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Reign of Charles II (1660-1702), Anne (1702-14), last of Stuarts: 1660-1714

Dryden, Pepys, John Bunyan, Aphra Behn, Restoration Comedies

America: William Bradford, Mary Rowlandson


John Dryden


often praised Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, and Chaucer. Matthew Arnold didn’t praise him, saying “Their [Pope’s and Dryden’s] poetry is conceived and composed in their wits, genuine poetry is composed in the soul.” He famously commented on Chaucer, complimenting him and noting that he lived in a time when people knew so little.


Absolom and Achitophel

A type of parable about Charles II and the Puritans. Mocks the Puritans. Characters: King David symbolizes Charles II; Absolom is David’s son; Achitophel encourages David. The first lines are rather jocular and speak of the days when polygamy was not a sin. Charles II is David. Earl of Shaftesbury is Achitophel. Absalom is Duke of Manmouth.


All For Love or, the World Well Lost

John Dryden
Restoration (1677)

Today, it is Dryden's best-known and most performed play. It is a tragedy written in blank verse and is an attempt on Dryden's part to reinvigorate serious drama. It is an acknowledged imitation of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, and focuses on the last hours of the lives of its hero and heroine.


Optional extra info on Dryden's All For Love

In the beginning, the two priests, Serapion and Myris, are talking about the military position of Rome and the Egyptians. They then begin to discuss the Queen's relations with Antony. Ventidius then enters discussing the same things and emphasizes the fact that he feels that Antony should never have met Cleopatra and that it is very important for him to end the relationship. Antony is greatly disturbed by the situation that he has gotten himself into and debates what his next action should be and considers who he most wants to be with. Ventidius continues to attempt to convince Antony to break off the relationship. Eventually, he achieves his objective and Antony seems determined to break off the relationship and so refuses to see Cleopatra because of the power that she holds over him. Both lovers are in pain because of the distance that lies between them. However most of the people around them feel that this is best as they have both lost their good reputations and Antony has lost his family. At one point, Octavia, Antony's wife, offers herself to be left somewhere and forgotten so that Antony can continue his relationship with Cleopatra without hindrance, but Antony refuses her offer because she only does it out of duty, not love. Finally, Antony chooses Dolabella, his greatest friend, to tell Cleopatra that their relationship must end. However, Dolabella has secretly been in love with Cleopatra and initially betrays his friend, trying to make Cleopatra angry at Antony. However, not long after his betrayal he admits to Cleopatra that he lied and that it was only out of love that he did so. During all this time, Alexas and Ventidius have been plotting, both trying to separate Antony and Cleopatra and destroy their relationship. Ventidius, seeing that Dolabella is alone with Cleopatra reports to Antony that the two had an affair, this infuriates Antony and he threatens both his best friend and his lover. Alexas during all this is creating a scheme of his own and tells Antony that because of his harsh accusations against her, Cleopatra has killed herself. At this news Antony is shocked and realizes that his dear Cleopatra was indeed innocent and at this decides to kill himself. Antony asks that Ventidius kill him in order to reconcile with Caesar. In a desperate attempt to prove to Antony that he was completely loyal during the time that he served under him, Ventidius kills himself instead of killing Antony. Seeing this Antony falls on his own sword. Cleopatra enters, too late to save her dear Antony, and finds him dying. They give each other parting words and then Antony dies. Cleopatra, at the thought of living without her love, decides to follow him into the next dimension and so kills herself in his presence. Her servants then kill themselves as the guards arrive to capture Cleopatra presumably under Caesar's orders.




Lambastes lousy, boring poets. This piece is similar in purpose to Alexander Pope’s Dunciad.


Of Dramatic Poesie: An Essay


defends dramatic poetry (drama).


Samuel Pepys


If there are any questions about “diarists,” the answer will almost certainly be “Samuel Pepys.” He is THE diarist. He wrote his diary in a code that wasn’t cracked for quite a while. Deals with life in Restoration England. Known for going to plays and writing about it—saw some of Shakespeare’s.


John Bunyan

Pilgrim's Progress (prose!)

Was a Christian evangelist. Think of him as a William Langland (writer of Piers Plowman) of the Restoration. But don't confuse the two.


Pilgrim's Progress

Written in prose. Tells the story of a man named Christian making a journey to the Celestial City. On his way, he passes through the Slough of Despond and Vanity Fair and meets a lousy character called Doubt. Like Piers Plowman the story is told as a dreamed series of events. Unlike Piers, it’s written in prose in a form of English that you can understand.


Grace Abounding for the Chief of Sinners

John Bunyan


Mary Rowlandson

Born in England and moved as a child to Lancaster, part of the Massechusetts Bay Colony in America. She was captured by the Wampanoag Indians, led by Metacomet, and held captive for eleven weeks before being sold back to the colonists for a ransom of twenty pound.

England: Restoration period


Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson

Mary Rowlandson

Best first hand account of “King Phillip’s War.” She calls everything “doleful.”

During England's Restoration period


William Bradford

Governor of Plymouth colony.

During England's Restoration period


Aphra Behn


Known as first English woman writer able to make her living off of her writing. She lived in Surinam for a while, and there was inspired to write her first novel, Oroonoko. Eventually she worked as a spy in Europe for English King Charles II. Her code name was “Astrea.” Eventually, her literary admirerers called her “The Incomparable Astrea.”


Oroonoko, or The Royal Slave

Aphra Behn

About Prince Oroonoko and his crush, Imoinda, in Africa. Imoinda is taken into slavery and eventually a slaver tricks Oroonoko into slavery. He’s transported to Surinam, where he meets up with Imoinda who has been renamed Clemene. Oroonoko is renamed Ceasar by his admiring master. Clemene and Ceasar get pregnant together and Oroonoko leads a failed rebellion. He kills his family so they won’t be born into slavery. Avenges their deaths on the white masters, is captured and subject to inhumane death.


Restoration Comedies

Drama from restoration of Charles II to French Revolution, deals with contrast between accepted social and sexual behavior and real life social and sexual behavior. Also deal with battle between the sexes. These plays open with verse prologues (though the plays aren’t in verse). A lot of punning and innuendo. Congreve and Sheridan were Irish but wrote plays for the English stage

Wycherley, Etherege, Congreve, Sheridan


The Country Wife

William Wycherley
Restoration comedy

Characters—Mr. Horner, Mr. Pinchwife, Sir Jasper Fidget, Mrs. Squeamish, and Mrs. Dainty Fidget.


The Man of Mode

George Etherege
Restoration comedy

Characters—Mr. Dorimant, Sir Fopling Flutter, and Mrs. Loveit.


The Way of the World

William Congreve
Restoration comedy

Characters—Millamant (a woman), Mirabell (a man), Mr. Fainall, Lady Wishfort, Foible (a woman), and Mincing (a woman).


The School for Scandal

Richard Sheridan
Restoration comedy

Characters—Sir Peter Teazle and Lady Teazle are in a fighting type marriage. Maria, Lady Sneerwell, Sir Benjamin Backbite, and Charles and Joseph Surface are brothers waiting for their uncle to come from the Carribean