Appunti di letteratura inglese divisi per periodi



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Appunti sui maggiori autori inglesi
The Reinassence
Historical background
The rise of the Tudor dynasty
Henry VII was the first king of the Tudor dynasty.
He turned England into a modern state, he avoided war since was too expensive, and the peace he brought made him very popular.
Henry VIII was the new king when Henry VII died in 1509.
Henry VIII was a typical renaissance prince: he liked music and dancing, he was a poet and an athlete, yet he was cruel and executed those who displeased him.
Henry had been married by a special dispensation Catherine of Aragon, his brother’s widow, who give him a daughter, Mary.
He had fallen in love with Anne Boleyn and asked the Pope for a divorce, the Pope would not declare his first marriage invalid, Henry broke with Rome and declare himself “Supreme Head of The Church”.
Anne Boleyn, who give him a daughter, was executed and the King married Jane Seymour.
His 4° wife was Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard was 5° and Catherine Parr was 6°.
Henry successor was Edward VI, the son of Jane Seymour.
On Edward death, Mary succeeded him.
Under Mary reign protestant were persecuted, the Queen herself earned the title of “Bloody Mary”.
She died in 1558 and Elizabeth became the Queen of England
The reign of Elizabeth I
Elizabeth I had a strong personality and a lively intelligence, she had received a very good education and could speak French, Latin and Italian with easy.
She was a political genius and brought the unity to the nation, she was a tolerant and a moderate.
Marlowe’s life
Marlowe was born in Canterbury in 1564.
In 1580 he went to Cambridge University where he established a reputation of free thinking and atheism. Due to frequent absences, the university authorities proposed to refuse him his degree; the Queen’s Council the intervened on his behalf, saying that he had been serving Her Majesty who recognized his merit and did not wish him to be penalized.
The misunderstanding was cleared up and Marlowe moved to London in 1587, after taking his degree.
Here, he rapidly established himself as the most important playwright of the period.
His death in a London tavern is still shrouded in mystery: same critics have suggested that has a result of his political activities he may simply have know too much and had thus become undesirable.
Main works
During his brief life, he succeeded in writing five dramatic masterpieces: Tamburlaine the Great, Doctor Faustus, The Jew of Malta, Edward II, Dido, Queen of Chartage.
The most important themes of his work are: the lust for power, the desire to surpass the old restrictions of the Church, the limitation of knowledge.
Marlowe’s work also represent a departure from the didactic spirit of the Morality Plays and his characters are non longer personifications of virtues or vices, but are enriched by human passion and faults.
The play “Doctor Faustus”
The play is based on the well-known story of a man who sold his soul to the devil in order to have power and riches in this life.
Marlowe’ Faustus seeks the power to give his soul to the devil, Mephistopheles, in return for twenty-four years of unlimited power of knowledge.
During this year the devil must serve him and give him what he wants; at the end of this period the devil takes Faustus’s soul to Hell.
In this play Faustus reflects the ambition and the restlessness of the Renaissance man, who is still linked to medieval culture but wants to be the maker of his own destiny.
Faustus’s last monologue
The dock strikes eleven.
FAUSTUS Ah Faustus,
Now hast thou but one bare hour to live,
And then thou must be damned perpetually.
Stand still, you ever-moving spheres of heaven,
5 That time may cease and midnight never come.
Fair nature's eye, rise, rise again, and make
Perpetual day. Or let this hour be but
A year, a month, a week, a natural day,
That Faustus may repent and save his soul.
10 0 lente, lente, currite noctis equi.
The stars move still, time runs, the clock will strike.
The devil will come, and Faustus must be damned.
Oh, I'll leap up to my God: who pulls me down?
See, see, where Christ's blood streams in the firmament.
15 One drop would save my soul, half a drop. Ah, my Christ!
Ah, rend not my heart for naming of my Christ!
Yet will I call on him. Oh, spare me, Lucifer!
Where is it now? 'Tìs gone:
And see where God stretcheth out his arm,
20 And bends his ireful brows.
Mountains and hills, come, come, and fall on me,
And hide me from the heavy wrath of God.
No, no. Then will I headlong run into the earth.
Earth, gape! Oh no, it will not harbour me.
25 You stars that reigned at my nativity,
Whose influence hath allotted death and hell,
Now draw up Faustus like a foggy mist
Into the entrails of yon labouring cloud,
That when you vomit forth into the air
30 My limbs may issue from your smoky mouths,
So that my soul may but ascend to heaven.
The watch strikes.
Ah! Half the hour is past,
'Twill all be past anon.
Oh God, if thou wilt not have mercy on my soul,
35 Yet, for Christ's sake whose blood hath ransomed me,
Impose some end to my incessant pain.
Let Faustus live in hell a thousand years,
A hundred thousand, and at last be saved.
Oh, no end is limited to damned souls.
40 Why wert thou not a creature wanting soul?
Or why is this immortal that thou hast?
Ah, Pythagoras' metempsychosis, where that true
This soul should fly from me, and I be changed
Into some brutish beast.
45 All beasts are happy, for when they die
Their souls are soon dissolved in elements,
But mine must live still to be plagued in hell.
Cursed be the parents that engendered me!
No, Faustus, curse thyself, curse Lucifer,
50 That hath deprived thee of the joys of heaven.
The dock strikes twelve.
Oh, it strikes, it strikes! Now body turn to air,
Or Lucifer will bear thee quick to hell.
Thunder and lightning.
Oh soul, be changed into little water drops
And fall into the ocean, ne'er be found.
Thunder. Enter the Devils.
55 My God, my God, look not so fierce on me.
Adders and serpents, let me breathe awhile.
Ugly hell, gape not, come not, Lucifer!
I'll burn my books. Ah Mephistopheles!
Exeunt with him.

Edmund Spenser
Life and works
Spenser was the central figure in Elizabethan poetry; he was born in London in 1552.
Spenser married Elizabeth Boyle and he recorded the story of this love in his collection of sonnets, Amoretti and in the splendid Epithalamion.
Themes and Style
Spenser’s poetry combines classical, medieval and humanist features.
His allegorical masterpiece The Faerie Queen is set in a magic land, and it consist of six books and a fragment. The sonnet sequence Amoretti follows the tradition of courtly love poetry. Here Spenser expresses his love and admiration for the beauty of sound, colour, mind and body, for he considers physical beauty the reflection of spiritual beauty.
One day I wrote here name
One day I wrote her name upon the strand,
but came the waves and washed it away:
agayne I wrote it a second hand,
but came the tyde, and made my paynes his pray.
Vayne man, sayd she, that doest in vaine assay,
a mortal thing so to immortalize,
for I my selve shall lyke to this decay,
and eek my name bee wiped out lykewize.

Not so, (quod I)let baser things devize
to dy in dust, but you shall live by fame:
my verse your virtues rare shall eternize,
and in the heven wryte your glorious .name.
Where whenas dead shall all the world subdew,
our love shall live, and later life renew.
Analysis of text
This poetry is one of the sonnet from the sequence Amoretti and it is a typical English sonnet or Elizabethan sonnet. It consist of tree quatrains and a final couplet. The rhyming scheme is: ABAB BCBC CDCD EE.
In the poetry there are many figures of speech: assonance, repetition, paronomasias, alliteration, one enjambment and a musical parallelisms.
The poem is a dialogue between Spenser and his wife. In the first stanza Spenser do reference to nature, who, with his force vanify his effort for immortalize the name of his wife. In fact Spenser wrote her name upon the strand but came the waves and washed it.
In the second stanza Spenser’s wife said he that he cannot immortalize a mortal thing and eek her name.
In the third stanza he said she that she shall live in his verse and he wrote her name in the heavens because when the death shall all the world subdue their love shall live renew.

William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare is one on greatest playwrights the world ever known.
He lived in 16th century, at the time of the Queen Elizabeth I. Shakespeare himself was a good actor, not only an excellent playwright.
William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564.
When he was 18 he married Anne Hathaway and has three children. He soon became a leading member of a theatrical company, called “The Lord Chamberlain’s man”, he performed in the Globe Theatre.
Shakespeare seem to have took little interest in the printing and publication of his work. A complete edition was not published until seven years after his death. The numbers of plays Shakespeare’s most famous play are probably the four great tragedies: Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello and King Lear; Romeo and Juliet is the most famous. He also wrote comedies such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream, many historical plays are Julius Caesar, Anthony and Cleopatra, Richard II and Henry IV.
Shakespeare’s plays are mostly written in verse. He died in 1616 and was buried in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford.
Shall I compare thee
This sonnet is devoted to the “fair youth” and develops the theme of awareness of the transience of beauty.
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer lease hath all to short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometimes declines
By change or nature’s changing course untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest,
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long has man can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this give life to thee.
This sonnet is devoted to the “fair youth” and develops the theme of the transience of the beauty. In the first stanza we have a comparison between a summer’s day and the fair youth is considered by the poet batter because it is more lovely then a short and hot summer’s day. The poet immortalize the beauty of his patron’s through his a questions while the second line in an answer. From 9th to the 12th line there is a promise while in the last couplet we have a result of the promise. The rhyming scheme are ABAB CDCD EFEF GG; the poem is divided in to tree quatrains and a final couplet, it is a typical Elizabethan sonnet.
Puritan age
Historical background
Charles I and the clash whit Parliament
When Charles I succeeded his father James I in 1625, the Puritan party had given rise not only to a religious but also a social and political movement.
Puritan wanted true balance of power between King and Parliament, Which Charles I was not wise enough to pursue.
So Civil War broke out in 1642.
The Civil War and the Commonwealth
At the outbreak of war in 1642 the forces were divided into Royalist and supported of Parliament.
Oliver Cromwell was a Member of Parliament, under him Parliament acquired a decisive advantage on the Stuart monarchy. The King was made prisoner and execution, monarchy was abolished and the country was ruled as a republic, known by the name of “Commonwealth” (1649).
Cromwell, now commander in chief of the army and was appointed “lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland”
In 1660 Parliament invited Charles I to return to his Kingdom from his exile in France and the republic was over.
Actually, the puritans were very strict and severe people. They wore simple, dark clothes, they did not drink alcohol or play sport and games.
They had many of the traditional amusements banned: the theatre.
The puritan mind
Religion dominated both national and personal life, religious unity was considered essential to the welfare of society.
From the celebration to introspection
The puritan age received a general character of austerity for the ardent religious feeling of the middle years of the century. The literature of the period showed an increase in introspection and self-criticism.
Main representative was John Donne’s, who supported Charles I.
While, John Milton supported Oliver Cromwell.
Oliver Cromwell
Oliver Cromwell was hanged at Tyburn on January 30, 1661, nearly 29 months after his death, after being dug up, then he was beheaded.
His body was buried beneath the Gallows; his head was stuck on a pole at Westminster Hall.
According to the authorities, his crime was regicide.
Cromwell believed his rule was decreed by God. This convinced him that not only Cavaliers and most Irishman, but also hard-line republicans should be put to the sword. The Commonwealth was a period of imposed restrictions.
Both public and private celebrations were prohibited, Christmas was abolished,
Cromwell forbade private music at home on the Lord’s day.
The austerity of the Commonwealth gave way to the Restoration of the monarchy.

John Milton
Life and main works
No other English poet has been so closely involved in the events of his time as Milton. There were two reasons for this: much of his work as Latin Secretary to Cromwell consisted in writing pamphlets justifying Government Policy.
Milton born in London in 1608, he learnt Latin, Greek and Italian.
His sympathies were with Cromwell, who policy his supported writing till the end.
In 1642 he married the daughter of a Royalist, Mary Powell, who found the puritan austerity and intellectual stature of her husband too much for her and she promptly returned home.
This bitter personal experience caused Milton to divorce in a series of pamphlets, like Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce.
By 1652 Milton had lost his sight completely and he turned his mind back to poetry, though he continued to write antimonarchical pamphlets until 1660, the year of the Restoration.
Milton’s third period was that of personal defeat and disillusion.
His three long poems were written during this year: Paradise Lost, his masterpiece, Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes.
Paradise Lost
Paradise Lost is composed of 10 books, in the book I Milton tell the story of man’s fall, then he begins the story of the rebel angels, hurled, as a consequence of their defeat in the war in Heaven.
Milton chose the epic genre for his masterpieces because of the greatness of his subject. The epic itself is a very ancient from of poetry.
The style of this poem is elevated and magnificent and matches the seriousness of the universal subject of the fall of man; the poet used a new kind of blank-verse full of musicality and high expression whit a Latin syntax. The poetic diction he employed is very far from common speech.
Satan’s speech
The passage you are going to read deals with Satan’s arrival in his new Kingdom, Hell.

“ Is this the region, this the Soil, the Clime,”
Said then the lost Arch Angel, “ this the seat
That we must change for Heav’n, this mournful gloom
For that celestial light? Be it so, since he
Who now is Sovran can dispose and bid
What shall be right: farthest from him is best
Whom reason hath equall’d, force hath made supreme
Above his equals. Farewell happy Fields
Where Joy for ever dwells: Hail horrors, hail
Infernal world, and thou profoundest Hell
Receive thy new Possessor: One who brings
A mind not to be chang’d by Place or Time.
The mind is its own place, and in it self *
Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n.
What matter where, if I be still the same,
And what I should be, all but less then he
Whom Thunder hath made greater? Here at least
We shall be free; th'Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
Here we may reign secure, and in my choice
To reign is worth ambition though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav'n.
But wherefore let we then our faithful friends,
th'associates and co-partners of our loss
Lye thus astonisht on th'oblivious Pool,
And call them not to share with us their part
In this unhappy Mansion, or once more
With rallied Arms to try what may be yet
Regain’d in Heav'n, or what more lost in Hell?
The restoration of the monarchy
Historical background
The Restoration of the Monarchy in the 1660 marched the end of an age of fanaticism.
Charles II, the marry monarch, was easy-going witty, pleasure-loving, and perhaps his court was most immoral in English history.
In this period there were two catastrophes which the puritan interpreted as God’s punishment for the King’s immortality.
London was struck in 1665 by an outbreak of bubonic plague, and years later a fire destroyed most of the city in four days.
The new king James II imposed Catholicism on his kingdom. The King’s second wife, Mary of Modena, gave birth to a son, and the English were faced with the prospect of a line of a Catholic sovereigns.
James’s two daughter by his first wife, Mary and Anne, were both protestant and did not approve of their father’s pro-Catholic policy.
James was forced to flee to France with his wife and baby son. Thus William of Orange entered London without firing a single shot or shedding a drop of blood and it was the so-called Glorious Revolution.
Parliament was more powerful than the King, it was decided that Anne would became queen if William and Mary had no children.
Samuel Pepys
Life and main works
Pepys was born in 1633, he was one of the most important men of his day in England.
He was appointed Secretary to the Admiralty, Member of Parliament and President of the Royal Society, and was chosen as a confidant both by Charles II and James II.
When he died in 1703, he left his books and collections to Magdalen College, Cambridge.
Among the books was a Diary, which recorder the year from 1660 to 1669, the Diary was written in a secret code and remain unread until 1825.
Through his brilliant prose he managers to sum up in a few words a person, a scene or two great disasters of decade (the Great Plague, 1665, and the Great Fire of London, 1666).
The age of Classicism
Historical background
The age of classicism has also been called the age of prose. The writer’s primary aim was to write in a simple way in order to be understood even by less well educated readers. During this period poetry tends to be prosaic reflective didactic, satiric. Among the poets Alexander Pope is the greatest of the age.
While great names of prose write are Defoe and Richardson generally regarded as the fathers of the English Novel, Swift is remembered for his subtle satire, Steele and Addison for journalism,…
Daniel Defoe was about sixty when he started to write novels. His First novel was Robinson Crusoe, followed by Captain Singleton, Moll Flanders, Colonel Jack, and Roxana. Defoe's long narratives were fictional autobiographies a1ways pretending to be true stories through the biographical details and memories provided by the protagonist. Defoe's method of retrospective first-person narration and the author's point of view mainly coincides with the main character's. The characters usually appear in isolation, either physically like Robinson Crusoe, or socially like Moll Flanders. Defoe's narrative technique was original and became the bases for the development of the realistic novel.
Robinson Crusoe at the age of nineteen he decides to leave his home his family in order to travel around the world and make his fortune. During his last journey he is shipwrecked on a desert island where he remains for 28 years and rebuild the kind of society of his country. After 12 years of solitude he finds a human foot print on the shore. The novel ends with Robinson's return to England.
Moll Flanders: the daughter of a thief is brought up in the house of the Mayor of Colchester. She is very pretty and clever, at the age of 14 she is sent into the service of a rich family. After being seduced by the eldest son of this family. she goes through 5 marriages has children, becomes a prostitute and a thief mi order.- to survive, is imprisoned and deported to Virginia, where she works very hard and becomes a rich plantation owner She finally goes back to England where she Wads a respectable life. After her repentance she recollects her. Experiences as examples of mistakes to be avoided
Alexander Pope Was born in London, he was a Roman Catholic which meant exclusion from the universities and public offices as well as being denied the rights to vote.
He was hunchbacked and dwarfish. He made friends Swift and Gray. He undertook the translation of Homer. “The Rape of Lock” was his masterpiece.
THE STORY. “The rape of lock” was written to reconcile Arabella Fermor (Belinda in the poem) and his family with the family of Lord Petre, who had cut off her hair. It is a mock-heroic poem.
A MOCK-HEROIC POEM. The mock-heroic poem uses epic diction and a set of mythical references. It consists in the use of burlesque. For example, Belinda’s dressing table becomes an altar, her image in the mirror the goddess and the inferior priestes.
John Dryden
The greatest poet dramatist and critic of the restoration was John Dryden, he joined the royal society and started his literary career publishing heroic stanzas of the death of Oliver Cromwell, he hailed Charles II and James II, a catholic king.
Dryden’s poetic production includes Absalom and Achitophel, it is a political satire on the succession to the throne of England; Charles II had not legitimate heir except his younger brother James, who was a catholic. Protestant Whig opposition found its own candidate for the succession in James Scott, Duke of Monmouth, natural son of the king Charles, a young and generous man, a brave soldier loved by the people. Dryden used a biblical setting to catch the attention of the Whig and puritan citizen. The story tells the rebellion of Absalom against his father king David, encouraged by Achitophel . King David stands for Charles II, Absalom for Monmouth, and Achitophel for Shaftesbury.
Jonathan swift was born in Dublin, he lived during the Augustan age. He left Ireland for England. His first satirical works were: “The battle of the books” and “A tale of a tub.
In 1694 Swift returned to Ireland, were he was made Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. After a few years he began to write pamphlets denouncing the injustices that Ireland suffered.
He was considered a national hero though he continued to regard Ireland as a place of exile. In 1726 he published his masterpiece “Gulliver’s Travels” , and in 1729 “A Modest Proposal” in which, with irony and bitterness, swift suggested that the poverty of the people should be relieved by the sale of their children as food for the rich. Swift’s biting irony was not only directed against the English but against the Ireland has well, who seemed to him passive in their misfortune. Swift has been labelled alternatively as a misanthrope, a monster or a lover of mankind.
This following passage is taken from the ferocious pamphlet Swift wrote in 1729 to make a modest proposal for preventing the children of the poor people in Ireland.
Swift suggested using children as a food for the rich and providing advice on how to cook them.
This passage is satiric and Swift expresses his indignation. Swift denounces the mercantilist policy of exploitation of Ireland and responsibility of his countrymen. This biting irony was directed against the Irish as well who seemed to him passive in their misfortune. This is the main message of the passage.
The dynasty of Hanover
When the Queen Anne died the dynasty of Hanover succeeded that of Stuarts. The new king George I could speak no English and preferred Germany to England; parliament had become more powerful. The first Prime Minister was Sir Robert Walpole, George the II relied more and more on Walpole and gave him an house in Westminster, 10 Downing Street, which is still the official residence of the Prime Minister.
The expansion of the middle classes continued throughout the 18th century and influenced the social life of the Augustan age.
The 18th century in England was called Augustan from the period of the roman history which had archived political stability and flourishing of arts.
The literature of the Augustan age was characterized by an increasing popular interest in reading. The first factor which affected the reading public was illiteracy; another factor which limited the reading public was the high price of book. Cheaper forms of printer materials were ballad pamphlet and newspapers; many of this newspapers published short novels in serial form.
A new literary form began journalism, two man contributed to its rise, Addison and Steele, with their periodical: The Tatler and The Spectator.
Defoe and Richardson are regarded as the father of the English novel. The writer’s primary aim was no longer to satisfy the standards of patrons and the literary elite, but to write in a simple way to be understood even by less well educated readers, the writer aimed at realism.
Romantic age
Historical background
The American colonies had increased were unwilling to accept the rule, imposed by Navigation acts.
It was strong to pay taxes to Britain when they had no right to elect their members to Westminster. ”No taxation without representation” became their battle-cry.
This event was known as The Boston tea party.
The American War of Independence had begun.
George Washington was appointed commander-in-chief. On 4th July 1776 in Philadelphia the Congress signed the Declaration of Independence, written by Tomas Jefferson.
America became the symbol of a new start, people from all European countries could melt together to form a new race.
The new republic of the United States of America adopted a federal constitution in 1787 and George Washington became the first President. The colonialist who remained loyal to Britain crossed into Canada.
The population growth was due to disappearance of the plague, more productive use of the land and the development of the stream - engine.
Women and children were highly prized by employers because they could be paid less and were easier to control.
Industrial cities lacked elementary public services (water supply, sanitation, street-cleaning, open spaces).
The air and the water were polluted by smoke and filth, the houses, built in endless rows, were overcrowded.
Reason as the only path to knowledge and progress, had led to the repression of emotion and feeling.
In other words, reason had turned into a sort of mental prison.
The appeal was therefore to the heart and to the relationship between sense and sensibility.
There was a growing interest in humble and everyday life.
Related to this was an interest in melancholy.
A new taste for the desolate, the love of ruins, graveyards, ancient castles and abbeys, was part of a revival of interest in a past perceived as contrasting with present reality.
The rediscovery of the art, architecture, legends and popular traditions of the Middle Ages manifested itself in the “Gothic”.
There was also and revolution in the concept of Nature.
The most constant of Gothic novels were:
• Terrifying descriptions
• Ancient setting, like isolated castles and mysterious abbeys with hidden passages, secret rooms.
• Use of supernatural beings, like vampires and monsters.
The Gothic symbols of the wanderer, the vampire and the overreacher reflect the wish to go beyond God, nature and human limits.
The first novel of this kind was The castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.
William Blake
William Blake was born in London in 1757.
He was engraver a pointer and a poet.
Blake spent the rest of his life in poverty and obscurity; he died in 1827.
After his death some critics recognized his qualities, but regarded him as driven by insanity.
Blake’s modern reputation is due to William Butler Yeats.
Blake’s poetry had a constant appeal for hits visionary and revolutionary quality.
Blake’s main works are:
• Poetical Sketches
• Songs of Innocence, dealing with childhood as the symbol of innocence, a state of the soul connected with happiness, freedom and imagination.
• Songs of Experience, where a more pessimistic view of life emerges in the powerful symbolism used by Blake; these songs are intended to be read whit the Songs of Innocence.
Blake’s poetry foreshadows Romanticism and the triumph of imagination.
Blake became a visionary and believed his vision.
The most important influences in his life were Milton and Dante.
He stated: “Without Contraries there is no Progression. Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to Human Existence.”
The two states coexist not only in the human being but also in the figure of the Creator who can be at the same time the God of love and innocence and the God of energy and violence.
Imagination, or “The Divine Vision”, means “to see more, beyond material reality”.
God, the child and the poet share the power of vision.
Blake was interest in a social problem:
• He supported the abolition of slavery.
• The French Revolution.
• He focused his attention on the evil consequences of Industrial Revolution, he sympathized with the victims of Industrial society such as children and prostitutes as orphans and soldier.
Blake anticipated the great Romantic poets.
His poem presents a very simple structure and highly individual use of symbols.
The method of “Illuminated printing”: each page was an surrounded by images coloured by hand drawings were meant to illustrate and intensify the meaning of the poem.
Infant joy
“I have no name:
I am but two days old.”
What shall I call thee?
“I happy am,
Joy is my name.”
Sweet joy befall thee!
Pretty joy!
Sweet joy but two days old,
Sweet joy I call thee:
Thou dost smile,
I sing the while
Sweet joy befall thee.
This poem presents a simple but intense introduction to the world of innocence and joy.
The first speaker is the infant, he is two days old.
The baby has no name because he has no identity and he is still free from the social conditioning.
The infant and the narrator is happy.
The language of the poem is simple, and the rime scheme is regular.
Infant sorrow
My mother groaned! My father wept,
Into the dangerous world I leapt,
Helpless, naked, piping loud,
Like a fiend hid in a cloud.
Struggling in my father’s hands,
Striving against my swaddling bands,
Bound and weary, I thought best
To sulk upon my mother’s breast.
This poem introduces the world of experience.
This song, together with “Infant joy”, is the two contrary states of the human soul.
The tone of the poem is bitter and pessimistic.
The parents of the baby represented constraint.
In the 4th line there is a similitude and in 7-8th line there is an enjambment.
William Wordsworth
William Wordsworth was born in the English Lake District, the beautiful region near the Scottish border. His contact with the Revolutionary France filled him with enthusiasm for the democratic ideals. The brutal, destructive development of the Revolution brought him to despair and disillusionment, later healed by the contact with nature. With Coleridge he produced a collection of poems called “Lyrical Ballads”. The second edition contained Wordsworth’s famous “Preface”, which was the Manifesto of English Romanticism. In 1843, he was made Poet Laureate. In his “Preface” he stated that poetry soul deal with everyday situation and with ordinary people especially humble, rural people. Even the language should be simple because in low and rustic life man is more direct, nearer to his own purer passion. Therefore poet is no a man in an ivory tower, but a man among men, writing about what interests mankind. According to Wordsworth man and nature are inseparable: man exist not outside the natural world but as an active part of it. Nature comforts man in sorrow, it is a source of pleasure and joy. Wordsworth believed in three stages of the development of the mind correspond to the three ages of man: childhood, youth and adulthood. He regarded childhood as the most important stage in man’s life (the child is the father to the man). What the child sees is both more imaginative and more vivid than the adult, child experience provide food for future years, memory is the major force. The poet as great sensibility and the ability to penetrate to the heart of thing. The power of imagination enables him to communicate his knowledge.
Mary Shelley was born in 1797.She was the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin. Both influenced by the ideas of French Revolution. Ten days after Mary's birth her mother died. Godwin's house was visited by some of the most famous writers of the day, like Coleridge. Mary fled to France. In 1815 Mary gave birth to a baby girl, who died a few days later. Shelley decided to rent a country house on the banks of Lake Geneva at Villa. Diodati. Mary wrote Frankenstein. The initial inspiration was a waking dream or nightmare. The Shelleys left for Italy. They moved to Florence where Mary gave birth to a son. After sometime Percy and his friend set sail in a storm and were found drowned ten days later.
The plot of the novel is very simple: Frankenstein, a Swiss scientist, creates human being, who turns out to be ugly and revolting. The Monster becomes a murderer and in the end he destroys his creator. The story is told chronologically and is introduced to us by a series of letters written by Walton, an explores, to his sister.Frankenstein shown a passionate interest in a number of aspects of human society. Mary was interested in science and chemistry. She was a ware of the latest scientific theories of Darwin, and the evolutionary principles, and Luigi Galvani. Frankenstein embodied of the theme of science and responsibility to mankind. In fact, instead of respecting the evolutionary principles described by Darwin, Frankenstein interferes in the evolutionary process. The influences of Rousseau can also be felt in this novel. The monster is a man in a primitive state, not influenced by civilisation. Frankenstein is an overreacher, like Prometheus, Marlowe's Faustus and Milton's Satan. The main themes of the novel are:
> The double: Doctor Frankenstein and the monster ore two aspects of some being, anticipating the double identity of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
> Usurping the female role since the creation is possible without the participation of woman.
> Social injustice and education and experience.
Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe born in Boston in 1809 and was brought up by the Allans, a childless couple, his full name became Edgar Allan Poe.
He ran in to debt by gambling. Edgar moved to Baltimore where his aunt, Maria Clemm, lived.
He falls in love with his cousin Virginia.
They married in 1836 when Virginia was thirteen and he was twenty-seven.
The years that followed were very productive, but Virginia died in 1847 and Poe’s health declined rapidly owing to his alcoholism.
Poe’s reputation in America was blackened by accusation of perversion, alcoholism and drug addiction. The French poet Charles Baudelaire enhanced Poe’s reputation with his remarkable translations of his tales and the Poe’s biography. His tales bewitch since the first word and the reader must come to the last line to understand the final solution.
In literature he began the popular genre of detective story, but Poe is considered the father of the horror narrative together with Hoffman.
His tales can be divides in to two groups:
• “The tales of Ratiocination or detection” that development the detective story. The private detective Monsieur Dupin solves crimes by his capacity for logical reasoning, and his power of psychological analysis. Poe paved the way for the future writes of detective stories, like Doyle and Agatha Christie.
• The “tales of imagination”, he went beyond the gothic tradition were the “horror” does not come from the outside, but from inside the self.
In Poe’s works imagination coexist with reason. Analysis and the reasoning are melt with visionary imagination, creating unforgettable masterpieces in which the macabre is united with the crime, the nightmare with madness, the love with death.
In “the black cat” perverseness is one of the primitive impulses of the human heart. Madness for Poe was almost an aspect of a higher awareness.
Poe was also interested in the theme of the double: he represented the two sides of personality, whereas in the black cat the double is connected with the two cats.
All his tales are narrated in the first person they are long interior monologues which describe a great variety of moods and sensation: sadness, sense of guilt, claustrophobia, deviation, fear, hatred and desire
Romanticism in Art
Romanticism in literature as well as in art and music, was opposed to everything that neoclassicism represented.
The romanticism reasserted the autonomy of the individual, the primacy of imagination, emotion and feeling.
The 18th century saw the emergence of British Landscape painting as a vehicle of poetic expression.
Nature, rural life and real countryside were the main sources for poets, painters and engravers.
Favourite sites of this artist were the wild regions of the Lake District and the Welsh mountains.
Joseph Turner and John Constable were the two very great painters of the period.
Rain, steem and speed.
Turner was a water-colours painter of the Romantic age together whit Constable.
They used landscape views as a subject matter of their paintings.
Turner was a self-taught genius, he is called "the painter of light", "the first impressionist".
Born in London in 1775, his father encouraged the young boy in his painting and in 1789, Turner attended the Royal Academy. In 1795, Turner turned to oils. In 1799 he was elected as an Associate of the Royal Academy, and in 1803 he was appointed to the Royal Academy Council. His early works were influenced by French painter Claude Lorrain. Towards the 1840, he began a painter of violence and suspense of man against man and man against nature. In 1845, he became acting president of the Royal Academy. He died wealthy and famous in 1851.
The following paint is called “Rain, steem and speed”. The primary colour are red, yellow and black, the protagonist of the painting are the light and the colours.
The painting is divided into two halves. The left side represent the past age which is emphasized by natural speed, such as the natural flow of the river and the falling rain. We can also see in this part two people on a boat, one is holding an umbrella, there is also a bridge over the river and the colours that the painter uses for this half are light. The right side of the painting is in contrast with the left side. In fact, the colours are dark and the elements of speed are artificial (the locomotive, the bridge, the railway). On upper right side we can see the sun which symbolizes energy, God and progress. Some critics recognized in the painting two animals representing speed: the hors and the fox.
The Victorian age
Historical background
The Victorian age was an age of peace and prosperity above all age of great expansion. England was living a splendid period in her history.
On the other hand this was also an age of contrast:
• Unilateralism assumed that the industrial revolution was a sign of progress and a benefit to humanity and closed its eyes to the many and grave problems.
• Positivism of the middle classes was based on the political power and economic prosperity.
• Morality was a strict code to be observed based on false and exterior forms.
• Darwin’s theories on the Evolution of species discarded the version of the creation given by the Bible.
• Patriotism was influenced by the ideas of racial superiority. “God imposed the British to impose their superior way of life”. Kipling exalted this concept.
Victorian novelist, like Charles Dickens, had mainly social purposes. Their aim was to better the condition of humbles. Victorian poets never reached the height of the Romantics and drama didn’t have a pre-eminent place only towards the end with Oscar Wilde and G.B.Shaw.
Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin in 1854. He became a disciple of Walter Pater (the theorist of the aesthetic movement in England), accepting the theory of “Art for Arts Sake”, asserting that Art had no reference to life. He moved to London where he became a fashionable figure for his extraordinary wit and his foppish way of dressing. He married Constance Lloyd who bore him two children but his marriage collapsed. His literary talent was revealed through a series of short stories written for his children: The Canterville Ghost, Lord Arthur Seville’s crime, the Happy Prince, The Picture of W.H. and Pomegranate’s House. He also produced a series of plays: Lady Windermere’s Fan, A Woman of No Importance, and the tragedy in French Salomè. Bat this novel damaged his literary reputation because was considered immoral and obscene. His masterpiece was the Picture of Dorian Gray.
While he was in prison for homosexual offences, he wrote the ballad of Reading’s Jail, and The Profundis, a long letter written to his lover Lord Alfred Douglas, called “Bosie”.
Wilde lived the double role of the rebel and the Dandy. The dandy is an aristocratic and individualist who demands absolute freedom. Life was meant of pleasure was an indulgence in beauty so his main interest were beautiful clothes, delicious food and handsome boys.
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Is the story of a young man, Dorian, whose beauty fascinates an artist, Basil Hallward, who decides to paint him, but when Dorian see the portrait desire the eternal beauty. With the guide of Lord Henry Wotton, lives his life for pleasure.

Modern age
Historical background
The Edwardian period was a reaction to the rigid moralism of the previous Victoria Age. This period was followed by an age of Modernism with the new King, George v.
When the Germans invaded Belgium, violating its neutrality, England declared war on Germany.
George v then changed his German name of Hannover, assuming the purely English name of Windsor. Under George v, Ireland and many dominions became independent: India with Mahatma Gandhi obtained its freedom and African colonies too. These dominions were recognized as independent states within the Commonwealth.
James Joyce
The Irish writer James Joyce, born in Dublin, received his first education from the Jesuits but very soon he rebelled against the moral and political condition of his native city as well as the Church. He voluntary left Ireland fearing the “paralysis of the soul” of his country and lead the life of an exile, though all his works are set in Ireland and mostly in the city of Dublin. He settled for some years in Trieste where he made friends whit Italo Svevo .His effort was to a realistic portrait of the ordinary people. His first remarkable works the “Dubliners” a volume of short stories linked by a common theme of frustration, which revealed the author as a master of prose. A little masterpiece was “The Dead” and later “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”. Up to this point he had not broken away from the traditional vocabulary and rules of the language. But with “Ulysses” Joyce broke new ground in the field of fiction. The novel relates the incidents of a single day in the life of a citizen of Dublin. The book is remarkable for its stylistic innovation known as the “interior monologue”, which had never before been used systematically in English, and which Joyce took from the French writer Dujardin: it claims to represent the “stream of consciousness” of a character’s unspoken thoughts as they flow through his mind. The whole of the last chapter is an interior monologue written without any punctuation. For these reason the book is sometimes difficult to read. This technique was also pioneered by Dorothy Richardson and Virginia Woolf. Joyce was also influenced by the theories of Freud and psychologist Jung. According to Joyce, an Artist should be independent from all moral, religious or political pressures; he should be outside all conventions in order to be objective.
Ulysses was a new form of prose based on the “mythical method”. The central character, Leopold Bloom, is Joyce’s common man, a parody of wandering Odysseus. Mr. Bloom leaves his home at 8.00 and finally returns home at 2.00 the following morning. During these hours he lands on the shores of many streets, endures misadventures, recalls the unfaithfulness of his wife and the death of his little son. At the end he reaches his home “Ithaca” where his wife Molly ironically unfaithful Penelope, gives rein to the flow of her thoughts in a long monologue which closed the novel.