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The English Renaissance 1500-1620

The English Renaissance 1500-1620

Andrew Hadfield

ISBN: 978-0-631-22024-4

Dec 2000, Wiley-Blackwell

336 pages

Select type: Paperback

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This lively and stimulating book guides students through the historical contexts, key figures, texts, themes and issues in sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century English literature. The English Renaissance, 1500-1620 sets out the historical and cultural contexts of Renaissance England, highlighting the background voices and events which influenced literary production, including the Reformation, the British problem, perceptions of other cultures and the voyages to the Americas.

A series of short biographical essays on the key writers of the period explain their significance, and explore a variety of perspectives with which to approach them. In-depth analyses of a number of well-studied texts are also provided, indicating why each text is important and suggesting ways in which each might usefully be read. Texts featured include Astrophil and Stella, Othello, Utopia, Dr Faustus, The Tragedy of Miriam, The Unfortunate Traveller and the Faerie Queene.

The volume charts the intricacies of English Renaissance literature, taking in a variety of themes including women, gender and the question of homosexuality; the stage; printing and censorship; humanism and education and rhetoric. Attention is also drawn to current debates in Renaissance criticism such as New Historicism and Cultural Materialism, thus the book provides students with an unparalleled foundation for further study.

Fully cross-referenced, with a useful chronology, glossary and suggestions for further reading, this much-needed guide conveys the excitement of reading Renaissance literature.

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List of Illustrations.



A History of the English Renaissance.

Political and Religious Developments.

The British Isles.

Exploration, Discovery, and Colonisation in the Americas.


Roger Ascham (1515-68).

Francis Bacon (1561-1626).

John Bale (1495-1563).

Alexander Barclay (1475?-1552).

Thomas Campion (1567-1620).

Elizabeth Cary (1585-1639).

George Chapman (c.1560-1634).

Samuel Daniel (1562/3- 1619).

Sir John Davies (1569-1626).

Thomas Dekker (c.1570-1632).

John Donne (1572-1631).

Michael Drayton (1563-1631).

John Fletcher (1579-1625).

John Florio (1553-1625).

George Gascoigne (c.1534-77).

Barnaby Googe (1540-94).

Robert Greene (c.1558-92).

Sir Fulke Greville, First Baron Brooke (1554-1628).

Joseph Hall (1574-1656).

Gabriel Harvey (1550?-1631).

Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1517?-47).

Ben Jonson (1572-1637).

Thomas Kyd (1558-94).

Aemilia Lanyer (1569-1645).

John Lyly (1554?-1606).

Christopher Marlowe (1564-93).

John Marston (1576-1634).

Thomas Middleton (c.1580-1627).

Thomas More (1477-1535).

Thomas Nashe (1567-1601).

Sir Walter Raleigh (1554-1618).

William Shakespeare (1564-1616).

Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke (1561-1621).

Sir Philip Sidney (1554-86).

John Skelton (1460?-1529).

Edmund Spenser (1552?-1599).

William Tyndale (1494?-1536).

John Webster (c.1580-c.1634).

Isabella Whitney (fl. 1567-73).

Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503?-42).

Key Texts.

Sir Philip Sidney, An Apology for Poetry and George Puttenham (?), The Art of English Poetry.

Sir Philip Sidney, The Arcadia.

Sir Philip Sidney, Astrophil and Stella.

Christopher Marlowe, Dr. Faustus.

John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi.

Ben Jonson, Every Man in his Humour.

Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene.

Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville, Gorboduc, or Ferrex and Porrex.

Ben Jonson, Poetry.

A Mirror for Magistrates.

William Shakespeare, Othello.

William Shakespeare, Richard II.

Thomas Dekker, The Shoemaker's Holiday.

John Donne, Songs and Sonnets and Divine Poems.

William Shakespeare, Sonnets.

Thomas Kyd, The Spanish Tragedy.

Christopher Marlowe, Tamburlaine the Great, parts one and two.

William Shakespeare, The Tempest.

Elizabeth Cary, The Tragedy of Miriam.

Thomas Nashe, The Unfortunate Traveller.

Thomas More, Utopia.


Humanism, Education, Rhetoric, Genre Theory.

Printing, Manuscript Circulation, and Censorship.

Attitudes to Other Nations and Cultures.

Women, Gender, and Queer Reading.

The Stage.

Current Issues in the criticism of Renaissance literature.

Guide to Further Reading.



"Hadfield's The English Renaissance 1500-1620 admirably acheives the author's intention, clearly set out in a preamble, to provide essentials to readers new to the territory. It is divided into helpful sections, providing a succint historical overview of the period and of major religious, political, exploratory and colonising movements. And it is written in lucid, jargon-free prose. Hadfield's book is a leader in its field." Times Higher Education Supplement

"This guide will be useful precisely because it is a supplement to (and not a substitute for) the primary materials from the period. It self-consciously raises the proper questions not only for the authors and texts it includes, but also for the very process involved in making those selections. As such, it is a guide that can lead undergraduate students profitably through the Dark Wood of English Renaissance literature, as well as the critical debates generated by the literature." Reference Reviews

"Andrew Hadfield's The English Renaissance, 1500-1620 in the series Blackwell Guides to Literature - lucid little introductions to issues, authors, and texts, aimed at the undergraduate but also useful for Ph.D. students - is remarkable because he wrote it all himself." Studies in English Literature

"What makes these pieces particularly useful in one's teaching is that they are short but also insightful and provocative. They therefore manage to be accessible to students and to exemplify the kind of work that one would seriously expect one's students to aspire to. ... The English Renaissance 1500-1620 is an informative work and an engaging read. I hope that it will be appearing under the heading of required secondary reading in undergraduate module and course guides for many years to come." English: The Journal of the English Association

  • A wide-ranging survey of the key writers, texts, and themes of the literature of the sixteenth and early seventeenth century
  • Includes alphabetically arranged biographical essays on a selected series of key writers, explaining their importance for the period

BR>Analyses in detail a number of important texts, designed to augment the author entries