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The Elizabethan Period (1558-1603)

The Elizabethan  Period (1558-1603) consists mainly of University Wits, Doctor Faustus , Sonnet  etc. Here, these things are discussed in small areas.
important short notes no the elizabethan period

University Wits

The University Wits are a group of young dramatists who wrote and performed in London towards the end of the 16th century. They are called "University Wits" because they were the witty students of Cambridge or Oxford. Marlowe, Kyd, Nashe, Greene, Lyly and Peele were the members of this group. In the 1580s, they started the public theatre as they found the drama very suitable medium of expression, they had taken it as a means of earning fame and fortune. They were fresh from the humanistic training in the universities. They changed the mediaeval forms of the drama in the light of their classical education. Thomas Kyd does not seem to have attended any university. His relation with others entitled him to be considered in this group. His main interest was kept in Seneca. He mainly owed to this classical dramatist. Lodge and Nashe were also university wits. But they had little contributions to the theatre.Christopher Marlowe has been rightly called the father of English drama. Before him English drama was in a chaotic state. John Lyly is the foremost among the University Wits. Actually, the University Wits were learned and scholarly playwrights. They insisted on form, decorum and dignity even with artificiality and rigidity. They upheld the classical ideals and ridiculed the crudeness of the new English plays.

Doctor Faustus 

Doctor Faustus is the name of a famous tragedy of Christopher Marlowe. It is usually regarded as his greatest tragedy published in 1502. it is based on the German story of Dr. Faustus or Faust. It is believed that Faust is a real person who lived in the early part of the 13th century. He is a scholar and a necromancer. He is believed to have sold himself to the Devil in return for sovereign, knowledge and power.For twenty four years, he satisfies his appetite for power and knowledge by various practical jokes and distractions. In Dr. Faustus, Marlowe shows that Faustus wants to cross the limitation of the human faculty. Being a normal human being, Faustus behaves like a superhuman. Though his Renaissance spirit is admirable, his unlimited desire for being a Superman is not always supportable. So he has to sacrifice his life pathetically.Legouis says that the last scenes of Faustus are among the most pathetic and most grandiose in Renaissance dramas. They are unsurpassable even by Shakespeare. But when we study this play, we find that its plot is ill-constructed. It is merely a string of detached scenes. The characters are more or less shadowy abstractions like the characters of a Morality Play. There is a good deal of clownage scenes probably written by an inferior hand. In this respect, we can say that Doctor Faustus has beginning and ending but no middle. The inner conflict of Faustus is portrayed vividly. He is the Renaissance hero. His aspiration for power, knowledge and love leads him to tragic disaster. Doctor Faustus is also famous for its blank verse.


The term "Sonnet" is derived from the Italian word "Sonnetto" which means "Suono". Suono" means a sound or a song. In this sense, "Sonnetto" means s little sound. So the sonnet is a verse from consisting of fourteen lines English iambic pentametre and a complicated rhyme scheme. It was originated in Italy in the early thirteenth century. It was first written in about 1230 or 1240 by a Sicilian lawyer, Lentino. It attained in Italy the pinnacle of perfection in the master hands of Petrarch, Cavalcanti and Dante.Among them. Dante was the first great poet to use it widely. For this reason, he is often considered to be the father of the sonnet. However, sonnet is a foreign importation in English Literature. In fact, it is appeared  in England as one of the distinct and immediate effects of the Renaissance. Sir Thomas Wyatt is the pioneer of sonnet writing in England. Henry However, the Earl of Surrey popularized it in the early 16th century. Later on, it was widely used by Edmund Spenser, Sidney, Daniel, Drayton, Shakespeare and even Milton.Sonnet is of three types in English. These are as follows-
  • Italian sonnet or Petrarchan sonnet, 
  • English sonnet or Shakespearean sonnet and 
  • Spenserian sonnet. Milton, Wordsworth, Wyatt, Rossetti and a few other English poets have used Petrarchan from in their sonnets.


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