The renaissance was a movement which occurred in Europe between the 14th and 17th century that mainly affected the culture and the lifestyles of people (Mason 5). Due to its nature, the renaissance period is viewed as a transition between the middle ages to the modern era. William Shakespeare’s and the Renaissance are inseparably associated due to the playwright’s impact on the period. The essay shall analyze how the famous playwright’s works influenced the renaissance.
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During this period, a lot of changes took place in religion, education system, politics, culture, and lifestyle. It is during this period that Europeans moved away from their traditional beliefs and embraced modern ideology. During the middle ages, people tended to believe that God was the Supreme Being and that he had the absolute power of the whole world.
However, people started to develop different ideologies concerning religion during the renaissance era. Even though they still believed in God, they also began to question his relationship to humanity, an ideology that threatened the influence of the Catholic Church in society.
Shakespeare and the Renaissance. General Information
William Shakespeare was among the people who brought about a lot of changes during the renaissance period in England and transformed literature, thus affecting later culture. His biography evidences that Shakespeare (1564-1616) was among the most prominent poets and authors who ever lived (E-Notes.com 2011).
He is the most famous writer of all times with his works being used even today in many societies in the world. He started his career in London in 1592 when the theatre in England has just begun to flourish.
Due to his excellent work, he had a broad audience, mainly composed of people from the middle class who flocked to the theatres to see his work (McEvoy 92). The most famous and important plays Shakespeare wrote during the renaissance are Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, and King Lear. Before his retirement, he had made a lot of innovations in the genres, comedy, drama, romance, and other forms of performing arts, which we still use up to the present moment.
How Did Shakespeare Impact the Renaissance Period?
Shakespeare is usually referred to as the Renaissance man due to the contributions he had on the lives of people during this period. As stated earlier, there were a lot of cultural changes during this period. Most of these changes were initiated by the elite people in the society who felt that the rights and freedoms of individuals in the community were being violated.
These people noticed that the few people of the upper class were using the law and religion to their advantage, which led them to benefit more from the available resources as compared to the other people of the society who composed the bulk of the community. This led to the emergence of a group of philosophers, artists, writers, and scholars who were inquisitive about their surroundings.
As a result, these elite people advocated for equality of all people in the society, raising a lot of issues that affected the economy, religion, and political stability of the community.
To protect their dignity, the government started to persecute such people and tried to minimize the influence of the movements which such people had created to fight for people’s rights. To avoid persecution, most of these people hid under the umbrella of the public and used public means to air out their grievances and ideologies. William Shakespeare was among the people who embraced the renaissance.
Through his works, he brought out various issues that were affecting society. He brought out the problems which the monarch and the general community were facing, geographical zealotry hand the effects of the renaissance period in the society. While doing so, he also entertained his audience.
The people loved his works because he touched on the key issues which were affecting them at the individual level and as a society. That is why his works were very famous during those days and still are at the present moment.
Shakespeare is credited with having brought about various innovations in the world performing arts. Some of these innovations were used to accommodate the information which he was passing to his audience about the renaissance.
Unique Characters by William Shakespeare in the Renaissance Period
Shakespeare, for example, changed from the traditional two-dimensional writing, a technique that was being used during the pre-renaissance drama and created human characters in his plays that were psychologically complex (Jamieson 2011).
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These characters could think and make decisions independently without being influenced by their elders, society, or the law. They did what they felt was right at that point and time, and at the end of the play, these decisions made them successful. Through such plays, Shakespeare was advocating for people to have freedom of choice so that they can choose what is right and avoid what they felt was wrong. This humanism concept was brought out in his work entitled Hamlet.
The renaissance also led to a disruption of the social hierarchy in society. People who were protected by the law because they belonged to a royal family or the monarch were viewed more or less the same as any other individual in society. Shakespeare, therefore, had a chance to explore the character of every individual in the community regardless of the social class which the individual belonged to (Jamieson 2011).
In his plays, he had characters of people from the monarch, the rich, the elite, business people, and peasants. He focused intensely on their lives, their achievements, and failures. In so doing, people started to realize that people faced more or less the same problems regardless of their social status. Thus, William Shakespeare’s plays contributed to renaissance culture by creating complex characters.This, therefore, led to the growth of the spirit of equality among all the individuals of the society.
Shakespeare also utilized the information and knowledge he had concerning the classics, which were of Greek and Italian origin. Initially, these works had been banned from circulation by the Catholic Church.
Shakespeare used this information while writing his literature. Due to this, he was able to put forward the culture of foreign societies in his plays, which not only attracted people from these origins to his audience but also made the English people familiar with foreign customs.
They could, therefore, adopt some aspects of such cultures bringing about the integration of cultures. Some of the things which people adapted were dressing, architecture, accent, cuisine, and music. Thus through the works of Shakespeare, people became aware of what was going on in other societies and cultures (Cody and Spirincorn 18).
William Shakespeare’s contributions to the renaissance were of great significance. He was not just a writer but an advocate of change in the lifestyles of people of Europe, just like the philosophers, artists, and other scholars. Through his works, the popularity of literature, plays, and poems increased.
This is because they all were talking about various issues which the society was facing. As a result, therefore, Shakespeare used his works to enlighten the public on what they were facing and means through which they could face such oppression. This led to the emergence of modern society in which we are living now.
Cody, Gabrielle and Sprinchorn, Evert. The Columbia Encyclopedia of Modern Drama. Sussex: Columbia University Press, 2007.
E-notes.com. William Shakespeare. E-notes.com. Web.
Jamieson, Lee. The Renaissance in Shakespeare’s Time. About.com. Web.
Mason, Antony. Everyday Life in Renaissance Times. New York: Black Rabbit Books, 2005.
McEvoy, Sean. Shakespeare: The Basics. Indiana: Taylor & Francis, 2006