The Seventeenth Century in England
From Tudor to Stuarts
THE HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL BACKGROUND
• 17th.Century England opens a period of great political changes. Economy and trade flourish in parallel with Europe. The British colonizing of America was taking place at the time. •The English Crown looses its strength and authority, now replaced by a strong Parliament. The TENSION monarchy/Parliament owes to: –James I’s authoritarian, abusive yet largely dependant policy (1603-1625), which ignores or violates parliamentary consent yet asks frequently for financial aid. Moreover, James sympathizes with Scottish Calvinists yet will have to rely heavily on Anglican bishops, supporters of monarchy. –Charles I (James’s philo-Catholic son) (1625-1649), who was highly intolerant in religious matters (deposition of Protestant/Anglican posts in favour of Catholics) and continues to be as abusive, disregarding with respect to Parliament and prone to favoritism as James.
CIVIL WAR (1642)
•TWO FACTIONS: –The MONARCHIC /ROYALIST SIDE (gentry, conservative and feudalistic sections of society, Anglican clergy and peasantry). –The PARLIAMENTARIANS /REPUBLICANS (enriched urban middle-classes representing new power relationship according to wealth, dissenters or radical groups such as Puritans, Presbyterians, Levellers, …). Not inherently anti-royalist yet resisting royal abuse.
•Oliver Cromwell was the military leader of the republicans, a pious army of ‘Ironsides’ praying soldiers. The battle of Marston Moor (1644) proved crucial for Cromwells’s success whereas Charles’s royalist army was defeated by the Scotts, who sent the king to the Parliament and made him submit to its terms.As the king refused, he was tried by the high court and sentenced to die in 1649. The nation declared itself a commonwealth or republic (1649-1660), and Cromwell the Lord Protector. •Cromwell’s rule was highly pragmatic (more inclined to obtain social freedom and liberties than religious intolerance) and utilitarian, as he dismisses any radical outburst or utopian idealism. After his death, his son Richard won’t be able to prolong the Protectorate and the Parliament eventually invites exiled Charles II (Charles I’s son) to return to England as king of England, Scotland and Ireland. • Cromwell’s Protectorate abolished both Parliament and monarchy, proclaiming England a free State or Commonwealth, ruled by the Assembly of Saints, or devout reforming Puritans who seek to apply Moses law to the new Commonwealth. Courtly life and entertainment was forbidden, theatres closed, sociability almost vanished. Instead, it was a period of active pamphleteering and newspaper.
•ARTS enter into a period of splendor, specially plastic arts (music, scenic arts, architecture, …) yet it its the NEW SCIENCE that extends over Europe to question profoundly—and disturbingly—inherited authority, calling all into doubt. The Elizabethan ordered, liberal, classical and humanist training gives way to a sense of reality where all coherence is lost. New Science owes much to Machiavellian influences (realist, secular, pragmatic and sceptic approach to truth) and to scientific advancement (discoveries, Robert Boyle’s modern chemistry vs former alchemy, William Harvey’s blood stream, Christopher Wren’s neo-classic architecture). •A sense of disbelief that manifests in growing materialism and scepticism,progressive scientificism of reality (transformation of values , importance of facts and causes over dogma and faith in the eternal and fixed plan of God’s design) and amoral relativism/individualism.
•The JACOBEAN (James I) and CAROLINE (Charles I) mood permeates an atmosphere characterized by disunity, disharmony, unrest, incoherence and fragmentariness: constant and distressing wars, whether religious, domestic or continental are felt like sundering menaces to English society, which triggers off a sense of anxiety and tension, imbalance, disproportion, utter pessimism and death wish. Artifice and form, the wilful and grotesque, and irreconcilable separation idealism/realism (and apperance/reality), which manifest in the existence of separate groups or cliques, each one pursuing its own path.
–JOHN DONNE (1571-16319) treats experience as relative and multifocal. Poetic persona eludes definition, is quizzical and inverts normal perspectives . He belittles the public world and elevates the personal. Eroding division body/soul. Intense meditation on worldly vanity and the collapse of traditional certainties. –ANDREW MARVEL’s (1621-1678) is finest poetry, extraordinarily dense and precise, graceful yet economy of statement, and manages to keep paradox between antagonic terms through wit, instead of reconciling/transcending opposites. –George Herbert (1593-1633), Henry Vaughan (1621-1695), Richard Crashaw (1612-1649).
•NON-PROFESSIONAL THEATRE –The DRAMA OF THE COURT influenced deeply on drama from the ascension of James I to the closing of theatres by Puritans in 1642. Courtiers and the king himself became the chief patrons of ‘private drama’, and thus it catered for courtier tastes. It takes place in courtly places of residence, being spectacular, richly adorned, enormously expensive and fabulously lavish, fit settings extremely elaborated and showy. Masques (direct participation of audience), music and spectacle. Private theatre also included private drama by choir boys in roofed and enclosed galleries, being music and artifical scenery more important than verse. Courtly and well-to-do audiences. •PUBLIC DRAMA: JACOBEAN DRAMA. –The Jacobean mood. Marlowe anticipates this new approach to dramatic sensibility: highly secular, and skeptical about the ideal world, yet suspicious about the real world (corrupt, nonsensical, violent, fragmentary, despairing, frustrating, uncertain). –Machiavellian influence (matter-of-factness and materialism): weakness, ingratitude and ill-will as drives of human character and society. Demystifying of spiritual world and leadership but open admission of cruelty, pragmatism and betrayal of faith if necessary. In Jacobean drama, the Machiavellian villain or discontent, bitterly cynical and fascinated with the mechanics of violence and (self-)destruction (bloody, unnatural acts, casual slaughters, ghosts, brutality, sadistic pleasure in punishing corrupt humanity). –Tragedy: Cyril Tourneur’s The Revenger’s Tragedy, John Webster’s The White Devil or The Duchess of Malfi. - Comedy: Ben Jonson’s “comedy of humours”, The Alchemist, Volpone.
RESTORATION ENGLAND (1660-1690)
•Once the Protectorate finished, the members of Parliament asked for the Restoration of Monarchy. –The return of Charles II from France does not only bring about a strong reaction against Puritan excesses, manners and morals, for it also brings to England French culture, wit, gallantry and hedonistic liveliness at court. –The Court Wits are non-professional artists, writing for their own amusement, confined to London’s courtly and fashionable circles, which laughed at country uncouthness and lack of sophistication. –Yet social-political tensions: wars, natural disasters, political instability on account of Charles’s Catholic sympathies and dissenter resentment. After his death, James II (Charles’s brother) pushed the tensions with parliamentary petitions further as he intended jesuists to shatter Anglican primacy down.The Glorious Revolution (1688) deposes James, and parliamentary army joined the Dutch forces led by William of Orange (married to James’s daughter, Queen Mary II) successfully took hold of the throne of England thus securing parliamentary and protestant liberties. WILLIAM III OF ENGLAND, SCOTLAND AND IRELAND.
1688 British Glorious Revolution: A Significant Date for Many Relevant Changes
1688:- William of Orange lands at Torbay.- James II and his family flee toFrance. - Convention Parliament. - Turning-point from Monarchic and Catholic general control and repression to a different religious orientation and more pressure on the crown from the people. - Influence of previuos years revolts and parliamentary dissolutions and achievements.
– The great philosophical and scientifical change is starred by relevant figures who displace Puritan moralist continence and self-discipline in favour of hedonism, materialism, pragmatism and scientific analysis. This New Science promotes empiricism and experiment in all areas of knowledge, which courtly wits , intellectuals and well-to-do classes alike embrace. –THOMAS HOBBES. The Leviathan (1651). Personally engaged in the civil war, he suspected fanatism and posits instead materialist views and split from supernatural causes. Popular sovereignity yet royal absolutism. Human nature to be approached on the basis of material ethics (pleasurable good vs painful bad, so instinctive regulations as long as one doesn’t hurt the other). –JOHN LOCKE. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). Reason. Tabula Rasa. Rational scepticism. Anti-dogmatism. Separation State-Church. –ISSAC NEWTON.
Locke applied Newton's recently published principles to psychology, economics, and political theory. With Locke, the Enlightenment came to maturity and began to spread abroad..
John Locke (1632-1704)
Baruch Spinoza (1632-1687), a Jewish intellectual and Holland's greatest philosopher, was a spokesman for pantheism, the belief that God exists in all of nature. Spinoza's influence, along with Newton's (1642-1727), profoundly affected English thinkers.
Seventeenth Cent. England
Glorious Revolution / Restoration/ Locke