Short Notes of English Literature Part-2
Classicism is a term often used in literature to denote the excellent qualities of the literature of ancient Greece and Rome. The most important of those qualities is the grand ideas about mankind. Those ideas are the truths which never change.
Another characteristic of classicism is the dignity of the subject. The ancient Greek and Roman writers dealt with only noble subjects and avoided everyday issues. For example, man’s relationship with supernatural powers, his helplessness in the hands of fate, king’s relationship with his subjects, etc. These subjects needed grand language and the ancient writers made use of royal verse form which is another feature of classicism.
The grave tone that dominated the classical literature is one more feature of classicism. In Augustan age Poets, of English literature, like Pope and Dryden, imitated mechanically those qualities of the ancient Greek and Roman literature. But they did not have the originality of Homer, Sophocles, and Virgil. For this reason their literary tradition is called Neo-classicism or Pseudo-classicism.
2.Drama of Ideas
Drama has different types. One specific type is of the ideas. This is called the drama or play of ideas. As the very name signifies, the play of ideas are intended for propagating ideas on society, social life and even individual relationship.
Such plays differ from romantic plays, and are not also artificial comedies of the sophisticated manners of a fashionable society. These comedies are concerned with life and society, the problems of life and society, and present them in different perspective. These plays of ideas are fundamentally socio-realistic, and have a didactic value.
Shaw is called the father of the theatre of ideas. His plays are found specially packed with ideas on varied matters. In the opinion of Potts, “What he is fundamentally concerned with is ideas.”
It is by his searchlight of ideas that Shaw lights up the moral and intellectual bluntness of the society of his times and aims at converting people to his own moral and ideal.
“Paradise Lost” is a big and ambitious project to write an epic by Milton. It remains an outstanding literary creation in modern English and has secured an eminent plays by the side of the great epics of the classical masters, like Homer, Virgil and others.
Milton’s chief source in Paradise Lost is The Book of Genesis of the Holy Bible. The original Biblical story is simple and vivid. It is all about the creation of Man, his transgression of the divine commandment and his consequent expulsion from the Garden of Eden.
In Dr. Johnson’s opinion, Milton has chosen ‘a subject mightier than the Idiad or the Aenied, greater than the story of a destruction of a city or that of the foundation of an Empire.
Paradise Lost is an ambitious epic, and as such, it has an epical structure, Milton’s plan is quite comprehensive, and the whole epic is composed of twelve books, dealing with different well connected aspects of a sublime theme.
Milton’s epic, however, has a moral purpose, consistent with his own deeply religious nature and Puritan conviction. His aim here, as he himself states, is to ‘justify the ways of God to men’.
Paradise Lost is truly a very ambitious work. Milton’s theme is universal- Man’s disobedience and fall and the prospect of his redemption through the sacrifice of one Greater Man.
The 18th century is usually characterized as an age of prose literature. In fact, the age is found rich in prose writings, and in these prose writings, the periodical essay, as it is called, proved immensely successful. In the periodical essays of the 18th century, The Spectator, a joint venture of Addison and Steele, published first in 1711, is an important literary name.
The Spectator, that followed Steele’s The Tatler, was a daily, and the united efforts of the two masterminds raised the essays, published in The Spectator, to a high status.
Indeed, The Spectator of Addison and Steele is found endowed with a definite plan. It consists of a series of literary essays, concerned with social morals and manners.
The first essay, Mr., Spectator gives an account of the author himself. The essayist here draws a character- sketch of the spectator, with a specific attention to different aspects of his nature.
The aim of The Spectator is clearly and frankly instructive. Addison and Steele are here to found to refine and reform the tastes of the contemporary English society.
The Spectator has the special business to study the females in the society and to endeavour to change to change their modes of living, thinking and fashions of life.
The importance of The Spectator is immense for the eighteenth century. It is found to have a wholesome massage for the betterment of society and for guiding and shaping public tastes and public opinions.
5.The Reformation Movement
Opposition to the Pope of Rome actually started in England as early as the middle of the fourteenth century. The English king introduced the practice to forbid the appeal of cases to the Papal authority of Rome.
Under the firm leadership of John Wyclif, there was a strong resistance movement to the practice to appease the Roman Church by any sort of contribution, concession, or submission. Originally a Professor of the University Of Oxford, Wyclif was much concerned with the Church maters. He condemned openly the corruptions and vices of the Catholic Church.
It was at that time that the doctrines, preached by Martin Luther in Germany, had a sweeping march in different European countries. Luther’s new creed of Protestantism found a favorable soil in England during the early sixteenth century. The English King Henry VII was determined to root out the authority of the Pope from England and thereby gave the Reformation movement a great spurt.
Thus the Reformation movement was handled by the king to serve his own material interest. With the royal approval and the parliamentary sanction, Protestantism became the Church of England.