William Shakespeare and His Age

Quick Revision Points and important Points for UGC NET English literature Exam .

William Shakespeare and His Age

  • Lived during a great period in English history.
  • Reign of the Tudor queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603).
  • England emerged as the leading naval and commercial power of Europe.
  • Defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588.
  • Spirit of nationalism
  • Protestant Church firmly established.
  • Sir Francis Drake, Sir Humphrey Gilbert and Sir Walter Raleigh pioneered the eastern navigations and colonial trade .

The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.
William Shakespeare, As You Like It

William Shakespeare Quotes

Queen Elizabeth

  • Last Tudor monarch; reigned 44 years.Became a cult figure, represented the glory of England.
  • Successfully defeated all plots against her Great military victory over the Spaniards (1588).
  • Led England to be one of the most powerful countries in the world.
  • Famed for being a virgin.
  • Epitome of beauty and greatness
    Moderate, tolerant, diplomatic.
  • “video et taceo” (I see, and am silent)
  • Popularity waned towards the end of her rule

London in the Elizabethan Age

  • London centre of culture and commerce beside the Thames.Growing population; dominant merchant class.
  • Immigrants from other towns
    A large number of poets and dramatists.
  • Drama most popular entertainment
  • Noisy, dirty, narrow streets

Socio-Political Scenario

  • Despite Renaissance & Humanism, Elizabethan society was still primitive in science and technology.Printing was a luxury
    Even local travel was arduous and limited.
  • Scientists and witches were often mistaken as in the same trade.
  • A number of women were executed for witchcraft in England during the Renaissance.
  • Many literary works of the period bear testimony to the public interest in the subject.

The Concept of the Human Being

  • Renaissance scientists held that each individual is a microcosm that reflects and is in tune with the macrocosm of the universe.Everybody possessed a soul, for which the body was only an imperfect and temporary container.
  • Given the plague, political killings and incomprehensible diseases, death of the body was an everyday reality.
  • The human body was believed to be composed of the four elements—earth, water, air and fire—that manifested as the four humours—blood, phlegm, choler and melancholy.
  • Gender as Unstable
    The Renaissance people held that man and woman ultimately had the same bodies, arranged differently
    This involved the idea of gender as not biologically stable. This gives fresh insight into the practice of cross-dressing and gender.
  • Transgression in Renaissance plays
    Humours and the Great Chain.
  • The notion of the four humours
    A manifestation of the four elements .
  • Related to astronomical processes
  • Indicative of the 16th century conception of society as part of the “Great Chain of Being”.
  • Everything in the universe is interconnected, with God at the pinnacle.
  • This ordered and hierarchical society is headed by the monarch, who enjoys the Divine Right to govern the country and its people.

The Feudal Monarch

  • The monarch exerted his/her power through the court, a privileged group of the richest and most powerful aristocrats in the country.Below the aristocrats came the gentry and the citizens.The gentry, usually denoted by the title ‘Sir’, held their wealth as landed property outside London, inherited by birth or acquired by marriage.
  • The gentry exercised feudal authority over those who worked in their country estates; served the king at his court and raised an army for him as well, in times of need.
  • The Common Citizens
    Unlike the gentry, the citizens
    generally lived in London derived their wealth from trade never attended the court sponsored entertainments ran the “apprentice system” by which young men learned a trade as an employee of a master. From the citizens’ perspective, the courtier was an immoral, extravagant spendthrift, while the citizens themselves were associated with the virtues of hard work, thrift and honesty.
  • The courtiers in turn derided the citizens as unfashionable and vulgar. Strong ale common drink.
  • Family
    A “family” included not only the husband, wife and children, but even the servants, for they were actively involved in all affairs of the family.
    The Renaissance nobility married early, while the common folks married in their mid-twenties.
    The average life expectancy was 40 and many women died in childbirth
    Due to the high rate of child mortality, adults were probably more attached their siblings than to their own children.
    The husband was held as superior to the wife, physically, morally, intellectually and spiritually.
  • Children were regarded as miniature adults with unquestioning obedience expected of them.
  • Male anxiety about female infidelity was prevalent.
  • The greatest insult for a man was to sprout horns and turn into a cuckold.
  • The female counterpart of this phenomenon—cuckquean—was rarely used.
  • However in England, more than in the rest of Europe, there was more insistence on mutual affection and companionship in marriage.

Published by Lucky Saxena

I am lucky saxena. Post Graduate student. Trying to fill some enthusiasm in everyone and provide UGC NET PGT TGT English literature Free Notes to everyone who can not reach to money oriented website or coaching. Try to spread kindness, knowledge and love through my blog.

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