Elizabethan Poetry and Prose

History of English Language and Literature
Prof. Dr. Merin Simi Raj Department of Humanities and Social Sciences
Indian Institute of Technology, Madras Module Number 01 Lecture Number 6c Elizabethan Poetry
and Prose Hello everyone. Welcome to yet another session
of the course The History of English Language and Literature. In today’s session we continue
to look at the Elizabethan age. We also saw in the previous sessions how drama emerged
as the singular most important feature of Elizabethan period. And also we noticed that
Shakespeare was the most important figure and perhaps the best known dramatic product
and the best known literary product of the Elizabethan times. In today’s session we continue
to look at a few other genres especially poetry and prose and we, this session is important
in order to try and understand that Elizabethan age not just was about drama and dramatic
technique and theatre but it was also about a foundational age which laid the foundations
for all kinds of genres which were to become popular in the later centuries. So just a
quick reminder that the Elizabethan age refers to the rule of the Queen Elizabeth from 1558 to 1603. So moving on, we begin to take a look at what constituted the
Elizabethan poetry. Talking about the Elizabethan period and Elizabethan poetry, the kind of
poetry that this age produced was very different from that of the medieval period but however
there was a certain continuity which was built into the, the kind of productions that it
almost seemed as if that the medieval values and medieval history was continuing into the
Elizabethan times but at the same time the outlook was radically different. It was more
modern. There was the effect of the Renaissance, there was the implications of Reformation
and so we do not find the Elizabethan writers copying the Medieval writers in all such themes
and subject matter. So they are similar and at the same time different in theme, subject
matter, treatment, outlook etc. And the language was evidently modern and we also find that in
the poetic expressions of the Elizabethan period, we do not find the limitations of
the medieval English. It’s the language is more secular, the language is freer and it
is also closer to modern English. And we also find a tremendous shift from the narrative
poetry of the earlier times towards a lyrical kind of poetry. And what is lyrical poetry?
It is a kind of poetry which talks of the observations and feelings of a single speaker.
Throughout the Elizabethan times, we find this kind of lyric poetry dominating the scene.And
the most popular lyric poetry form was that of the sonnet and sonnets were basically short
poems which were basically written to one person or poems written on a single theme.
And there was also this kind of poetry known as pastoral poems about which we will shortly
see more in detail. So what were sonnets? Sonnets were the most
important kind of poetry which was beginning to be written from the Elizabethan period
onwards – but that does date back to the times of Dante and Petrarch, so in that sense it
had an Italian origin. But in the 1500s, especially in the 1590s one can say that it was hay day
of English sonnet in England and we find sonnet becoming more popular than it ever was during
the medieval times or even in Italy during the times of its origin. So English sonnet
was popularized obviously by Shakespeare as we have seen in the earlier sessions also
that he was the most important figure. That he left his mark not just on drama but also
on all kinds of genres and all kinds of literary expressions which were available during that
time. So Shakespearean sonnet had this particular form. It had three quatrains and a closing
couplet and it was in that sense a little different from the sonnets of the Italian
origin. And Spenser also modified the kind of sonnet in such a way that it came to be
known as Spenserian stanza itself and it comprised of a nine-line single stanza. So in what way
this was written, it was the sonnet comprised of 14 lines. It was written in iambic pentameter.
We also saw what an iambic pentameter was when we talked about blank verse. And there
was also a strict rhyme scheme in place for all the sonnets. And these were the major
English sonneteers, Sir Thomas Wyatt, Henry Howard, Philip Sidney, Edmund Spenser and
William Shakespeare. And Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard, they wrote even before the time
of Elizabeth but however they were hugely popular as we also noted in one of the previous
sessions about the huge popularity that Tottel’s Miscellany had, the kind of success that Tottel’s
Miscellany had enjoyed during that period. And Henry Howard is also credited to have
invented the English sonnet rhyme scheme which later was hugely popularized by Shakespeare
and other kinds of writers. And in this session we will be primarily talking
about three major figures Sir Philip Sidney, Edmund Spenser and William Shakespeare and
these were the ones who popularized the sonnet form in Elizabethan England. And what had
been happening to the sonnets before this? We mentioned right at the outset that from 1500s onwards sonnets did exist in England
and Tottel’s Miscellany does provide lot of evidence to the existence and popularity of
sonnets. But however, sonnets by the mid 1500s, many thought that it had already, it was already
a spent genre and there was nothing much to be, nothing more to be done about this particular
form of writing. It was also dismissed as a minor form and many writers did not want
to experiment in the form of sonnet and we also noticed
in the discussion of University Wits that drama was considered more important, theatre
was considered more profitable and that was the kind of artistic expression which ensured
more reputation and more visibility as well. So in that sense, sonnet did not enjoy that
kind of attention from the Elizabethan writers of that period. And also in the 1560s, there
were a few sonnets which thematically were more theological in nature. That also did
not get much cultural traction because the theological
expression in art and other literary forms was kind of going down because of the influence
of English Renaissance and English Reformation. And sonnet form was also seen as too feminine
and it was not seen as a masculine kind of art for any of the artists, mostly men for
them to pursue. And another problem was that this was associated
with the Catholic countries because it was of Italian origin. So English being Protestant
in nature, it was more or less considered as blasphemist to pursue a form that originated
in one of the Catholic countries. And this form was also considered too artificial for
English language. So these sort of problems were associated with sonnets in the 1500s.
What exactly happened that changed the status of the sonnets altogether? One of the easiest
responses would be to say that ‘and then, Philip Sidney happened’. So what exactly did Philip Sidney do to the sonnet
form? This is something we will take a detailed look at shortly and before that it is very
important to state that until the time that Philip Sidney began writing the sonnets sonnet
was not considered as a, as a form of much repute and it was not, it was also not considered
as a major form which could be pursued in terms of serious literature. but with the
advent of Philip Sidney and his entry into the sonnet form, we find that almost everyone
in England who could hold a pen was writing a sonnet. It was generally said that every
Elizabethan man of some kind of an education, in some kind of reputation, he used to walk
around with a sonnet written and kept in his pocket ready to read it out to an audience
at the slightest provocation. So this was the kind of popularity that the sonnet form
enjoyed in the Elizabethan period, especially during the later phase of the century. Now
it is very important to look at the kind of poetry that existed even before Spenser,
Spenser being the most definite of literary moments that happened in the Elizabethan
times. So two writers are of much significance and much importance, they being Thomas Sackville
and George Gascoigne and we heard about Thomas Sackville also in the sessions when we talked
about drama because he was more famous for having produced the tragedy Gorboduc. So his poem, “The Induction”, it was written in 1563,
this is considered as the finest single poem between Chaucer and Spenser. This also gives
us this impression that after Chaucer and before Spenser, there was hardly any poet
of supreme importance that English literary history has had to reckon with. Another poet was George
Gascoigne and his work Steele Glas was considered as the
first regular verse satire written in English. And after this we move on to the most important figure, most important poetic figure
of this time, Edmund Spenser. He lived from 1552 to 1599, the exact date and place of
his birth is unknown and very little is known about his family, what his parents did, how
many siblings he had and these kind of details and how he spent his childhood etc are not
very known; but however it is assumed that he did his education befitting his social
class so he, though he was not born into the nobility or he did not enjoy that kind of
favors, we do find him getting a proper kind of an education and rising into prominence
in London at a very young age itself. And why is Spenser very important for us when
we talk about the Elizabethan period? It is generally said that the Opening of the Golden
Age is with the publication of Spenser’s Shephearde’s Calendar in 1579 in that sense
though Queen Elizabeth assumed the crown in 1558, only by 1579 and with the publication
of Spenser’s Shephearde’s Calendar we find the age turning into a golden age of
literature – and Spenser’s importance continued to live on even in the later centuries. Charles
Lamb later on talked about him as a “poet’s poet”. And Spenser had also had a lot of
regard for the kind of poetry that existed in England even before his times and he was
the one to talk about Chaucer as the “well of English undefiled”. So in that sense
we find in Chaucer all the finer things of medieval
poetry getting recreated and we also find him lending to English poetry a very modern
structure and a modern kind of thought. And Spenser is the, considered as the greatest
non-dramatic poet, the greatest dramatic poet being Shakespeare himself. And he had an education
in Cambridge which left a lot of Protestant influence in him and we find it getting reflected
very strongly in his writings and also in his outlook towards life, politics and his
general attitude towards the ways in which England and Ireland was then positioned as
well. So his stint in Ireland is very important.
In 1580 we find Spenser assuming a position of much importance. He is sent to Ireland
on official purpose as a Secretary to the Lord Deputy and he was not very happy there.
Though he went to Ireland on an official purpose, we find that even after the official visit
is over he stays on for reasons unknown. But he was an unhappy man over there and Hudson talks about this in
such a way that ‘he was miserable among a lawless people whom he loathed’. So he
never was fond of the, fond of Ireland or Irish ways of life and he even wrote about
it much later in 1596 in a short prose piece known as “View of the Present State of Ireland”
and there he defended the brutal oppression of the Irish by the English monarchy. And
he even suggested that systematic starvation and exile be inflicted upon those Irish who
do not submit to the monarch of England. So we find him exhibiting supreme sense of loyalty
to the English Monarch so finding a lot of fault with the Irish. And this is also beginning
of the colonization and beginning of a different sense of national pride being created in England.
So we find Spenser making, taking advantage of this or rather being a victim to all of
those political changes which come about. In fact some of
the historians are of the opinion that someone who held such extreme opinions about politics,
about the colonization and about the definitions of loyalty to a particular monarch, it is
very difficult to imagine that he is the same person who wrote a very fine poem like Fairie
Queene where nothing of this sort of violence come into display. Another important note
as an aside if you notice the spelling of “Veue of Present
State of Ireland” over here it is spelt as V e u e so we also begin to see that spelling
had not yet become standardized even the during Elizabethan times. There are different moves
being made to make spelling, grammar and language standardized but we do find that each author
continued to use certain kinds of spellings according to his whims and fancy and some
of the, these spellings, these errant spellings in the title, they continued to be retained even in the
contemporary. So what happens in Spenser’s life soon after that, it’s quite tragic. By 1598, there is a rebellion that breaks
out in Ireland. By this time it is also useful to remember that there was an ongoing hostility
between England and Ireland which continued even into the twentieth century and later
on also in literature especially when we talk about modernist literature and the Celtic
Revival we find a lot of this being revisited as well. And let me also take this opportunity
to remind you that all of these, the tussle between Ireland and England, it dates back
to the Celtic period and how the Celts were driven out by the Anglo Saxons. So all of
these historic elements need to be seen in continuity in order to see the connections
and particular kinds of politics getting activated at different points of time. So in 1598 with this rebellion that breaks
out in Ireland, Spenser is forced to return to England and he comes back a very miserable
man. He is quite friendless over there and he also finds it quite difficult to get back
to the normal life in England but at the same time something very unfortunate also follows
very soon. He returns to England sometime around December 1598 and in January 1599,
perhaps a little more than a month, he dies in an, at a fairly young age of 46. So Spenser, though he did not live for a long
time in England, though his, most of his poetic works were getting constructed while he was
in exile in Ireland, we find that he had built upgood reputation in England and when he,
after his death we find his coffin being carried
by fellow poets through the streets of London and we do find a sense of mourning in London
during this time. And he was also buried along with the other poets of his similar repute
at the Westminster Abbey. So talking a little more about Spenser’s poetic
career as we mentioned earlier itself Shepheardes Calendar, a pastoral poem was his first work
which also inaugurated the, the Elizabethan golden age. And he was only 27 years old then.
And this was dedicated Philip Sidney, with him he forged a friendship during his younger
days itself. And his supreme work which is considered as the best poetic work of the
Elizabethan times; that has been written in Ireland. It is a set of five books and it
is almost like Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, in that sense it is very vast and expansive
and some of its parts are still unfinished and it is said he published Faerie Queene
with the assistance of Walter Raleigh who had encouraged him to continue to write and also made all of his
works public. And two of his works, Amoretti and Epithalamion, they were written during
his relationship with Elizabeth Boyle whom he married a little later. So Amoretti is
a set of 88 sonnets which talks about his love towards his lady love and Epithalamion
is described as the ;noblest wedding hymn in English’. And soon after this, we also
find him getting married to Elizabeth Boyle. This is all is important about Spenser’s poetry.
Now we move on to discuss he second most important figure Sir Philip
Sidney who lived from 1554 to 1586. He unlike most of the other writers of those times,
he was born into the nobility and he was Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester’s nephew. And
Robert Dudley was a very important figure during the Elizabethan times. He was a courtier
and he is more renowned as a very close friend of Elizabeth the First and there is this rumor
that Elizabeth the First considered him as a suitor for a very long time – though we
all know that she continued unmarried until the end of her life. And so Dudley at a later
point she, he goes out of the Queen’s favor and he is banished
from the court. So all of those details are currently not very important for us but at
the same time very important to know that, note that being a nephew of Robert Dudley
did give a lot of mileage to Philip Sidney. And even otherwise his noble
lineage did provide him a kind of entry into many circles, the courts and a lot of political
powers during that time. So Philip Sidney even during his lifetime was considered as
the perfect Renaissance gentleman and his career was very varied. He was a soldier,
a courtier and a poet all rolled into one. He was knighted in 1583 by the Queen herself
and in him, many contemporary writers and even later historians they find that he embodied
the medieval virtues of the knight, the lover and the scholar. So this reflection is found
in his writings as well. And he was also a patron. In fact he himself and along with
his sister, they were the patrons of a number of artists and writers during the Elizabethan
time. And he was also considered as the complete courtier poet. In fact if we trace the history
of English literature, we do not find many courtier poets like him who is the complete
embodiment of all kinds of virtues. He had the military and diplomatic prowess but he
was not a scheming politician like many used to be during those times and that also made
him hugely popular not just within the court but among the common people and he was a Protestant
to the core. And his English roots and English noble lineage were also quite undisputed and
there is a saying about Philip Sidney that “one could not get more English than him”.
So in every sense he was this perfect figure who enjoyed a lot of reputation during this
time and once he began writing that also became the order of the day. And he was elected as
the member of the Parliament at the age of 18. It was quite young when he assumed greater
possessions of power and prominence. He also had this opportunity to travel to distant
places such as France, Germany, Poland, Italy, Austria and Hungary. And during those days,
to be able to travel, to be able to see new kinds of lives, new kinds of worlds. It was
seen as rare opportunity which also, which also helped him to produce the kind of poetry
and lead the kind of life that he was leading. His death was also very heroic. He died in
1586 after the Battle of Zutphen and there’s this anecdote
about him which, the veracity of which is quite disputed, that he sacrificed the last
of his water supply to a wounded soldier. So even after his death his heroism was quite
significant that he continued to be talked about in London circles for a very long time. And talking about literary career of Philip
Sidney, he was the one who set the literary tone in England. He also initiated something
known as the literary clubs where he brought together many other writers of, many other
likeminded writers of similar reputation and the early form of the literary clubs could
be seen over there. And some of the major works include Astrophel and Stella which was
published in 1591 and Arcadia, a prose romance about which we will shortly take a look at.
An Apology for Poetry was very significant in establishing English as a literary language.
This was published in 1579 as response to Stephen Gosson’s attack on the poetic expressions
and the morality of the stage so on and so forth.
So Philip Sidney wrote Apology for Poetry in order to show that one
could do literature not just in Latin but also in English. This work was very important
and students of literary criticism would also know that this work is one of the fundamental
works which had laid the foundations of English literary criticism for many centuries to come. Now we begin to look at William Shakespeare
and his poetic works and we begin to see that just like Shakespeare dominated the dramatic
scene, there is a way in which he begins to dominate the poetic scene as well. His sonnets
were a set of 154 sonnets, quite vast just like his dramatic output and, but this set
of sonnets they were not published under 1609 when a publisher of much repute Thomas Thorpe
undertook this responsibility. And most of his sonnets they have a mysterious nature
built into them. They were all, they were all dedicated to one Mr. W H whose identity
remains unknown. And also most of poets, most of these sonnets were also addressed to a
young man and later sets of sonnets addressed to a dark
lady, the identity of these people are quite unknown and this also continues to fascinate
many historians and literary critics as well. There are various theories as to who this
young man and this young lady, this dark lady could be and there are various conjectures
and various rumors about Shakespeare’s sexual orientation and what comes through in his
sonnets and so on and so forth. But however we do not delve into these matters at this
point as it is very, it is a dangerous tendency to read a lot of biography into the poetic
expressions of any artist. So let’s take a quick look of some of his very
popular sonnets, one being “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day” and another one “My
mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun”. If you read through these sonnets you would
find that he was capable of different kinds of emotions and different ways of talking
about love. If we spend a little time taking a look at some of these these verses
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, And summer’s lease hath all too short a
date. Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed; And every fair from fair sometime declines…
so on and so forth. And in contrast we find another sonnet talking
about love in a very unconventional way and talking about beauty in a, in a quite a radical sense. My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red; If snow be white, why then her breasts are
dun; If hairs be wires, black wires grow upon her
head. I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks; And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks. So here we begin to see that he was capable
of talking about love sarcastically. He was capable of talking about very traditional,
conventional kind of love and also about a radical sarcastic kind of expressions about
beauty, about love, so on and so forth. So, so much for the versatility of this man about
whom we have spoken about in at least in the two lectures in the previous sessions. So
apart from this we shall not be dedicating more time than time in this lecture to talk
about Shakespeare’s sonnets and moving on, there were these other
minor poets who also enjoyed a great deal of reputation during the Elizabethan times
– two of them being Walter Raleigh and Michael Drayton. Walter Raleigh was a very interesting
figure during Elizabethan times. He was credited to have led an extraordinary full political
life and he also embodied the restless spirit of the Renaissance – he wanted to travel,
he wanted to do different kinds of things. He wanted to live life to the full in the
way the Renaissance’s England had enabled everyone and he is best known as the person who travelled
to America and colonized Virginia in the new world, Virginia was the name given to the island
after the Virgin Queen Elizabeth. And he was also Queen Elizabeth’s favorite in the court.
He was an adventurer, he was a poet, he was an
adventurer and a poet rolled into one and he was continued to be a favorite of Queen
Elizabeth the First until he fell in love with Elizabeth Throckmorton, the Queen’s lady
in waiting. We find him going increasingly out of favor with the Queen and
he also ends up being banished from the court and later time in fact, during King James
First’s reign, the entire fortunes fall and he was also convicted of treason. He is publicly
executed. So some of those things we shall come back
to look at again when talk about the Jacobean times. And Michael Drayton was another important
figure, another important minor poet during this time. It is useful to remember that there were lot
of these minor poets who wrote and who were famous during the Elizabethan times and they
were also songbooks, sonnets, love poems, real and feigned sentiments, so there was
kind of variety available in the poetic scene. They also spoke about powerful patriotic feelings
and they, some of them even undertook a laborious historical research to produce a history in
verse and we also find a tendency to imitate which led to decline, specially later during
the Jacobean times. So the ways in which the poetry underwent the change in the Jacobean
times, we will reserve it for another lecture. And moving on, we quickly take a look at what
kind of prose existed during the Elizabethan times.
There was a good amount of variety available with translations,
polemic literature, religious and educational tracts, satire, literary debates, criticism,
grammar, logic, rhetoric – all of those things were getting discussed in terms of prose.
And there were also pamphlets about which we spoke about, when we spoke about the university
wits and the kind of pamphleteering career that many of them had undertaken at that point
of time. These pamphlets contribute to the rise of English journalism, right from the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries onwards. There were also satirical in tone. So in that
sense, they also responded to the social issues of those times. For example, there were many
who wrote about the different forms of entertainment, the kind of morality that was getting displayed
on stage, so on and so forth. It also had given rise to lot of interesting debates between
these persons of notable repute and some of them have also got recorded
– one significant one being Stephen Gosson’s attack on poetry and Sidney’s Apology for
poetry as a response. And there was also, this time also witnessed a lot of flourish in terms
of literary criticism and rhetoric which also also laid the foundations of English literary criticism. So talking about prose,
there was a kind of prose which emerged during this time which was neither prose nor fiction.
They have come to be known in posterity as prose- fiction because they were mostly fictitious
narratives and they also had not yet become as mature as a proper novel. So these were
mostly translations from Spanish and Italian romances and or from Italian novel known as
Italian novella or even from short stories of those times from different languages and
other different cultures. These were found to be hugely popular in England during this
time. We also find England responding quite well to the rise of the novel
at a later point. And John Lyly was perhaps the most important figure when we
talk about this prose fiction during the Elizabethan times. His work Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit
published in 1578 was considered as hugely popular. In fact it enjoyed such extraordinary
popularity that they even, in some form, could be considered alongside
the other dramatic works of Lyly or even Shakespeare. This popularity led Lyly to come up with the
sequel titled Euphues and his England. And interesting thing
about this work Euphues is that this did not have a particular storyline. Nevertheless
it was of huge interest to the commoners of those times. And what, this also led to the
emergence of a particular style of writing which has then, which has from then come to
be known as Euphuism. So how we define Euphuism? If I can give you a couple of sample sentences
from John Lyly’s Euphues, maybe this would begin to define what Euphuism
is all about. One sentence goes like this
“As you suspect me of idleness in giving ear to your talk, so you may convince me of
lightness in answering such toys”. So we kind the kind of thesis and anti-thesis
at play over here and also the use of contrast in order to talk about a particular emotion
which needs to be conveyed. Another example would be:
“Although I have shrined thee in my heart as a trusty friend I will shun thee hereafter
as the trothless foe”. We also find him employing alliteration and contrast in order
to convey a particular kind of emotion in a form of a dialogue. So this
kind of writing was hugely popular and even for historical curiosity we find some of the
writers later on also imitating Lyly’s style of Euphuism. The other writers of this particular
form known as prose romance were Robert Greene and Thomas Nashe, In fact in one of their works we also find
the earliest example of the picaresque novel or the novel of rascality which was later
more defined and further refined by Daniel Dafoe. And Philip Sidney’s Arcadia was of
supreme importance during this period. It was very popular that many wanted to get a
copy for themselves. And the, the interesting thing about this work Arcadia was that it
is difficult to say whether it belonged to the Elizabethan times or to
the later Jacobean times because it was first written in 1581 but it was properly published only in 1613
during the reign of King James the First. This is the work which followed the traditions
of the older romances of chivalry and we also find that unlike Eupheus which did not have
a proper storyline, this was more eventful with a lot of historical drama built into
this. And coming to the field of literary criticism,
we noted right, we noted earlier also that Elizabethan times laid the foundation of literary
criticism in English language and literature. So what was the need for literary criticism?
When we spoke of the Middle Ages, we reiterated that no kind of literature or no kind of artistic
tradition can emerge in a, in a place where there is no informed criticism and where there
is no free or secular criticism. And with the time, with the Elizabethan times we find
that this major gap is being bridged in terms of literature and we do find the growth of
literary criticism and this becomes important because with the growing stature of a national
kind of literature most of the writers, critics and historians they begin to realize that
there is a need to establish the principles of writing. And this also becomes important
because the identity of English literature gets entwined with the identity of England
itself. So it also becomes quite a matter of reputation and historical importance
to produce writings which are of supreme quality and also the need to critique them in order
to refine them in a better way in the coming decades and centuries. And this was also,
another purpose of these growing interests in criticism was to reiterate the status and
value of poetry. Let me again draw your attention
to people like Stephen Gossoon who felt that art and literature did not serve any purpose
in society and it was considered to simply arouse people’s emotions and draw their energy,
keep their energy away from any kind of productive activity so it was very important to justify
the importance of poetry and also to reiterate its status and value in society. And at this
juncture we also find these critics and writers drawing our attention to the importance of
the classical models, the merits and demerits of particular kinds of writing, about rhyme
scheme, about various debates about what constitutes poetry and so on and so forth. At this point, again
it is very useful to remember the very famous debate between Spenser and Harvey about what
actually constituted poetry. Both of them were friends, they were contemporaries, both
of them wrote poetry but they had different attitudes towards
what constituted the structure of poetry. And these sort of friendly debates were very
useful in laying the foundations of criticism and also about the principles of literature.
Criticism also provided a kind of guide and model to writing and this was more important because there was a lack of
good poetry from the previous century. As we noted right in the beginning, and from
Chaucer to Spenser there were only a couple of poets of note who could be mentioned as
noteworthy poets. There was an imminent need to rely on classic poetry, not just from England but
also from other traditions and other cultures. So this
also led to a lot of works which began to show their classic models as the proper kind
of poetry and also a way to teach the others to how to write the poetry, how to base the
principles upon, so on and so forth. So talking about the rhetoric and literary
criticism of those period and the major works of those period it is important to remember
that some of the major, major writers included Thomas Wilson and Leonard Cox, Richard Sherry,
Richard Mulcaster, Richard Carew etc. And talking about these individual writers
is not very significant for us but the collectiveness of all of this, the understanding that all
of them wrote to the contribution of Rhetoric and literary criticism during that period
is more significant. So we do not undertake a singular discussion of these individual
writers. And as we already mentioned the Spenser-Harvey debate was very significant event that, that
kind of frame the entire understanding of literary criticism during Elizabethan times.
Some of the important works include Gascoigne’s Certain notes of instruction concerning the
making of Verse or Rhyme in English, William Webb’s Discourse of English Poetry, Thomas
Campion’s Observations in the Art of English Poesie, George Puttenham’s The Arte of English
Poesie and Philip Sidney’s Defense of Poesie which also has an alternate title An Apology
for Poetry. So if you look at the titles of, if you look at the titles and their dates
of publication we see that it is almost around the similar time. They were all contemporaries
as well. So in that sense along with many other forms of writing, many other forms of
performances which were emerging and evolving during this time, we find literary criticism supplementing
and complimenting the growth of these forms and also the consolidation of all of these
forms in a, in terms of technique, in terms of craft, in terms of principles so on and
so forth. It also had a huge role to play in terms of solidifying the foundations of
English literature and criticism right from the times of Elizabeth. And the other important prose
writers included Richard Hakluyt, Richard Hooker, Raphael Holinshed, Foxe and Francis
Bacon who continue to be discussed even during the Jacobean times. So we shall come back
to talk about Francis Bacon and we will talk about the Jacobean writers. So when we look
at the scene in terms of Elizabethan prose and poetry, we begin to notice that there
was a considerable amount of poetry and prose getting written during this time. Wven when
we were talking about writers who did not enjoy much reputation during those
times or, or the kind of writers who do not enjoy, or the kind of writers who do not continue
to be referred even in the contemporary, their holistic presence and their holistic contribution,
it was of singular importance in terms of contributions to literature, criticism about
understanding of poetry, understanding of writing so on and so forth. And we also find
that much of Elizabethan writing, much of Elizabethan culture also owes to these – all
of these writers put together though some of their supreme examples could be found in
individual writers such as Shakespeare, Spenser, Sidney etc. So with this we come to an end
of this session. So in the next couple of sessions we shall be trying to wind up the
Elizabethan age itself, talking about the various ways in which the Elizabethan age
laid the foundation to the field of English literature. And also talking about what had
been happening during this transition time from the Elizabethan period towards the Jacobean
period. And since history is not arranged in tidy compartments or in neat compartments
it is important to look at these transitionary phases with more clarity and more interest.
And we shall be continuing to do just the same in the following sessions and with this
we come to an end of today’s lecture. Thank you for listening and look forward to seeing
you in the next session

19 thoughts on “Elizabethan Poetry and Prose

  1. It's my paper tomorrow. I was finding 14th and 15th century prose, but suddenly, though fortunately, bumped into this video. It will also be found useful. We need more videos, dear ma'am. Please post some in detail.

    Some suggested topics:
    1. Development of English Literature (Prose, Poetry,Drama) from Anglo-Saxon till today.
    2. Writing styles of different authors of all the ages.
    3. Social, religious and political conditions in which these writers were compelled to produce such pieces.
    And critically important:
    How to attempt the paper of literature (this question is what almost every students asks, but finds nothing) and
    Books critically important to understand these significant topics clearly.

    I have very short time; can't explain now, but will suggest more soon. ❤

  2. Very nice man I am very happy to you best explanation of Elizabethan prose.

  3. It's really nice but if you can explain in hindi then we can understand more

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