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3: The Seventeenth Century - The Age of Revolution (1603-1688)

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    Learning Objectives

    After reading this chapter, you will be able to:

    • Analyze the causes for the Civil War in which Parliamentarians opposed the Royalists.
    • Describe the reasons for the Restoration of Monarchy in England in 1661.
    • Analyze the religious conflicts that led to the Glorious Revolution of 1688.
    • Describe the growth of knowledge and reason as sources of individual authority and individual rights.
    • Compare Metaphysical poetry with Elizabethan poetry.
    • Describe distinguishing features of Classical, Metaphysical, and Cavalier poetry.
    • Describe the influence of courtiers and intellectuals on seventeenth-century drama.
    • Compare Milton’s epic Paradise Lost with Spenser’s epic The Faerie Queene.

    • 3.1: Introduction
      The most important publication of the age pointed to the reconciliation of individual conscience with ultimate authority. The authorized King James Bible (1611), including the Old Testament, New Testament, and Apocrypha, enriched the English language and thought in a way that still resonates. John Milton would defend free thought and free expression—even to the point of requiring the execution of divinely-appointed kings—in his prose tracts and treatises.
    • 3.2: Recommended Reading
      This page contains the recommended readings cited by the author.
    • 3.3: John Donne (1572-1631)
      John Donne was born into a family of devout Roman Catholics at a time when Roman Catholics were greatly persecuted in England. As a writer, Donne was both unique and original. He was a seeker, always accepting and rejecting ideas. He took a skeptical approach to reality, using awkward meter and a jumble of allusions and objects in his poems. Instead of perpetuating what he felt was the trite blandness of the typical Elizabethan metaphor, Donne used striking images and the metaphysical conceit.
    • 3.4: Aemilia Lanyer (1569-1645)
      Little is known about Aemilia Lanyer’s childhood and early youth. She writes of having lived for a while in the household of Susan Bertie, Countess of Kent. Lanyer’s Salve fits with religious poetry, a genre deemed acceptable for women, but it takes a different focus and attitude than conventional religious poetry. She defends Eve; she animates the tears of the Daughters of Jerusalem; she gives an authentic voice to the Virgin Mary’s sorrow. And she exculpates women from Christ’s crucifixion.
    • 3.5: Ben Jonson (1572-1637)
      Ben Jonson was born probably around London, though some scholars believe he was born in Westminster. In 1594, he committed himself to a career in the theater but ultimately turned his talents to writing. Jonson became a leader of the men of letters of his day. His work influenced both his own time and the future, particularly the Neoclassical Age. His classically-inspired art improves on nature that “first beget the imperfect” by proceeding “she to the perfect” (The Alchemist, II.iii.158, 159).
    • 3.6: Robert Herrick (1591-1674)
      Robert Herrick’s father, Nicholas Herrick, was a wealthy goldsmith who apparently committed suicide before Robert Herrick reached the age of two. Considered one of the Cavalier Poets—who opposed the uniqueness, nonconformity, and scientific bent of the metaphysical poets—Herrick was a self-professed son of Ben (Jonson). His poetry is notable for its variety in form and style, for its interest in innovation and experimentation, and for the exceptional musicality of his lyrics.
    • 3.7: Andrew Marvell (1621-1678)
      At the age of twelve, Marvell entered Trinity College, Cambridge. As a politician, Marvell seems to have promoted the interests of religious and political dissenters. Scholars have sometimes divided Marvell’s work into pre- and post-Restoration, with most of his poetry being placed pre- and most of his prose, particularly his political writing, being placed post-Restoration. All of his writing is characterized by its intellect, wit, and often abstruse logic.
    • 3.8: Margaret Cavendish, the Duchess of Newcastle (1623-1673)
      Frank in her pursuit of fame, Margaret Cavendish published an astonishing number of works in a diverse array of genres—including letters, essays, autobiography, utopian romance, natural philosophy (science), and drama. All of her work is marked by experimentation and her self-consciousness as a female author. She challenged culturally-imposed limits on her desire to pursue pleasure, mirth, and fame.
    • 3.09: John Milton (1608-1674)
      John Milton was born in London to John Milton, a scrivener and composer, and Sarah Jeffrey. Milton first put his skills to more immediate use, writing pamphlets, tracts, and political addresses supporting the Commonwealth. After Milton was released from prison and allowed to retire, he composed his epic, Paradise Lost. With this intent, his Paradise Lost transformed the classic epic into an expression of Renaissance humanism and of the Reformation.
    • 3.10: John Dryden (1631-1700)
      John Dryden reached adulthood during the Commonwealth. He celebrated Charles II’s leadership through the Great Fire of London in Annus Mirabilis (1667). His most successful tragedy, All for Love: Or, The World Well Lost, attributed the rise of Octavius Caesar to the weakness and emotionalism of Antony, who was swayed by his love for Cleopatra. Dryden’s reliance on great leaders as the means to order failed him personally when James II lost the throne to the joint rulers William III and Mary II.
    • 3.11: Samuel Pepys (1633-1703)
      Born into a well-connected family, Samuel Pepys was educated at Huntingdon Grammar School. After Charles II ascended the throne, Pepys started writing the source of our knowledge about these details: his Diary. Through his Diary, we have immediate views of events otherwise recounted through informal, of-the-moment periodicals and more formally in poems and other such genres used to memorialize important public events.
    • 3.12: Key Terms
      This page contains a list of key terms found in Chapter 3: The Seventeenth Century - The Age of Revolution (1603-1688).

    Thumbnail: Depiction of Satan, the central character of John Milton's Paradise Lost c. 1866 (Public Domain; Gustave Doré via Wikipedia)

    This page titled 3: The Seventeenth Century - The Age of Revolution (1603-1688) is shared under a CC BY-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Bonnie J. Robinson & Laura Getty (University of North Georgia Press) .

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