The English Renaissance extends from More’s Utopia in 1517 to Milton’s last works in 1671
James VI of Scotland ruled England as James I from 1603 until 1625.
The 17 th century is divided into two:
the outbreak of the Civil War in 1642
the temporary overthrow of the monarchy from 1643-1660 when first Parliament and then Oliver Cromwell ruled.
Causes of the civil war were religious, political, and social. The Industrial revolution and the increased power of science had a great role too.
With the return of Charles II as King in 1660, new models of poetry and drama came in from France
As the songs and sonnets of the great Elizabethan age passes slowly away, the immense lyrical tide began gradually to lose its force.
The Jacobean age was more interested in the mind than in heart or eye.
Poetry to Milton
Metaphysical poets: John Donne
A group of poets known as the metaphysical Poets , wrote verse which was generally less beautiful and less musical, and which contained unusual images to attract attention. These poets mixed strong feelings with reason.
Dr. Johnson identified a ‘race of poets’ between Donne and Cowley, since known as the ‘metaphysical poets’.
Donne is the most striking of 17 th century poets.
He was known to the public as a preacher. His verse was privately admired but published only after his death.
20 th c. critics were struck by such love poems as ‘The Sun Rising’, ‘The Anniversary’ and ‘The Good Morrow’.
He avoided Elizabethan melody, natural imagery and classicized beauty.
Devotional Poets: George Herbert
Herbert’s poems are homely in imagery and simple in language, and often about the church; his volume is called The Temple .
These prayer poems differ from similar poems by Donne, Marvell, Crashaw, Vaughan or Traherne, being personally addressed to God in an intimate tone.
A quietest reaction to religious and political revolution had begun in the 1640s.
Benjamin Jonson influence this style of poetry as opposed to Donn’s. Jonson’s verse is social, directed at a person, a topic, an occasion.
ex. “On My First Sonne”; To Celia”.
Sir John Suckling, Sir Richard Lovelace, and Andrew Marvell wrote secular verse and were among the Cavaliers.
The most astonishing was Marvell.
He was a member of Parliament and a diplomat. Marvell’s poems have Donne’s wit and Jonson’s neatness with a lighter touch and a social, detached tone.
‘ To his Coy mistress’ and ‘The Concrete’
Poetry in the 17 th century came from the Court, the Church, or the theatre.
John Milton’s late work was an exception.
His shorter poems include ‘On his Blindness’ and ‘Lycidas’ which is an ambitious pastoral elegy in which nature mourns the young shephard-poet.
His last three poems are his best. Paradise lost
Paradise lost was written for a spiritual elite.
It ‘s an epic poem, a work of grandeur and energy, and of intricate style.
Paradise lost begins with the fall of the angels, Satan’s plan to capture God’s newly created species, and a heavenly foresight of the future.
It’s written in the great blank verse.
Paradise Lost follows the Renaissance idea that poetry should set an attractive pattern of heroic virtue.
Paradise Regain’d shares the same theological themes as Paradise Lost but is not about the Redemption but about the temptation in the desert.
Samson Agonists is a tragedy to be read, not acted. A tragedy on the Greek model, describes the last days of Samson, when he is blind and a prisoner of the Philistines at gaza.
Prose to 1642
During the 17 th century prose became plainer, less elaborate.
Amongst prose writers of that period are Lancelot Andrews, Sir Francis Bacon, Ben Jonson, Robert Burton and others.
The Restoration of the Stuart monarchy in 1660 to about 1700) when the English, Scottish, and Irish monarchies were all restored under Charles II after the Commonwealth of England that followed the Civil War.
Charles II’s return and gave literature chances it had not had for eighteen years. The theatres reopened after having been closed by Olivier Cromwell. Charles II was determined to reject Puritan earnestness who later fled to America.
In literature the Restoration was a period of novelty, change and refoundation rather than of great writing.
Dryden was the leading poet of the period, excelling in all its forms , especially satire and translation. He also wrote the best critical prose of an age in which prose moved towards conversation.
Drama now tried to be purely comic or purely tragic, and critics also embraced Aristotle’s commendation of artistic unity.
Restoration comedy takes a pleasure in the vices it caricatures: it shows ‘the way we live now’.
Among women writers of the 17 th century not yet acknowledged are the poets Anne Bradstreet, who later went to America.