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Home » » What is Restoration? What socio-religious conditions of this period led to the creation of a new kind of English literature?

The monarchial power was restored to the british throne in 1660 that was restoration.

The restoration of monarchy in 1660 was a decisive had a tremendous impact on English life and literature. In fact,the tow ages -the puritan and the restoration - utterly contradictory. To pass from one to another was to experience a heavy shock. The Puritan regime had too many rigours and restraints. Its severity repressed a good many characteristic national pleasures, including the drama in which the English genius had expressed itself so magnificently in the age of the great Elizabethans. In such a context, the reaction against Puritan manners and morals was inevitable. The popular welcome given to Charles on his return was a clear indication of the craving of the general people for the restoration of the monarchist order. The Restoration brought about a release - a sort of well-timed relief from the severity of the Puritans. But, released from that restraint, the English society rather lost itself in excesses and licenses. In place of the stricture of manners and morals and the reverence for an orderly way of living, there came into existence a moral looseness, a taste for vulgarity and the corruption of social manners and formalities. The King, himself an indolent sensualist, encouraged an atmosphere of hedonism and moral looseness. His companions, who had returned with him from their exile in France, brought with them French wit and French gallantry and liveliness. They indulged in amoral wit and sophisticated hedonism, and that was reflected conspicuously on the Restoration comedy.

The English society, after the Restoration, was certainly diseased. It suffered from the fever of indecency, immorality and licence, which rather affected national life from political, social and even ecclesiastical angles. In such a feverish state, the national spirit could not be fully active and alive, and the dominant influence on the same me easily from abroad - from France. The King had lived previously be fully France, and the supporters of royalty had to take shelter there during the Puritan rule. When the Restoration brought back the English King from France, he brought, along with himself, his followers and friends, who had been in France with him. Those people found themselves rather cut off from the previous flow of national life. As such they got themselves more imbued with French ideals and manners in social practices as well as literary tastes and expressions.

Moreover, the king, who had been brought back to power by the Restoration, was not at all an inspired leader. He indulged in corrupt practices and vices in private life. He had no redeeming sense of patriotism or responsibility in his public activities. He was fond of a lewd life and gave indulgences to the fellows of his habits. He was ready to spend anything for his own cheap material pleasures.

Such a defile influence and a corrupt King could not surely prove contributive to the growth of the national spirit of England. Both life and literature were naturally affected in such a state. Yet, in general, There was no degeneration in English life and literature. Of course compared with the time of the great Elizabethans, some decay might be well perceived. In fact, the spirit of English life and literature was found preserved by several factors that reacted in the other direction. 

In the first place, despite the moral looseness of the royal court, the English people in general retained their ardour for virtue and morality. Puritanism had a definite bearing on the moral aspects of the common English people, and that continued even after the great political change. 

In the second place, the King, despite his vulgarity and corrupt practices, could do little to affect the morality of the nation. He was almost a figurative head and nothing else. The political power actually belonged to the political parties in Parliament - the Whigs and the Tories.

In the third place, the growth of party spirit, despite its unfortunate tendencies, had a healthy impact on the national mind and intelligence. New tastes and tendencies in literature were sharpened by the same. 

In the fourth place, the French influence proved a blessing in disguise. A new tradition came to be set up, particularly in the domain of the drama, under the same influence.

In fact, the Restoration changed the character of the English people and even their tastes and manners, to some extent. But it could not revolutionize, in any unhappy manner, the essence of the English spirit or life. Amid its vulgarity and corruption, indecency and moral looseness, the age,  after the restoration, waited for a restoration to health and sanity which took place after the bloodless Revolution of 1688.     

That was how English life was affected, and shaped itself after the restoration of monarchy in 1660. English literature was, in no less way, affected by the new standard and the new values of life, brought into existence by the new regime. There was a sudden break from old standards and ideals. Between the age of the Elizabethans and the age after the Restoration, a great gap in literary objectives and patterns was clearly perceived. 

Shakespeare and his great associates were no more the source of inspiration for the writers who came after the Restoration. The influence of France, as noted already, was tremendous. The new writers renounced the old Elizabethan ideas and tried to inspirit English literature in the new French models. Literature, indeed, in England, after the Restoration, seemed to have been bred and nursed by French literary ideals and patterns. 

Of course, it was a great age for the French authors, particularly for the French dramatists. The French theatre was then illumined with the brilliant fireworks of wit and realism of Corneille, Racine and Moliere. It was under their influence that there was a new birth of comedy in England. The comedy of manners, as popularly called, was the greatest literary force of the Restoration, and its source of inspiration was certainly the French comedy of manners. The comedies of manners of Congreve, Wycherley, Vanbrugh, Farquhar and Dryden highly popular in the age were all inspired by that source. The comedy of the Restoration made a clear departure from the romantic comedy of Shakespeare and his predecessors and successors. These comedies were based on social manners, and here, to some extent, they bore the spirit of the Jonsonian comedy of humour. But, in the narrowness of their realism and in their excesses of vulgarity, such comedies were of a much lesser ethical quality than the Jonsonian comedy of humour. 

Another dramatic type of the Restoration was the heroic play, formulated mainly under the inspiration of the neo-classical authors of Europe- of Spain, France and Germany. The heroic play replaced the prominence of the tragedy in the Elizabethan world. Dryden was, again, the protagonist of heroic plays, and tried to imbue English literature with a classical spirit. 

Another literary expression of the age was the satire. The conflict between political parties - the Whigs and the Tories resulted in an Restoration Age interesting, but not always healthy, combat between different literary men, supporting antithetical political ideals. The genius of the English John Dryden. satire followed from the same, and the age was known after the name of the greatest protagonist of satirical literature Dryden's great satires - Absalom and Achitophel, in two parts, and Mac Flecknoe literature of the age. remained the wonderful inspirations for the satiric. 

The Restoration had also another important bearing on English literature by introducing more direct and simpler literary expressions. The extravagance of thought and language, loaded with Latin quotations and classical allusions, marked so conspicuously among Elizabethan and Puritan writers were no more. A sort of precise, almost mathematical, elegant literary style was developed.

One more aspect of that new literature was the adoption of the heroic couplet as the prevailing pattern of rhyme in poetry. Dryden showed his excellence in the use of heroic couplets. He was successfully followed, in the next age, perhaps with a greater adroitness, by Pope. 

Classicism was the objective of the Restoration authors who were actually opposed to Elizabethan romanticism. They did not possess the genius of the classical masters. Their attempts were more or less imitative. But they heralded a change, a turn to novelty, in the literary ideal from the good old order to a change which deemed as the sign of progress, though the new direction might not be all fine and fair.


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