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Elizabethan Prose

English poetry and prose burst into sudden glory in the late 1570s. A decisive
shift of taste toward a fluent artistry self-consciously displaying its own grace
and sophistication was announced in the works of Spenser and Sidney. It was
accompanied by an upsurge in literary production that came to fruition in the
1590s and 1600s, two decades of astonishing productivity by writers of every
persuasion and calibre.
The groundwork was laid in the 30 years from 1550, a period of slowly
increasing confidence in the literary competence of the language and
tremendous advances in education, which for the first time produced a
substantial English readership, keen for literature and
possessing cultivated tastes. This development was underpinned by the
technological maturity and accelerating output (mainly in pious or technical
subjects) of Elizabethan printing. The Stationers’ Company, which controlled
the publication of books, was incorporated in 1557, and Richard
Tottel’s Miscellany (1557) revolutionized the relationship of poet and audience
by making publicly available lyric poetry, which hitherto had circulated only
among a courtly coterie. Spenser was the first significant English poet
deliberately to use print to advertise his talents

Elizabethan Prose
Many writers of the Elizabethan age translated various books into English. Sir Thomas North
translated Plutarch’ Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans. He was one of the best translators
with a good command of English. He also had the ability to weave words into powerful sentences.
He did not translate directly from Greek, but from a French translation.

Shakespeare has also used some expressions of North’s work in some of his famous dramas.
Richard Hakluyt collected and published The Principal Navigations, Voyages and Discoveries of the
English Nation. At this time there was a great deal of travel and adventure on the sea. This book
includes the accounts of the voyages of different people. Hakluyt left a lot of unpublished papers and
some of these came into the possession of Samuel Purchas. He published them under the
title Purchase his Pilgrims. Two other books by Purchase have titles, which are almost the
same Purchase his Pilgrimage.

Some Early Novels


Some of the forms of novel also appeared during the Elizabethan age. John Lily wrote a kind of
novel named Euphues. He started a fashion, which spread in books and conversation. It has a thin
love story. This style is filled with tricks and alliteration. The sentences are rather long and
complicated. This kind of language style was common among ladies of the time. Even Shakespeare
was influenced by this artificial style.

Another novelist of the other time was Thomas Nash, who wrote a picaresque novel named The Life
of Jacke Witton. This sort of novel is about the adventure of bad (wicked) but lovable character. The
novels of this period could not create a basis for later development. The fashion of these novels,
died out very soon.

Francis Bacon
Bacon is one of the most famous prose writers of the time was Francis Bacon who is also known as
the father of the English prose. He wrote books both in English and Latin. His aphoristic prose style
is very popular. His essays are full of remarkable thoughts. He could express great ideas in short
and effective sentences. His famous books are The Essays, The Advancement of Learning, The
History of Henry VII and The New Atlantis.

Translation of Bible
During this period several translations of the Bible were made. William Tyndale was a successful
translator who translated the New Testament form the Greek and the Old Testament from the
Hebrew. He was later burnt to death for his beliefs. The Authorized Version (A.V) of the Bible
appeared in 1611. Forty-seven translators worked in groups in different parts of the Bible in order to
translate it. This work was dependent chiefly on Wycliffe and Tyndale. The language is beautiful,
strong and pure. Many English writers are influenced by the words of the Authorized Version of the
Bible.

John Lyly
Lyly wrote a thin love story, Euphues which is used for the purpose of giving Lyly's ideas in various
talks and letters. The style is filled with tricks and alliteration where as the sentences are long and
complicated and large number of similes is brought into this story. Even Shakespeare was
influenced by his artificial style.

Ben Jonson
The famous dramatist Ben Jonson, who is also known as the father of the English literary criticism
wrote a book names Timber of Discoveries. This book is a collection of notes and ideas on many
subjects. Jonson is of the opinion that a critic should judge a work as a whole and he must have
some poetic abilities. He did not like Donne and Spenser, but always preferred Shakespeare.