English Literature (subject: Drama) Restoration Age
An introduction to Restoration Age.
Topics including in this assignment are:
- Restoration under Charles II
- Puritans Defeat
- Restoration-an unusual Period
- Restoration Literature
- Restoration and three forms of literature.
The dates for Restoration literature are a matter of convention, and they differ markedly from genre to genre. Thus “Restoration”
- In drama may last until 1700
- In poetry it may last only until 1666
- In prose it might end in 1688, with the increasing tensions over succession and the corresponding rise in journalism and periodicals, or not until 1700, when those periodicals grew more stabilized.
Restoration under Charles II:
(In general, scholars use the term “Restoration” to denote the literature that began and flourished under Charles II.)
After the Restoration in 1660, when Charles II came to the throne, there was a complete repudiation of the Puritan ideals and way of living. In English literature the period from 1660 to 1700 is called the period of Restoration, because monarchy was restored in England, and Charles II, the son of Charles I who had been defeated and beheaded, came back to England from his exile in France and became the King.
As the Puritans who were previously controlling the country, and were supervising her literary and moral and social standards, were finally defeated, a reaction was launched against whatever they held sacred. All restraints and discipline were thrown to the winds, and a wave of licentiousness and frivolity swept the country. Charles II and his followers, who had enjoyed a gay (which by the way means happy in old language) life in France during their exile, did their best to introduce that type of foppery and looseness in England also. They renounced old ideals and demanded that English poetry and drama should follow the style to which they had become accustomed in the gaiety of Paris. Instead of having Shakespeare and the Elizabethans as their models, the poets and dramatists of the Restoration period began to imitate French writers and especially their vices.
The result was that the old Elizabethan spirit with its patriotism, its love of adventure and romance, its creative vigour, and the Puritan spirit with its moral discipline and love of liberty, became things of the past. For a time in poetry, drama and prose nothing was produced which could compare satisfactorily with the great achievements of the Elizabethans, of Milton, and even of minor writers of the Puritan age.
The writers of the period began to evolve something that was characteristic of the times and they made two important contributions to English literature in the form of realism and a tendency to preciseness.
In the beginning realism took an ugly shape, because the writers painted the real pictures of the corrupt society and court. They were more concerned with vices rather than with virtues. The result was a coarse and inferior type of literature. Later this tendency to realism became more wholesome, and the writers tried to portray realistically human life as they found it—its good as well as bad side, its internal as well as external shape.
The tendency to preciseness which ultimately became the chief characteristic of the Restoration period, made a lasting contribution to English literature. It emphasised directness and simplicity of expression, and counteracted the tendency of exaggeration and extravagance which was encouraged during the Elizabethan and the Puritan ages. Instead of using grandiloquent phrases, involved sentences full of Latin quotations and classical allusions, the Restoration writers, under the influence of French writers, gave emphasis to reasoning rather than romantic fancy, and evolved an exact, precise way of writing, consisting of short, clear-cut sentences without any unnecessary word. The Royal Society, which was established during this period enjoined on all its members to use “a close, naked, natural way of speaking and writing, as near the mathematical plainness as they can”.
Dryden accepted this rule for his prose, and for his poetry adopted the easiest type of verse-form—the heroic couplet. Under his guidance, the English writers evolved a style—precise, formal and elegant—which is called the classical style, and which dominated English literature for more than a century.It is called the Age of Dryden, because Dryden was the dominating and most representative literary figure of the Age.
Restoration-an unusual period:
The Restoration is an unusual historical period, as its literature is bounded by a specific political event: the restoration of the Stuart monarchy. It is unusual in another way, as well, for it is a time when the influence of that king’s presence and personality permeated literary society to such an extent that, almost uniquely, literature reflects the court. The adversaries of the restoration, the Puritans and democrats and republicans, similarly respond to the peculiarities of the king and the king’s personality. Therefore, a top-down view of the literary history of the Restoration has more validity than that of most literary epochs. “The Restoration” as a critical concept covers the duration of the effect of Charles and Charles’s manner. This effect extended beyond his death in some instances not as long as his life, in others.
Restoration literature is the English literature written during the historical period commonly referred to as the English Restoration (1660–1689), which corresponds to the last years of the direct Stuart reign in England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. In general, the term is used to denote roughly homogeneous styles of literature that center on a celebration of or reaction to the restored court of Charles II. It is a literature that includes extremes, for it encompasses both Paradise Lost and the Earl of Rochester’s Sodom,
Restoration and three forms of literature:
In the Restoration age three forms of literature: Poetry, Prose, and Theatre were excelling.
- The Restoration was an age of poetry. Not only was poetry the most popular form of literature, but it was also the most significant form of literature, as poems affected political events and immediately reflected the times. It was, to its own people, an age dominated only by the king, and not by any single genius. Throughout the period, the lyric, historical, and epic poem was being developed.
- Prose in the Restoration period is dominated by Christian religious writing, but the Restoration also saw the beginnings of two genres that would dominate later periods: fiction and journalism. Religious writing often strayed into political and economic writing; just as political and economic writing implied or directly addressed religion.
- Theatre in Restoration age like every other form was also restored but not in the same way, the plays, written in this age was mostly Dryden’s that flourished until now. The influence of theatre company competition and playhouse economics is also acknowledged, as is the significance of the appearance of the first professional actresses (before this age female characters were played by young boys mostly thirteen or fourteen years old, disguised in women’s clothes on stage).