The first thing we should know that why we study about literature and its history. We study literature because it has two features, one of simple pleasure and cherishing, the other of analysis and accurate explanation. In literature, for a short time, at least, we find a new world, a world that it seems a place of fantasy and magic. Literature is the utterance of life in words of sincerity and attractiveness. The first theme of this course is an introduction to the Jacobean Age and Victorian Age.
Jacobean Age (1603-1625)
After the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603, James 1 ascended the throne of England. The period of his reign is called the Jacobean Age. This age was also known as the Age of Transition. The Jacobean era succeeds the Elizabethan era and precedes the Caroline era, and specifically denotes a style of architecture, visual arts, decorative arts, and literature that is predominant of that period. During this period, painting and sculpture fall behind architecture in achievement because there was no fine expert of either. The chief of the early Jacobean painters was the marvelous miniaturist Isaac Oliver. Most of the Jacobean portraitists, like the sculptors, were foreign-born or foreign-influenced—for example, Marcus Gheerhaerts the Younger, Paul van Somer, Cornelius Johnson, and Daniel Mytens. Their efforts were later excel by those of the Flemish painters Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony Van Dyck, who worked in England during the reign of Charles I.
Elizabeth was famous and understanding, whereas, James was not at all famous. He was ignorant and could not communicate with the people. His court was wasteful and dishonorable. The critical nature can be seen in the literature of the age.
Economy and Society: At the beginning of the 17th century, England and Wales had more than four million people. The population had doubled above the preceding century, and it proceeded to grow for next 50 years. Increase in population led to social and economic problems, like long term price inflation.
Government and Society: Seventeenth century was completely bound together with the social hierarchy that controlled local communities. Rank, status, and reputation were the basis that allows members of the local elect to serve the crown either in the counties or at court. Political theory strained hierarchy, patriarchy, and deference in narrating the natural order of English society. The most common illustration of this political community was the metaphor of the body politics.
Religious Policy: The Millenary Petition (1603) began a debate on the religious formation that James intended to defend. The king called many major bishops to hold the formal discussion with the reformers. The Hampton Court Conference (1604) saw the king waking personal role in the discussion.
Finance and Politics: The annual budget in Scotland was hardly 50,000. James I inherited serious financial problems. Queen Elizabeth had left a debt of more than 400,000. James’s good chance that the latter grew after the judges ruled in Bate’s case (1606).
Jacobean literature begins with the drama, including some of Shakespeare’s famous and tragic plays. The dominant literary figure of James’s reign was Ben Jonson, whose varied and dramatic works followed classical models and were enriched by his worldly, peculiarly English wit. His satiric dramas, notably the great Volpone (1606), all take a cynical view of human nature.
One of the reasons for the immorality in Jacobean drama was it that it lost all the communication with the common people. In the age of Elizabeth, the dramatists and the audiences had been satisfied whereas, in the age of James, dramatists borrowed the themes and overstated the attitude of Spanish drama, and came across of interest and crime in Italy and Italian subjects. They refreshed the drama of tragedy into the drama of horror. Jacobean dramatist, however, showed a special skill in development of their themes and plots. Jacobean drama was patronized mostly by the classes which were known as Morality without character.
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Themes of death, time and instability committed the focus of most writers. Shakespearean tragedy does give rise to the sentiments of sorrow and worry, but it does not form depression. There are death and destruction. The cheer feeling is absent from Jacobean tragedy. The doubt, obscurity and despair of this age are reflected by its tragedy also. The Jacobean Age also brought a new kind of fashion, realistic and satire comedy.
Victorian Age (1830-1901)
The Victorian Period revolves about the political career of Queen Victoria. She was crowned in 1837 and died in 1901. A great deal of change took place during this period–brought about because of the Industrial Revolution; so it’s not surprising that the literatureof the period is often concerned with social reform. The 19th century was one of fast development and restyle, far rapidly than in previous centuries. In this period England changed from a rural, agricultural country to an urban, industrialised one. This involved huge disruption and thoroughly adjusted the attributes of society. It took many years for both government and people to accommodate to the new conditions.
Population growth and migration: Between 1801 and 1871 alone the population of the UK increased. Migration started in both directions. Many people left their home town in search of a better life. Most people who were poor migrated in large numbers, especially, Irish poor to England, Scotland, as well as abroad. Therefore, population of UK rises, where people came to find work. Migrants from across the world also settled in Britain, notably Jews from Europe and Russia.
The Industrial Revolution: New inventions started taking place that force to a large development of production, through the factory system. There were vast social costs: the mechanized of work, child labour, pollution, and the growth of cities where poverty, pollution and illness bloomed. Also farm work affects long hours, very little salary and exposure to all weathers.
The rise of the middle classes: Society was hierarchical, but there was much social and geographical flexibility. Self-made entrepreneurs used their new wealth to grow in society, building huge houses, educating their children and employing domestic servants. It was noted later that by the 1880s 1.25 million people were employed in domestic service.
The growth of democracy: The franchise was gently stretched out to the working classes, till by the end of the period there were legal rights for men. The fight for votes for women was in full swing, but it was not until 1930 that women achieved the same voting rights as men.
Expansion of Empire: Britain lost her American Empire, before the starting of 19th century. They were acquiring another in India. Britain’s accession of additional territory over the world continued strongly. By the end of Victoria’s reign imperialists could boast that the sun never set upon the British Empire.
In Victorian drama, farces, musical burlesques, extravaganzas and comic operas competed with Shakespeare productions and serious drama by the likes of James Planché and Thomas William Robertson. Victorian drama sees changes with excess on the London stage of farces, comic operas, and many more that competed with Shakespeare productions and serious drama by the likes of James Planche and Thomas William Robertson. The 19th century saw the drama become the greatest form of literature in English. The works by pre-Victorian writers such as Jane Austen and Walter Scott had elaborate two things-social satire and adventure stories. Victorian novels aim to be glorifying images of difficult lives in which hard work, diligence, love and luck. They leaned to be of a developing nature with a moral lesson and mixed with a heavy dose of sentiment. While this formula was the basis for much of earlier Victorian fiction, the situation became more complex as the century progressed.
The Victorians dramatists also started writing novels on children, putting a purpose to stop child labour and the introduction of necessary education. Children began to read and so, literature for young people became a growth industry. Therefore, writers started producing works for children. Writers like Lewis Carroll,R. M. Ballantyne and Anna Sewell wrote mainly for children, even though they had an adult following.
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