The Renaissance: The Authors
The English Renaissance was an era in which some of the greatest authors and poets arose. This time period forever impacted the literature that would follow in its footsteps.
Edmund Spencer was born in London, England. His birth date is uncertain due to a fire that occurred and destroyed his birth certificate. He was very well educated and he learned much about other authors preceeding him who would later influence his works. Edmund Spenser sought to bring a national literature to England. He was greatly inspired by ancient authors, as well as modern world authors. Spenser imitated the career plans of Virgil and went from pastoral poetry to political poetry and ultimately he expanded his poetry into history, customs, settings, and language. He desired to write poetry that was solely in English. The main goal Spenser had for his works was to enrich the culture of England.
"“O but," quoth she, "great griefe will not be tould,
And can more easily be thought, then said."
"Right so"; quoth he, "but he, that never would,
Could never: will to might gives greatest aid."
"But grief," quoth she, "does great grow displaid,
If then it find not helpe, and breedes despaire."
"Despaire breedes not," quoth he, "where faith is staid."
"No faith so fast," quoth she, "but flesh does paire."
"Flesh may empaire," quoth he, "but reason can repaire.”"
Excerpt from Edmund Spencer's most important work, The Faerie Queene.
The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd
By: Walter Raleigh
"IF all the world and love were young,
And truth in every shepherd's tongue,
These pretty pleasures might me move
To live with thee and be thy love.
Time drives the flocks from field to fold,
When rivers rage and rocks grow cold;
And Philomel becometh dumb;
The rest complains of cares to come.
The flowers do fade, and wanton fields
To wayward winter reckoning yields:
A honey tongue, a heart of gall,
Is fancy's spring, but sorrow's fall.
The gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of roses,
Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies
Soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten,—
In folly ripe, in reason rotten.
Thy belt of straw and ivy buds,
Thy coral clasps and amber studs,
All these in me no means can move
To come to thee and be thy love.
But could youth last and love still breed,
Had joys no date nor age no need,
Then these delights my mind might move
To live with thee and be thy love. "
Thomas Kyd was born in 1558 and was a successful playwright during the English Renaissance. His career began around 1583 with the production of his most successful work, The Spanish Tragedy. This play was essential in the shaping of plays in following time periods. Kyd was unable to maintain that same level of success throughout the rest of his career. He had to spend some time in prison, where he composed Cornelia. Thomas Kyd died in 1594 in poverty and disgrace.
"“Let dangers go; thy war shall be with me,
But such a war, as breaks no bonds of peace.
Speak thou fair words, I'll cross them with fair words;
Send thou sweet looks, I'll meet them with sweet looks;
Write loving lines, I'll answer loving lines;
Give me a kiss, I'll countercheck thy kiss.
Be this our warring peace, or peaceful war.”"
Excerpt from Thomas Kyd's, The Spanish Tragedy.
To his Coy Mistress
By: Andrew Marvell
"Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love's day;
Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood;
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow.
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.
But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long preserv'd virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust.
The grave's a fine and private place,
But none I think do there embrace.
Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may;
And now, like am'rous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour,
Than languish in his slow-chapp'd power.
Let us roll all our strength, and all
Our sweetness, up into one ball;
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life.
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run."
No information is known about Thomas Dekker's life prior to 1598, but once he became known with his entries into the Diary by Philip Henslowe, he became a very well known playwright. Even though he was in prison for a brief period of time, he still managed to take part in writing over 50 plays. Dekker's most famous play was The Shoemaker's Holiday. This play was even performed for Queen Elizabeth. Dekker was also famous for his prose writing and collaborations. Dekker died in 1632 and was buried in Clerkenwell.
"A wise man poor
Is like a sacred book that ’s never read,—
To himself he lives, and to all else seems dead.
This age thinks better of a gilded fool
Than of a threadbare saint in wisdom’s school."
Excerpt from Thomas Dekker's Old Fortunatus.
The Passionate Shepherd to His Love
By: Christopher Marlowe
"COME live with me, and be my love;
And we will all the pleasures prove
That hills and valleys, dales and fields,
Woods, or steepy mountain yields.
And we will sit upon the rocks,
Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks
By shallow rivers, to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.
And I will make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies;
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle;
A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
Fair-lined slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold;
A belt of straw and ivy-buds,
With coral clasps and amber-studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me, and be my love.
The shepherd-swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May-morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my love."
John Ford was a playwright who focused on revenge tragedies. John Ford collaborated on many plays with Thomas Dekker. Not much is known of Ford's personal life and no record was found of him after 1639. Many of Ford's plays were considered controversial, especially 'Tis Pity She's a Whore. Many of his plays contained powerful themes and exquisite blank verse. He wrote tragedies, tragicomedies, and a few nondramatic works.
To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time
By: Robert Herrick
"GATHER ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old time is still a-flying :
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.
The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he's to setting.
That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer ;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.
Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may go marry :
For having lost but once your prime
You may for ever tarry."
By: William Shakepeare
"Here lay Duncan,
His silver skin laced with his golden blood;
And his gash'd stabs look'd like a breach in nature
For ruin's wasteful entrance: there, the murderers,
Steep'd in the colours of their trade, their daggers
Unmannerly breech'd with gore. Who could refrain,
That had a heart to love, and in that heart
Courage to make's love known?"