Renaissance Literature: Characteristics & Writers

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  • 0:01 Characteristics of the…
  • 0:45 Renaissance Literature
  • 2:29 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Debbie Notari
Renaissance literature was born as the world emerged from the Middle Ages. It was the time of John Milton and Shakespeare. In this lesson, we will learn about the characteristics of the Renaissance period and the writers it produced.

Characteristics of the Renaissance

In order to understand Renaissance literature we need to take a little time to look at the Renaissance itself. The word renaissance means 'rebirth.' The world was emerging from the Middle, or 'Dark,' Ages. The movement actually began in Italy and spread to England, and the English Renaissance occurred from 1500 to 1688.

One key characteristic of the Renaissance was the idea of the divine right of kings to rule. Another was the development of humanistic ideas, such as the dignity of man. It was a time of scientific inquiry and exploration. This was also the time of the Protestant Reformation, and the invention of the printing press.

Renaissance Literature

Now we will look at characteristics of Renaissance literature. The writers of the Renaissance not only wanted to imitate art, they hoped to change reality through art. Also, the writers reflected a spirit of exploration that was going on throughout the world. Renaissance writers, like Shakespeare, brought settings to life beyond the English borders. Writers also believed in the art of imitation, gravitating toward the Greek and Roman writers and writing styles.

Key Renaissance writers were John Milton, William Shakespeare, Edmund Spenser, Philip Sidney, and Ben Jonson. The invention of the printing press enabled writers to publish their works. Because of the printing press, literacy also increased. With more writers, there was a greater demand for literature. English literature was positive and forward thinking. English writers were trendsetters. There was a whole world to discover and conquer.

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