The Renaissance is an important phase in European Art and Literature as it led to a renewed interest in the Arts. The period marks some of the greatest creations in Art by legends such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo and some eminent architects. This cultural movement which started in Italy, in the period of 14th to 17th century, evolved from a subtle shift from a theocentric approach to the belief that ‘Man is the measure of all things’ [Protagoras]. The invention of paper and printing during this period only helped in giving a further impetus to Art and literature.
And while Italy and Europe were undergoing this ‘rebirth’ could England stay far behind? The greatest import of the renaissance in English literature was the Sonnet, which was introduced into English by Thomas Wyatt and developed by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. This was also the period where poetry and drama became popular. The Spanish Tragedy, a highly popular play, led to the rise of a new genre, the revenge plot of the revenge tragedy, which highly influenced the works of William Shakespeare. Although Shakespeare made his presence felt towards end of the Renaissance, he remains one of the most prolific and loved poet and playwright of this era. Not only did he give us some unforgettable plays but also popularized the Sonnet. Hamlet, Julius Ceasar, Macbeth, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, King Lear and Anthony and Cleopatra are some of his greatest works.
Shakespeare is a treat to read once you are able to get your way around with the language. The Merchant of Venice and Julius Ceasar remain my clear favourites. I still remember how we would by-heart monologues from his plays for elocution contests in school
“The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest. It becomes
The thronèd monarch better than his crown’’ – Portia’s speech from Merchant of Venice
“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them,
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious;
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer’d it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest,–
For Brutus is an honorable man;
So are they all, all honorable men,–
Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral. ’’ – Antonius’s speech from Julius Ceasar
“To be, or not to be- that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer 1750
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them. ’’ – Hamlet’s monologue from Hamlet
Complex, flawed and humane characters; Intriguing stories involving Greed, Revenge and Hatred which included Double plots interspersed with clever Comic sequences and undercurrents of a love story, make his plays unforgettable. And if you have to enjoy Shakespeare you must read it in the original, there is absolutely no fun in reading simpler versions, they take away all the drama.
When I talk of Shakespeare however, I am always reminded of Teacher Shukla. I owe my love for Shakespeare completely to her. I remember, she would encourage detailed discussions on each of the Acts or Scenes, sometimes even on dialogues. We would talk about the socio-political environment, the prevailing culture, the language… It was not only a lesson in Shakespeare but a lesson in culture and histories and sometimes life! In fact why only Shakespeare, I believe, my love for reading is because of her. Else I would have just spent my life reading and re-reading Sherlock Holmes and famous five.
Dear Miss, a big, big thank youJ
P.S: I so wish Miss would read this post, though I am starting to fret over how much marks she would give me for this 🙂