From prehistoric time to 1066 B.C., various people wanted to invade Great Britain, because it was rich in natural resources, such as gold and tin, and it had more fertile soil good for agriculture.
It was very easy to invade because firstly, the east and the south coasts were flat with navigable rivers and natural havens. Secondly, the different people living there were not nations, they were organised in tribes and they didn’t have fleet or army.
Everything changed after the Norman conquest in 1066.

The first habitants were the Iberians. Their name comes from Ibreus, a river in Spain.
Actually people coming from that area have dark hair.
They were prehistoric iron-age people, they first had settled along the eastern and southern coasts and after they spread.
The Iberians were hunters and fishermen, and they also skilled as working metals.
In fact these people are also known as “the Beaker people”, because they put a beaker into the grave of the death man.
They believed in life after death and the most important monuments they left behind them, were the BARROWS which were mound graves (tumuli funerari).
Later they built the HENGES which were circles of slab stones surrounded by ditches and earthen banks (terrapieni).
Stonehenge is the most popular henges built about 2000 before Christ.
Around 700 B. there were Celtic coming from north-west of Germany and from the Nederland.
These people were sweeping throw Europe, the Valley of the Po, and they also invaded Britain.
They had light skin, blue eyes and blond or red hair; they were tall. They were organised in tribes and their economy was largely based on hunting and fishing, but the agriculture began to develop.
They had many Gods and Goddesses and these were mainly natural elements (as sun, moon, wind, water…).
The most influential figure in Celtic society was the Druid. The druids were wise men and the most important people in the village because they were judges, priests and also teachers, so they were responsible for the education of the young.
Their temples were groves in the forest and mistletoe, a plant still used to decorate British homes at Christmas.
They used a plant of indigo to paint and tattoo their body in blue; in fact they were called “The blue painted Celtic”.
Even the Celtic believed in life after death: in fact they thought that the death continues his life in caves and lakes. There was a strong relation between the habitants and the habitats.
They left behind them burial sites (luoghi di sepoltura) and hill forts. They built their villages on high place to defend themself from attacks.
The women in Celtic society were important; some women became the chieftains of the tribes: Queen Boadicea was a Celtic queen who first supported the Romans, but she still wanted to reign her people. Boadicea and her solders slaughtered (massacrare) Romans in a church because they killed her child in front of her.

From 55 to 54 B.C. Cesar tried to invade Britain twice, but he didn’t succeed.
He wants to invade it first for Britain’s natural resources and then because the British Celts were helping Gauls who were against Rome and Caesar wanted to subdue them (sottometterli).

Between 54 b.C and 43 a.d.
There were frequent contacts between Celtic and Romans. [The British traders settled in Rome].

Between 43-47 a.D. The Romans eventually conquered Britain under Emperor Claudius.
It wasn't a difficult conquest, because there were much divided tribes and some of the chieftains of these tribes were already half Romanized, so they offered their helps to the Romans. The Roman conquest was very particular.
Romans were not interested in mingling with them, they tried to live there on their own and have the same life-style had in Rome. They didn’t conquest Ireland because they weren’t interested in it. While they never conquest Scotland because of the Picts.

From 122 to 126 a.D. Romans had frequent raids (scorribande) from people living in Scotland, so Emperor Hadrian had a wall built to protect them.
Romans left behind them a system of roads and some villas which still exist.
Today some important cities takes the name from Roman’s army, that have in its name “–chest” (from castra), for example Winchester and Manchester were Roman military camps.
London already existed before Romans, but it became an important Roman city firstly because it was a good place to across the river and secondly because it was the best landing place for trading gold, pearls and slaves.

In 409 Imperator Honorius decided to withdraw (ritirare) Roman troupes. He took this decision because Rome was attacked by Barbarians and Romans needed all them soldiers to defend themselves. [When Romans arrives, the Celtic went to Cornwall…]

As the Romans withdrew, Britain was invaded by other waves (ondate) of invasion by Germanic tribes: the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes.
The name “England” comes from “the land of the Angles”.
The Anglo-Saxons were warlike (bellicosi) tribes not interested in civilizations. They destroyed all the villages they met in their way, but they used the roads built by the Romans to invade Britain.

The Celtic withdrew to Scotland, Wales, Cornwall and Ireland; Celtic languages are still spoken in these areas: Erse in Ireland, Gaelic in Scotland, Welsh in Wales.
The Anglo-Saxons weren’t interested in recording (registrare) events; they used only the runic alphabet, used in small inscriptions.
We have no records of this period but there are many legends. The most famous was the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

By the 6th there were 7 Anglo-Saxons kingdoms (regni), called Heptarchy; the most important were Wessex, Mercia and Northumbria. They were organized in family groups called clans and they lived in fortified villages; when they had free time they gathered (riunirsi) in the village hall where they listened to the scop, a sort of bard (giullare).
He sang and narrated the deeds (gesta) of their ancestors (antenati) and he exhorted the values of freedom, loyalty (lealtà) and courage.
A very important chapter (capitolo) in development of British culture is Christianization of England; the first to bring Christian religion was the Romans, but when they withdrew and British moved to Wales, Scotland and Ireland, the Christians confined to (limitato a) monasteries.

597 A.D.
Anglo-Saxons believed in magic; they adored natural elements but they were tolerant with the others religions.
Pope Gregory I the Great sent the monk Augustine (monaco) to Canterbury who later became the first Archbishop of Canterbury.
Monasteries became the most important centres of learning.
The greatest place of learning was the monastery in Jarrow, in which the Venerable Bade wrote in Latin “the Ecclesiastical History of the English people”. For the first time in British history, King Alfred, an Anglo-Saxons king who was called Arthur the Great, had “the Ecclesiastical History of the English people” translated in old English. He also began writing “the Anglo-Saxons chronicle” that was a year by year report (testimonianza) of the most important events in Britain.
Old English is the language spoken between 450 and 1150. It changed during the time and according to (a seconda di) the place it was spoken. The one we know was spoken in Wessex. It was inflected and had a very complicate system of declensions (declinazioni). –AN was the ending infinitive (gogan=>go; bringan=>bring). ). From the complicated system of inflection derived “the Saxons genitive” and from the declensions the irregular verbs.

King Alfred besides (inoltre) united the Anglo-Saxons for the first time in the History. He was a learned king, who started public schools, and he founded a fleet.

Between 700 and 1000 there were waves of Vikings invaded Britain. The Vikings were Danes came from Nederland and Denmark. They didn’t meet a strong opposition, because the Anglos were divided tribes, only King Alfred repelled (respinse) Vikings.
The land the Vikings ruced (governavano) was the Dane law.

The Vikings continued to invade Britain until in 1066, when Canute, the leader of the Vikings, became king between 1016-1036.
He worked for reconciliation and he treated all his subjects in the same ways. He became Christian and he helped abbeys (abbazie).
He was succeeded by Edward the Confessor, who was an Anglo-Saxons. He had spent all his life in monastery in Normandy.
When he came to England as a king, he brought with him the nobles (nobili) in the high places of Church and State. He built Westminster abbey.
He was very religious and childless, and he didn’t have political ambitions.

When he died the Witan, an assembly of bishops (vescovi) and nobles, elected Harold I, a Vikings government, but William, duke of Normandy, claimed (rivendicava) the throne for himself because he said that Edward, a relative of him, promised him the throne. So William lends the British coast and marches towards London. He is met at Hastings by King Harold and William defeats him and he is crowned king of England in 1066.

After the Norman conquest feudalism was introduced in England. FEU-dalism was derived from a French word.
The king had all the land and his subjects (sudditi) can have a part of land in fee (in return for labor).
The Feudalism society was composed by the vassals, who were the Barons and the Knights.
The Barons gave in return goods, labor, services (mainly military). They in turn gave some of the lands to the knights, who gave the goods to the barons.
After there were the peasants (contadini), who were divided in villains, who were people can't move themselves from the land where they were born and serfs, a sort of slaves).

The feudalism had peculiary characteristics: the State is always strong and powerful.
When William distributed the lands between his vassals, he took care to retain (trattenere) a quarter of the lands for himself.
His most important Barons couldn't have all the land in the same place, but they had it shed (sparsa), so they can't became too strong for wage (fare guerra) with the king.
Then William controlled the land with his sheriffs. There were a sheriffs in every country. They had more power than the Barons.

The last thing William did concerned (riguarda) his relation with the Church.
Peter's pence was a sort of tax to the Church for the support it has given him during the conquer of Britain.
However he separated religious from lay.

After William there were 3 Norman kings and then Henry the II Plantagenet.
Plantagenet because in his emblem there was Broom (ginestra) [in latin plantagenistra]. He was a very important king for development of British history.
He increased the power of the State and reduced the power of the Barons making them pay a tax called scutage (tassa per i servizi militari). After that the king with their money hired a personal army.
For the first time the Barons became more involved in their land.

Henry II began “The English Common Law”, sending travelling judges all over the country. The modern system of law is based on common and canon (the sentences before do law).

Henry II also tried to reduce the power of the Church with the Clarendon's constitution, and the best way to approve it was to make his friend and chancellor (cancelliere) Thomas Backet, archbishop of Canterbury.
On the contrary Thomas Backet went voluntary in exile (esilio) to French. As soon as he went back to England for an apparent reconciliation, he was murdered in 1170 in his cathedral by four knights.
Thomas Backet was made saint and nowadays his tomb is a way of pilgrimages. (preghiera)

As Henry II died, his son Richard the Lionheart became king from 1189 to 1198.
He was much more concerned (interessato) with war and religion, and he led the Crusade in Holy land.
After him his brother John became king in 1199-1216. John was called the Lackland because he lost Normandy. He was an inept (unable) king, who wasn't loved by his Barons.
He had levied (richiedere) higher taxes and he had done so after an unsuccessful campaign in French. Therefore his barons revolted him and he was forced to sing the Magna Charta.
According to the Magna Charta none could be imprisoned without a trial (processo), and texts couldn't be emanated without the nobles' consense.
For the first time in the history the king had to govern according to the Law.

After John the Lackland, Henry III became king but he was only a child and the country was ruled by a group of noblemen.
The Barons however didn't accept this situation and they called a Parliament.
For the first time during Henry  III's reign, the Barons repelled and called the Parliament. This word comes from the word Parlet, it means discussion.
It was firstly haphazard, a meeting with nobles and clergymen (uomini di chiesa).

An important evolution of Parliament was during the reign of Edward I.
It was the based of the modern parliament, because 2 citizens of each town and 2 citizens fro each county (contea) were sent to represent it in Parliament.
It also started the House the Commons.

Some important events took place; the first is the beginning of the 100 years war with France. It was an interrupted war; the reason was that after the death of the ring of France, there wasn't heirs (eredi) and Edward III claimed the throne for himself. But the real reason was for economy.
England produced wool and exported in the Flanders, and France threatened (minacciare) British's trades, so Edward tried to become king of France.
The first phase of the war was successful for British with the battle of Crecy and Poitier, but at the end of the war in 1443, England has lost all its possetions in France, except Callaics.

It was during the reign of Edward III that the Black Death swept through in Britain. It was called the Black Death because of the colour of the corpse (cadaveri); it was the bubonic plague, an infection disease (malattia infettiva) which was carried by fleas living on black rats which infested the ships traded throw the Europe.  
It was momentarily stopped during the winter of 1349 but it went on in different waves until the last appearance in 1665. And it was called the London plague.
The mortality rate was very high; it is generally thought that the Black Death carried off a third of England’s population, so it pass from 4 million to 2 and a half million.

In this period there was a wide spread (diffuso) anticlericalism in Britain because of the wealth, luxury, corruption and immoral behaviour in the church.
And was this period that a movement of reform started in Oxford in 1377; the leader of this movement was John Wycliffe. They condemned ecclesiastical property and capital punishment, as well as the trade of false relics.
They were persecuted and many of them were put to death but their ideals were at the based of the English reformation of the church.

Another very important event was the Peasants’ revolt in 1381 during the reign of Richard II. In this period there was a discontent with the church, the living conditions were very bed for the poor, who were also made more difficult by the uninterrupted state of war, and also the Black Death contributed to do this difficult economic conditions. It was with this situation that a tax, called poll tax, was levied.
Poll means head, so the tax was demanded for each person alive. The poor revolted and they marched to London because they wanted to speak to the king. They attacked the houses of some noblemen and they opened the prisons because they also revolted of these revenues of the power of the barons the sheriffs and the church.

Richard II who was a boy, met them and promised that they would become free men, but he was deceiving them. As soon as they withdrew, their leader was caught, the revolt was stopped and their leader, Wat Tyler, was put to death.

When Richard II, the last Plantagenet king, abdicated, he was childless; so he was succeed by his cousin Henry, the duke of Lancaster, and he was crowned with the name of Henry IV.

It was during the reign of Henry VI that a civil war broke out between the two noble houses of York and Lancaster; it was called “the war of the Roses” because in the emblem of this family there were a rose: a red one of Lancaster and a white one of York. It was fought between 1454 and 1485. The war finished when Henry VII became king and he was the first Tudor king. With him there was a new period in British history started and it was called Renaissance.

In this period there was an important development in British society: it is the growth of middle classes and the guilds (gilde)
It was in 13th century that trade began to expand and living condition started to get better but it was in 14th century that the new middle class of artisan and trade man began to develop as well as the gentry that are the small landowners.
Also the guilds developed in this period; a guild was group of artisan and trade men organised to protect their interests.

Anglo Saxon poetry was mainly oral and was only later written down.
The poems were recited by the scop, who sang it accompanying himselfs on the harp.
There were elegies and epic poems.
The most famous Anglo Saxon epic poem is Beowulf; it was composed between 7th and 10th century and it’s the story of Beowulf, a Scandinavian prince, who fights against two monsters, Grendal and his mother, who are threatening the king of Jutland’s reign.  Beowulf saved the king and his country.
They narrated the deeds of nobles, aristocrats and the moral values of the society; there were often supernatural events and myths.
There were stylistic features, the two main were stress (accento) and alliteration.
Beowulf:   [steap stanido                      stige nearwe] è old English
                [steep stone-stopes             paths narrow] è modern English
Each line was divided into two halves and each half was divided by a caesura.
Each half line had two stressed syllables. Alliteration, the same consonant sound at the beginning of the word, fell only on stressed syllables.
Kennings were a devices the scops used to avoid repetition (perifrasi). It was a sort of riddle, such as:
-beaga-brytta = the ring giver, that is the king   
-sinces brytta = the treasure giver, that is the king
-freowine = a gracious friend, that is the king

Towards the end of the 12th century, old English had already started to change and to lose declensions.
This process went on until about 1150: it is the date of middle English.
Middle English came from the fusion of 3 different languages.
1 Anglo Saxon: it was still spoken among the lower classes after the Norman conquest.
2 Norman French: was brought to England by William the Conqueror; it was the language of the ruling classes.
3 Latin: was the language of the church and of the courts of law.
These languages were spoken up to the middle of 13th century. Later Norman French went out of fashion because of the 100 year war.
In 1356 English was ordered to be the language of courts.
What remained of old English was the Saxon’s genitive, the plural with “s” and the article “the”. The language acquired a lot of French words.
Anyway middle English was not one single language, there were different dialects. Eventually, the east England dialect became the language of literature, the most used all over the country and of the court.
There were 3 main types of literary works in middle English:
1) ballad  
2) narrative poem  
3) drama (morality plays or miracle plays)

The ballad was the favourite narrative of the middle age.
It was a sort of narrative poem often sung and anonymous. Their main characteristics depend on its oral transmission. The form is simple and regular with stanzas of 4 lines called quatrains (ABAB ABCB).
Ballads were often told in form of questions and answers. The language is very simple, there were no descriptions.
Everything appears through the character’s actions and dialogue. There is repetition of one or more lines with slight variations.
The themes in ballads were very simple. The minstrel sang the ballads while being accompanied by a harp. The theme, such as magic, love and tragedy, appealed to the common people. There is a group of ballads called “border ballads” that narrated the struggles of the Scots fighting for their independence from the English.

The singers (minstrels) were not interest in originality and so we have many versions for each ballad. They used stock phrases that they had committed to memory to recite the ballad. They needed to know the story, the plot and the stock phases by heart. The rest was improvised.

The invention of printing was the main reason for the decline of the ballad.
The Ballad was the favourite form of transmission for the popular story of Robin Hood.
Robin Hood was a yeoman (a landowner) who, for some reasons, became an outlaw (fuorilegge). He lived during the reign of John the Lackland and was helped by a group called “The Merry Men”. They lived together in Sherwood Forrest and fought against the nobles and the Sheriff of Naughtingham. Together they robbed (derubare) from the rich and gave to the poor. The Sheriff of Naughtingham poisoned (avvelenare) Robin Hood, who shot an arrow (freccia). He was buried where the arrow hit the ground.
Geoffrey Chaucer is the most important Middle English writer.
He is considered the father of English literature. Born around 1343 in a middle class family, his father was trader of wine. As a child, he was sent to court as a page during the reign of Edward III.
He had a good education and spoke fluent French as it was the language of the courts. He became familiar with French literary works, authors and classical writers such as Virgil and Ovid.
Since he was 17 years old, he was sent on diplomatic missions to France and Italy. During his missions to Italy he probably met Boccaccio and probably came to know the Decameron. He certainly became acquainted with Divina Commedia as he quotes Divina Commedia in the Canterbury Tales. These authors were important for his future development as a writer in the last phase of his literary works.
Upon his return to England, he continued working for the courts as a custom officer and also writing poetry until his death.
He died in the year 1400, possibly at the age of 56.
His literary production is usually divided into 3 periods:
1 Period (1359 – 1372) – This is called the French period, as he was strongly influenced by the themes and styles of French courtly poems. His most important works of this period are “Le Romande de la Rose” and “the Book of the Dutchess”.
2 Period (1372 – 1386) – This is called the Italian period. His most important work of this period is “Troilus” and “Crisyde”, the translation of Boccaccio Filostrato. Dante’s helped him perfect decasyllable.
3 Period (1386 – 1400) – This is called the English period when he wrote about English contemporary society. This is when he wrote the Canterbury Tales.

The Canterbury Tales is Chaucer’s most famous work. It is a narrative–descriptive poem that he never finished. He wrote only 24 tales out of the 120 he had planned to write.

The story start in spring on an April morning when the poet meets 29 pilgrimins in the Tabard Inn located in Southwork (a suburb south of London).
These pilgrims are setting on a pilgrimage to Thomas Backets shrine in Canterbury.
In the prologue to the Canterbury Tales, he gives a description of each pilgrim.
There are 3 women and 26 men. They represent the upper and middle classes.
The aristocracy is not represented because they were supposed to travel on their own and with their servants, not with other pilgrims. Also, the servants were not represented because they had no means to go. As they are talking the host of the Inn suggests that they tell 2 stories on their way to Canterbury and 2 tales on their way back in order to pass the time away. He also offers to travel with them and act as a judge. The best story teller would travel at the expense of his fellow travellers.

There is a prologue that gives the setting and description of the pilgrims.
The 24 tales are usually preceded by a prologue. In each prologue, the themes and characters are deal with. The tales were also sometimes followed by an epilogue.
The characters are presented through their behaviour, clothes, words, their roles in society and their professions as this is what conditioned everyone’s’ way of thinking. They are typical characters of literary tradition and English society (honest knights, libertine Friar, bossy wife, the lady-like Prioress). They represent English medieval society, the feudal society (knights and Yeoman). The clergy is largely represented with the Prioress, the monk, the Friar and the pardoner. The towns and trades were represented with the physician, merchant, cook and tapestry-maker.
These characters are typical of English society but they are not stereotypes as in French allegorical literature. They are strongly characterised by tales, description, words and the tales themselves tell us about their problems, fears and conditions.
The pilgrimage can be seen as a device that Chaucer used to bring all the different characters together with a typical English social event.
Moreover, the pilgrimage has an important symbolic meaning from a religious point of view as in the middle ages life was considered as a sort of pilgrimage to the holy, we should also think that there were not holidays and pilgrimages were often used as a holiday or for tourism.

The themes are typical of medieval literature (loves, marriage, miracles, hypocrisy). And they almost always have a moralistic aim/ purpose with a stress on the spiritual valves which were so important in the middle ages.

This narrative poem is written in verse. He uses rhyme for the first time, what will later be called the heroic caplet. It is formed by two lines of rhyming iambic pentameter that is 5 feet of unstressed + stressed syllables.
Chaucer’s pilgrimage to Canterbury can be related to Dante’s pilgrimage from hell to heaven. It is a sort of journey through 14th century in Italy as Chaucer’s is a journey through England. Dante was the 1st to use the Tuscan for literature purposes as Chaucer was the 1st to use the English from London. As for his relationship to Boccaccio the only thing in common is the social event in the Tale. But the 100 tales of the Decameron told by men and women skipping from the plague and took place in a Villa near Florence. All the young people in the Decameron are in the same social classes where they are in different classes in the Canterbury Tales.
Also, all of Boccaccio characters speak in the same language and aren’t individualized by the words they say. Whereas Chaucer gives a psychological description through their language. Chaucer himself becomes a character in the Canterbury Tales and takes part in the pilgrimage. As for the story Boccaccio narrated, they come from all over Europe. Writers in this period weren’t concerned inventing stories. The story of Griselda is narrated in both the Canterbury Tales and the Decameron but Chaucer said that he had come to know this story from a Latin translation by Petrarca.

After the Wars of the Roses, a new age started. This age is called the English Renaissance and began in the year 1485. After the War of the Roses, Henry VII who defeated Richard III (the last king of the House of York) in the Battle of Bosworth, became the King of England and started the dynasty of the tutors. 
Henry VII was above all a good administrator who brought financial stability to the country. He was able to check the power of the nobles and laid the foundations of England’s naval power and even encouraged trade with foreign countries. By the end of his reign, feudalism had come to an end and a strong centralized state had been established even if during his long reign of 24 years, he only summoned parliament seven times. He died in 1509. At his death his son, Henry VIII, came to the English throne.
Henry VIII had a very different personality. He maintained a magnificent court. He loved art, sports, and was also known for being cruel. He married six times as he wanted a son and in the end, he did get a son along with two daughters. The son, Edward VI later became king and the daughters, Mary I and Elizabeth I, later became Queens. Henry VIII reinforced the English naval fleet with ships especially made to fight, adopted to the ocean and easy to manoeuvre. 
The most important even for English history was the reformation because it reduced the power of the clergy and was one of the principle steps in the change from medieval to modern society. Henry VIII wanted to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon because she had only given him a daughter, but the Pope Clement VII refused to grant him the divorce he needed. So, Henry VIII eventually passed the Act of Supremacy in 1534 and with it he declared himself Supreme Head of the Church of England. He accepted the principles of the Protestant movement as they were presents in the ninety-five thesis that Martin Luther attached to the door of his Church in Wittenberg in 1517.
All of those who dared oppose him or refused to accept the Act were imprisoned and sometimes put to death. This happened to Tom More (a catholic who was his counsellor). He also suppressed the orders of friars and monks and ordered the priests to recite in English instead of Latin. Masses were no longer in Latin.
The lands and monasteries that belonged to them were confiscated and given to his supporters. And in some of the monasteries state schools were established and were called King’s Schools. 
After a long reign (1509-1547) Henry VIII died. At his death his son, Edward VI succeeded him. He was only ten years old and his reign was short as he died at the age of sixteen in 1553. The important even during his reign is that Arch Bishop Cranmer publicized the Book of Common Prayer which is very important for the English language and literature because it was the first book of England in English. It harmonized the new and old population together. However, there were also persecutions of the Roman Catholics. 
After his death his sister, Mary I (the daughter of Henry VII first wife, Catherine of Aragon) became queen and like her mother, she was catholic and tried to restore Catholicism in England. She also insisted on marrying Phillip II of Spain who was the most fanatic catholic sovereign in Europe despite the fact that her subjects did not support this.  Moreover, during her reign three hundred protestants were burned. This was a really cruel prosecution and for this reason she was later known as Bloody Mary. For these reasons the English people came to perceive the old religion as foreign, cruel, and unpatriotic. Her reign only lasted five years. She died in 1558 and her sister, Elizabeth I came to the throne.
Elizabeth I was the daughter of Henry VII second wife, Ann Boleyn. Elizabeth I had a remarkable personality. She was a strong-willed intelligent woman who had a wide classical education and could speak several languages. She was also able to surround herself with intelligent counsellors. When she came to the throne, the country was too weak to defend itself from a foreign invasion but she managed to make the most of the rivalry of France and Spain as neighbouring one of them could allow the other the prevail over England. She exploited the Religious Wars in Spain and moreover, she let Phillip II of Spain believe that she would marry him to keep Spain from invading. She never did marry him. She died a Virgin Queen and is to this day known as the Virgin Queen. During Elizabeth I reign the protestant religion was established in the form of Anglicism. That was the 15th English national church with the queen/king as the head.
Catholicism was declared illegal and Puritanism (an evolution of the protestant religion) was prosecuted as well on the ground of non-conformity to the Anglican Church. There were plots against Elizabeth I the most famous of which was lead by her cousin Mary Stewart who was the Queen of Scotland. Mary Stewart was imprisoned and executed after twenty years. 
It was during Elizabeth I reign that the British Empire started. She supported and reinforced the navy just as her father and grandfather had done before her.
Her greatest achievement was the victory over the Invincible Armada (her strongest Spanish fleet in 1588).
Elisabeth VI died childless and her nearest relative was James VI of Scotland, who was Mary Stuart's son. James became King of England as James I and for the first time, the two kingdoms were united.
He believed in the divine right's king to rule and he tried to rule without the support of Parliament and he summoned Parliament only when he needed money. He created a wide spread discontent of his subject. Moreover he managed to alienate both Catholics and Puritans. There are two main events: the first was Gunpowder Plot lead by Guy Fawkes. They wanted to blow up (esplodere) the Parliament in session with the king in it, using gunpowder (polvere da sparo). It happened the 5 November 1605.
The other important event took place in 1620. James I persecuted the Puritans and in order to avoid persecutions, a group called Pilgrim Father, left by England with a boat called Mayflowers. They went in North America and founded New England.
The sonnet was the most popular poetical form among the aristocracy and at court during the renaissance. The sonnet had his origin in Italy, where Dante and Petrarch had developed this form. Petrarch’s Canzoniere in particular fixed a set of images and themes, which were a model for all European poets/sonneteers.
Sir Thomas Wyatt and the Earl of Surrey (1517-1547) brought the sonnet to England. Sir Thomas Wyatt went to Italy on a diplomatic mission and he came to know Petrarch’s Canzoniere. They introduced sonnet to England. It was a sort of translation or imitation of Petrarch’s sonnets.
They also introduced some slight changes in the structure of the sonnet. These are the main reasons why they are still known today, and not for their own poetry, whereas Edmond Spencer, Sir Philip Sidney and William Shakespeare wrote sonnets with a more personal inspiration.

The central theme of the sonnet, both Italian (or Petrarchian) and English (also called Elizabethan or Shakespearian), is the love for an unattainable lady, who cannot return the poet’s love. The poet on one hand wanted the lady, but on the other hand he didn’t want her to surrender, as she was an idealised figure and she was considered a means to reach god. Therefore she had to be pure and the love had to remain pure as well. The lady, who is usually beautiful and celestial, is described from the poet’s point of view but there is no hint to her feelings.
Theme of beauty: Beauty represented perfection, but the beauty of the lady changed during the time and the aim of the poet is to make this beauty live, to make it immortal through poetry.

 It is a 14-lines poem; the Italian sonnet was written in endecasillabos, the English sonnet in iambic pentameter, but there is also another difference between the Italian and the English sonnet and it is due to the fact that it is easier to find rhymes in Italian.
The Petrarchian sonnet was made of two quatrains or an octave and a sestet or two tercets. These stanzas were rhyming ABBA, ABBA, CDC, CDC.
Wyatt divided the sestet in a quatrain and a couplet, so English sonnet had three quatrains and a couplet, rhyming ABAB, CDCD, EFEF, GG.
These different structures also influenced the content. Petrarchian sonnets presented a problem in the first octave and a solution in the last sestet, whereas in the English sonnet you have the same problem presented from three different point of view in the 3 quatrains, and a solution is drawn in the last couplet.
English sonneteers used a refined language full of Latinate words. And this language was full of paradoxes for instance: “I burn and freeze”. A parody is a figure of speech and it is based on a statement that seems to be impossible because it contradicts itself. This language is also full of similes. Similes are comparisons of two things using the world “like”, “as” or the verb “resemble”. And English sonnets were full of conceits. They were elaborates comparisons that have nothing in common but thought speech the author shows their similarities.

Shakespeare’s collection of sonnets was published in 1609 but they were probably written between 1590 and 1600 at a time when the theatres were closed because of the plague, since it was trough that the plague was more easily spread thought travelling actors and playwriters.
This collection of sonnets is made up of 154 sonnets and has a dedication to a mysterious Mr. H W who was probably Mr. Henry Wiothesley. He was the Earl of Southampton and Shakespeare’s friends.
As for the form of the sonnets, Shakespeare adopted the form as it was introduced by Wyatt. Never the less, the contempt of the sonnets was Petrarchian with a turning point at the end of each line. This style was only called Elizabethan or Petrarchian after Shakespeare had adopted it. 
Shakespeare’s collection of sonnets is divided into two sections. The first section is composed of sonnets 1-126 while the second section is sonnets 127-154. In the first section there is another division. Sonnets 1-17 are called marriage sonnets. As all sonnets in the first section address a fair youth, probably the Earl of Southampton, with this 17 sonnets, Shakespeare exhorts this young man to marry and produce an heir as a means to perpetuate his beauty. Sonnets 18-126 are addressed to the same man but deal with a number of different themes like the effects of time love and beauty and also universal themes such as love, death, beauty and art.
Moreover, within this group of sonnets there are same addressed to a rival poet.
This rival poet is perceived as threatening to Shakespeare’s relationship with the young man because this poet also dedicated some poems to the same young man.
The second section is much shorter (sonnets 127-154) and these sonnets are dedicated to a dark lady who’s identity is still unknown. She certainly wasn’t physically attractive and probably didn’t portray perfection from a moral pint of view.
But she was desirable and unlike the other sonneteers, Shakespeare didn’t only deal with courtly love. He also dealt with a real and not idealized woman and the sonnets for him are a means to examine universal theme. His sonnets are the most original in English literature with a richness of language and feelings never reached before.
Within this group of sonnets we can detect the development of Shakespeare’s relationship with the young man. They are sonnets that praise the young man’s beauty and advise him to procreate children. There is also suffering for the passing of time as the young man’s beauty fades with time. But there is also hope because love is immortal and the poet wants to make it immortal through art.

English drama can be traced back to the Middle Ages and even earlier. It is connected to the liturgical ritual.  The clergy had always tried to make common people understand religion by means of dramatic performances. In Italy, for instance, St. Francis had represented Christ’s nativity with a real cradle baby in a real cradle and had leading characters representing the scene of his birth.
Little by little, scenic effects and dialogues were added. Latin was substituted by English and other elements not strictly connected with religion were introduced. Therefore, the aim was not to make it easier for people to understand but to entertain. Therefore, with time performances became more popular and audience grew. This is performances, which at first took place inside the church, were later moved outside the church to the courtyard and then to the other parts of the town. These performances were first directed by the clergy but later the direction was taken up by the guilds.
There are two groups of plays: miracles/mystery and morality plays. There is not a clear distinction between miracles and mystery but we could say that mysteries are based on the stories of the Bible whereas miracles are based on the lives of Saints.
Moralities were not strictly linked with religion but dealt with the conflict between good and evil. Therefore, the characters is these plays were personifications of vices and virtues for instance anger, good deeds and death or they were general representations of man for example there was everyman or mankind.
Another form of drama was the interlude. Interludes were short performances were the characters were real, not personifications, and their aim was to entertain comically between the acts of morality plays.
In the Elizabethan Age drama, unlike poetry, was a popular form of out. Poetry was a form of art restricted to elites who has good education whereas drama as it was spoken could be understood by everyone. Moreover, prices of tickets were low and the language was simple and the habit to attend the performances was widespread. People were used to attending them because of miracle and mystery plays. We can say that theatre was the most characteristic form of art in this period.
Up to 1576 there were no theatres and plays were performed on a platform in inn’s courtyards. But the growing popularity of these performances convinced a carpenter and actor, James Burbage, to build the first theatre outside the walls of the town. He called it “the theatre”. 
This theatre was so successful and a good investment that soon other theatre were build, the most famous of which was “the Globe”.

The theatres were really different from how they are today: they were circular or octagonal. There were three rows of galleries around the walls and they were covered with seats. Common people paid one penny to see the play from the yard while those who could pay high admission fees could seat on the stage. The stage, called apron, was half covered by a roof and had the audience around it on three sides.

The Globe was the theatre build by the Chamberlain’s man, Shakespeare’s Company, and it was closed by the puritan in 1642 and burnt in 1644 to build houses in that place. Performances took place only in the afternoon, because there weren’t artificial light, and lasted about two hours.
There were no curtain and therefore the scene succeeded one another without interruption and there were very few objects on the stage.
(table à room;   plant à wood;   crown à king)
Therefore the audience had to imagine the set and the actors were very good at creating the scenes with their actions and words.

If on one hand the scene was essential, on the other hand costumes and make up were really elaborated to overcome the difficulties of acoustic and also because some of the people were very distant from the players and also because people watching plays were often speaking, laughing or eating. The aim of the costumes and make up was to represent the main triads characters.
There weren’t actresses so female parts were made by young boys and they needed costumes and make up.

Shakespeare is considered the most important play writer of all time.
This is partly due to the variability of themes explained in his plays but also because he's the first playwright-dramatist to explore the important questions of life (Where am I going? What is love? What is death?). The themes are those of power, war, love, death, generation.
Moreover his language and characters have so many different aspects that every spectator of every time and place can find something that appeal to him.

The main sources for his plays were “Plutarch Lives”, than the works by Generality Cinzio and Sir Giovanni Fiorentino, but also Chaucer’s works and the works of many other authors. Anyway we must say that these material were deeply changed and so that they acquired new value and new meaning.

As most of his contemporary Shakespeare was not concerned with the publishing his work. They were published only after his death in 1623 by two actors of his company who were his friends in what was later called “The first Foglio”. In this first foglio the plays were grouped according to genre without a date. We can determine the date of the play according to the various stylistic elements as well as according to external and internal evidences.
His plays can be divided into periods:
-the 1st period was from 1589 to 1595, it is called the period of experimentation (“Richard III” and “the comedy of errors”);
-the 2nd period was from 1595 to 1600, it is the period of maturity when he wrote historical plays and great comedies (“Romeo and Juliet”, “The 12th nights”, “Richard II”, “Henry V”, “Julius Caesar”, “The Merchant of Venice”);
-the 3rd period was from 1600 to 1608, it is called the period of great tragedies (“Hamlet”, “The king dear”, “Macbeth”);
-the 4th period was from 1608 to 1613, it is the period of the last plays (“Henry VIII” and “The Tempest”).

The plays of the first two periods reveal a positive outlook of life.
In the 3rd period there is a sadder vision of life where human values, such as friendship and love, are crumbling (frantumarsi) and where men lived in a chaotic world.
In the last period a new serenity has been attained (acquisita).

Romeo and Juliet is Shakespeare’s first romantic tragedy and its fame is due to his ability to present the story of an adolescent love with the passion typical of the first love between two teenagers. In this tragedy the issue is presented from different point of view: for Juliet’s father love is a contract between two families; for Juliet’s nurse love is something physical; for Paris, the man Juliet has been promise to, love is a social matter.
The theme of destiny and free will is also important. The two main characters decide on their own what they want to their future to be, but fate is there to crush their hopes, their plans to the future. This is also a tragedy of communication massages on reported in a wrong way.
What is interesting is that Shakespeare creates a gap of knowledge between the audience and the characters: the tension is created because of this.
There is also the contrast between the appearance and reality.
Another important thing is the generation gap, the lock of communication between generations.
The serenity and purity of Romeo’s and Juliet’s love is not understood and not accepted by the old generation; and the Romeo’s and Juliet’s death is a sort of sacrifice with finally units the two families.

The most important thing we have to remember about the style and language is Shakespeare’s ability in using different style and languages according to the different personality and social position and according to their mude.
Romeo’s speech is lyrical as Romeo represents courtly love, Juliet’s language is more concrete and Juliet is also able to reflect on the meaning of the words, the servants use prose and the nurse uses idiomatic colloquial expression.

Hamlet was written between 1599 and 1600, but the story narrated is much older.
Hamlet was mention for the first time in the “Historia Danica” by the dame Saxo Grammaticus in the 12th century and Shakespeare probably6 knew a play of the same subject called “Poor Hamlet”, dating around 1580’s, of which there are no traces left.

This play belongs to the revenge tragedy which was popular in Elizabethan drama and Shakespeare uses some of the convention typical of it:
the appearance of ghost which urges the main character, the protagonist, to take revenge;
simulated madness to conceal one’s real ends;
horrible death with much blood shedding;
the presence of skull on the stage;
the unnecessary death of heroin;
the play within the play to unmask the villain.

"Hamlet" is much richer than the other tragedies as the audience's attention is drawn to Hamlet himself and to his personality and there is many other interesting
themes explored in the tragedy, for instance the order of society has been disrupted because the king had been killed and because he was the legitimate king and he was a good ruler and he was killed by his own brother.
Another theme is about the relationship between action and thought.
Too much thinking isn't allowed Hamlet to act. Moreover Hamlet's decision and analysis are typical of modern man. Another theme is the contrast between the interior evil and a healthy exterior.
"Something is rotten in the State of Denmark".

The tempest was written between 1609 and 1611, during the last part of Shakespeare’s literary production.
The editors of the first folio put it at the beginning of the collection, as it can be considered a summering of Shakespeare’s plays as many of the themes and elements of Shakespeare's plays can be traced in the other plays as well.
Among the sources of these plays there aren’t particular literary works.
Shakespeare mainly due his inspiration of reporting the shipwreck due to a tempest on an island of Bahamas in 1609 where the passengers spent 6 months before arriving in Virginia, where they were bound.
Shakespeare had also read an essay by Montaigne on cannibals for which the names of Caliban comes.
Some passages show some resemblance with Ovid’s metamorphosis and there are also some links with the Italian commedia dell’arte.

Perhaps the most important theme of the tempest is the magic. It was a popular theme in the renaissance in fact the protagonist of Dr Faustus, by Marlow, is a sort of magician who uses his power to evoke the devil and to sign a pact with him. Two types of magic are represented here: black magic that of the witch Sycorax, who is Caliban’s mother, and the white magic that of Prospero who declare to use it only for good ends.
Another theme of colonisation, a theme that had began to be of interest for English audience after European people had started to colonise America. 
The power relationship between colonizers and colonised people is reflected in the relationship between Prospero and Miranda and Caliban and the other.
The formers try to impose their values and culture on the literature.
Another theme is that of the power of words and art represented by Arial.
Prospero also represented the artist can never master it completely and in the end he was to let it free at the same way as the play writer was to let the play free into the world and be perceived and interpreted independently by authors will.


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