Poetry and Drama in the Renaissance

The Renaissance was an an awakening in Europe inspired by the reintroduction of Greek and Roman literature after the fall of the Roman Empire. In the fourteenth through sixteenth centuries, artists of all circumstances began experimenting and expressing themselves in new, distinct ways.

Two of the main artistic consequences of the Renaissance were poetry and drama. The arrival of the share of knowledge provided by the printing press coupled with the start of international trade, allowed people to widen their banks of information. The Renaissance period saw the rise of the middle class through education; more and more people had the opportunity to obtain an education. Therefore, poetry and drama were no longer intended for just the privileged. Poetry and drama became shared artistic concepts among all classes because of the newfound influx of information.

Poetry in the Renaissance became one of the most valued forms of literature and was often accompanied by music. According to The Literature Network, the poetic forms most commonly employed during this period were the lyric, tragedy, elegy or pastoral. The goal of each poet was to capture the essence of beauty in the modern world, “the chief aim of English Renaissance verse was to encapsulate beauty and truth in words. English poetry of the period was ostentatious, repetitious, and often betrayed a subtle wit” (The Literature Network, 2017). One of the most significant poems written during this time is the epic Paradise Lost by John Milton (1667). According to Referatele, the purpose of this epic was to communicate the reasoning behind God’s decision involving Adam and Eve’s fall from Eden and to “express the central Christian truths of freedom, sin, and redemption as he conceived .” Milton expressed this point in the poem, “I may assert eternal providence, / And justify the ways of God to men (Line 26).

William Shakespeare dominated the English drama arena during the Renaissance. Shakespeare’s ability to alternate between different genres, comedy and tragedy, while continuously teaching a profound lesson is what set him apart from the rest. Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a tragedy in which a noble soldier goes rogue with greed, killing several people; he does all of this because of a prophesy. In the end, nothing yet everything goes as planned. Shakespeare attempts to warn audiences against fooling with fate. Shakespeare is regarded as one of the greatest playrights and even created several words in the English language. However, much of Shakespeare’s life is unknown; there are gaps of time when Shakespeare’s presence is absent from society. To learn more about his life, read the University of North Georgia Press’s biography.

The developments of poetry and drama are significant to the era as a whole as they added a new form of entertainment and source of information to all of the classes.

What is your favorite Shakespeare play and why?