What is a renaissance? How did it influence English literature?
The word "renaissance" means "rebirth". Popularly known is the Italian Renaissance whose movers and shakers were people such as Michelangelo and Leonard DiVinci. England's renaissance is called the Caroligian Renaissance and dates back to the 15th-16th centuries. Before that time, the people spoke Old English; which, in fact, is what the oldest poem, "Beowulf", is written in. The language changed after 1066 when William the Conqueror invaded England and forced everyone to speak French. As a result, people spoke in pidgin language and many of the French words were adapted to English while some of the cases and Germanic elements were dropped. As the language evolved, so did political and economical life. Once people started traveling the world and writing about it, the language also expanded. By Shakespeare's period (1564-1603) more educated people were reading and writing, but the common folk still couldn't. Writers like Shakespeare, Ben Johnson and John Donne had more time to write as international commerce expanded. As the world became more competitive as well as "smaller", the language was fine-tuned, developing into the modern language that we have today. It is with all societies: Once the educated do not have to worry about food and shelter, their minds can create and write, and imagine.