The word renaissance means rebirth. It describes the period in Europe’s history when people exposed the art and knowledge of the past, and added additional innovative exhilarating features of their own. Around 1500 A. D. new ideas began to become known. Artists such as Leonardo da Vinci looked back to ancient Greece and Rome for stimulation. Scientists such as Copernicus studied the world and disagreed with the church. There were also affluent merchants prepared to back new ideas and ventures. There were also various new ways of spreading knowledge, such as Gutenberg’s then, recently invented printing press.
I believe that humanist ideas had the greatest effect on the literature of the Elizabethan period. Renaissance Humanism is the spirit of learning that developed at the end of the Middle Ages with the revival of classical letters and a renewed confidence in the ability of human beings to determine for them-selves truth and falsehood. This has to be a key feature during this time as people were able for the first time to be authorized to think freely even though there may have been untold consequences for these sorts of actions.
Marlowe in this way was definitely a emblematic renaissance figure as he had a restless curiosity for the world and also had a riotous imagination which led him to write such plays as “Doctor Faustus”, it showed that he was a non-conformist as in it he writes of the devil and also of how man can be greater than the church. Although in the play he only talks of the Pope and the Catholic Church, to an audience it could mean a number of things such as thinking that they are better than for example the Church of England which at that time would have been unheard of.
With the power of his plays Marlowe was able to alter public opinion and allow people to think freely this is why in a literary sense Marlowe was characteristic of the renaissance as he was putting over a point of view through his plays. At this time it was the age of voyage and discovery where new places were being revealed and conquered. This I believe gave Marlowe new ideas and different ways of writing. He was comparable to the pop stars of today and I believe that the way he lived his life was equivalent to those of today i. e. he was very outlandish in the way that he acted and led his life.
This I believe also is because of the era he was living in, as it was a time of change, which is what the renaissance attributed its self to. Therefore this again shows that Marlowe was a typical renaissance figure as he was different to many of the other play writes of the time with his radical views portrayed through his plays and his deviant life style. With things such as scrying becoming affluent and also alchemy particularly by the famous Jon Dee it was no wonder why Marlowe referred to many of these things in his plays. Such as in Faust where the cosmos and the Philosophers stone feature a great deal.
The play questions the teachings of the church and queries whether these things could actually exist and help to further man kinds evolution and trying to show that the church was too blind to see it, or they would not allow it, as they would loose power over their people, if they did not believe in the church then they did not need priests or a Pope. Because Marlowe mentions these things in his plays it shows that he may have believed in this sort of thing or might have been somewhat interested in it. Therefore showing that he was again typical of the renaissance, as he may have been tempted by this supernatural “power”.
Although he may seem a stereotypical renaissance figure he did not believe in Galileo’s theory of the non-geocentric universe, where the cosmos and everything in it actually does not revolve around the earth. He still believed that universe revolved around the earth which was the same view held by the church. This may show that at heart he was some kind of Christian as it says he did for some time sympathise with the Catholic Church. This may well be although through his writing a different picture of Marlowe is portrayed, as in Dr Faustus his character Faustus has been widely thought to be based on him.
And Faust is renowned for being the character, which personifies the renaissance period. He has shunned the church, as it is known Marlowe did later on in his life. And also Faust believes himself to be better than everyone as his intellect is far greater than most people. Marlowe also believed this, as he was arrogant because of his achievements, which he gained at university. In conclusion I believe that the renaissance had a substantial impact on English literature in the Elizabethan era.
It changed the ways in which writers thought and the views that were put through in their plays. The studies of the cosmos and geography not only gave for more interesting plays but also there was scope for much more varying story lines which is shown not only in Marlowe’s plays but in Shakespeare, in plays such as Macbeth. I also believe that Christopher Marlowe was the epitome of the renaissance play writes, with his radical new ideas and shocking life style. He perhaps should be the template for the typical Elizabethan Renaissance man.