This volume explores the development of literary culture in sixteenth-century England as a whole. Beginning with Erasmus's first visit to the country in 1499 and ending in the year of Hamlet a century later, it seeks to explain the relationship between the Reformation and the Elizabethan literary renaissance in the later part of the period. Its central theme is the 'common' in its double sense of something shared and something base, and it argues that
making common the work of God is at the heart of the English Reformation just as making common the literature of antiquity and of early modern Europe is at the heart of the English Renaissance. Its central
question is 'why was the Renaissance in England so late?'