Early Tudor Age (in English literature)
Early Tudor Age (in English literature): The first of five literary eras within the Renaissance Period in English literature, an age generally said to have begun in 1500 and ended in 1558 with the coronation of Elizabeth I. Writers of the Early Tudor Age, like those of the Renaissance Period in English literature and the Renaissance in general, characteristically focused on the relationship between the individual and the state, respected and used classical works, and tended to import and adapt classically influenced literary forms from other countries. The age is best known for its poetry and nonfiction prose, although Nicholas Udall’s Ralph Roister Doister, often referred to as the first dramatic comedy in English, was initially performed around 1553.
John Skelton, the first major poet of the Early Tudor Age, began his career imitating the work of medieval poet Geoffrey Chaucer but later developed an original, satirical style that he turned on both church and state. Later poets of note include Sir Thomas Wyatt — who imitated and translated poems (especially sonnets) he read while on diplomatic missions to Italy, France, and Spain — and Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey. Surrey is generally credited with being the first English poet to: (1) write in blank verse, which he encountered in an Italian translation of Virgil’s The Aeneid and used in his own English translation (c. 1540) of that ancient Roman epic; and (2) adapt the Italian, or Petrarchan, sonnet to the English language, turning it from a poem consisting of an (eight-line) octave followed by a (six-line) sestet into three (four-line) quatrains followed by a (two-line) couplet. (The English sonnet, as it was first known, came to be called the Shakespearean sonnet during the Elizabethan Age.) Important prose works of the Early Tudor Age include Sir Thomas Elyot’s The Boke Named the Governour (1531), which describes the cultivation of a gentleman (highlighting the essential role of Greek and Roman classics in a proper education), and Sir Thomas More’s Utopia, written in Latin in 1516 but not published in English until 1551. More’s work, which depicts life in a utopian land where reason and justice prevail, shows the influence of Plato’s The Republic (c. 360 B.C.).