Literature in Britain in the period beginning in around 1500 and lasting until the mid-1600s. Influenced by the artistic and cultural Renaissance
, the transformation of both English language and literature in this period can be seen to move away from the medieval Middle English
literature period and into the more recognizably modern Elizabethan literature
. The period is characterized by the influence of the classics (in literature, language, and philosophy), as well as an optimistic forward-thinking approach to the potential of humans (known as Renaissance humanism
. See also English literature
In simple terms, the Renaissance in England was caused by the spread of Renaissance learning and ideology from Italy, where it developed earlier (c.
14001500). The Renaissance embraced not only literature, but also art and architecture. In literary terms, the study of the classical poets led not only to their translation into English but the adaptation of their verse
forms and systems of poetical metre
, as well as the embracing of their themes and genres
. An illustration of the linguistic explosion caused by the Renaissance is the addition of more than 10,000 new words to the language in a short space of time, mainly from Latin. The Renaissance also led to a rebirth of classical humanism
, which encouraged knowledge of the arts, languages, and a generally broad and active education. This led to a great spirit of confidence and the urge to explore the potential that language, literature, and philosophy could offer and the heights that humans could reach.
A brief survey of significant historical and social events in the period, suggests that the flowering of English literature was part of a larger whole. The development of the printing
press led to a communications revolution and increased literacy. There were 20,000 different publications in England between 1500 and 1640. There was a new curiosity, marked by discoveries in science, astronomy, and geography. Italian navigators Christopher Columbus
and Sebastian Cabot
explored into the New World in the 1490s. It was also a time of religious change; the English Reformation
(under King Henry VIII) broke the English church away from Roman Catholicism in 1533, and the spread of Protestantism
in Europe were both influential factors on literature and everyday life.
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