Study Guide

English Renaissance Literature Texts

English Renaissance Literature Resources

Primary Resources

Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene (1590)
What queen wouldn't want an epic poem written about her? Especially one that's filled with nights of yore and some truly crazy antics? Find out in The Faerie Queene.

William Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus (1590s)
One of Shakespeare's earliest and bloodiest plays. Seriously dark stuff, kiddos. Check it out.

William Shakespeare, Love's Labour's Lost (1594)
Stay in and do homework, or go out and party? That, my friends, is the real question. Find out what these young scholars do with that quandary in Love's Labour's Lost.

William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar (1599)
Julius Caesar may be about ancient Rome, but it's a staple of English Renaissance literature.

Christopher Marlowe, "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" (1599)
It's hard not to love when a rough-and-tumble playwright veers into the pastoral.

William Shakespeare, Hamlet (1599/1601)
To be or not to be? Read on to find out. Or, you know, just go on living your lives, we guess.

William Shakespeare, King Lear (1604/1606)
Some serious business here. If you want a taste of the darker side of human nature that humanism may not always be willing to cop to, take a looksee at King Lear.

William Shakespeare, Macbeth (1606)
"Double, double, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble." ...Sorry, we just love doing that. Macbeth gets less of a kick out of it though.

William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra (1608)
Another story about star-crossed lovers? Nope. This one's about the perils of imperialism. It's a nice change of pace, actually. Thanks, Willy.

William Shakespeare, The Winter's Tale (1609-1611)
Ever wonder what it would be like for a piece of art to come to life? What if that art was your dead husband or wife? Creepy. That's what. But also kind of cool.

William Shakespeare, The Tempest (1610-1611)
Where there's a ship-tossing storm, family drama is never far away. In this case, there's also a witch-devil baby. Well, he's a grown-up. Sort of. It's all very complicated.

John Donne, "The Flea" (1610/1633)
We're just itching to read this one again. Har har.

Ben Jonson, "Song to Celia" (1616)
Celia: we don't know her, but she must have been something special. Ben Jonson wrote about her all the time. We promise we wouldn't mind if you wrote a "Song to Shmoop."

John Donne, "Death, Be Not Proud" (1617)
It's not everyday that Death gets a talking-to. Get it, Donne.

John Milton, Paradise Lost (1667)
He may have been blind. He may have been imprisoned. And he may have batted for the losing team of religious philosophies. But nobody can stop Milty from getting this epic poem out there.

Secondary Resources

Sir Philip Sidney, The Defence of Poesy (1583)
It takes a certain amount of gumption to compare the power of the poet to the power of a divine maker. But hey, we'll take it.

Desiderius Erasmus, The Praise of Folly (1509)
The English Renaissance was a crazy time. Luckily, good ole Erasmus was around to set everyone straight about their masques and their fairies and their other funny business.

Stephen Greenblatt, Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare (2004)
Need more of the Bard in your life? Want to know what made him tick? Read on.

Stephen Greenblatt, The Swerve: How the World Became Modern (2011)
According to Greenblatt, the world did a 180 when the ancient Roman philosophy of Lucretius was discovered and disseminated. That's a pretty big claim, no? But he makes a good argument for it. What do you think?