Puritan Age in genre of Poetry and Drama THE PURITAN AGE I History of English literature


           In the history of English Literature 17th century up to 1660 comprised one important historical period the Puritan Age dominated by Puritanism and it may be called the Puritan Age or which is also called Milton’s Age, which was representative of the puritan spirit. The puritan movement in literature may be considered the second and greater Renaissance marked by the rebirth of the moral nature of man.

It was started with James-I named the sub-period of Jacobean, which lasted from 1603 to 1625, Charles-I which is named with sub-period Caroline lasted from 1625 to 1649 and the era of Cromwell named the sub-period of Commonwealth and Protectorate (Oliver Cromwell and Richard Cromwell) ascended to the lasted from 1603 to 1660 till the Restoration period. This was the age of new ideas, analysis, and observation in which the spirit of such things has been promoted. In this way, Milton and Cromwell fought for the liberty of the people, and the Civil war between the Kings and parliament started these days which were due to many tyrannical rules the kings practiced including the Devine Right of the Kings declared in 1604. Finally, in the year 1649 Charles-I was beheaded finishing his tyrannical reign and Cromwell established government. Many changings in the era of the Commonwealth period have been made especially in in-laws and parliament.

Genres of the Puritan Age:  

The genres in the Puritan age were drama, poetry, and prose in which the most famous genre of the age was poetry.


Poetry in the Puritan Age:

The most prominent name in the genre of poetry was John Milton, and other figures were the School of Spenser, Metaphysical poets, and Cavalier poets. If we categorize poetry of the age into major parts it can be divided into the following parts:

The School of Spenser:

Phineas Fletcher (1582-1648) was a disciple of the Spenser’s School. His famous work was ‘The Purple Island’ which was written totally on the basis and the pattern of Spenser’s writings especially ‘Faerie Queene’ i.e. allegorical style.

Another figure of this school was Giles Fletcher (1583-1623) who wrote ‘Christ’s Victorie’ and ‘Triumph in Heaven and Earth over and after Death’ in 1610 same as Spenserian allegorical structure.

Moreover, there were other Spenserians including William Browne (1590-1645) who wrote on the same pattern as Spenser. His ‘Baritannia’s Pastorals’ was famous for his pastoral writings and essential poetical work.

George Wither (1588-1667) was also of the same school. His ‘The Shepherd’s Hunting’ was a personal eclogue, ‘Fidella’ is a heroic epistle, and ‘Fair Virtue’ and ‘Mistress of Philarete’ are the lyrical eulogy of an ideal woman. (Dr. B.R Mullik, 2017).

Willam Drummond (1585-1649) was the Scottish poet-writer of many pastoral, sonnets, songs, elegies, and religious poems. His famous work was ‘Tears on the Death of Maliades’ an elegy, ‘Sonnets’, ‘Flowers of Sion’ and ‘Pastorals’.

The Metaphysical School:

In the seventh century, there was a group of poets, who wrote a kind of poetry full of conceits, exaggerations, Farfetched similes, and distinguish metaphors which made them different from the previous kind of poetical work. They were poets of wit and the shining star of the group was John Donne. They were considered romantic poetry, thinkers, and honest poets, aware of religious aspects.

John Donne (1537-1631) was the leader of the school of Metaphysical poets. He wrote most of his work about religious writings such as ‘The Progress of the Soul’ and ‘Metempsychosis’ were the part of his famous metaphysical poetry, ‘An Anatomy of the World’ which is an elegy, ‘Epithalamium’. His earlier work is all about romance and love poetry in realistic manners.

Another figure from this school was Thomas Carew (1598-1639), who wrote in this way such as his famous work, ‘Persuasions of Love’ which is a work of rhythmic cadence settings.

Additionally, a figure from this school was Richard Crashaw (1613-1649), who was known for his work ‘The Flaming Heart’ in the sense same as mentioned above. 

Abraham Cowley (1618-1667) was also the main figure of the metaphysical school and was famous for his ‘Pindaric Odes’ which have been admired by many readers.

One more figure from this school was Robert Herrick (1591-1674), who is famous for his love poetry of metaphysical. Similarly, another one from this school was Lord Herbert of Cherbury, who wrote under the influence of the metaphysical school. Moreover Henry Vaughan (1622-1695) Andrew Marvel (1621-1672) and Edmund Waller (1606-1687) all these poets are part of the Metaphysical School of poetry. 


 The Cavalier Group of Poets:

The poets who wrote under the influence of Ben Jonson were called Cavalier poets. They wrote in the pattern of Ben Jonson a classical manner. Cavaliers were not all royalists as their label is showing because Sir John Suckling (1609-1642), and Sir Richard Lovelace (1618-1658) were not royalists in the true sense. The love poem volume of Lovelace was ‘To Lucasta’ was the most famous work in this group and also ‘To Althea’ as well.

John Milton:

The poet of the age was John Milton (1608-1674) who wrote remarkable poems during this age. He was the greatest poet of the Puritan age and wrote mostly about his personality and religious poetry. His famous work is ‘Paradise Lost’, religious poetry which was written when he was blind is with the highlights of his life matters. His early work was, ‘The Hymn on the Nativity’ written in 1629 a lyrical genius, ‘L’Allegro’ and ‘Il Penseroso’ written in 1632 were rural poems, ‘Lycidas’ in 1637 which is a pastoral elegy, and ‘Comus’ in 1634 written in lyrical tone. A sonnet of Milton was ‘When the Assault was the Intended to the City’ which is full of emotions.

Milton was against King Charles-I and fought for liberty with Cromwell. After these events and incidents he wrote ‘Paradise Lost’ which is all about Man's ways to God and about Paradise and Hell, ‘Paradise Regained’ is discussion poetry with the central figure of Christ. ‘Samson Agonistes’ is highlighting his life with a blind hero.  


Drama in the Puritan Age:

Puritan age was not rich with drama as in the Renaissance period and also not supported by Puritans. It was the time of James-I and Charles-I who did not support drama and during their reign theatre was closed. Ben Jonson was still writing drama for this age too, and other major figures were given follow:

John Marston (1575-1634) wrote melodramas ‘Antonia and Mellida’, and ‘Antonia’s Revenge’ is famous. Moreover, ‘Eastward Hoe’ is his best play.

Thomas Dekker (1570-1632) wrote comedy, ‘The Shoemaker’s Holiday’ and also wrote ‘Old Fortunates’ and ‘The Honest Whore’.

Another dramatist was Thomas Heywood (1575-1650), who wrote 220 plays his well-known plays are, ‘The Four Prentices of London’, ‘Conquest of the Jerusalem’ which were city plays. ‘Edward VI’, ‘The Troubles of the Queene Elizabeth’ and ‘The Fair Maid of the West’ and a well-known tragedy ‘A Woman Kilde with Kindness’ and ‘The English Traveller’.

Furthermore in this field Thomas Middleton (1580-1627) was also famous for his dramas such as, ‘Michaelmas Terms’, ‘A Trick to Catch the Old One’, ‘Mad World’ etc. were his renowned plays. Tragedies were ‘A Fair Quarrel’, ‘The Changeling’, and ‘The Spanish Gipsie’.

Similarly, Cyril Tourneur (1575-1626) wrote melodramas. His famous dramas were ‘The Revenge Tragedies’ and ‘The Atheist’s Tragedie’.

John Webster (1575-1625) was also a famous dramatist of the age and wrote, ‘The white Devil’, ‘The Duchess of Malfi’ a tragedy

Another one was John Fletcher (1579-1525) wrote collaboration with Francis Beaumont (1584-1616) comedies such as ‘The Scornful Ladie’, ‘The Knight of the Burning Pestle’ and tragedies such as ‘The Maids Tragedies’ and ‘Philaster’, ‘Tragedies of Vanentinian’, ‘ The Tragedy of Bonduca’, ‘The Humorous Lieutenant’ and ‘The Loyal Subject’.

Philip Massinger (1583-1640) was also the dramatist of the age who wrote ‘Thierry and Theodoret’ and ‘The False One’, ‘The Little French Lawyer’ and ‘The Spanish Curate’, ‘The Beggar's Bush’ and ‘A new way to Pay old Debt’ which were best comedies.

Another one John Ford (1586-1639) wrote ‘The Lover’s Melancholy’ and ‘Perkin Warbek’ and ‘The Broken Heart’ famous work. 

James Shirley (1596-1666) wrote ‘The Traytor’, ‘The Cardinal', ‘The Lady of Pleasure’ and ‘The Wedding Changes’ were the famous dramas.


The prose in the Puritan Age:

It was a time when great work in English has been done instead of the Latin language. English translation of the Authorized Bible is also done in this age. There were following major figures in the age. Francis Bacon (1561-1628) was one of the great prose writers of that time. His famous work was his ‘Essays’. He also wrote his historical work ‘Henry VII’ and ‘The Advancement of Learnings’. He was considered to be the writer of a rational kind of prose. 

Another famous prose writer was Robert Burton (1577-1640) who was also a rational prose writer. ‘The Anatomy of Melancholy’ was a well-known book by Burton which is written in a simple style.

In prose writing, Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682) was purely the age of Puritan prose writer who considered being a stylist in the English Language. He wrote ‘Religio Medici’ a religious kind of work. Another famous work ‘Hydriotaphia or The Urn Burial’ is rhetorical and rich.

 John Milton also wrote prose such as; ‘On the Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce’ and ‘Areopagitica’ which were famous prose writings. Earl of Clarendon (1609-1674) wrote his famous prose work such as; ‘History of the Rebellions and ‘Civil Wars in England’.

Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667) was the last prose writer of the age who worked for religious prose. His ‘Holy Livings’ and ‘Holy Dying’ were the famous works of Taylor. This was an age when scientific and philosophical work has been written.


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