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The Renaissance and Reformation

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The renaissance and reformation was a period in literature history that lasted roughly from 1485-1660. This period is characterized by a renewed interest in classical Greek and Roman learning. With the invention of the printing press in 1445 by Gutenburg, a massive number of books and literary pieces were being printed. Additionally, during this period, the effect of the Catholic Church on the lives of individuals had begun weakening and so this paved the way for writers to write about humanism and express themselves in ways that were not possible before. The period that lasted through the 15th, 16th, and 17th century had 5 sub periods which will be discussed in the following section of the report.

The Early Tudor Period (1485-1558)

William Caxton's press was created in 1476, almost a decade before the beginning of Henry VII's reign. The press encouraged all sorts of writings and was the start point of the standardization of the English language. Significant writers of this time include Sir Thomas Wyatt, Henry Howard, and Edward de Vere. One of the more influential works of this period is Tottel's Miscellany (1557) by Richard Tottel.

Elizabethan Period (1558-1603)

Due to strong relationships with the continents and England’s increased exposure to humanism, the works produced in this period are some of the most fruitful of literature history.  An ambitious and influential work was A Mirror for Magistrates (1559) by Thomas Sackville. This period also marked the beginning of the works of William Shakespeare, arguably the most talented and influential writers that ever lived.

Jacobean Period (1603-1625)

The Jacobean Period was marked by the reign of James I and included some of the finest plays and novels ever written including Volpone (1606) by Ben Jonson. This period was full of satirical and humorous drama, and, since novelty was in demand, plots and genres were exploited massively.

Caroline Age (1625-1649)

The reign of Charles I and his Cavaliers marked the Caroline Period in which the renaissance had started declining. However, this period was quite full of brilliant works, with John Milton starting his writings in this period. Other writers of this period include George Herbert and Robert Burton.

Commonwealth Period or Puritan Interregnum (1649-1660)

This period was like the 2 preceding periods in that it belonged to the Puritan Age. Oliver Cromwell came to power during this period and died when his son Richard Cromwell took over in 1658. Richard died only two years later in 1660. Some of the famous works of this time include Leviathan (1651) by Thomas Hobbs, and Holy Living (1650) by Jeremy Taylor.

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare (baptized on April 26, 1564 to April 23, 1616) was an English playwright, actor and poet also known as the “Bard of Avon” and often called England’s national poet. Written records give little indication of the way in which Shakespeare’s professional life molded his artistry. All that can be deduced is that, in his 20 years as a playwright, Shakespeare wrote plays that capture the complete range of human emotion and conflict.

No writer’s living reputation can compare to that of Shakespeare, whose plays, written in the late 16th and early 17th centuries for a small repertory theatre, are now performed and read more often and in more countries than ever before. Over the course of two decades, from about 1590 to 1613, he wrote a total of 37 plays revolving around several main themes: histories, tragedies, comedies and tragicomedies. Except for the tragic love story Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare's first plays were mostly histories. Shakespeare also wrote several comedies during his early period: the witty romance A Midsummer Night's Dream, the romantic Merchant of Venice, the wit and wordplay of Much Ado about Nothing, the charming As You like It and Twelfth Night. It was in William Shakespeare's later period, after 1600, that he wrote the tragedies HamletOthelloKing Lear and Macbeth. In these, Shakespeare's characters present vivid impressions of human temperament that are timeless and universal.

In William Shakespeare's final period, he wrote several tragicomedies. Among these are CymbelineThe Winter's Tale and The Tempest. Though graver in tone than the comedies, they are not the dark tragedies of King Lear or Macbeth because they end with reconciliation and forgiveness.

Thomas Hobbes

Born in Wiltshire in 1588, England, to an alcoholic father, it came as no surprise when he was left to be raised by his brother after his father got in trouble for getting involved in a fight outside church and later fled out of fear abandoning Hobbes and his three brothers to live on their own.

Hobbes is best known for his 1651 book Leviathan, which clarified a compelling detailing of social contract theory. Hobbes also contributed to many other fields, including history, ethics, and general philosophy. Hobbes began his study at Oxford at 15.  He concentrated for the most part on cartography and travelling. After five years of graduating from Oxford he scored a tutoring job where he started teaching the son of the Earl of Devonshire and began an in-depth research of, poetry, roman and Greek classes, philosophy and history. It was during his time as a tutor that he became privileged to travel abroad along with his family and pupil. He went to France and exposed to the views and ideas of Galileo and Kelper.

His vision of the world is strikingly unique and still pertinent to political conditions of today. His fundamental concern is the issue of social and political order: how people can live respectively in harmony and peace and evade the risk and dread of civil conflict. He presents obvious choices: we should give our compliance to an unaccountable sovereign.

Some of his main works include Elements of Philosophy trilogy, LeviathanElements of Law, and many more. Among these the one which captured most of the attention and is still one of the most influential books in political philosophy is Leviathan. It expands on the idea of self-interest and how should an individual work on organizing himself to save himself from any potential danger. He believed in the idea of social contract. A contract with the people to guarantee their safety and interest in exchange of our own and a contract with some sort of a ruler. He believed in liberalism and that there should be a higher power to which we must abide to ensure our wellbeing and safety. His work sparked many controversies at the time and still is a hot topic among critics.



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