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The renaissance period is a literary movement that is marked with rebirth of knowledge. It is a renewal or what I can call the 'spring' of that period. It started at the ascention of King Henry VIII into power and it peaked at the period of Queen Elizabeth.
Some salient features of this period incude the revival of classical knowledge, freedom in writing was a mainstay, humanism was revived, the tradition of courtly bards was revived, the western spring was also noticed.
The renaissance actually started in countries in Italy where it manifested as a visual art apogee, France where it was visual as well as creative in its art form, etc.
In the words of J.M. Thompson, the renaissance was 'freedom, freedom, freedom, freedom in religion from traditionalism, freedom in politics from capitalism, freedom in literature from censorship.' All these go as far as explaining some of the major revolutions that took place during the renaissance.
In this period, Sir Thomas Wyatt revived the sonnet form in English literature and variants such as the Shakespearean and Spenserian sonnets also evolved.
The influence of the renaissance on Shakespeare and Marlowe is evident. For one thing, the renaissance writers were concerned with monarchs and aristocrats. They wrote about them and also they were men of the court. This nolstagia for Aristocracy and Monarchy is evident in the plays of Shakespeare which includes, Hamlet, Julius Ceasar, Macbeth, Othello, amongst others. All these plays are inherent with thematic focus on monarchies which is a syndrome of renaissance.
Another syndrome of the renaissance is their concern with tragedy. The renaissance writers see their age as a continuation of the Greek classical age of Sophocles and his contemporaries. This ecstacy with tragedy themed the works of Marlowe who wrote The Jew of Malta, Doctor Faustus, amongst others. This theme is also featured in almost all the works of Shakespeare especially his now classical Romeo and Juliet. These writers believe in Aristotle's concept of tragedy which deals with the imitation of an action that is serious and complete, having magnitude, with a view to meet a catharsis or a purgation of emotions.
This literary period also saw the introduction of poetic diction into tragedy. They believe that the actions which are contained in a tragedy are serious actions which must be expressed in a convulated, esoteric and poetic language which can only be understood in lieu of a catharsis. This is reflected in the works of Shakespeare whose dramatic diction and language is highly poetic and philosophical. The same is true also of Marlowe whose language is largely mystical.
Another major feature of renaissance drama is their preoccupation with lore from various and diverse traditions. Most of them occupy themselves with historical monarchs that existed in Italy, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, England, Egypt, etc. All these are evident of Shakespeare's great tragedies and also one can see this in Doctor Faustus through Marlowe's use of historical characters like the Pope, the King, etc.
Elizabethan drama was written mainly for the courts. Probably that was why the whole concept of a laureate came to place. Their preoccupation with monarchs and aristocrats juxtaposes them with their nearest cousines, the romantics. Thay align with the romantics in terms of freedom of spontaneity and the use of fine diction but their preoccupation with monarchs, their nolstagia for the faraway is no crown on them.
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