Restoration Age (in English literature)
Restoration Age (in English literature): The first of three literary eras within the Neoclassical Period in English literature, generally characterized by satire, wit, and a reaction against Puritanism. The Restoration Age began in 1660, when the House of Stuart (via Charles II) was restored to the English throne after the eleven-year Commonwealth Age, or Puritan Interregnum (which means, literally, “between reigns”), and is generally, if arbitrarily, said to have ended in 1700. The libertine spirit of Restoration Age literature — which focused on the royal court, aristocratic intrigues, and clever repartee — contrasts starkly with that of the preceding, Puritan-dominated era, during which public dancing was virtually eliminated and public theaters closed. With the reopening of theaters and the support of the king, drama flourished during the Restoration Age. Particularly popular was Restoration comedy, a type of comedy of manners influenced by neoclassical French playwright Molière (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin); noted examples include William Wycherley’s The Country Wife (1675), Sir George Etheredge’s The Man of Mode (1676), and William Congreve’s The Way of the World (1700). Major forms of tragedy included the heroic drama, exemplified by John Dryden’s The Conquest of Granada (1670), and the she-tragedy, exemplified by Thomas Otway’s The Orphan (1680), which centered on the unjust suffering of a virtuous woman.
In poetry, the heroic couplet was the dominant form, advocated by Dryden, the most noted critic of the age and the writer whose works most fully reflect the priorities and values associated with neoclassicism, such as reason, balance, decorum, and order. Samuel Butler inaugurated a tradition of humorous, typically satiric verse with his mock-heroic poem Hudibras (1663—78), intentional doggerel ridiculing the Puritans. John Milton, a poet who published his greatest works during this literary epoch, was a Puritan; as such, he is never referred to as a Restoration Age writer even though he was arguably the foremost writer of the time.
In prose, leading figures included Aphra Behn, also a popular playwright and poet and the first Englishwoman to support herself as a writer; religious writer John Bunyan; philosopher John Locke; and diarist Samuel Pepys. Noted works include Bunyan’s allegory Pilgrim’s Progress (1678) and Behn’s Oroonoko (1688), often identified as the first novel. Also new in the Restoration Age was the development of professional journalism, in newspapers such as Henry Muddiman’s London Gazette, which premiered as the Oxford Gazette in 1665 and is still published today.