Social and Political condition of the Restoration Age

The age 1660 is remarkable for English history and literature as it  restored the Stuart Monarchy to the throne. The Restoration of Charles and austerity of puritan authority, the people welcomed the rule of Charles II after being suffocated by the strict rule of Cromwell. Though the new king did not bring complete peace in England, he continued for twenty five years.
The people wanted to get released from the puritan regime and finally were diseased by the fever of indecency, immortality and licentious. The moral losses, vulgarity and corruption encouraged by the king himself. He was the source of all evils and thereby encouraged his companions to indulge in immoral activities. The sensualist king and his companions, who were exiled in France, brought with them French wit, gallantry and liveliness.

During the Restoration period the king and royal supporters took shelter in France and thereby were affected by the French ideals and manner. The national spirit after the restoration was shaped by forcing ideals. Both in private and public life the king was corrupt and depraved. He did not even had any sense of patriotism and responsibility. He was always prepared to buy his earthly pleasure at the cost of anything.
The king and his supporters imposed many rules which ultimately put the parliament into conflict with the king. The conflict between the king and parliament led a glorious Bloodless Movement in 1688 and resulted in the removal of James II.
Social and Political condition of the Restoration Age
The parliament curtailed the absolute power of the king and established control over the state affairs. Thereby we find a keen struggle between parliamentary parties Whigs and Tories. The king became ornamental and political parties established their power by different exercises.
The Restoration had a great influence on the life and literature of the contemporary age. Under the French influence, the drama of this age grew realistic.

The Restoration comedy is different from Shakespearean Romantic comedies. The social manners, vulgarity and narrowness of realism were reflected in them. The heroic plays replaced the tragedies of Elizabethan world. Dryden practised realism of French writers like Cornelius, Rocine and Moliere. He also contributed much to the rise of Wycherly, Vanbour, Farquhar and Dryden who were the popular playwrights of comedy of manners.
The literature of Restoration is different in its treatment of romanticism.

The old Elizabethan sptrit was marked with love for patriotism and creative vigour was replaced by the new spirit of realism and search for fact. The highly imaginative past was facilitated by the arrival of a new awareness. They dealt with man his life, with dress, habits and temperament. They reflect the and manners from the perspective of new social order. This attitude was also reflected in the writer's view on language. Though there was a general urge to reproduce, “Fire of Homer, ity of Virgil, energy of juvenal, eloquence of Cicero, pithy of Seneca, and urbanity of Horace, Terence and Patronises. There was a fascination for polished upper class conversation and verbal skill.

The Restoration poetry was marked by realism, intellect and satire. Those poetry were devoid of Elizabethan emotion and imagination. We did not find lyrical spirit in this period. The realistic pictures of city and court life and fashionable manners were presented. The witty, gay and licentious verse were the products of this age. The style of poetry became clear, playful and focal. It ends at clarity and consciousness.

All extravagant, fantastic and unnatural subjects, turbulent passion and fights of imagination were not accepted and they were barrowed from the ancient and the French. Their treatment of subject and style were in contrast with those of romantic poetry. A sort of literary formalism and elegance of style was in vogue. Classicism was the objective of the Restoration authors, though they merely imitated the classical matters.

But they heralded a change, a turn to novelty in the literary ideal from the good old order and the change should be deemed as sign of progress. Sir John Denhem and Edmund Waller played strict role in establishing the new poetic ideal. Odes were written during these age. The two odes of Dryden “On the Death of Mr. Anne Killgrew” are the best of any other English literature period. These odes are full of high passion, and were written in an irregular pindaric metre. Dryden also wrote narrative poetry. He translated and adapted sonnet works of Chaucer, Virgil, Ovid and Boccaccio.

The bitter political rivalry gave birth to the use of satire in this age. Dryden's “Absalom of Achitophel” is an excellent example of the political satire while his “Mac Flecnoe” shows the personal time. Absalom and Achitophel is undoubtedly the most powerful political satire in English. He adapted the Bible story of David and Absalom to ridicule the Whig leaders. The poem had an enormous political Influence and it raised the poet to the rank of an English poet. His excellent lyric poetry “All for Love” is another version of “Antony and Cleopatra” where he leaves his cherished heroic couplet for the blank verse of Marlowe and Shakespeare. This age is also marked with a severe reaction against Puritanism. “Butters Hudebras” is a satire on the Puritans.

Therefore, we can say that Restoration age sets a tremendous reaction from the restraints of Puritanism. The playwrights of the age turned to coarse and evil scenes from Elizabethan drama. People were disgusted and were drivers from the stage. Poets of the age turned from noble blank verse and melody to the monotonous heroic couplet with its mechanical perfection. The restoration of king was the most remarkable occurrence of the age and the literature, therefore, was influenced by his French connection.

The spontaneity of Elizabethan theatre seemed to have passed away. In fact, by the year 1660 Elizabethan romanticism had all but spent itself. Of the great figures of the earlier era only one survived, John Milton, and he had still to write “Paradise Lost” but in everything Milton was of the past.

At the Restoration he retired and worked in obscurity, and his great poem reveals no signs of the time in which his later years were cast. At the Restoration the split up the past was almost absolute. It involved our literature in the deepest degree; subject and style took on a new spirit and outlook, a different attitude and aim.

Hence the post Restoration period is often set up as the converse and antithesis of the earlier Elizabethan age. It is called classical, as against the Elizabethan romanticism. Though the contrast between the two epochs needn't be over-emphasized; yet the differences are very great. Let us see in what respects the new spirit is shown.
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