Song: To Celia Historical Context

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The Seventeenth-Century Court

The dominant forms of literature during the Elizabethan age and under James I and Charles I, the first two Stuart kings, were courtly. The literature read by the courtiers—members of the court and those who frequented it—were the sonnet sequence (a lyric poem of fourteen rhyming lines of equal length), as illustrated in Shakespeare's sonnets; the pastoral romance (which celebrates an idolized vision of love), as in Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia; the chivalric epic (a long poem presenting an idealized code of behavior), as in Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene; the sermon; and the masque (a spectacular performance that combines drama, music, and dance), as in Jonson's “Pleasure Reconciled to Vertue.” Authors like Jonson wrote almost exclusively for the court, since that is where they received their patronage and acclaim.

The literature of the age reflected the distinctive values of court society. Literary works...

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This section contains 1,064 words
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