Great names in British literature (Shakespeare)
The Middle Ages
The oldest literature monument of the Anglo-Saxon period is the old Germanic legend about Beowulf. This heroic poem is about the strong and courageous pagan hero Beowulf.
John Wycliffe was a professor of Oxford University. With his students he translated the whole Bible into English. He influenced Master John Huss and our Hussite movement very much.
The Renaissance and Humanism
England became the sea power, the trade rapidly grew and there were also big changes in culture. The Renaissance was a period of revival antic ideals, especially ideals of human physical and psychical beauty, ideals of relations between man and woman etc. People began to love and enjoy their life again.
The beginning of the period is marked by Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. The book is a brilliant portrait of pilgrims who representing people from different social classes, travel to Canterbury and they were saying stories each other (legends, chronicles, histories, stories about love, fairy tales).
William Shakespeare: is the biggest author of this period. (Down)
Christopher Marlowe: might became another Shakespeare but he had been killed. However he lived only a short life, he wrote many plays – The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus
17th Century – Baroque
John Milton: is the main figure of this period. His masterpiece is a religious epic Paradise Lost, which is about the revolt of Satan against Heaven and God.
In the 18th century there is a big development of the society and economy, journalism, novels and drama developed very much. Literature became very popular.
Jonathan Swith: was a sharp critic. He wrote satirical pamphlets on all unfair events in British society. His most popular work is Gullivers Travels is a philosophical and satiric novel. It‘s allegory of Lemuel Gulliver's travelling thorough imaginary countries - Liliputians, where the people are six inches high, the land of giants, country of wise horses. He criticises politics in England, kingdoms, armies, bad politicians etc.
Daniel Defoe: was a politician, traveller and journalist. His most famous work is Robinson Crusoe. Robinson shipwrecked on a lonely island; we learn about his life there, how he was building his house and providing food for himself
Henry Felding (1707 - 1754) was a journalist and lawyer. He wrote a realistic novel The History of Tom Jones where he describes the life in the 18th century in England. The story had a great success.
Literature of this period is inspired with the middle ages time.
Sir Walter Scott: is a founder of historical novel. He draw the themes for his romantic novels from old folk ballads, especially from Scottish history. Ivanhoe is from the period of Richard the Lionhearted. The other novels are Waverley, Kenilworth and so on.
The romantic period is known especially for its poetry; the best English romantic poets are:
Lord George Gordon Byron: represent revolutionary romanticism – unhappy and usually lonely heroes fight for freedom and their fight ends in vain. Byron was a son of nobleman. He was physically disabled from hid birth. His main work is Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. The Hero travels all over Europe and make comments of the hypocritical society and unfairness in life.
Percy Bysshe Shelly: represents also as a Byron revolutionary romanticism. His greatest work is Prometheus Unbound, based on an old Greek legend about Prometheus who steals fire from Olympus to give it to People.
William Blake: he was also a painter, illustrator, visioner. He was a rebel and he created his own words. His poetry is very difficult to understand. His poems are in the books Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience.
Victorian Age (Critical Realism) – 19th century
Victorian Age produced great novels criticising various evils of prosperous but imperialistic society.
Among the best authors of this period belong:
Charles Dickens: had a difficult childhood. He had to start working at the age of 12. That‘s why the heroes of his stories are often unhappy children without home and family who have to fight for their lives and take care of themselves (Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Little Dorrit, Great Expectations) – contrast to the ideal family of the Victorian era.
Robert Lewis Stevenson might be mentioned as an author of romantic adventurous stories such as Treasure Island or Dr.Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
Oscar Wilde: He is known for his fairy tales – The Happy Prince, The Nightingale and the Rose, Selfish Giant and the other. Wilde wrote many stories for his children including The Happy Prince and The Canterville Ghost. He wrote 4 comedies: Lady Windermere¢s Fan, A Woman of no Importance, An Ideal Husband and his masterpiece The Importance of Being Ernest. He only wrote one novel – The picture of Dorian Gray. He was criticised by London society and even put to prison (for 2 years) for homosexuality. The day he left prison he went directly to France and he never turned to England. He moved to Paris and changed his name. Oscar Wilde was influenced by the French theory of l’art-pour-l’art.
The first half of 20.century
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: is the creator of Sherlock Holmes and he makes one of the grates detective story writers of all times.
Rudyard Kipling: was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature as a first British author. He wrote short stories about hero Mowgli, the sea, the jungle and its animals – The Jungle Book, The Second Jungle Book.
John Galsworthy: he got the Nobel Prize in 1932, he was a critical novelist, dramatist and shortstory–writer. His most known book is Forsyte Saga – describes upper middle class family.
James Joyce: he was born in Dublin, he wrote modern novels and experimental prose. Dubliners is a collection of short stories. His masterpiece Ulysses is inspired in Homer’s work where hero wandered for about 20 years around Mediterranean. Joyce’s hero wanders around Dublin during one day but all the characters correspondent to the legend.
Georg Bernard Shaw: is the most famous personality in drama of this period. He attacked the whole society. In his plays he criticises the false morals of the society – Pygmalion (My Fair Lady). He was awarded the Nobel Prize.
Wisselkoers britse pond (GBP) - Verenigd Koninkrijk
Reactions to the war – „angry young men“: British style of a revolt (=no extremes such as drugs, or a weird appearence), nonconformism, social critic, lots of humour - the hero often is a young man trying to find his place in society, who has no interest in building a successful carrier
Kingsley Amis: the most famous member of this group. He is world famous for his Lucky Jim (the main character is Jim Dickson – a lecturer at one small university).
William Golding: he was rewarded a Nobel Prize in 1983. His most known book is Lord of the Flies – the story is set to the future, when an air–crash leaves a group of young boys on an island. First they are happy without their parents and they try to form an ideal society, then they form 2 groups and the end is full of barbarian bestiality.
J.R.R. Tolkien: based the stories of his fairy tale novels on his profound knowledge of old Germanic and Celtic myths. He created a fantasy world of Middle-Earth where small hobbits seek happiness, goodness and live many adventures – Hobbit, trilogy The Lord of The Rings, The Silmarillion
George Orwell: wrote excellent novels criticising totalitarian society (Animal Farm, Nineteen Eighty-Four)
Agatha Christie: is the most widely read author in the world. She is the queen of a detective story and wrote about 70 novels – The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Ten Little Niggers, Sleeping Murder, Curtain,...
The most successful play in history is Mouse Trap by A. Christie.
Arthur C. Clarke: is a world-known science-fiction writer – 2001: A Space Odyssey
Samuel Beckett – a Nobel Prize winner in 1969, he is important both for drama and prose. His famous play is called Waiting for Godot.
Harold Pinter – is influenced by Kafka and Beckett, for example the plays: The Room, The Birthday Party.
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