How Shakespeare Affected the Renaissance Period

The renaissance was a movement which occurred in Europe between the 14th and 17th century that mainly affected the culture and the lifestyles of people (Mason 5). Due to its nature the renaissance period is viewed as a transition between the middle ages to the modern era.

During this period a lot of changes took place in religion, education system, politics, culture and lifestyle. It is during this period that Europeans moved away from their traditional beliefs and embraced the modern ideology. During the middle ages people tend to believe that God was the Supreme Being and that he had the absolute power of the whole world.

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However, people started to develop different ideologies in relation to religion during the renaissance era. Even though they still believed in God, they also started to question his relationship of to mankind; an ideology that threatened the influence of the Catholic Church in the society.

William Shakespeare was among the people who brought about a lot of changes during the renaissance period in England. Shakespeare (1564-1616) was among the greatest poets and authors who ever lived ( 2011).

He is the most famous writer of all times with his works being used even at the present moment in many societies all around the world. He started his career in London in 1592 when the theatre in England has just started to flourish.

Due to his excellent work, he had a large audience mainly composed of people from the middle class who flocked to the theatres to see his work (McEvoy 92). Before his retirement, he had made a lot of innovations in the genres, comedy, drama, romance and other forms of performing arts which we still use up to the present moment.

Effects of Shakespeare on the renaissance period

Shakespeare is normally referred to as the Renaissance man due to the contributions he had on the lives of people during this period. As stated earlier, there were a lot of cultural changes during this period. Most of these changes were initiated by the elite people in the society who felt that the rights and freedoms of individuals in the society were being violated.

These people noticed that the few people of the upper class were using the law and religion to their advantage which led them to benefiting more from the available resources as compared to the other people of the society who composed the bulk of the society. This led to the emergence of a group of philosophers, artist, writers and scholars who were inquisitive about their surroundings.

As a result therefore, these elite people advocated for equality of all people in the society rising up a lot of issues which affected the economy, religion and political stability of the society.

To protect their dignity, the government started to persecute such people and also tried to minimize the influence of the movements which such people had created to fight for the rights of the people. To avoid persecution most of these people hid under the umbrella of the public, and used public means to air out their grievances and ideologies. William Shakespeare was among the people who embraced the renaissance.

Through his works he brought out various issues which were affecting the society. He brought out the problems which the monarch and the general society were facing, geographical zealotry and the effects of the renaissance period in the society. While doing so he also entertained his audience.

The people loved his works because he touched on the key issues which were affecting them at the individual level and as a society. That is why his works were very famous during those days and still are at the present moment.

Shakespeare is credited to have brought about various innovations in the world performing arts. Some of these innovations were used to accommodate the information which he was passing to his audience about the renaissance.

Shakespeare for example changed from the traditional two dimensional writing, a technique which was being used during the pre-renaissance drama and created human characters in his plays that were psychologically complex (Jamieson 2011).

These characters could think and make decisions independently without being influenced by their elders, the society or the law. They did what they felt was right at that point and time and in the end of the play these decisions made them to be successful. Through such plays, Shakespeare was advocating for people to have a freedom of choice so that they can choose what is right and avoid what they felt was wrong. This concept was clearly brought out in his work entitled Hamlet.

The renaissance also led to a disruption of the social hierarchy in the society. People who were protected by the law due to the fact that they belonged to a royal family or the monarch were viewed more or less the same as any other individual in the society. Shakespeare therefore had a chance to explore the character of every individual in the society regardless of the social class which the individual belonged to (Jamieson 2011).

In his plays he had characters of people from the monarch, the rich, the elite, business men and peasants. He focused deeply on their lives, their achievements and failures. In so doing, people started to realize that people faced more or less the same problems regardless to their social status. This therefore led to the growth of the spirit of equality among all the individuals of the society.

Shakespeare also utilized the information and knowledge he had concerning the classics which were of Greek and Italian origin. Initially these works had been banned from circulation by the Catholic Church.

Shakespeare used this information while writing his literature. Due to this, he was able to put forward the culture of foreign societies in his plays which not only attracted people from these origins to his audience but also made the English people to be familiar with foreign culture.

They could therefore adapt some aspects of such cultures bringing about the integration of cultures. Some of the things which people adapted were dressing, architecture, accent, cuisine and music. Thus through the works of Shakespeare people became aware of what was going on in other societies and cultures (Cody and Spirincorn 18).


William Shakespeare affected the renaissance period in a lot of ways. He was not just a writer but an advocate of change of the lifestyles of people of Europe just like the philosophers, artists and other scholars. Through his works the popularity of literature, plays and poems increased.

This is because they all were talking about various issues which the society was facing. As a result therefore Shakespeare used his works to enlighten the public on what they were facing and means through which they could face such oppressions. This led to the emergence of the modern society which we are living in now.

Works Cited

Cody, Gabrielle and Sprinchorn, Evert. The Columbia Encyclopedia of Modern Drama. Sussex: Columbia University Press, 2007 William Shakespeare. retrieved on 31 march 2011 from

Jamieson, Lee. The Renaissance in Shakespeare’s Time. Retreived on 31 March2011from

Mason, Antony. Everyday Life in Renaissance Times. New York: Black Rabbit Books,2005.

McEvoy, Sean. Shakespeare: The Basics. Indiana: Taylor & Francis, 2006


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