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Behind the Elizabethan vogue for pastoral poetry lies the fact of the prosperity of the enclosing sheep farmer, who sought to increase pasture at the expense of the peasantry. Tudor platitudes about order and degree could neither combat nor survive the challenge posed to rank by these arrivistes.

Social conditions

The position of the crown, politically dominant yet financially insecure, had always been potentially unstable, and, when Charles I lost the confidence of his greater subjects in the s, his authority crumbled. The barely disguised social ferment was accompanied by an intellectual revolution, as the medieval synthesis collapsed before the new science, new religion, and new humanism.

While modern mechanical technologies were pressed into service by the Stuarts to create the scenic wonders of the court masque , the discoveries of astronomers and explorers were redrawing the cosmos in a way that was profoundly disturbing:. The majority of people were more immediately affected by the religious revolutions of the 16th century. A person in early adulthood at the accession of Elizabeth in would, by her death in , have been vouchsafed an unusually disillusioning insight into the duty owed by private conscience to the needs of the state.

The Tudor church hierarchy was an instrument of social and political control, yet the mid-century controversies over the faith had already wrecked any easy confidence in the authority of doctrines and forms and had taught people to inquire carefully into the rationale of their own beliefs as John Donne does in his third satire [ c.

Nor was the Calvinist orthodoxy that cradled most English writers comforting, for it told them that they were corrupt, unfree, unable to earn their own salvations, and subject to heavenly judgments that were arbitrary and absolute.

Foresters, Ploughmen, and Shepherds: Versions of Tudor Pastoral - Oxford Handbooks

Calvinism deeply affects the world of the Jacobean tragedies, whose heroes are not masters of their fates but victims of divine purposes that are terrifying yet inscrutable. The third complicating factor was the race to catch up with Continental developments in arts and philosophy.


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The Tudors needed to create a class of educated diplomats, statesmen, and officials and to dignify their court by making it a fount of cultural as well as political patronage. The new learning, widely disseminated through the Erasmian after the humanist Desiderius Erasmus educational programs of such men as John Colet and Sir Thomas Elyot , proposed to use a systematic schooling in Latin authors and some Greek to encourage in the social elites a flexibility of mind and civilized serviceableness that would allow enlightened princely government to walk hand in hand with responsible scholarship.

Humanism fostered an intimate familiarity with the classics that was a powerful incentive for the creation of an English literature of answerable dignity. It fostered as well a practical, secular piety that left its impress everywhere on Elizabethan writing. The Prince , written in , was unavailable in English until , but as early as the s Gabriel Harvey , a friend of the poet Edmund Spenser , can be found enthusiastically hailing its author as the apostle of modern pragmatism.

So the literary revival occurred in a society rife with tensions, uncertainties, and competing versions of order and authority, religion and status, sex and the self. The Elizabethan settlement was a compromise; the Tudor pretense that the people of England were unified in belief disguised the actual fragmentation of the old consensus under the strain of change. It was still possible for Elizabeth to hold these divergent tendencies together in a single, heterogeneous culture , but under her successors they would eventually fly apart.

Early Tudor Literary Criticism?

The philosophers speaking for the new century would be Francis Bacon, who argued for the gradual advancement of science through patient accumulation of experiments, and the skeptic Michel de Montaigne his Essays translated from the French by John Florio [] , who denied that it was possible to formulate any general principles of knowledge. Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App.


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Chris Stamatakis

If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support? Translation was one of the most important and characteristic forms of writing of Tudor England. This volume draws attention to the key role played by translations in many areas of sixteenth-century culture and in particular its impact on three of the main cultural developments of the Tudor period: humanism, the Reformation, and the growth of a new literature in the vernacular.

Written by leading scholars from the UK and North America, this volume restores translation to the heart of our understanding of Tudor England and makes a major contribution to the current revival of interest in early modern translation. Read more Read less. Review "Coherently organized and carefully edited, Tudor Translation achieves its double purpose of contextualizing translation and offering new insights on the literary activity of the period.

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