OLD ENGLISH LITERATURE
Old English, or Anglo-Saxon, was written
from 600 -1100. The greatest Old English poem
is a long epic called Beowulf, whose author is
Two Old English authors that are known by
name are Caedmon, the author of a short hymn,
and Cynwulf, the author of four long poems.
MIDDLE ENGLISH LITERATURE
Middle English was used from about 1100 to about 1500.
The most important poet of the time is Geoffrey
Chaucer. His greatest work is Canterbury Tales.
The three main types of medieval drama are mystery
plays, about Bible stories, miracle plays about the lives of
saints and the miracles they performed, and morality
plays, in which the characters personify moral qualities
(such as charity or vice) or abstractions (as death or youth)
and in which moral lessons are taught.
This is literature written approximately during
the time Queen Elizabeth (1558-1603).
Poetry: The most important poets include Edmund
Spenser, the author of The Faerie Queene, Walter
Raleigh, and William Shakespeare.
Drama: Drama is the greatest form written during
the Elizabethan age.
William Shakespeare is
considered one of the greatest playwrights of all
times. His best works include Hamlet, King Lear,
Macbeth, Othello, and Merchant of Venice. Other
important dramatists include Christopher Marlowe
and Ben Jonson.
THE AGE OF MILTON
The most important poet after the
Elizabethan period is John Milton. Milton’s
greatest work is the epic Paradise Lost.
One of the best poets of this period is Robert
Herrick, who is famous for his beautiful lyrics
A great change in literature happened after
Charles II became king. After a period of closing,
the theatres were reopened and new forms of
The main forms of drama of this period are
the heroic plays, as written by John Dryden; and
the comedy of manners, as written by Richard
Sheridan and William Congreve.
The main characteristics of Neoclassicism:
Poetry should be guided by reason.
The role of the poet is that of the teacher.
Poetry should be written according to fixed
Poetry should use special diction.
The major representatives of this school are
John Dryden and Alexander Pope.
The main characteristics of Romantic poetry:
Poetry is the expression of personal feelings
Imagination is a main source of poetry.
Nature in Romantic poetry is a living thing, a
teacher of man, and a healing power.
Some important Romantic poets are William
Wordsworth, Keats, Byron, Shelley, and
THE VICTORIAN PERIOD
It includes the second half of the nineteenth century.
Poetry: Alfred Tennyson and Robert Browning are
the major poets of the period.
The Novel: The novel was the main literary
production of the Victorian period. This was the time
of Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Emily Bronte,
George Eliot, and Thomas Hardy.
Drama: The best dramatist of the period is Oscar
Wilde. His masterpiece is The Importance of Being
THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
As a result of the political changes and the
world wars, the sense of confidence in Victorian
literature is replaced by the loss of faith,
suffering, and uncertainty that
literature expresses. Stylistic experimentation
and revolution against all literary traditions are
the mark of modern literature. Some major
literary figures include W. B. Yeats, T. S. Eliot and
W. H. Auden in poetry ; Virginia Wolf and James
Joyce in the novel; and Samuel Becket in drama.