Why should we care who ruled when a poet was writing?--

Monarchs in the Medieval and Renaissance periods tend to influence the national temperament to a far greater degree than the personalities of elected officials in modern democracies. Some wielded near-dictatorial powers, and all controlled a central court which usually formed the literary center of the nation. Baronial courts in the provinces might still be powerful sources of military, economic, and aesthetic influence, but increasingly the English monarch's court, localized in London after the Norman Conquest, determined what literature would be produced, what would be performed, and what would be preserved. Some poets, like Chaucer, Spenser, Sidney, Shakespeare, and Rochester, wrote works with specific political objectives to serve and/or to challenge the values and policies of those who ruled. Therefore, until the emergence of successfully independent parliamentary power in the seventeenth century and the resultant transformation of the monarchy into a figurehead with limited socio-political power, the person who ruled had crucial influences upon the writers who lived during their reigns. Therefore, we can usefully identify some writers as participating in the cultural climate of a monarch's reign by designating them as "Ricardian" (Richard II: Pearl-Poet, Chaucer, Gower, Langland), Elizabethan (Elizabeth I: Marlowe, Shakespeare, Spenser, Sidney), Jacobean (James I: Jonson, Donne, Herrick, Herbert, Crashaw), or "Restoration" (Charles II: Rochester, Congreve, Dryden, Astell, and Behn.