Characteristics of Renaissance: Reflection in Literature


“In essence the Renaissance was simply the green end of one of civilization's hardest winters.”
John Fowles (1926 - 2005)
British novelist.
The French Lieutenant's Woman



The characteristics of Renaissance, both in England in Europe, were similar. Freedom of thought and a broadened vision became the order of the day. Dogma in matters of fate or destiny and morals disappeared. Read More History of English Literature (Short questions) Reformation questioned the authority of the spiritual energy. The discoveries of navigators and astronomers created a sense of wonder and astonishment on the part of men and women. Classical Literature of Rome and Greece was looked upon as very great and beautiful.


The greatest and most significance contribution of renaissance to England is the motivation that it afforded for the rise of a truly national Literature. England realized the effects of Renaissance rather late in comparison with Italy and France. Humanism that came to Italy rather early, slowly spread to France and then made its presence felt in England. The impact of humanism was not felt in  English  Literature as it was immature at that stage. The humanists wrote in Latin because of the absence of tradition and precedents. Two significant books – Utopia by Sir Thomas More and another by Bacon, Instauratio Magna – during this period attained European reputation. 

The flowering of English  Literature, slow and steady, followed the decadence of Italian Renaissance and the high watermark of French Renaissance. In other words, England could draw and drink from the eternal spring of both the Italian and French masters and their works. Pictures and paintings and images were net loved or appreciated in England for their beauty and esthetic sense in contrast to Italy and France. Reformation played a major role in protesting against this. Renaissance could succeed in England only after the Reformation and the spread of Anglican religion throughout the country. 
 
English    Literature was not reflection of national sentiments in the preceding centuries as it was translation and adaptation oriented. Even Chaucer was essentially French. It was very difficult for England to free herself from the shackle of the cult of the past. While in France Renaissance was aristocratic, it was democratic in England and concerned with the masses.