakespeare emerged from this period as a poet and playwright never seen before. Other important playwrights of the era of Elizabeth include Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Dekker, John Fletcher and Francis Beaumont. Sir Philip Sidney (1554 –1586) was an English poet, who is also remembered as one of the most prominent figures of the Elizabethan Age. These great people are recognized as the most Famous Playwrights and Authors of Elizabethan period. It was at this time that the city comedy genre developed.

Theater and poetry were the dominant forms of literature during this period. Drama was at its heyday during the Elizabethan era, and English people developed a sense of appreciation to plays performance, and very quickly that the habit of attending the theater halls rooted in the English culture. During Elizabethan England, the theater was the haven of all walks of life, with rich and poor alike enjoying afternoon shows. Conventionally, the poorest spectators got to stand closest to the stage while the rich sat in elevated seats farther back.

Originated from the Italian word sonetto, meaning “little song”, Sonnet, a 14 line lyric poem, was also one of the poetic elements that gained a deep interest in this period. Having composed 145 sonnets, William Shakespeare was widely regarded as one of the best-known “sonneteers», a name usually attributed to the writers of sonnets. The Shakespearean sonnets are rich and revolve around various themes such as the passage of time, love, beauty and mortality.

The 29th sonnets: When, In Disgrace with Fortune and Men’s Eyes by Shakespeare.

When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man’s art, and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee,—and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

To be continued ……..

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