Posted: September 19th, 2022


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J. Dial

The literature of the English Renaissance reflects the gender dynamics and expectations which were present during that point in history. During this point in history, men and women held very different positions in society. Men were intended to be strong leaders, whereas women were generally considered to be weaker and were often resigned to the household. We see these gender roles reflected in the works of that time period, such as Queen Elizabeth I’s “The Speech to the Troops at Tilbury.” In this speech, Queen Elizabeth I says “I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king … I myself will take up arms, I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field.” In the beginning of this particular quotation, Queen Elizabeth directly is directly acknowledging the gender roles that have been placed upon her. She is well aware of the fact that her audience is projecting their ideals of gender onto her, leading her to state that she has “the body of a weak and feeble woman.” However, she then proceeds to refute that and defy the traditional gender dynamics of her time by stating that she “has the heart and stomach of a king” and that she herself “will take up arms.” She is completely rejecting the traditional concepts of masculinity and femininity by comparing herself to a king, implying to her audience of soldiers that she is just as capable of leading them as a man would be.

 M. Pyle 

The English Renaissance is a cultural and artistic movement during the late 15th century to the 17th century. During this era, there were many religious conflicts and resolutions such as Elizabeth I becoming the head Protestant of the Church of England and the Protestant Reformation which effected literature during this era. The vernacular used in literature during this time period can be largely contributed to the Protestant Reformation and the increasing use of the printing press, spreading this vernacular. This reformation and religious conflict provoked new thoughts such as humanism, and different ideologies and theologies. The corruption of the church during the English Renaissance era altered the literature topics, but Christianity was one of the main religion during this time, with humanism becoming a new topic. In Thomas More’s “Utopia”, he creates an image of a New World and promoting religious freedom. There is also religious undertones within these poems such as Queen Elizabeth’s. In her speech of 1601 titled “The Golden Speech”, she includes phrases to represent her religion and beliefs which was very common during this era declaring, “And, though God hath raised me high…” (Golden Speech 684), and “God hath made me his instrument to maintain his truth and glory and to defend his kingdom” (Golden Speech 686). Her religious influence had a strong impact on literature during this era. Her speeches included religious connotations and an undertone to present her message which was a heavy influence. 


A. Weber 

What is the role of power in Doctor Faustus?

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be expected; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be sought,” says Luke 12:48. You are expected to provide a pinnacle of your labor if you are granted a skill, such as power. The magic granted to people in novels or shows shapes their personalities based on what they do with it. In Christopher Marlow’s play Dr. Faustus, the protagonist, Dr. Faustus, is given this power. It transforms his ambitious, high-achieving personality into a drab, average, and underachieving one. In this drama, power is frequently viewed as supernatural, particularly in the context of Christianity, with demons called by sorcerers to do near-impossible acts. He devises strategies for obtaining the magic and determining what to do with it. “I’ll have them go to India for gold, ransack the seas for orient pearls,” Faustus, for example, says since he is inherently ambitious (Marlow 1.1, 109-110). Faustus waxes lyrical about the boundless possibilities that supernatural power has to offer the world, to the point where he begs his slaves to enlist the help of local German summoners in summoning a well-known demon for their time. Mephistophilis, the demon, does not want to be Faustus’ servant, so he makes a risky deal that the demons can’t refuse. Mephistophilis is told by Faustus to go to Lucifer and “[claim] he surrenders his soul to him, so he would spare him four and twenty years.” Faustus gains power in the play, but he does nothing useful with it since he lacks the knowledge to lead him. Faustus desires power and makes plans for his future life, but as he obtains it, he begins to lose his knowledge, as power has taken its toll on his intellect. He becomes an emperor’s performer and eventually feels there is no hope for him since he knows he has sinned against God before and after his agreement with the devil, which he believes was his final straw with God.

M. Hardwick

Based on Marlowe’s play, does Faustus have freewill or is he predestined?

This is such an interesting question, and one that I’m still not quite sure about. I believe the reason this play grappled with this debate was to show that perhaps there was not a clear answer to the question of free will or predestination, at least in Faustus’ life. Within the events of this play, for example, there were instances that pointed to both free will and predestination as having played a role in the way Faustus’ life played out. Much like how the reader is left to decide for themselves whether Faustus was truly an evil man or whether he was simply a good person who made enough bad decisions to cause his own demise, perhaps Marlowe also wanted to leave his audience without an obvious answer as to whether Faustus had and was able to employ his free will, or whether he was merely a pawn of his own destiny. 

Ultimately, however, it was Faustus’ decisions that were made within his purported free will that caused him to be damned to hell. He was given the option to choose between the evil angel and the good angel, and his decision to follow the evil angel’s calling to pursue black magic was an example of an exercise of his free will. He continued to use his ability to make decisions autonomously to sell his soul to the devil, but in doing so, he relinquished control of his life and therefore his free will to some extent. While an argument could be made that Lucifer and the devils orchestrated these events to push him towards proclaiming allegiance to hell, they were described as waiting in the shadows and not interfering while Faustus performed dark magic to summon Mephastophilis. Likewise, when Mephastophilis did appear, he said that it was only because Faustus renounced God. However, at the same time, when Valdes and Cornelius were instructing Faustus on what to do in order to pursue black magic, they told him that “[t]he miracles that magic will perform / Will make thee vow to study nothing else” (Marlowe 1122), which alludes to the control black magic would have upon his life once Faustus succumbed to it. 

Thus, my ultimate conclusion is that I am not sure. An argument could be made for both sides of this debate, and I think that is what Marlowe intended, as it seems that much about this play was supposed to be ambiguous, from Faustus’ morality, to his ambition, to his free will (or lack thereof). 



Why does Shakespeare’s work continue to be popular over four hundred years after his work was published?

Shakespeare’s work continues to generate popularity after four hundred years from original publications because his use of the particular rhyme scheme ABAB CDCD EFEF GG has become a foundational piece of poetry. An example of his use of this rhyme scheme is seen in Shakespeare’s sonnet 130, “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun; / Coral is far more red, than her lips red: / If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun; / If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head. / I have seen roses damask’d, red and white, / But no such roses see I in her cheeks; / And in some perfumes is there more delight / Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks. / I love to hear her speak, yet well I know / That music hath a far more pleasing sound: / I grant I never saw a goddess go,— / My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground: / And yet by heaven, I think my love as rare, / As any she belied with false compare.” His choice of words and description of love flows seamlessly from line to line. Due to the quality and truth behind his words, Shakespeare’s work is very relatable. Many schools even in today’s society use Shakespeare sonnets as examples for types of rhyme schemes or ways to express one’s feelings. His work will continue to inspire and educate others in the years to come.

M. Rivers

Willliam Shakespeare’s, The Tragedy of Othello, shows how an error in judgment has the power to not only ruin one person’s life, but many. The protagonist in this play is Othello. He is a man of age, has lived the life of a soldier, and is from a culturally different background. He is desperate to hold on to his former life with the quote “Farewell the tranquil mind! Farewell content! Farewell the plumped troop and the big wars, that make ambition virtue! O, farewell! Farewell the neighing steed and the shrill trump, The spirit-stirring drum, the ear piercing fife, The royal banner, and all quality, Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war!”(356-365).   His previous life being a soldier was full of action and praise.  His new identity, as a newlywed has been  a hard transition for him. He shows his neophyte for this role, by how he reacts to a friend’s allegations about his wife.  His friend Iago convinces Othello that his wife is cheating on him. Instead of asking his wife Desdemona about the claim, he lets his pride and jealousy take over in the quote “But jealous souls will not be answered so. They are not ever jealous of the cause, But jealous because they’re jealous. It is a monster Begot upon itself, born on itself.”(Act 3, Scene 4). If uncontrolled jealousy can take over a person, and convince them to do destructive things. Instead of questioning the allegations, he lets his emotions completely take over his sense of reality. Jealousy persuades Othello to kill his wife, and then kill himself. Ambition continues to ruin the character of Iago, and his marriage too. In the end we learn, all bad vices have their tragic conclusion.


M. Mcdonal

Religion was a major cultural norm in the Seventeenth Century, The Age of Revolution, and is expressed in its literature during this time. Religion was so important that it was actually a law that everybody was supposed to belong to the Church of England. One example of religion in literature is in John Donne’s poem “Holy Sonnet 10” with the following lines: “One short sleep past, we wake eternally / And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.” These lines are talking about the afterlife in heaven after dying. 

  Andrew Marvell also uses religion in his writings. In his poem “To His Coy Mistress”, Marvell uses biblical references to express his point. One example of this is shown in the following lines from Marvell: “Love you ten years before the Flood, / And you should, if you please, refuse / Till the conversion of the Jews.” The “Flood”, referencing the great flood in the Bible, to the “conversion of the Jews”, which is referring to the end of the world, represents a large span of time that he will love this woman. Marvell also talks about eternity, but unlike John Donne, Marvell talks about it as being more bleak. This is shown in Andrew Marvell’s poem “To His Coy Mistress” in the following lines: “And yonder all before us lie / Deserts of vast eternity.” In these lines, Marvell says that there is nothing for him and his lover when they die, that it is just a desert of nothing. This could reference the scriptures of how there is no marriage in heaven, thus he does not see anything for them together there.

  Overall, religion was a major cultural norm during the Seventeenth Century, and was depicted all throughout the literature of that time.


Political changes happen throughout any new or old century that society comes across. With a new ruler or president that is put into office or ruling they change the government in a way that is compatible with their beliefs. However, in the seventeenth century, religion played more of a role in influencing parliaments decisions rather than the citizens. In the introduction section it states that, “Charles I also tried to make England an all-Anglican Church, a move that England would not accept. Protestant Dissenters, particularly Calvinists and Puritans, were outraged; they considered the Anglican Church too close to Roman Catholicism so wanted to purify it”s (Robinson and Getty, 1416). Then it goes on to say that Charles II, “…secretly wanted to be more absolute than Parliament desired, so he endorsed the reestablishment of Roman Catholicism in England and made a secret  treaty with France, the Treaty of Dover (1670), through which he received a pension from Louis XIV” (Robinson and Getty, 1417). Just within the short amount of time that Charles I lead and then Charles II lead there were multiple attempts to change the religion of England. Being that religion is the main theme around each parliament surrounding this century it is seen around many works that the King and Queens are reflecting their rulings around God. In “Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum” it is said that, “Here may your sacred Maistie behold. That mightie Monarch both heau’n and earth, He that all Nations of the world controld, Yet tooke our flesh in base and meanest berth: Whose daies were spent in pouerty and sorrow, And yet all Kings their wealth of him do borrow”. The reflect of this quote is both that of seeking ruling on earth and in heaven. For kings can have many riches on earth, but in heaven there are no more riches than anyone else has. People are created equally, and no man or woman is worth more or less than the other person standing in front of them.

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