Topics so far –
The Renaissance in England: Part - I
The Great Age of Translations
The Great Age of Chronicles
The Glorious Age of Theatre
The University Wits and their Significance
Age of Patriotic Exaltation
The High Conception of Poetry
The Pioneers in Poetry
Pious and Reflective Poets
The Age of the Harshest Satire
The Age of the Prettiest ‘Euphuistic’ Prose
The Age of Literary Criticism
Philosophical Prose: Bacon &Burton
The Fertility of the Drama
Shakespeare – the crowning glory of the Age
The Beginnings of Literary Criticism
The Age of the Pamphleteers
Age of Translations
The Translations: Their Influence
The rich soil of the Elizabethan literature was fertilized by a deep layer of translations. By 1579 many of the great works of ancient and modern times had been translated into English. Practically, all the great books of the past and the present were brought under translation. Philemon Holland, the good humanist was called the ‘translator-general of his age’. He gave his country Livy (1600), Pliny the Elder (1601) and Plutarch’s Moral Writings (1603).
But the masterpiece of verse translation was incontestably Chapman’s Homer. Thanks to Chapman, the Iliad (1598-1609) became a great Elizabethan poem. Its energy and brilliancy were so powerful that it enthralled and inspired the young Keats two centuries later, who had no access to the original sources of Hellenism. Du Barthas was called the treasure of humanism and jewel of theology. His Semaines was translated vigorously between 1592 and 1606.
These translations from du Barthas and Homer became part of the treasure of Elizabethan verse, as the versions of Plutarch and Montaigne belong to the great prose. English style and prosody were formed by these countless translations, as the sonneteers were the most considerable of the borrowers.
Translation of The Bible
It was the question of translating the Bible which brought Sir Thomas More into direct conflict with William Tindale. Tindale, inspired greatly by Martin Luther, began translating the New Testament into English in 1522. As he was prevented from pursuing his work in England, where the king was still a defender of Catholic orthodoxy, he took refuge on the Continent, and had his translation printed in 1525. In spite of the measures taken by Henry VIII, it was introduced into England, where the ground had already been prepared by Wyclif. Tindale’s version of the New Testament was founded both on Luther’s translation, and on the Greek and Latin commentaries of Erasmus, which was the basis for the famous Authorised Version of 1611.
The Influence of the Bible: The English Bible has been a potent influence in our literature, Owing largely to their poetical or proverbial nature(multitudes of Biblical expressions have become woven into the very tissue of the tongue: "a broken reed," "the eleventh hour," "a thorn in the flesh," "a good Samaritan," "sweat of the brow," and so on'. More important, probably, is the way in which the style affects that of many of our greatest writers. Bunyan shows the style almost undiluted; but in the works of such widely diverse writers as Ruskin, Macaulay, Milton, and Tennyson the effects, though slighter, are quite apparent.
The Age of Chronicles
The patriotic impulse in England was responsible for the many chronicles, Protestant in spirit, which appeared in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Edward Hall’s Chronicle (1548),
Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles published in 1578 and continued to 1586 were for long the reservoirs of national history, used by Spenser and Shakespeare among others.
John Stow’s Summarie of the English Chronicles,
John Speed’s History of Great Britain (1611), and
William Camden’s History of the Reign of Elizabeth were the other chronicles of the age.