The 16th Century: The Renaissance & its Poetry

The 16th Century: The Renaissance & its Poetry

hello and welcome back I'm dr. mark D Baldwin and today's lecture is on the sixteenth century Renaissance and it's poetry in order to better understand the literature of the 16th and early 17th centuries let's start by discussing the Renaissance a vibrant time of a rebirth of interest in art and culture it spread from Italy with its origins and Petrarch and its champion Lorenzo Medici to encourage Michelangelo and DaVinci throughout the continent of Europe to the British Isles the philosopher Erasmus called it a golden age marked by great artistic and intellectual enterprise in England the Renaissance was slow to progress because the English language was in a state of flux with 12 to 15 dialects vying for primacy there was no standard orthography which is spelling but in 1450 for the invention of the printing press changed all that nothing like the ability to disseminate information to create a revolution is there think of how the Internet has been another quantum leap forward in communication and technology a few more important developments contributed to the Renaissance in England in 1530 the first organised effective grammar schools open offering training in Latin the universal language of the day even more significant than that the current Queen Queen Elizabeth was the daughter of Henry the eighth's and his second wife Anne Boleyn took a great interest in championing the cultural development so in 1588 to defeat of the Spanish Armada was widely interpreted as an act of divine intervention a sign in England was now a formidable world power and finally in the late 1570s came two writers of real genius Philip Sidney and Edmund Spencer underscoring and giving impetus to the Renaissance was the philosophical trend of humanism humanism was a fundamental shift by intellectuals and the general public alike from a very dogmatic religious dominance over everyone's life to a much more flexible religious attitude that essentially changed the emphasis from the afterlife to this life humanists celebrated the here-and-now stressing the capacities of the human mind and culture at the same time as the explosion of humanism and the Renaissance in art and culture theologians revolted against the corruption of the Catholic Church in what is now known as the Protestant Reformation Chaucer's Canterbury Tales exposed many of the very same corrupt practices over 100 years before the Protestants took action by 1580 Protestantism and Calvinism were on the rise Calvin emphasized the depravity of nature since the fall of mankind prompted by original sin which threatened the whole order of nature he argues that the laws of nature are insufficient and delusive thus grace is necessary as a corrective of nature Calvin believed in predestination yet man had to strive for goodness despite the odds his belief that love is a challenge to morality is contrary to the idea of courtly love we're in the courtly lover had to adorn his profane mistress with service and loyalty patience humility and constancy there was little sense of sin or immorality in this tradition of courtly love a philosophical influence reborn during the Renaissance was Neoplatonism it's poetic counterpart is Petrarchan ism its opposite is Calvinism like humanism neoplatonism holds that man's life is in this world not the next so one should celebrate life there's little sense of Calvin no thought of original sin for if God created man in his own image then why worry about the fall or damnation neoplatonist believe that courtly love free from the taint of sinfulness holds the world together physical beauty is an outward expression of the inward grace and spiritual beauty of the soul and this spiritual radiance is an extension of God's beauty the Platonic lover therefore pay devotion and adoration to the physical beauty of his mistress only insofar as that beauty reflects her soul I've mentioned the court and courtly love a few times so let's discuss what I mean by that the king in Queens court the collected aristocrats attendants friends family dukes Knights and other insiders attempted to propagate a belief in the sacredness of the monarchy elections educators and artists were all drawn to court they used poetry to create the tastes habits beliefs and allegiances of the people through patronage control censorship imprisonment or protection in fact Sir Henry Wotton noted that poetry became quote on instruments of the state the court poetry of Thomas Wyatt John Skelton Sir Walter Raleigh and others is built on nuances of meaning so that court poetry reflects society political spinning was the accepted method for someone to create a position for himself in the court and poetry thus was something of a public relations tool if you wanted political gain and power you lobbied for it through your poetry court poetry was the majority subset of a larger set of poetry known by the times in the Queen Elizabethan poetry it had its origins in and development from Ovid's metamorphoses the source book for almost all poets a history of man's myths its economical and precise style of Oaks a sensuous appeal yet remains oddly detached and objective there were three phases of Elizabethan poetry the first of these phases is referred to as the native phase and included such poets as skeleton Sir Thomas More Thomas Wyatt and Sir Walter Raleigh its roots were in the short English poem of the 14th and 15th centuries they were thesis oriented expounding on broad generic subjects in an explanatory informing judicious moral and/or evaluative fashion they expressed their thoughts in a linear logical coherent manner native poetry was paratactic that is it arranged phrases and sentences in parallel order so as to be equal this form suggested that the world consists of absolutes but the problem here is that the poet had to close his ideas in a regimented form Sir Edmund Spenser and Sir Philip Sidney were Petrarchan poets influenced obviously by the italian poet Petrarch who was considered the poet of the renaissance this poetic style leaned heavily upon invention what is known as the use of the imagination to create elaborate conceits which were extended metaphorical comparisons between an abstract idea and a concrete object or person Petrarchan poetry was hypo tactic that is it arranged phrases in opposition so as to appear unequal this form suggests that the world consists of relative attributes and ideas these poets made great use of subordination with phrases and lines of unequal length the strength of the English poetic line was it's having been grounded in years of heavy metrical orientation yet now it is becoming varied and subtle in its meter and rhyme but truck and poets are mostly interested in bedazzling the listener the third phase of Elizabethan poetry boasts the Giants William Shakespeare Ben Jonson and John Donne quite simply this phase assimilates and completes the practices of the first two phases many Elizabethan poems are sonnets and there are three basic types of sonnets first one is the Italian or Petrarchan which consists of an octave with an ABB a a BB a rhyme scheme that tells the problem and a sestet CD C D CD that resolves it the Shakespearean sonnet consists of three quatrains a b a b c d CD and EF EF and a couplet GG and the Spencerian consists of three interlocked quatrains a B a B BC BC CD CD and a couplet ee ultimately the poet was the Renaissance man the premiere expert on love and the day's prime vehicle of divine ideas it was widely believed then that poetry is the most estimable form of imitation because it copies not nature but a divine archetype through his god-given power the poet creates another world analogous to the way God created this world for a good example of this expression and theme in poetry please check out John Dunn's canonization the poet is thus a creator mediating between the world of transcendent forms and the brazen world of nature society books men's individual natures and nature itself were all linked and the poet was asked to a late and restore the invisible but unbroken links between men and things thanks for listening and I'll see you next time

7 thoughts on “The 16th Century: The Renaissance & its Poetry

  1. Great video! This has really helped me get my head around renaissance poetry which I've just started studying at Uni (Y)

  2. This lecture is helpful. However it is a shame to just read the powerpoint aloud; and a little redundant. Perhaps you could expand upon the bullet points instead?

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