Elizabethan Era's Effects on Shakespeare

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The Renaissance was a time of change and prosperity, a time of rebirth full of innovations and inspiration. "Renaissance," which is actually French for "rebirth," describes the intellectual and economic changes that occurred in Europe from the fourteenth through the sixteenth centuries (Encyclopædia Britannica). Europe broke free from the economic stagnation of the Middle Ages and experienced a time of financial growth. The Renaissance was an age in which artistic, social, scientific, and political thought turned in new directions. In the late Middle Ages, when the threat of invasion from barbarians had lessened, people left the country for towns and cities so they could engage in more profitable pursuits (Encyclopedia Britannica). The more and more people crowded villages and cities, the threat of illness quickly spread. During the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance (around 1350-1450) the bubonic plague, better known as the Black Death, devastated around one half of the population in Europe (Nagel). The plague spread most rapidly in these cities, where people were in constant close contact with each other. The only way to avoid this disease was to leave the city for the country. Unfortunately, the only ones available to make the trip were those who were wealthy enough. The population decrease caused by the Black Death led to an economic depression (Nagel). This left England damaged in numbers and in spirit. Merchants and salesmen had fewer customers which led to fewer things being sold within the marketplace. Products accumulated, and the merchants and traders suffered a huge loss of income (Nagel). The economic hardship spread though out the entire country of Europe, impacting everyone living there. This inspired many people to write journals and poems about their fears and hardships. Although this was a time of complete devastation and uncertainty, the people of England did not let this hold them down. Instead, they used it more as fuel to grow and succeed in daily life and in the arts.

As the devastation of the plague decreased in the late fifteenth century, populations swelled, creating more demand for goods and services. This led to a new middle class which began to emerge as bankers, merchants, and trades people once again had a market for their goods and services. This is the era in which we really start to call the Renaissance because not only did the economy change; people’s spirits were lifted as this new birth and great ideas rolled on. One great innovation that strengthened the growth of the Renaissance was the invention of the printing press by Gutenberg in the 1450s (Encyclopedia Britannica). The printing press helped spread the views and humanistic philosophies from Aristotle, Plato, Epicurus, Cicero, and Seneca (Renaissance). These influential philosophers created the intellectual climate which both fostered the emergence of Humanism, which focused on the dignity and worth of all people, based on the ability to determine right and wrong by appeal to universal human qualities (VMI’s Shakespeare). The more people could relate to what they were reading, the more it would appeal to the people’s tastes and preferences.

During the Renaissance, there were some very influential rulers in England. One of those rulers was Queen Elizabeth I. The era in which she ruled is also known as the Elizabethan Era. This era is also considered to be a golden age in English history. Elizabethan literature mainly reflects the lively self-confidence of a nation expanding its powers, increasing its wealth, and thus keeping at bay its serious social and religious problems (Brimacombe). All of these factors had influential impacts on various writers. One of those writers who emerged during this time was William Shakespeare. Elizabethan theatre grew and William Shakespeare, among others, composed plays that were different from England's past style of plays. Before Shakespeare’s philosophy of humanism...
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