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In literature it was the age of imagination.
The three great names of the Elizabethan period, are Shakespeare, Spenser, and Bacon.
Nearly all the poems of the first half of the period are long.
Spenser was the next considerable poet after Chaucer. There were a hundred and fifty years between them.
Spenser was called "the poet's poet."
His principal poems were The Faërie Queen, The Shepherd's Calendar, The Epithalamium, and Mother Hubbard's Tale. His chief prose work was, A View of the State of Ireland.
The minor Elizabethan poets are, Thomas Sackville, Robert Southwell, Samuel Daniel, Michael Drayton, Phineas and Giles Fletcher, Warner, Wotton, Donne, Davies, and later, connecting Milton's time with the Elizabethan, George Herbert, Joseph Hall, Carew, Lovelace, Suckling, Herrick, Francis Quarles, and Richard Crashaw.
Scotch poets were less prominent than in the preceding age. William Drummond and George Buchanan were the chief Scotch poets.
The DRAMA was the principal feature of the Elizabethan literature.
Its progress is traced from the Miracle and Moral Plays. It reached its perfection in Shakespeare.
John Heywood was the inventor of the INTERLUDE.
After Shakespeare all the other dramatists of his time might be classed under the head of Minor DRAMATISTS, beginning with Ben Jonson, then Marlowe, Beaumont and Flet er, Massinger, Middleton, W er, Chapman, etc., ending with James Shirley.
The language of the time was influenced by John Lyly's Euphues.
Ben Jonson's principal plays are, The Fall of Sejanus, Catiline's Conspiracy, Every Man in his Humor, Volpone, The Silent Woman, and The Alchemist.
Theatres were closed in 1648.
His aim in science, was to produce results or "fruit" from practical investigation or experiment.
Thomas Hobbes in his philosophic writings vindicated despotism and selfishness,
Sir Philip Sidney, “a warbler of poetic prose," was a gentleman with “high erected thoughts seated in a heart of courtesy.” One in whom the " courtier's, scholar's, soldier's eye, tongue, sword,” were all combined.
Sir Walter Raleigh's was an eventful life. He wrote while in prison, A History of the World.
Robert Burton wrote the Anatomy of Melancholy.
His principal work is the Ecclesiastical Polity.
The Translation of the Bible was one of the most important literary works of the time of James I.
Other translations of this time, were Homer's Iliad by George Chapman, Tasso's Jerusalem by Fairfax, Ariosto's Orlando Furioso by Sir John Harrington, Montaigne's Essays by John Florio.
Historians of this period were, Camden, Stow, Holinshed, Speed.
THE PURITAN AGE.
longer, than the time included within the above dates ; these, the student of history will recognize as marking the term of the Puritan government or the Commonwealth in England.
Allusion was made in the foregoing chapter to the decline of literature in the reign of Charles First, and in order to comprehend this degeneracy and the reactionary spirit of Puritanism which followed, it will be necessary to glance at the political features of the times.
The prosperity of Elizabeth's reign had ended. A new line of kings had ascended the English throne, and the wisdom and moderation of Elizabeth's ministry was replaced by the rule of unworthy favorites of the Stuart family. The Reformation which promised such salutary influences in Elizabeth's reign, in the reign of James developed features dangerous to the liberties of the people. The “ Divine Rights of Kings” that sovereign construed literally, considering himself in no way amenable to law. *
The arrogant and aggressive bearing of the King aroused the indignation of liberty-loving England, especially as, side by side with the preconceived ideas of the “divine rights of kings,”
* In a speech delivered in the Star Chamber, he said: "As it is Atheism and blasphemy to dispute what God can do, so it is presumption and a high contempt in a subject to dispute what a king can do, or to say that a king cannot do this or that." 11 *
James held to the doctrine of the “divine rights of bishops." “Unbroken episcopal succession, and hereditary regal succession were, with the new sovereign, the inviolable basis of church and state."*
The condition to which James had reduced the kingdom anticipated the disastrous reign of his son. The first care of Charles upon coming to the throne was to replenish the exhausted treasury. This he attempted to do by levying heavy taxes upon the people.
The petition of rights was drawn up, and this Charles was induced to sign, thereby binding himself to levy no taxes upon the people without the consent of Parliament. But the contract was no sooner signed than violated, and, unheeding the murmurs of discontent, Charles continued in his illegal taxations and his arbitrary disbanding of Parliament.
By every means the King was making himself unpopular. Among his many arbitrary acts was his attempt to introduce episcopacy into Scotland, and to force the liturgy of the Church of England upon the people. This the Scots resisted, refusing to abandon their Presbyterian form of worship. Moreover, they drew up a covenant, binding themselves to resist all religious innovations; and this covenant every person throughout Scotland was obliged to sign. The “Covenanters," as they were afterwards called, became formidable enemies of Charles, and at once arrayed themselves into an army against him. Lacking means to quell this uprising, the King, having for eleven years governed without a Parliament, now sought its assistance. Parliament assembled, not, however, to raise means to assist the King in his distress, but to consider the grievances of the people. Enraged at this the King dissolved the Parliament, only to reassemble it in a time of more pressing need. This time the Parliament declared that it “should not again be dissolved, prorogued, or adjourned without its own consent.” Charles, by assenting to this, lost all control of the government. A civil war resulted, the Puritans siding with Parliament; the regular clergy, the landed gentry, and a majority of the nobles siding with the King.
*Green's History of the English People.
The battle of Naseby (1645) decided the strength of the Puritans. Charles was defeated, taken prisoner, and condemned to death “as a tyrant, traitor, murderer, and enemy of his country,” and on the 30th of January, 1649, was beheaded.
No sooner was the atrocious deed for liberty committed, than the people recoiled with horror from the act. Pity took the place of hatred. The inconstant multitude, forgetting his errors, now deplored the untimely end of their sovereign.
In this crisis, when public sentiment was vacillating, it required not only the strong arm of a Cromwell to command the actions, but the calm, clear intellect of a Milton to direct the feelings of the new republic.
Until this stormy time John MILTON (1608-1674), the poet and scholar, had lived in retirement, adding daily stores of knowledge and fancy to the rich treasury of his mind, in the conscious preparation for the work which was to make his name immortal. Through all these years of study, one thought, one desire had haunted him like a passion-a wish to write "something which the world would not willingly let die." But his country's call now aroused him from all dreams of putting into execution his long-cherished plans.
Guided solely by his love of liberty, he entered upon his task of setting before the people a clear, dispassioned view of the state of the kingdom. His ability and ardent love of liberty attracted the attention of the Council of State, and he was appointed Latin or Foreign Secretary during the Commonwealth, in which capacity he made the intimate acquaintance of Cromwell.
Milton himself gives a brief outline of his early career :
"I was born,” he says, “at London, of respectable parents. My father was a man of the highest integrity. My mother, an excellent woman, was particularly known throughout the neighborhood for her charitable donations. My father destined me from a child for the pursuits of polite learning, which I prosecuted with such eagerness that, after I was twelve years old, I rarely retired to bed from my lucubrations till midnight. This was the first thing which proved pernicious to my eyes, to the natural weakness of which were added frequent