Category Archives: Renaissance

The Globe Theatre

A panoramic view of the interior of the reconstructed Globe

The Globe Theatre, of which Shakespeare was part owner, burned to the ground on this date in 1613.

Frye in “The Stage is All the World” considers the theatre as an analogy of the cosmos.

The theatre as a metaphor for the universe was extremely common in Shakespeare’s day, and one reason was that the universe was assumed to have been intelligently designed by its Creator, and intelligent meant having some relation to human life. . . Similarly, the stars are not just up there: they have been put there to influence the character of living things. . . In so designed a cosmos all facts and all ideas are linked together, potentially in the human mind, actually in God’s. The image of a totally participating theatre begins to take shape. All facts and principles have their assigned and ticketed places, and step forward on the stage when needed. Courses in the training of memory were taught in which you constructed a theatre-shaped encyclopedia in your mind, and remembered something by pulling it out of its numbered place in your auditorium. The scholar who did most work on these memory theatres, the late Dame Frances Yates, was convinced that the design of the Globe was influenced by them. (CW 28, 448)

Quote of the Day

From The Tudors, Lord Surrey reads his translation of an epigram by Martial to Charles Brandon

Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, was “sincere in all his doings. If he was alive today, he’d be Canadian.” — Nicola Shulman, Graven with Diamonds: The Many Lives of Thomas Wyatt: Courtier, Poet, Assassin, Spy (via TLS)

Frye on Wyatt and Surrey:

Wyatt and Surrey, at the court of Henry VIII, were the pioneers of a new conservatism, though this has to be qualified for Wyatt, as we shall see. Surrey in particular established for the sixteenth century a new pentameter line, based on the contemporary pronunciation of the language, heavier than Chaucer’s line though lighter than the post-Miltonic ones. The two poets introduced the sonnet into English from Italian and French sources, mainly Petrarch. Petrarch is earlier than Chaucer, but in English (this does not apply to Italian) the sonnet has a rounded, epigrammatic, almost three-dimensional quality: like perspective painting, it belongs in the Renaissance, not to the flat narratives or the delicate pastel lyrics of medieval poetry. Wyatt followed the five-rhyme Petrarchan form, but Surrey introduced the freer structure, of three quatrains and a couplet, which is more suitable to English, and which Shakespeare alsoused. Surrey also brought in the major invention of blank verse, and both poets experimented with other forms, such as the so-called “poulterer’s measure” of alternating six and seven-foot lines. (CW 10, 16-17)

Sir Thomas More


The trial of More in the 1966 film adaptation of A Man for All Seasons (parts 2 and 3 after the jump)

Sir Thomas More resigned as Lord Chancellor of England on this date in 1532.

Frye relates More’s Utopian outlook to Castiglione’s Courtier:

It is, I think, the latent Utopian tone of Castiglione’s dialogue, its implicit reference to hidden perfection in society itself, that makes it still relevant to us. Among the great educational books of that very fertile period, we have to place Sir Thomas More’s Utopia (1516) in the first rank. In More’s book there is a collision of views between Hythloday, the traveller who has been to Utopia and has returned a convinced Communist, and More himself, who listens to his narration. Hythloday is now a revolutionary who feels that nothing can be done for Europe until private property is abolished and the various principalities replaced with something more like the Utopian republic. More represents himself, in contrast, as feeling rather that Hythloday should use his knowledge of Utopia to act as a counsellor to European princes, trying to inform their policies with something in the Utopian spirit. Castiglione’s courtier has no Utopia to go to, but he has a similar informing vision to communicate. (CW 28, 351)

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