British Literature:The Renaissance 1485-1660

  • The Elizabethan Period: the reign of Elizabeth I – 1586-1603
  • Jacobean Period: the reign of James I of England – 1603-1625

A.Historical Context

  • War of Roses ends in 1485 and political stability arrives
  • Printing press helps stabilize English as a language and allows more people to read a variety of literature
  • Economy changes from farm-based to one of international trade


  • Poetry
  • The sonnet
  • Metaphysical poetry
  • Drama, tragedies, comedies
  • All these were supported by royalty.


  • World view shifts from religion and after life to one stressing the human life on earth
  • Popular themes: development of human potential; love and its many aspects: constant, timeless, courtly love.


  • W.Shakespeare
  • Ben Jonson
  • Cavalier Poets
  • Metaphysical Poets
  • Christopher Marlowe

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