Renaissance is the epoch of Humanism and the Revival of Learning born in Italy after revival of the culture and science of Italy and the whole western world. The human being, the beauty and the joy of this life were now the center of attention.
In England three main stages of this process could be distinguished: the early stage of the end of the 15th century and the first half of the 16th century and the later stage coinciding with reign of Queen Elizabeth and the life-span of Shakespeare. The period after Shakespeare’s death and to the beginning of the puritan revolution was the time of decline of the Renaissance and the crisis of Humanism.
The earlier Tudor period was a time of transition from the late medieval to Renaissance culture. The new architecture imported from Italy had little in common with the Gothic style. With the interest to classics there came a tendency to the ancient forms and styles in architecture and art. It was in early 16th century that the influence of the Italian Renaissance architecture was really felt in England in the pure classical lines of Inigo Johnes the example of this style was the Whitehall palace. Christopher Wren, a very outstanding architect used the classic forms with great purity and correctness. After the great fire of London he rebuilt a great number of churches, cathedrals, palaces, houses of the rich people of London. St. Paul’s cathedral is a good example of this style.
Architects and painters were invited from Italy and other western countries. Many of them, though being foreigners were allowed to enrich British culture and are generally treated by historians as the founders of the English school of painting, as for instance Hans Holbein Junior, an outstanding German painter. He depicted all details of the sitter’s appearance. His portraits were so realistic, that they expressed the sitter’s character, his thoughts, and his inner life. English portrait painting started from Hans Holbein Junior’s works. The wealthy houses were soon filled with portraits of ancestors often painted by provincial painters imitating Holbein. Rubens and Van Dyck, the great Dutchmen are also revered as creators of English painting for they were attracted by the English titles and agreed to be treated as English painters.
One of the most famous representatives of the English Renaissance culture was Thomas More, lawyer, scholar, writer, and statesman. His great work was “Utopia” published in Latin in 1516, a scathing satire on feudalism and the emerging capitalism, on the government and society of England.
The description of contemporary England with all the evils of poverty for the many and luxury for the few is made in striking contrasts to the island of “Utopia” where there is not private ownership of land and industrial tools, where community of goods, a national system of education, the rule of work for all. More does not condemn the feudal system, sad assurance that the new system, based on money is no smaller evil. He looks forward the new fair social society with no exploitation, equal rights to all members of the society.
The second stage of Renaissance in England was the age of the theater. In the first period it was the time of “morality play” and the “mystery play”. The theater reflected the reality of those days, showing the political antagonism of the society. There were also plays by classical Greek and Roman tragedians staged by university students. The first theaters were mobile. The actors staged their plays on the squares, markets, taverns and roadside inns.
In 1576 the first theater was built in London by a group of actors and soon theaters appeared everywhere – rough and primitive structures, roofless and curtainless, seating some thousand people.
The third stage of Renaissance epoch was characterized by increasing decay of drama.
The speed of the development of language was lesser than in Middle English. The language developed quickly at the beginning of this period and slower – at the end (with the exception of the word stock which develops equally quickly during the whole period). When the literary norm was formed, it, being always very conservative, prevented the change of the language that is why the speed of the development slowed down.
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