The literature of the English Renaissance forms one of the richest records of human experience. But how did the writers who produced this art view the process by which they decided to write this , and not that ? The question might appear to be glib. I am at risk of behaving as if no one since Burckhardt and Michelet has asked it. In this book, however, I will argue that literary critics can and should think again about the question of how Renaissance poets reflected on the sources and nature of their linguistic creativity. The Renaissance writers in this book each show that their linguistic thinking reveals the human subject to be ‘crawling between earth and heaven’, as Hamlet describes himself (III.i.127): barely able to make headway through our own cognitive medium; nothing other than we arecognitively unique as human agents. Writers including Edmund Spenser, George Chapman, William Shakespeare, and John Donne offer a view of linguistic creativity which leaves us all-even and especially great poets-locked in a lonely struggle to understand the creativity and meaningfulness that emerges from the use of language.