The Elizabethan era, spanning the reign of Queen Elizabeth I from 1558 to 1603, was a remarkable period in English history known for its vibrant cultural and literary achievements. It was a time of great exploration, political intrigue, and artistic flourishing. Literature played a significant role during this era, with the emergence of prominent writers such as William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, and Edmund Spenser. The era also saw the publication of the first English dictionary by Robert Cawdrey in 1604, demonstrating the increasing importance of the English language and its standardization. Elizabethan literature embraced various genres, including poetry, drama, and prose, reflecting the intellectual curiosity and diversity of the time.
"I wanted to include an example of literature from Elizabeth’s reign because she inspired a fantastic richness and breadth of poetry, with lots of writers competing with each other to praise her in ever more elaborate ways. Probably the most powerful example of that is Spenser’s Faerie Queene which is a huge epic romance published in two parts in the 1590s." Helen Hackett recommending the best books on Elizabeth I.
Through their works, Elizabethan writers captured the essence of the era, exploring themes of love, power, and the human condition that continue to resonate with audiences centuries later.
by David Starkey and Susan Doran
The Faerie Queene
by edited by Thomas P Roche Jr and C Patrick O’Donnell Jr & Edmund Spenser
Translations by Elizabeth I, 1592-98
by Janel Mueller and Joshua Scodel
Rewriting the Renaissance
by Margaret W Ferguson, Maureen Quilligan and Nancy Vickers
Representing Elizabeth in Stuart England
by John A Watkins
University College London professor Helen Hackett selects five books on the Virgin Queen, including one by the monarch herself. “You get a sense of her independence of mind. She does her own thing”
Leading architectural historian, chooses books on art and culture in the Elizabethan era. From CS Lewis on literature, to the fantastic embroideries at Hardwick Hall, to baked rabbit and more.
Shakespearean scholar Emma Smith picks her five favourite plays of the Bard, and controversially argues that not only are some of his plays just too long, but also that the most moving moments in Shakespeare’s oeuvre are where we might not expect them
The Divine Comedy: Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso
by Dante Alighieri
Art and Illusion: A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation
by E.H. Gombrich
Leonardo da Vinci: i documenti e le testimonianze contemporanee
by Edoardo Villata
The Literary Works of Leonardo da Vinci
by Jean Paul Richter
Leonardo da Vinci
by Kenneth Clark
Every generation has its own Leonardo, and for many he remains a man of mystery. Martin Kemp, Emeritus Professor in Art History at Oxford and the author of the recently published Mona Lisa: The People and the Painting, helps us identify the non-mythical Leonardo. What might Leonardo be doing were he alive today, in our own digital age?
Though many scholars have done meticulous work and brought to life slices of his life, writing a traditional, cradle-to-grave biography of Shakespeare is impossible, says Shakespeare scholar James Shapiro. Here he selects some of his favourite books tackling aspects of Shakespeare’s life, including the one he most wishes he had written himself.
In our Shakespeare series, we ask experts to select their favourite plays from the Bard’s oeuvre. Here, preeminent Shakespearean scholar Sir Stanley Wells chooses five plays that best chart the evolution of the Bard of Avon during his 25-year career.
In the second of a Five Books series marking the 400th year since the world’s most popular playwright’s death, eminent Shakespearean René Weis picks his five favourite plays, and explains why King Lear will change your life.