Early Modern English

Sean B. Palmer sean at miscoranda.com
Sat Jan 14 12:57:47 CET 2012

Michael Everson wrote:

> The Tudor period is 1485 to 1603, pretty much the heart of
> your period (118 out of 180 years is 65%).

But the golden age of Early Modern English literature spans from
Sidney's Arcadia in the late 1570s and Kyd and Marlowe writing for the
stage in the 1580s, through to around that last of the great masques,
Comus, in 1634. This encompasses not only the stage authors but also
those like Bacon and Donne.

This spans not only Tudor and Stuart, but also three monarchs. This is
one of the reasons why the term Early Modern is so useful.

If you want strict Aristotelian limits like this, rather than a
Roschean radial disc, then you'll end up with Hamlet being en-tudor,
Macbeth not, and Othello being argued over. M|r|. William Shakespeares
Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies of 1623 will have been published
outside of en-tudor, but have been written half in and half out.

Poor Thomas Middleton would probably not have written anything at all
in en-tudor, there'll be no language subtag for him.

It's not surprising that the focus of the Early Modern period should
span at least the Elizabethan and Jacobean reigns. Renaissance
humanism had reached England early in the Tudor period, but it took
some time for the University wits to digest. In the late 16th century
the creativity exploded. It had arguably already quelled through the
Caroline period, but it was certainly repressed by the events of the
Civil and inter-Kingdom wars.

Tudor English isn't a widely accepted term for use in this context. If
a student came to me with a paper writing about "Tudor English",
unless it were literally about how the house of Tudor affected the
language then I would have them revise it. One uses accepted
terminology unless there are specific and easily defensible reasons
not to.

It would be impossible therefore to find references for "Tudor
English" with the same magnitude of density as exist for "Early Modern
English", all for the reasons I've outlined above, in previous
messages, and more.

If one can't register a language subtag for a language so widely and
richly described in the scholarly literature as Early Modern English,
nor do so in a simple and straightforward manner, then one may well be
forgiven for asking what what the purpose of language subtag
registration actually is.

Sean B. Palmer

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