The Period of Revolution and Restoration
thThe 17 century was one of the most tempestuous periods in English history. It was a period when absolute monarchy impeded the further development of bourgeois in England and the bourgeoisie could no longer bear the sway of landed nobility. The contradictions between the feudal system and the bourgeoisie had reached its peak and resulted in a revolutionary outburst. James ?came to the throne_ a succession that marks the change from a united England to a divided England. He believed in the theory of the divine right of kings. Next king Charles ?, the
religious tyranny of Archbishop Laud was added to the political tyranny of the king. Against this royal arrogance the Puritans offers another theory of divine right, the divine right of the individual conscience. They renounced a life of joy in this world, in hope of an eternal joy in the world to come. There were religious division and confession and a long bitter struggle between the people’s
Parliament and the throne- Puritans fighting against the Cavaliers who helped the king. In 1649 Charles ?was beheaded. England became a commonwealth under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell.
In 1653 Oliver Cromwell imposed a military dictatorship on the country, after his death monarchy was again restored. In 1688, Another revolution happened, which meant three things: the supremacy of parliament, the beginning of modern England and the final victory of political liberty for which the Puritan had fought and suffered hardship for a hundred years.
In literature also the Puritan was one of confusion, due to the breaking up of old ideals. Medieval standards of chivalry, the impossible loves and romances perished as well as the ideal of a national church. The puritans believed in simplicity of life. They disapproved of the sonnets and the love poetry written in the previous period. In 1642 the theatres were closed. The Bible became only one book of the people. The puritan influence in general tended to suppress literary art. Yet John Milton, and John Bunyan were born in this hard period.
In absence of any fixed standard of literary criticism there was nothing to prevent the exaggeration of the “metaphysical” poet, such as Donne and Herbert, who made the poems take new and
During restoration, the whole literature was often witty and clever, but immoral and cynical. The most popular genre was that of comedy whose chief aim was to entertain the aristocrats. John Dryden, critic, poet and playwright was the most distinguished literary figure of that time.
The comparison between Elizabethan and revolution
a. E. literature had a marked unity and the feeling of patriotism and devotion to the Queen. But
in R, the literature was as divided in spirit.
b. E literature was generally inspiring. It throbbed with youth and hope and vitality. Literature in
the Puritan Age expressed sadness, gloom and pessimism.
c. E literature was romantic, people believed all things even the impossible. But we can not find
any romantic ardor in Puritan Age.
Born of a family with a strong Roman catholic tradition, he was sent, while very young, to Trinity college, Cambridge, later as a member of Lincoln’s inn, he read voraciously and lived gaily.he
went with Essex on the expedition to Cadiz in 1596, and later became secretary to Lord Keeper Egerton. About 1601 Donne fell in love with the niece of the Lord Keeper, and then married her. So he was imprisoned by his father-in-law for a time. After his release he and his growing family usually depended on some friends. Then with help of some influential admirers he entered the church in 1625, where he rose rapidly to be Dean of Saint Paul’s, and the most famous preacher of
Most of his poetries deal with life, descriptively or experimentally and the first thing to strike the reader is Donne’s extraordinary frankness and penetrating realism.
As striking as the novelty of subject matter and point of view is that of its form. Instead of the unvarying succession of sonnets, Donne gave nearly every theme a verse and stanza form peculiar to itself; and instead of decorating his theme by conventional comparison, he illustrate or emphasizes his thoughts by fantastic metaphors and extravagant hyperboles. In moments of inspiration his style becomes wonderfully poignant and direct, heart searching in its simple human accents, which we can’t find in clear and fluent melodies of Elizabethan lyrists. Sometimes the “conceits” as extravagant figures, are so odd that we lose sight of the thing to be illustrated. With him love is a spider which dropped into the wine of life, turns it to poison.
Go and catch a falling star,
Get with child a mandrake root,
Tell me where all past years are,
Or who cleft the Devil’s foot,
Teach me to hear mermaids singing,
Or to keep off envy’s stinging,
Serves to advance an honest mind,
If thou beest born to strange sights,
Things invisible to see,
Ride ten thousand days and nights,
Till age snow white hairs on thee,
Thou, when thou return’st, wilt tell me
All strange wonders that befell thee,
Lives a woman true, and fair,
If thou find’st one, let me know,
Such a pilgrimage were sweet;
Yet do not, I would not go,
Though at next door we might meet;
Though she were true when you met her,
And last till you write your letter,
False, ere I come, to two, or three.
thMilton is the greatest writer of the 17 century, and one of the giants in English literature. In his
life and literary career the two dominant historical movements of Renaissance and Reformation combine and receive their most intense and intelligent expression. He towers over his age as Shakespeare towers over the Elizabethan age, and as Chaucer towers over the medieval period. Milton was born in London. His education began at St. Paul’s school, where he showed from the
beginning a prodigious talent for mastering the ancient languages and literatures: Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. He went onto distinguish himself at Cambridge University, where he graduated B.A. in 1629, and M.A. in 1632. He might well have entered the ministry upon completing his formal studies. But Milton decided that he had still not fully equipped himself for the work he was capable of performing, and he retired for five years to his father’s country house in
Buckinghamshire, where he read virtually all there was to read of ancient and modern writings. His poetic compositions came only occasionally during this period of intense private study. In 1634 he wrote a masque called Comuns at the request of an aristocratic family who lived nearby. In 1637 he wrote the finest pastoral elegy in English, Lycidas, to memorialize the tragic death of a Cambridge friend and classmate. But basically during this period Milton was preparing himself for more ambitious undertaking, in religion and politics as well as in poetry. In 1638 he left England to complete his education with two years of travel in Europe. When he returned home in 1639, England was on the verge of a civil war.
After his return to England, he soon plunged himself into the struggle for which he had long been preparing. After the revolution succeeded and the commonwealth was established, Milton became Latin Secretary to the Council of Foreign Affairs. He wrote a number of pamphlets defending the English revolution, so he played an active role in public affairs during the civil war and the commonwealth. Until the end of the Commonwealth, there were two leaders in England, Cromwell the man of action, and Milton the man of thought. It was while he was engaged in this project that Milton went blind, doubtlessly due to the severe eyestrain brought on by ceaseless reading and Latin composition. But with the help of various scribes and secretaries, he was still able to perform his valuable services as Latin Secretary for Cromwell’s government.
With the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Milton not only was confronted with the collapse of the cause to which he had given so much, but also was imprisoned and threatened with execution. Through the intervention of some friends who carried some influence with the new royal government, Milton was let off with a fine and some loss of property. Shortly afterward, living in
blindness and virtual seclusion from all but the members of his immediate family, Milton began his masterpiece Paradise Lost. Before his death Milton published two other works on a grand scale, Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes. Both appeared in 1671; neither is as successful as Paradise Lost.
Paradise Lost is Milton’s masterpiece, and the greatest English epic. Before its actual writing, he had the subject in his mind for a quarter of a century, and made drafts about the characters and plot.
It is a long epic in 12 books, done in blank verse. The stories were taken from the Old Testament: The Creation; the rebellion in Heaven of Satan and his fellow- angles; their defeat and expulsion from Heaven; the creation of the earth and of Adam and Eve; the fallen angels in hell plotting against God; Satan’s temptation of Eve; and the departure of Adam and Eve from Eden.
A. the story:
Led by freedom-loving Satan, the rebellious angels rise against God himself, but in the battle with the hosts of angels that remain true to God they are finally defeated. But even here in hell, amid flames and poisonous fumes, Satan and his adherents are not discouraged. The epic opens with the description of a meeting of the fallen angels in hell. Satan’s proud spirit is unyielding; he
fearlessly withstands all agonies and passionately strives for revenge and victory. Satan chooses for his new battlefield the most perfect of spots ever created by God, the Garden of Eden, where live the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, who are allowed by God to enjoy the supreme beauties and bounties of paradise, provided they don’t eat the fruit that grows on the
tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Satan desires to tear them away from the influence of God and make them tools in his struggle against God’s authority.
God learns of his intention, however, and sends the Archangel Raphael to warn Adam and Eve of Satan’s plan. The Archangel reminds them of their vow of obedience and gives a detailed narration of Satan’s rebellion. Raphael goes on to relate God’s creation of heaven and earth, and
all living thing. But on Adam’s request for an explanation of the rotation of the celestial bodies (an echo of Galileo’s teachings), Raphael advises him not to inquire into matters which do not concern him directly and then leaves him.
No sooner is Raphael gone than Satan assumes the shape of a serpent and appears before Eve. He persuades her to break God’s command. Eve eats an apple from the forbidden tree and plucks
another one for Adam. God sees all this, and Adam and Eve, husband and wife , are both deprived of immortality, exiled from paradise and doomed to an earthly life full of hardships and sufferings, to eat bread by “ the sweat of the face”.
B. theme and Characterization:
the poem, as we are told at the out set, was “to justify the ways of God to man”. i.e. to preach
submission to the almighty. But the reader soon gets the impression that the main idea of the poem is the heroic revolt against God’s authority.
In the poem God is no better than a selfish despot, seated upon a throne with a chorus of angels about him eternally singing his praises. His long speeches are hardly pleasing. He is cruel and unjust in punishing Satan. His Archangel is a bore. His angels are silly. While the rebel Satan who rises against God and, though defeated, still seeks for revenge, is by far the most striking
character in the poem.
Adam and Eve embody Milton’s belief in the powers of man. Their craving for knowledge
denied them by God, as Milton stresses, adds a particular significance to their character. It is this longing for knowledge that opens before mankind a wide road to an intelligent and active life. It has been noted by many critics that the picture of God surrounded by his angels, who never think of expressing any opinions of their own, and who indeed never seem to have any opinion of their own, resembles the court of an absolute monarch, while Satan and his followers, who freely discuss all issues in council, bear close resemblance to a republican parliament. This alone is sufficient to prove that Milton’s revolutionary feelings made him forget religious orthodoxy.
C. The Image of Satan
The finest thing in Paradise Lost is the description of Hell, and Satan is the real hero of the poem. Like a conquered and banished giant, he remains obeyed and admired by those who follow him down to hell. He is firmer than the rest of the fallen angels. It is always form him that deep counsels, unlooked-for resources and courageous deeds precede. It is he who, passing through the guarded gates hell and boundless chaos, amid so many dangers, and overcoming so many obstacles, makes man revolt against God. Though defeated, he prevails, since he has won from God the third part of his angels, and almost all sons of Adam. Though wounded, he triumphs, for the thunder which overwhelmed him left heart invisible.
To Milton, the proud and somber Satan represented the spirit of rebellion against an unjust authority.