History and its influence on British 17th century’s literature
By regarding British’ literary works up to the 17th century, one can recognize many parallels to the history and culture of that time. In my following term paper I am though going to investigate where the parallels between history, culture and literature are. I will do so by using chosen passages from British literary texts from the Renaissance and Restoration Literature. Therefore I will first define the characteristics of both epochs. Secondly I will compare the plots of the chosen passages to the historical and cultural context and accentuate the similarities. As I believe, these similarities between literatures, cultural and historical context can be found in any literary work.
3. Renaissance Literature
The term Renaissance as an epoch describes the transition from medieval times to the modern ages which took place between 1485 and 1603 in England. It means the rebirth of ancient values and ideals in painting, architecture, science, philosophy and literature. Due to the invention of the printing press by Gutenberg, which was established in England by the help of William Caxton in 1474, authors got the chance to write in vernacular language. Since there were from then on more people who could read and understand the texts, Renaissance knowledge was accessible for the folks (cf. Olague) The early Renaissance in England has strongly been influenced from Italy where it begun about 200 years earlier and from the medieval concept of courtly love. Courtly love meant the poetry by errant knights, often a king’s third son who travelled around the countryside to get a place to work. The only chance for those errant knights to gain their social status back was to get a rich lord’s daughter, so many minnesong poems were written by them. The major contents of those poems were the beauty and elusiveness of the lady. The knights had to sublimate their sexual desires and show real love to succeed and climb the “gradation amoris”, the love-ladder from “eros”, sex to “agape”, the pure love without taking physical interaction. During the Elizabethan Age, from 1558 until 1603, the ideal of a woman’s sight was formed and every woman who was described in a poem was described with the terms of that ideal sight in comparison with nature. Bartholomew Griffin’s Fidessa for example contents all the characteristics of Renaissance poetry as one can see in the following excerpt (Sonnet 39): My Lady's hair is threads of beaten gold;
Her front the purest crystal eye hath seen;
Her eyes the brightest stars the heavens hold;
Her cheeks, red roses, such as seld have been.
Her pretty lips, of red vermilion dye;
Her hand of ivory, the purest white;
Her blush, AURORA, or the morning sky;
Her breast displays two silver fountains bright.
The spheres, her voice; her grace, the Graces three;
Her body is the saint that I adore;
Her smiles and favours sweet as honey be.
But ah, the worst and last is yet behind:
For of a griffon she doth bear the mind !
In this poem, the “Blazon”, the description of the Lady’s beauty from head to toe is accentuated. In this poem one can also recognize the concept of kalokagathia, which means that an outer beauty means a good soul, while an ugly appearance is accompanied to a bad soul. That concept is another typical characteristic for the English renaissance literature and one can find it in this poem since there is no description of the lady’s behaviour but her outer appearance.
4. Restoration Literature
The literary epoch of the Restoration lasted from 1660 until 1688/89. The most common forms of Restoration literature were satires to criticise the noble and religious texts in prose or verse. It triggered “the official break in literary culture caused by censorship and radically moralist standards under Cromwell’s Puritan regime” (cf. English literature). One example for a religious text is “Paradise lost”, by...
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