The Cultural And Historical Circumstances English Literature Essay

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The renaissance, dating from the XV C. to the XVI C. and was essentially a cultural and intellectual movement, closely tied to society and politics of the late fourteenth to the early seventeenth century. This movement, by which the until then known society became what we call the modern world, originated from an extremely intellectual Italy and had spread to the rest of Europe by the sixteenth century.

The word that symbolizes this period comes from the French "rebirth". This term was chosen for the growing interest in ancient Greek and Roman values. Towns expanded, European economy evolved, early forms of capitalism emerged and vernacular, or popular, literature emerged (although Latin remained the language of scholarship) also, in France, the language of the Paris region replaced Latin as official language, even though the latter was still used for some purposes, as would be the Church. Moreover, the bourgeoisie arose as new business class and supported Renaissance learning and art, which due to the development of printing also brought on a communications revolution for which the printed book became a major force for change.

During this period, we also find that there was an immense change in European theatre, with worthy mentions of England, Spain, France and Italy. Many major companies were established as for example, Chamberlain's Men: Shakespeare's company and the appearance of professional actors both indicated the creation of a more serious type of theatre. Theatre was "unsexed" (men as females and vice-versa)

To put how society worked during these centuries, we now know that, for example, high class citizens went to "hear" plays (sitting at the sides, or as far as possible), whereas the low class citizens stood at the front, closest to the actors. Furthermore, if they could afford it, the aristocrats would sit on the stage to enjoy the play from as close up as possible.

Gestures and comments also were affected by this. Jokes were said in a low tone so that only the low class would hear, and intelligent thoughts were said out loud so that the high society would hear. Nowadays, it has been reversed (high class at the front, low at the back and top). It is important to state that during these representation there was no artificial lighting. Plays during the day (2-3 hours) to make the most of what sunlight they could get. Theatres closed on Sundays, lent and plagues. Private playhouses could have plays whenever they chose, but prices were six times the normal rate and were candle lit (a very expensive illumination at the time). For this reason, plays were divided into acts for candle changing (they ran out every 30-40 minutes) during which time minor actors would play something funny to pass the time. Shakespeare did not divide his plays.

BIOGRAPHY: Author and information on the author

In this context of the renaissance and rebirth of theatre, the most important English figure was William Shakespeare. Born in Stratford-upon-Avon on 26th April 1564, son of John Shakespeare and Mary Arden, William Shakespeare is now a well-known poet and playwright. Married at the age of 18 to Anne Hathaway (26) and had three children to her, a daughter, Susanna, born 7 months after the wedding and twins in 1585, Hamnet and Judith.

We lose track of Shakespeare from 1585 to 1592 until he joins Lord Strange's Men in 1592. Later, in 1594 he joined the Chamberlain's Men (the King's Men from 1603). Not long after, in 1597 he acquires a house in Stratford, New Place, to which he will progressively retire from 1610. Finally, he died the 23rd of April 1616.

As for Shakespeare's dramatic evolution, we can divide this into several different parts. This division was created for the purpose of dating many of his works and being able to place them into a certain time in his life.

First of all, we are faced with an apprenticeship and experiment period (plays written before 1594) in which he would write plays to please and fit into the fashion of the times and in which we see the influence of school rhetoric, an expansiveness period (plays from 1595-1598, Richard II to Henry V) characterized with a more scenic virtuosity, maturity period (from Julius Caesar to Coriolanus,1598-1608) known as the period of "the great tragedies", and finally a "last plays" period (1609-1612. From Cymbeline to The Tempest) in which he uses the mixture of fantasy and reality, knowledge and the ultimate acceptance of death and vision of the meaning of life.

By the end of his life, Shakespeare had written 38 plays, five "narrative" poems and 154 sonnets (poems).


As we know, Othello is one of Shakespeare's most remarkable tragedies and so, is marked by this specific structure.

The tragic structure is divided into five parts, roughly matching the five-act structure of Elizabethan Drama. And so, we have the overall framework of the drama, which presents the hero's or heroine's good fortune turning to misfortune and ending with the main character's physical defeat (death) and spiritual triumph.

The breakdown of this structure would be the following:


Rising action.

Climatic plateau (divided into: highest point and turning point).

Falling action.


The purpose of the introduction is to attract attention or explain the initial situation, which is achieved by: a prologue (occasionally), dialogue, and action. The main characters are presented to the audience; their relationships and conflicts are outlined or suggested briefly. And finally, context and situation are outlined: place and time of action. Then, with the second act (or act two and part of act three) we have the rising action in which we have the development of the major conflict, tension mounts and suspense grows. The rising action outlines the hero's psychological character focusing on his strengths and deficiencies. Also, the major elements that will affect the hero and which he will have to fight against are presented. The climatic plateau (climax) is presented to us in act three (or act three and part of act four). This is the highest point of the play, where the hero's career is most fortunate and happy. And where we will have the turning point of the play, the lowest point in the fortunes of the hero. Finally, during this section, a specific event or judgment brings about the reversal of fortunes and the hero's tragic destiny and destruction are sealed.