The Sixteenth Century (1485-1603)

Sixteenth Century England,Battles and Renaissance Humanism

The crowning of King Henry VII in 1485 marks the start of the Tudor dynasty and this literary period. During this period, English evolved from a language that did not enjoy international prestige into a language enriched by writers including Shakespeare, Marlowe, and translators of the Bible.

The wars of the Roses, fought during the fifteenth century between the royal houses of York(whose emblem was the white rose and the red rose)ended with the death of Yorkist King Richard III at the battle of Bosworth Field. Henry Tudor was crowned King Henry VII and married Elizabeth of York, uniting the rival houses.The wars had impoverished many aristocratic landholders; Henry VII seized this chance to consolidate and centralize power in his court.The court was a place steeped in intrigue and ambition where elegance,ease and the ability to decipher wards with multiple meanings(in poetry no less than in politics)were prized abilities.

London was Europe's fastest-growing city: It grew from 60,000 people in 1520 to 375,000 in 1650. Manuscripts and texts that were medieval in tone retained prestige;printing, made books cheaper and more readily available.Literacy increased throughout the period,reinforced by the Protestant practice of ordinary lay persons(not just church clerics)reading the Bible themselves.

English travelers to Italy had glimpsed the Renaissance(meaning literary,rebirth),an artistic and literary movement based on recently discovered classical texts and artifacts from ancient Greece and Rome.