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Literature written in the
English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( spoken language), g ...

English language
includes many countries such as the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...

United Kingdom
and its crown dependencies,
Republic of Ireland Ireland ( ga, Éire ), also known as the Republic of Ireland ('), is a country in north-western Europe consisting of 26 of the 32 Counties of Ireland, counties of the island of Ireland. The capital and largest city is Dublin, on the eastern ...

Republic of Ireland
, the United States, and the countries of the former
British Empire The British Empire was composed of the dominions, Crown colony, colonies, protectorates, League of Nations mandate, mandates, and other Dependent territory, territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. ...

British Empire
. The English language has developed over the course of more than 1,400 years. The earliest forms of English, a set of Anglo-Frisian dialects brought to
Great Britain Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of continental Europe. With an area of , it is the largest of the British Isles, the List of European islands by area, largest European island, and the List of i ...

Great Britain
by Anglo-Saxon invaders in the fifth century, are called
Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language ...
.
Beowulf ''Beowulf'' (; ang, Bēowulf ) is an Old English epic poem An epic poem is a lengthy narrative poem Narrative poetry is a form of poetry Poetry (derived from the Greek language, Greek ''poiesis'', "making") is a form of literat ...

Beowulf
is the most famous work in Old English, and has achieved national epic status in England, despite being set in
Scandinavia Scandinavia; : ''Skadesi-suolu''/''Skađsuâl''. ( ) is a in , with strong historical, cultural, and linguistic ties. In English usage, ''Scandinavia'' can refer to , , and , sometimes more narrowly to the , or more broadly to include , th ...

Scandinavia
. However, following the
Norman conquest The Norman Conquest (or the Conquest) was the 11th-century invasion and occupation of England by an army made up of thousands of Normans, Duchy of Brittany, Bretons, County of Flanders, Flemish, and men from other Kingdom of France, French ...
of England in 1066, the written form of the
Anglo-Saxon language Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a of the , originally spoken by the inhabitants of . It is named after the , one of the ancient that migrated from , a peninsula on ...
became less common. Under the influence of the new aristocracy, French became the standard language of courts, parliament, and polite society.Baugh, Albert and Cable, Thomas. 2002. ''The History of the English Language''. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall. pp. 79–81. The English spoken after the Normans came is known as
Middle English Middle English (abbreviated to ME) was a form of the English language spoken after the Norman conquest of England, Norman conquest (1066) until the late 15th century. The English language underwent distinct variations and developments following ...
. This form of English lasted until the 1470s, when the
Chancery Standard Middle English (abbreviated to ME) was a form of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the Wor ...
(late Middle English), a
London London is the Capital city, capital and List of urban areas in the United Kingdom, largest city of England and the United Kingdom. It stands on the River Thames in south-east England at the head of a estuary down to the North Sea, and has b ...

London
-based form of English, became widespread.
Geoffrey Chaucer Geoffrey Chaucer (; – 25 October 1400) was an English poet and author. Widely considered the greatest English poet of the Middle Ages In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted approximately from the 5th ...

Geoffrey Chaucer
(1343 – 1400), author of ''
The Canterbury Tales ''The Canterbury Tales'' ( enm, Tales of Caunterbury) is a collection of 24 stories that runs to over 17,000 lines written in Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer between 1387 and 1400. It is near-unanimously seen as Chaucer's ''Masterpiece, mag ...

The Canterbury Tales
'', was a significant figure in the development of the legitimacy of
vernacular A vernacular or vernacular language refers to the language or dialect that is spoken by people that are inhabiting a particular country or region. The vernacular is typically the native language, normally Spoken language, spoken informally rath ...
Middle English at a time when the dominant literary languages in England were still French and Latin. The
invention of the printing press Movable Type is a blog software, weblog publishing system developed by the company Six Apart. It was publicly announced on September 3, 2001; version 1.0 was publicly released on October 8, 2001. The current version is 7.0. Movable Type is proprie ...
by
Johannes Gutenberg Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg (; – 3 February 1468) was a German inventor An invention is a unique or novel A novel is a relatively long work of narrative fiction, typically written in prose and published as a book. ...

Johannes Gutenberg
in 1439 also helped to standardise the language, as did the
King James Bible The King James Version (KJV), also the King James Bible (KJB) and the Authorized Version, is an English translations of the Bible, English translation of the Christian Bible for the Church of England, which was commissioned in 1604 and publ ...
(1611), and the
Great Vowel Shift The Great Vowel Shift was a series of changes in the pronunciation of the English language that took place primarily between 1400 and 1700, beginning in southern England and today having influenced effectively all dialects of English. Through ...

Great Vowel Shift
. Poet and playwright
William Shakespeare William Shakespeare ( 26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616) was an English playwright, poet and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's greatest dramatist. He is often called England's and the " of A ...

William Shakespeare
(1564 – 1616) is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and one of the world's greatest dramatists. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright. In the nineteenth century Sir
Walter Scott Sir Walter Scott, 1st Baronet (15 August 1771 – 21 September 1832), was a Scottish historical novelist, poet, playwright and historian. Many of his works remain classics of European and Scottish literature Scottish literature is literatu ...

Walter Scott
's
historical romance Historical romance (also historical novel) is a broad category of fiction in which the plot takes place in a setting located in the past. Walter Scott helped popularize this genre in the early 19th-century, with works such as ''Rob Roy (novel), ...
s inspired a generation of painters, composers, and writers throughout Europe.''The Oxford Companion to English Literature'', p. 890. The English language spread throughout the world with the development of the
British Empire The British Empire was composed of the dominions, Crown colony, colonies, protectorates, League of Nations mandate, mandates, and other Dependent territory, territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. ...

British Empire
between the late 16th and early 18th centuries. At its height, it was the largest empire in history. By 1913, the British Empire held sway over 412 million people, of the world population at the time, During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries these colonies and the
USA The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country primarily located in North America North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and a ...
started to produce their own significant literary traditions in English. Cumulatively, over the period of 1907 to the present, numerous writers from
Great Britain Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of continental Europe. With an area of , it is the largest of the British Isles, the List of European islands by area, largest European island, and the List of i ...

Great Britain
, both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, the US, and former British colonies have received the Nobel Prize for works in the English language, more than in any other language.


Old English literature (c. 450–1066)

Old English literature Old English literature, or Anglo-Saxon literature, encompasses literature written in Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germ ...
, or Anglo-Saxon literature, encompasses the surviving literature written in
Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language ...
in
Anglo-Saxon England Anglo-Saxon England or Early Medieval England, existing from the 5th to the 11th centuries from the end of until the in 1066, consisted of various kingdoms until 927, when it was united as the by King (r. 927–939). It became part of the s ...
, in the period after the settlement of the
Saxons The Saxons ( la, Saxones, german: Sachsen, ang, Seaxan, osx, Sahson, nds, Sassen, nl, Saksen) were a group of early Germanic Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples, an ethno-linguistic group identified by their use of the Germanic languag ...
and other Germanic tribes in England (
Jutes The Jutes (), Iuti, or Iutæ ( da, Jyde, non, Jótar, ang, Ēotas) were one of the Nordic Nordic most commonly refers to: * Nordic countries, written in plural as Nordics, the northwestern European countries, including Scandinavia, Fennoscand ...
and the
Angles The Angles ( ang, Ængle, ; la, Angli; german: Angeln) were one of the main Germanic peoples The Germanic peoples were a historical group of people living in Central Europe and Scandinavia. Since the 19th century, they have traditionally ...

Angles
) c. 450, after the withdrawal of the
Romans Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Lazio, ...
, and "ending soon after the Norman Conquest" in 1066. These works include genres such as
epic poetry An epic poem is a lengthy narrative poem, ordinarily involving a time beyond living memory in which occurred the extraordinary doings of the extraordinary people who, in dealings with the gods or other superhuman forces, gave shape to the mortal ...
,
hagiography A hagiography (; ) or vita (from Latin ''vita'', life, which begins the title of most medieval biographies) is a biography of a saint In religious belief, a saint is a person who is recognized as having an exceptional degree of holiness S ...
,
sermon A sermon is an or by a (who is usually a member of ). Sermons address a , , or moral topic, usually expounding on a type of belief, law, or behavior within both past and present contexts. Elements of the sermon often include exposition, , and ...

sermon
s,
Bible The Bible (from Koine Greek Koine Greek (, , Greek approximately ;. , , , lit. "Common Greek"), also known as Alexandrian dialect, common Attic, Hellenistic or Biblical Greek, was the koiné language, common supra-regional form of Gree ...

Bible
translations, legal works,
chronicle A chronicle ( la, chronica, from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its pop ...

chronicle
s and riddles. Angus Cameron (1983). "Anglo-Saxon literature" in ''
Dictionary of the Middle Ages 150px, ''Dictionary of the Middle Ages: Supplement 1'' (2004) The ''Dictionary of the Middle Ages'' is a 13-volume encyclopedia of the Middle Ages published by the American Council of Learned Societies between 1982 and 1989. It was first conceive ...
'', vol. 1, pp. 274–88.
In all there are about 400 surviving
manuscript A manuscript (abbreviated MS for singular and MSS for plural) was, traditionally, any document written by hand – or, once practical typewriter A typewriter is a machine, mechanical or electromechanical machine for typing characters s ...

manuscript
s from the period. ''
Widsith "Widsith" ( ang, Widsið), also known as "The Traveller's Song", is an Old English poem of 143 lines. It survives only in the ''Exeter Book The Exeter Book, Exeter Cathedral Library MS 3501, also known as the Codex Exoniensis, is a 10th-centu ...
'', which appears in the
Exeter Book The Exeter Book, Exeter Cathedral Library MS 3501, also known as the Codex Exoniensis, is a 10th-century book or codex of Anglo-Saxons, Anglo-Saxon poetry. It is one of the Anglo-Saxon literature#Extant manuscripts, four major Anglo-Saxon litera ...

Exeter Book
of the late 10th century, gives a list of kings of tribes ordered according to their popularity and impact on history, with
Attila Attila (; ), frequently called Attila the Hun, was the ruler of the Huns The Huns were a nomadic people who lived in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Eastern Europe between the 4th and 6th century AD. According to European tradition, ...

Attila
King of the
Huns The Huns were a nomadic people A nomad ( frm, nomade "people without fixed habitation") is a member of a community without fixed habitation which regularly moves to and from the same areas. Such groups include hunter-gatherers, pastoral ...

Huns
coming first, followed by Eormanric of the
Ostrogoths The Ostrogoths ( la, Ostrogothi, Austrogothi) were a Roman-era Germanic people Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples The historical Germanic peoples (from lat, Germani) are a category of ancient northern European tribes, first mention ...
. It may also be the oldest extant work that tells the Battle of the Goths and Huns, which is also told in such later Scandinavian works as ''Hervarar's saga'' and ''
Gesta Danorum ''Gesta Danorum'' ("Deeds of the Danes Danes ( da, danskere, ) are a North Germanic peoples, North Germanic ethnic group native to Denmark and a modern nation identified with the country of Denmark. This connection may be ancestral, legal, h ...
''. Lotte Hedeager argues that the work is far older, however, and that it likely dates back to the late 6th or early 7th century, citing the author's knowledge of historical details and accuracy as proof of its authenticity. She does note, however, that some authors, such as John Niles, have argued the work was invented in the 10th century. The ''
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle The ''Anglo-Saxon Chronicle'' is a collection of annals Annals ( la, annāles, from , "year") are a concise historical History (from Ancient Greek, Greek , ''historia'', meaning "inquiry; knowledge acquired by investigation") is the stud ...
'' is a collection of
annals Annals ( la, annāles, from , "year") are a concise historical History (from Ancient Greek, Greek , ''historia'', meaning "inquiry; knowledge acquired by investigation") is the study and the documentation of the past. Events before the History ...
in
Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language ...
, from the 9th century, that
chronicle A chronicle ( la, chronica, from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its pop ...

chronicle
s the history of the
Anglo-Saxons The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group Cultural identity is a part of a person's identity Identity may refer to: Social sciences * Identity (social science), personhood or group affiliation in psychology and sociology Group expression ...
. The poem ''
Battle of Maldon The Battle of Maldon took place on 11 August 991 AD near Maldon beside the River Blackwater in Essex Essex () is a Ceremonial counties of England, county in the south-east of England, north-east of London. One of the home counties, it ...
'' also deals with history. This is a work of uncertain date, celebrating the
Battle of Maldon The Battle of Maldon took place on 11 August 991 AD near Maldon beside the River Blackwater in Essex Essex () is a Ceremonial counties of England, county in the south-east of England, north-east of London. One of the home counties, it ...
of 991, at which the Anglo-Saxons failed to prevent a
Viking Vikings—"pirate", non, víkingr is the modern name given to seafaring people primarily from Scandinavia Scandinavia; Sami Places * Sápmi, a cultural region in Northern Europe * Sami, Burkina Faso, a district of the Banwa Pro ...

Viking
invasion.
Oral tradition Oral tradition, or oral lore, is a form of human communication Human communication, or anthroposemiotics, is the field dedicated to understanding how human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of prima ...
was very strong in early
English culture The culture of England is defined by the cultural Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior and Norm (social), norms found in human Society, societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, Social norm, cus ...
and most literary works were written to be performed.
Epic poems This is a list of epic poems. Ancient epics (to 500) Before the 8th century BC *''Epic of Gilgamesh'' (Mesopotamian mythology) *Epic of Lugalbanda (including ''Lugalbanda in the Mountain Cave'' and ''Lugalbanda and the Anzud Bird'', Mesopotamia ...
were very popular, and some, including ''
Beowulf ''Beowulf'' (; ang, Bēowulf ) is an Old English epic poem An epic poem is a lengthy narrative poem Narrative poetry is a form of poetry Poetry (derived from the Greek language, Greek ''poiesis'', "making") is a form of literat ...

Beowulf
'', have survived to the present day. ''
Beowulf ''Beowulf'' (; ang, Bēowulf ) is an Old English epic poem An epic poem is a lengthy narrative poem Narrative poetry is a form of poetry Poetry (derived from the Greek language, Greek ''poiesis'', "making") is a form of literat ...

Beowulf
'' is the most famous work in Old English, and has achieved
national epic A national epic is an epic poem An epic poem is a lengthy narrative poem Narrative poetry is a form of poetry Poetry (derived from the Greek language, Greek ''poiesis'', "making") is a form of literature that uses aesthetics, aesthe ...
status in England, despite being set in Scandinavia. The only surviving manuscript is the
Nowell Codex The Nowell Codex is the second of two manuscripts comprising the bound volume Cotton MS Vitellius A XV, one of the four major Anglo-Saxon poetic manuscripts. It is most famous as the manuscript containing the unique copy of the epic poem ''Beowul ...
, the precise date of which is debated, but most estimates place it close to the year 1000.
Beowulf ''Beowulf'' (; ang, Bēowulf ) is an Old English epic poem An epic poem is a lengthy narrative poem Narrative poetry is a form of poetry Poetry (derived from the Greek language, Greek ''poiesis'', "making") is a form of literat ...

Beowulf
is the conventional title, and its composition is dated between the 8th and the early 11th century. Nearly all Anglo-Saxon authors are anonymous: twelve are known by name from medieval sources, but only four of those are known by their vernacular works with any certainty:
Cædmon Cædmon (; ''fl. c.'' 657 – 684) is the earliest English poet whose name is known. A Northumbria Northumbria (; ang, Norþanhymbra Rīċe; la, Regnum Northanhymbrorum) was an early medieval Anglo-Saxon kingdom in what is now Northern Eng ...
,
Bede Bede ( ; ang, Bǣda , ; 672/326 May 735), also known as Saint Bede, The Venerable Bede, and Bede the Venerable ( la, Beda Venerabilis), was an English Benedictine The Benedictines, officially the Order of Saint Benedict ( la, Ordo Sa ...

Bede
,
Alfred the Great Alfred the Great (848/49 – 26 October 899) was king of the West Saxons This is a list of monarchs of Wessex until 886 AD. For later monarchs, see the List of English monarchs. While the details of the later monarchs are confirmed by a numbe ...

Alfred the Great
, and
Cynewulf Cynewulf (, ; also spelled Cynwulf or Kynewulf) is one of twelve Old English poets known by name, and one of four whose work is known to survive today. He presumably flourished in the 9th century, with possible dates extending into the late 8th ...
. Cædmon is the earliest English poet whose name is known, and his only known surviving work '' Cædmon's Hymn'' probably dates from the late 7th century. The poem is one of the earliest attested examples of Old English and is, with the
runic Runes are the letters Letter, letters, or literature may refer to: Characters typeface * Letter (alphabet) A letter is a segmental symbol A symbol is a mark, sign, or word that indicates, signifies, or is understood as representing ...

runic
Ruthwell Cross The Ruthwell Cross is a stone Anglo-Saxon cross probably dating from the 8th century, when the village of Ruthwell, now in Scotland Scotland ( sco, Scotland, gd, Alba ) is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the Unit ...
and
Franks Casket The Franks Casket (or the Auzon Casket) is a small Anglo-Saxon The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group Cultural identity is a part of a person's identity Identity may refer to: Social sciences * Identity (social science), personhood ...

Franks Casket
inscriptions, one of three candidates for the earliest attested example of Old English poetry. It is also one of the earliest recorded examples of sustained poetry in a
Germanic language The Germanic languages are a branch of the Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a language family native to western and southern Eurasia. It comprises most of the languages of Europe together with those of the northern Indian su ...

Germanic language
. The poem, ''
The Dream of the Rood ''The'' () is a grammatical article Article often refers to: * Article (grammar) An article is any member of a class of dedicated words that are used with noun phrases to mark the identifiability of the referents of the noun phrases. The ca ...

The Dream of the Rood
'', was inscribed upon the
Ruthwell Cross The Ruthwell Cross is a stone Anglo-Saxon cross probably dating from the 8th century, when the village of Ruthwell, now in Scotland Scotland ( sco, Scotland, gd, Alba ) is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the Unit ...
. Two
Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language ...
poems from the late 10th century are '' The Wanderer'' and '' The Seafarer''. Both have a religious theme, and Richard Marsden describes ''The Seafarer'' as "an exhortatory and didactic poem, in which the miseries of winter seafaring are used as a metaphor for the challenge faced by the committed Christian ... Classical antiquity was not forgotten in Anglo-Saxon England, and several Old English poems are adaptations of late classical philosophical texts. The longest is
King Alfred Alfred the Great (848/49 – 26 October 899) was king of the West Saxons from 871 to and king of the Anglo-Saxons from to 899. He was the youngest son of King Æthelwulf of Wessex, Æthelwulf, who died when Alfred was young. Three of Alfred's ...
's (849–899) 9th-century translation of
Boethius Anicius Manlius Severinus Boëthius, commonly called Boethius (; also Boetius ; 477 – 524 AD), was a Roman Roman Senate, senator, Roman consul, consul, ''magister officiorum'', and philosopher of the early 6th century. He was born about a ye ...

Boethius
' ''
Consolation of Philosophy ''The Consolation of Philosophy'' ( la, De consolatione philosophiae) is a philosophical work by the Roman statesman Boethius, written around the year 524. It has been described as the single most important and influential work in the West on ...
''.


Middle English literature (1066–1500)

After the
Norman conquest The Norman Conquest (or the Conquest) was the 11th-century invasion and occupation of England by an army made up of thousands of Normans, Duchy of Brittany, Bretons, County of Flanders, Flemish, and men from other Kingdom of France, French ...
of England in 1066, the written form of the
Anglo-Saxon language Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a of the , originally spoken by the inhabitants of . It is named after the , one of the ancient that migrated from , a peninsula on ...
became less common. Under the influence of the new aristocracy, French became the standard language of courts, parliament, and polite society. As the invaders integrated, their language and literature mingled with that of the natives, and the
Norman Norman or Normans may refer to: Ethnic and cultural identity * The Normans The Normans (Norman language, Norman: ''Normaunds''; french: Normands; la, Nortmanni/Normanni) were inhabitants of the early medieval Duchy of Normandy, descended from ...
dialects of the ruling classes became
Anglo-NormanAnglo-Norman may refer to: *Anglo-Normans The Anglo-Normans ( nrf, Anglo-Normaunds, ang, Engel-Norðmandisca) were the medieval ruling class in England, composed mainly of a combination of ethnic Anglo-Saxons, Normans, Bretons, Flemish people, F ...
. From then until the 12th century, Anglo-Saxon underwent a gradual transition into
Middle English Middle English (abbreviated to ME) was a form of the English language spoken after the Norman conquest of England, Norman conquest (1066) until the late 15th century. The English language underwent distinct variations and developments following ...
. Political power was no longer in English hands, so that the West Saxon literary language had no more influence than any other dialect and Middle English literature was written in many dialects that corresponded to the region, history, culture, and background of individual writers. In this period religious literature continued to enjoy popularity and
Hagiographies A hagiography (; ) or vita (from Latin ''vita'', life, which begins the title of most medieval biographies) is a biography of a saint In religious belief, a saint is a person who is recognized as having an exceptional degree of Q-D-Š, holines ...
were written, adapted and translated: for example, '' The Life of Saint Audrey'',
Eadmer Eadmer or Edmer ( – ) was an English historian, theologian, and ecclesiastic. He is known for being a contemporary biographer of his archbishop and companion, Anselm of Canterbury, Saint Anselm, in his ''Vita Anselmi'', and for his ' ...
's (c. 1060 – c. 1126). At the end of the 12th century,
LayamonLayamon or Laghamon (, ; ) – spelled Laȝamon or Laȝamonn in his time, occasionally written Lawman – was an English poet of the late 12th/early 13th century and author of the ''Brut'', a notable work that was the first to present the legends o ...
in '' Brut'' adapted the
Norman-French Norman or Norman French (', french: Normand, Guernésiais: ''Normand'', Jèrriais: ''Nouormand'') is, depending on classification, either a French dialect or a Romance language which can be classified as one of the Langues d'oïl, Oïl languages a ...
of
Wace Wace ( 1110 – after 1174), sometimes referred to as Robert Wace, was a Medieval In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the int ...
to produce the first English-language work to present the legends of
King Arthur King Arthur ( cy, Brenin Arthur, kw, Arthur Gernow, br, Roue Arzhur) was a Legend, legendary Celtic Britons, British leader who, according to Historians in England during the Middle Ages, medieval histories and Romance (heroic literature), ...

King Arthur
and the
Knights of the Round Table The Knights of the Round Table ( cy, Marchogion y Ford Gron, kw, Marghekyon an Moos Krenn, br, Marc'hegien an Daol Grenn) are the knights A knight is a person granted an honorary title A title is one or more words used before or after ...
. It was also the first historiography written in English since the
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle The ''Anglo-Saxon Chronicle'' is a collection of annals Annals ( la, annāles, from , "year") are a concise historical History (from Ancient Greek, Greek , ''historia'', meaning "inquiry; knowledge acquired by investigation") is the stud ...
.
Middle English Bible translations Middle English Bible translations (1066-1500) covers the age of Middle English Middle English (abbreviated to ME) was a form of the English language spoken after the Norman conquest of England, Norman conquest (1066) until the late 15th century ...
, notably
Wycliffe's Bible Wycliffe's Bible is the name now given to a group of Bible translations The Bible The Bible (from Koine Greek Koine Greek (, , Greek approximately ;. , , , lit. "Common Greek"), also known as Alexandrian dialect, common Attic, ...

Wycliffe's Bible
, helped to establish English as a literary language.
Wycliffe's Bible Wycliffe's Bible is the name now given to a group of Bible translations The Bible The Bible (from Koine Greek Koine Greek (, , Greek approximately ;. , , , lit. "Common Greek"), also known as Alexandrian dialect, common Attic, ...

Wycliffe's Bible
is the name now given to a group of
Bible translations The Bible The Bible (from Koine Greek Koine Greek (, , Greek approximately ;. , , , lit. "Common Greek"), also known as Alexandrian dialect, common Attic, Hellenistic or Biblical Greek, was the koiné language, common supra-regi ...
into Middle English that were made under the direction of, or at the instigation of,
John Wycliffe John Wycliffe (; also spelled Wyclif, Wickliffe, and other variants; 1320s – 31 December 1384) was an English scholastic philosopher, theologian, biblical translator, reformer, priest, and a seminary professor at the University of Oxford. H ...

John Wycliffe
. They appeared between about 1382 and 1395. These Bible translations were the chief inspiration and cause of the
Lollard Lollardy, also known as Lollardism or the Lollard movement, was a Proto-Protestant Proto-Protestantism, also called pre-Protestantism or pre-Reformation movements, refers to individuals and movements that propagated ideas similar to Protestanti ...
movement, a pre-
Reformation The Reformation (alternatively named the Protestant Reformation or the European Reformation) was a major movement within Western Christianity in Vatican City Vatican City (), officially the Vatican City State ( it, Stato della Cit ...
movement that rejected many of the teachings of the
Roman Catholic Church The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with 1.3 billion baptised Baptism (from the Greek language, Greek noun βάπτισμα ''báptisma'') is a Christians, Christian ...

Roman Catholic Church
. Another literary genre, that of Romances, appears in English from the 13th century, with ''
King Horn ''King Horn'' is a Middle English chivalric romance dating back to the middle of the thirteenth century. It survives in three manuscripts: London, British Library, MS. Harley 2253; Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Laud. Misc 108; and Cambridge, Cambrid ...
'' and '' Havelock the Dane'', based on Anglo-Norman originals such as the ''
Romance of Horn ''Romance of Horn'' is an Anglo-Norman literature Anglo-Norman literature is literature Literature broadly is any collection of Writing, written work, but it is also used more narrowly for writings specifically considered to be an art form, espe ...
'' (c. 1170), but it was in the 14th century that major writers in English first appeared. These were
William Langland William is a popular given name of an old Germanic origin.Hanks, Hardcastle and Hodges, ''Oxford Dictionary of First Names'', Oxford University Press Oxford University Press (OUP) is the university press of University of Oxford. It is the la ...

William Langland
,
Geoffrey Chaucer Geoffrey Chaucer (; – 25 October 1400) was an English poet and author. Widely considered the greatest English poet of the Middle Ages In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted approximately from the 5th ...

Geoffrey Chaucer
and the so-called
Pearl Poet The "Gawain Poet", or less commonly the "Pearl Poet",Andrew, M. "Theories of Authorship" (1997) in Brewer (ed). ''A Companion to the Gawain-poet'', Boydell & Brewer, p.23 (''fl.'' late 14th century) is the name given to the author of ''Sir Gawa ...

Pearl Poet
, whose most famous work is ''
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight ''Sir Gawain and the Green Knight'' is a late 14th-century in . The author is unknown; the title was given centuries later. It is one of the best-known stories, with its plot combining two types of folk motifs: the , and the exchange of wi ...
''. Langland's ''
Piers Plowman , showing drolleriesImage:Piers plowman drolleries.gif, Page from the 14th-century Luttrell Psalter, showing a drollery on the right margin. A drollerie, often also called a grotesque, from French language, is a small decorative image in the Margi ...

Piers Plowman
'' (written c. 1360–87) or ''Visio Willelmi de Petro Plowman'' (''William's Vision of Piers Plowman'') is a Middle English
allegorical As a literary device, an allegory is a narrative A narrative, story or tale is any account of a series of related events or experiences, whether nonfictional ( memoir, biography, news report, documentary, Travel literature, travelogue, etc.) ...
narrative poem Narrative poetry is a form of poetry Poetry (derived from the Greek language, Greek ''poiesis'', "making") is a form of literature that uses aesthetics, aesthetic and often rhythmic qualities of language—such as phonaesthetics, sound symbo ...
, written in unrhymed
alliterative verse In meter (poetry), prosody, alliterative verse is a form of poetry, verse that uses alliteration as the principal ornamental device to help indicate the underlying Metre (poetry), metrical structure, as opposed to other devices such as rhyme. The m ...
. ''
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight ''Sir Gawain and the Green Knight'' is a late 14th-century in . The author is unknown; the title was given centuries later. It is one of the best-known stories, with its plot combining two types of folk motifs: the , and the exchange of wi ...
'' is a late 14th-century Middle English alliterative
romance Romance (from Vulgar Latin , "in the Roman language", i.e., "Latin") may refer to: Common meanings * Romance (love) Romance or Romantic love is an emotional feeling of love for, or a strong attraction towards another person, and the Court ...
. It is one of the better-known Arthurian stories of an established type known as the "beheading game". Developing from Welsh, Irish and English tradition, ''Sir Gawain'' highlights the importance of honour and chivalry. Preserved in the same manuscript with Sir Gawayne were three other poems, now generally accepted as the work of the same author, including an intricate elegiac poem, ''
Pearl A pearl is a hard, glistening object produced within the soft tissue (specifically the mantle) of a living shell Shell may refer to: Architecture and design * Shell (structure)A shell is a type of structural element which is characterize ...
''.. The English dialect of these poems from the
Midlands The Midlands is a part of England England is a that is part of the . It shares land borders with to its west and to its north. The lies northwest of England and the to the southwest. England is separated from by the to the east a ...
is markedly different from that of the
London London is the Capital city, capital and List of urban areas in the United Kingdom, largest city of England and the United Kingdom. It stands on the River Thames in south-east England at the head of a estuary down to the North Sea, and has b ...

London
-based Chaucer and, though influenced by French in the scenes at court in ''Sir Gawain'', there are in the poems also many dialect words, often of Scandinavian origin, that belonged to northwest England. Middle English lasted until the 1470s, when the
Chancery Standard Middle English (abbreviated to ME) was a form of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the Wor ...
, a London-based form of English, became widespread and the printing press started to standardise the language. Chaucer is best known today for ''
The Canterbury Tales ''The Canterbury Tales'' ( enm, Tales of Caunterbury) is a collection of 24 stories that runs to over 17,000 lines written in Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer between 1387 and 1400. It is near-unanimously seen as Chaucer's ''Masterpiece, mag ...

The Canterbury Tales
''. This is a collection of stories written in Middle English (mostly in
verse Verse may refer to: Poetry * Verse, an occasional synonym for poetry Poetry (derived from the Greek language, Greek ''poiesis'', "making") is a form of literature that uses aesthetics, aesthetic and often rhythmic qualities of language ...
although some are in
prose Prose is a form of written or spoken language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to the painful divisions ...

prose
), that are presented as part of a story-telling contest by a group of pilgrims as they travel together from
Southwark Southwark ( ) is a district of Central London situated on the south bank of the River Thames, forming the north-western part of the wider modern London Borough of Southwark. The district, which is the oldest part of South London, developed ...

Southwark
to the shrine of St
Thomas Becket Thomas Becket (), also known as Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Thomas of London and later Thomas à Becket (21 December 1119 or 1120 – 29 December 1170), was Archbishop of Canterbury The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bish ...

Thomas Becket
at
Canterbury Cathedral Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury Canterbury (, ) is a City status in the United Kingdom, cathedral city and UNESCO World Heritage Site, situated in the heart of the City of Canterbury, a local government district of Kent, England. It lies ...

Canterbury Cathedral
. Chaucer is a significant figure in the development of the legitimacy of the
vernacular A vernacular or vernacular language refers to the language or dialect that is spoken by people that are inhabiting a particular country or region. The vernacular is typically the native language, normally Spoken language, spoken informally rath ...
, Middle English, at a time when the dominant literary languages in England were still French and Latin. At this time, literature in England was being written in various languages, including Latin, Norman-French, and English: the multilingual nature of the audience for literature in the 14th century is illustrated by the example of
John Gower John Gower (; c. 1330 – October 1408) was an English poet, a contemporary of William Langland William is a popular given name of an old Germanic origin.Hanks, Hardcastle and Hodges, ''Oxford Dictionary of First Names'', Oxford University ...

John Gower
(c. 1330–1408). A contemporary of
William Langland William is a popular given name of an old Germanic origin.Hanks, Hardcastle and Hodges, ''Oxford Dictionary of First Names'', Oxford University Press Oxford University Press (OUP) is the university press of University of Oxford. It is the la ...

William Langland
and a personal friend of Chaucer, Gower is remembered primarily for three major works: the ''Mirroir de l'Omme'', '' Vox Clamantis'', and ''
Confessio Amantis ''Confessio Amantis'' ("The Lover's Confession") is a 33,000-line Middle English Middle English (abbreviated to ME) was a form of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in Histor ...
'', three long poems written in
Anglo-NormanAnglo-Norman may refer to: *Anglo-Normans The Anglo-Normans ( nrf, Anglo-Normaunds, ang, Engel-Norðmandisca) were the medieval ruling class in England, composed mainly of a combination of ethnic Anglo-Saxons, Normans, Bretons, Flemish people, F ...
, Latin and Middle English respectively, which are united by common moral and political themes. Significant religious works were also created in the 14th century, including those of
Julian of Norwich Julian (or Juliana) of Norwich (1343 – after 1416), also known as Dame Julian or Mother Julian, was an English anchorite of the Middle Ages In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted from the 5th to the ...

Julian of Norwich
(c. 1342 – c. 1416) and . Julian's '' Revelations of Divine Love'' (about 1393) is believed to be the first published book written by a woman in the English language. A major work from the 15th century is '' Le Morte d'Arthur'' by Sir
Thomas Malory Sir Thomas Malory (c. 1415 – 14 March 1471) was an English writer, the author or compiler of '' Le Morte d'Arthur'', the classic English-language chronicle of the Arthurian legend The Matter of Britain is the body of Medieval literatu ...
, which was printed by Caxton in 1485.''The Oxford Companion to English Literature'' (1996), p. 182. This is a compilation of some French and English Arthurian romances, and was among the earliest books printed in England. It was popular and influential in the later revival of interest in the Arthurian legends.


Medieval theatre

In the
Middle Ages In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the people of Europe since the beginning of ...
, drama in the vernacular languages of Europe may have emerged from enactments of the
liturgy Liturgy is the customary public worship performed by a religious group. As a religious phenomenon, liturgy represents a community, communal response to and participation in the sacred through activities reflecting praise, thanksgiving, remembrance ...
.
Mystery play Mystery plays and miracle plays (they are distinguished as two different forms although the terms are often used interchangeably) are among the earliest formally developed Play (theatre), plays in medieval Europe. Medieval mystery plays focused ...
s were presented in the porches of cathedrals or by strolling players on
feast days The calendar of saints is the traditional Christian method of organizing a liturgical year by associating each day with one or more saint In religious belief, a saint is a person who is recognized as having an exceptional degree of Q-D-Š, ho ...

feast days
.
Miracle A miracle is a supernatural event that seems inexplicable by physical laws, natural or scientific laws. In various religions, a phenomenon that is characterized as miraculous is often attributed to the actions of a supernatural being, (especiall ...
and mystery plays, along with
morality play The morality play is a genre Genre () is any form or type of communication in any mode (written, spoken, digital, artistic, etc.) with socially-agreed-upon conventions developed over time. In popular usage, it normally describes a Category o ...
s (or "interludes"), later evolved into more elaborate forms of drama, such as was seen on the Elizabethan stages. Another form of medieval theatre was the mummers' plays, a form of early street theatre associated with the
Morris dance Morris dancing is a form of English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventua ...
, concentrating on themes such as
Saint George Saint George (Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approxi ...

Saint George
and the
Dragon A dragon is a large, serpent Serpent or The Serpent may refer to: * Snake Snakes are elongated, limbless, carnivorous reptiles of the suborder Serpentes . Like all other squamates, snakes are ectothermic, amniote Amniotes (fro ...
and
Robin Hood Robin Hood is a legendary hero File:Wilhelm Tell Denkmal Altdorf um 1900.jpeg, upWilliam Tell, a popular folk hero of Switzerland. A hero (heroine in its feminine form) is a real person or a main fictional character who, in the face ...

Robin Hood
. These were
folk tales Folk or Folks may refer to: Sociology *Nation *People * Folklore ** Folk art ** Folk dance ** Folk hero ** Folk music *** Folk metal *** Folk punk *** Folk rock *** British folk rock ** Folk religion * Folk taxonomy Arts, entertainment, and media ...

folk tales
re-telling old stories, and the
actor An actor is a person who portrays a character Character(s) may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''Character'' (novel), a 1936 Dutch novel by Ferdinand Bordewijk * ''Characters'' (Theophrastus), a classical Greek set ...

actor
s travelled from town to town performing these for their audiences in return for money and hospitality. Mystery plays and miracle plays are among the earliest formally developed
plays Play most commonly refers to: * Play (activity) Play is a range of Motivation#Incentive theories: intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, intrinsically motivated activities done for recreational pleasure and enjoyment. Play is commonly associated w ...
in
medieval In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the people of Europe since the beginning of ...

medieval
Europe Europe is a continent A continent is any of several large landmass A landmass, or land mass, is a large region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of scienc ...

Europe
. Medieval mystery plays focused on the representation of
Bible The Bible (from Koine Greek Koine Greek (, , Greek approximately ;. , , , lit. "Common Greek"), also known as Alexandrian dialect, common Attic, Hellenistic or Biblical Greek, was the koiné language, common supra-regional form of Gree ...

Bible
stories in churches as tableaux with accompanying
antiphon An antiphon (Greek language, Greek ἀντίφωνον, ἀντί "opposite" and φωνή "voice") is a short chant in Christianity, Christian ritual, sung as a refrain. The texts of antiphons are the Psalms. Their form was favored by St Ambrose a ...
al song. They developed from the 10th to the 16th century, reaching the height of their popularity in the 15th century before being rendered obsolete by the rise of professional theatre. There are four complete or nearly complete extant English biblical collections of plays from the late medieval period. The most complete is the '' York cycle'' of 48 pageants. They were performed in the city of
York York is a cathedral city City status in the United Kingdom is granted by the monarch of the United Kingdom The monarchy of the United Kingdom, commonly referred to as the British monarchy, is the constitutional monarchy of the United ...

York
, from the middle of the 14th century until 1569. Besides the Middle English drama, there are three surviving plays in
Cornish Cornish is the adjective and demonym associated with Cornwall, the most southwesterly part of the United Kingdom. It may refer to: * Cornish language, a Brittonic Southwestern Celtic language of the Indo-European language family, spoken in Cornwall ...
known as the
Ordinalia The are three medieval mystery plays Mystery plays and miracle plays (they are distinguished as two different forms although the terms are often used interchangeably) are among the earliest formally developed plays Play most commonly refers t ...
. Having grown out of the religiously based
mystery play Mystery plays and miracle plays (they are distinguished as two different forms although the terms are often used interchangeably) are among the earliest formally developed Play (theatre), plays in medieval Europe. Medieval mystery plays focused ...
s of the Middle Ages, the
morality play The morality play is a genre Genre () is any form or type of communication in any mode (written, spoken, digital, artistic, etc.) with socially-agreed-upon conventions developed over time. In popular usage, it normally describes a Category o ...
is a
genre Genre () is any form or type of communication in any mode (written, spoken, digital, artistic, etc.) with socially-agreed-upon conventions developed over time. In popular usage, it normally describes a Category of being, category of literature, ...

genre
of medieval and early Tudor theatrical entertainment, which represented a shift towards a more secular base for European theatre. Morality plays are a type of
allegory As a literary device A narrative technique (known for literary fiction Literary fiction is a term used in the book-trade to distinguish novels that are regarded as having literary merit, from most commercial or "genre" fiction. However, the b ...

allegory
in which the
protagonist 200px, Shakespeare's ''Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.'' William Morris Hunt, oil on canvas, c. 1864 A protagonist (from grc, πρωταγωνιστής, translit=prōtagōnistḗs, lit=one who plays the first part, chief actor) is the main character ...
is met by
personification Personification occurs when a thing or abstraction is represented as a person, in literature or art, as an anthropomorphic Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread spec ...
s of various
moral A moral (from Latin ''morālis'') is a message that is conveyed or a lesson to be learned from a narrative, story or wikt:event, event. The moral may be left to the hearer, reader, or viewer to determine for themselves, or may be explicitly enca ...

moral
attributes who try to prompt him to choose a godly life over one of evil. The plays were most popular in Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries. ''The Somonyng of Everyman'' (''The Summoning of Everyman'') (c. 1509–1519), usually referred to simply as ''
Everyman The everyman is a stock character A stock character is a stereotypical Police officers buying doughnuts and coffee, an example of perceived stereotypical behavior in North America. Social psychology Social psychology is the Sc ...
'', is a late 15th-century English morality play. Like
John Bunyan John Bunyan (; baptised 30 November 162831 August 1688) was an English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early m ...

John Bunyan
's allegory ''
Pilgrim's Progress ''The Pilgrim's Progress from This World, to That Which Is to Come'' is a 1678 Christian Christians () are people who follow or adhere to Christianity, a monotheistic Abrahamic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus in Christia ...

Pilgrim's Progress
'' (1678), ''Everyman'' examines the question of
Christian salvation Christians () are people who follow or adhere to Christianity, a monotheistic Abrahamic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus in Christianity, Jesus Christ. The words ''Christ (title), Christ'' and ''Christian'' derive from the Koin ...
through the use of allegorical characters.


English Renaissance (1500–1660)

Renaissance The Renaissance ( , ) , from , with the same meanings. is a period Period may refer to: Common uses * Era, a length or span of time * Full stop (or period), a punctuation mark Arts, entertainment, and media * Period (music), a concept in ...

Renaissance
style and ideas were slow to penetrate England and the
Elizabethan era The Elizabethan era is the epoch in the Tudor period The Tudor period occurred between 1485 and 1603 in and includes the during the of until 1603. The Tudor period coincides with the dynasty of the in England whose first monarch was ...
(1558–1603) is usually regarded as the height of the
English Renaissance The English Renaissance was a cultural Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior and Norm (social), norms found in human Society, societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, Social norm, customs, cap ...
. However, many scholars see its beginnings in the early 1500s during the reign of
Henry VIII Henry VIII (28 June 149128 January 1547) was King of England from 22 April 1509 until his death in 1547. Henry is best known for Wives of Henry VIII, his six marriages, including his efforts to have his first marriage (to Catherine of Aragon ...

Henry VIII
. After
William Caxton William Caxton ( 1422 – 1491) was an English merchant A merchant is a person who trades in commodities In economics Economics () is the social science that studies how people interact with value; in particular, the Production ...
introduced the printing press in England in 1476,
vernacular literature Vernacular literature is literature written in the vernacular—the speech of the "common people". In the European tradition, this effectively means literature not written in Latin nor Koine Greek. In this context, vernacular literature appeared ...
flourished. The
Reformation The Reformation (alternatively named the Protestant Reformation or the European Reformation) was a major movement within Western Christianity in Vatican City Vatican City (), officially the Vatican City State ( it, Stato della Cit ...
inspired the production of
vernacular A vernacular or vernacular language refers to the language or dialect that is spoken by people that are inhabiting a particular country or region. The vernacular is typically the native language, normally Spoken language, spoken informally rath ...
liturgy Liturgy is the customary public worship performed by a religious group. As a religious phenomenon, liturgy represents a community, communal response to and participation in the sacred through activities reflecting praise, thanksgiving, remembrance ...
which led to the
Book of Common Prayer A book is a medium for recording information Information is processed, organised and structured data Data (; ) are individual facts, statistics, or items of information, often numeric. In a more technical sense, data are a set of v ...

Book of Common Prayer
(1549), a lasting influence on literary language. The
English Renaissance The English Renaissance was a cultural Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior and Norm (social), norms found in human Society, societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, Social norm, customs, cap ...
was a
cultural Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior Social behavior is behavior Behavior (American English) or behaviour (British English; American and British English spelling differences#-our, -or, see spelling diff ...
and
artistic movement An art movement is a tendency or style in art with a specific common philosophy or goal, followed by a group of artists during a specific period of time, (usually a few months, years or decades) or, at least, with the heyday of the movement defin ...
in England dating from the late 15th to the 17th century. It is associated with the pan-European
Renaissance The Renaissance ( , ) , from , with the same meanings. is a period Period may refer to: Common uses * Era, a length or span of time * Full stop (or period), a punctuation mark Arts, entertainment, and media * Period (music), a concept in ...

Renaissance
that is usually regarded as beginning in Italy in the late 14th century. Like most of northern Europe, England saw little of these developments until more than a century later. Renaissance style and ideas were slow in penetrating England, and the
Elizabethan era The Elizabethan era is the epoch in the Tudor period The Tudor period occurred between 1485 and 1603 in and includes the during the of until 1603. The Tudor period coincides with the dynasty of the in England whose first monarch was ...
in the second half of the 16th century is usually regarded as the height of the English Renaissance. This Italian influence can also be found in the poetry of Thomas Wyatt (1503–1542), one of the earliest English Renaissance poets. He was responsible for many innovations in English poetry, and alongside
Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1516/1517 – 19 January 1547), KG, was an English nobleman, politician and poet. He was one of the founders of English Renaissance The Renaissance ( , ) , from , with the same meanings. is a period Per ...
(1516/1517–1547) introduced the
sonnet A sonnet is a poetic form Poetry (derived from the Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located ...
from Italy into England in the early 16th century.


Elizabethan period (1558–1603)


Poetry

Edmund Spenser Edmund Spenser (; 1552/1553 – 13 January 1599) was an English poet best known for ''The Faerie Queene ''The Faerie Queene'' is an English Epic poetry, epic poem by Edmund Spenser. Books IIII were first published in 1590, then republished i ...

Edmund Spenser
(c. 1552–1599) was one of the most important poets of the Elizabethan period, author of ''
The Faerie Queene ''The Faerie Queene'' is an English Epic poetry, epic poem by Edmund Spenser. Books IIII were first published in 1590, then republished in 1596 together with books IVVI. ''The Faerie Queene'' is notable for its form: at over 36,000 lines and over ...
'' (1590 and 1596), an epic poem and fantastical
allegory As a literary device A narrative technique (known for literary fiction Literary fiction is a term used in the book-trade to distinguish novels that are regarded as having literary merit, from most commercial or "genre" fiction. However, the b ...

allegory
celebrating the
Tudor dynasty The House of Tudor was an English royal house of Welsh origin, descended from the Tudors of Penmynydd. Tudor monarchs ruled the Kingdom of England The Kingdom of England was a sovereign state on the island of Great Britain from 12 July ...
and
Elizabeth I Elizabeth I (7 September 153324 March 1603) was Queen of England and Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to i ...

Elizabeth I
. Another major figure,
Sir Philip Sidney Sir Philip Sidney (30 November 1554 – 17 October 1586) was an English poet, courtier, scholar and soldier who is remembered as one of the most prominent figures of the Elizabethan era, Elizabethan age. His works include ''Astrophel and Stella' ...
(1554–1586), was an English poet, whose works include ''
Astrophel and Stella Image:Sir PS His A&S Title Cropped.jpg, The title page of the second edition of ''Astrophil and Stella'' (1591), from the British Library's holdings Probably composed in the 1580s, Philip Sidney's ''Astrophil and Stella'' is an English sonnet seque ...
'', '' The Defence of Poetry'', and ''
The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia ''The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia'', also known simply as the ''Arcadia'', is a long prose pastoral romance by Sir Philip Sidney written towards the end of the 16th century. Having finished one version of his text, Sidney later significantly e ...
''. Poems intended to be set to music as songs, such as those by
Thomas Campion Thomas Campion (sometimes Campian; 12 February 1567 – 1 March 1620) was an English composer, poet, and physician. He wrote over a hundred lute songs, masque The masque was a form of festive courtly entertainment Entertainment is a f ...
(1567–1620), became popular as printed literature was disseminated more widely in households.


Drama

Among the earliest Elizabethan plays are ''
Gorboduc Gorboduc (''Welsh language, Welsh:'' Gorwy or Goronwy) was a legendary king of the Britons (historic), Britons as recounted by Geoffrey of Monmouth. He was married to Judon. When he became old, his sons, Ferrex and Porrex I, Porrex, feuded over who ...
'' (1561) by Sackville and Norton, and
Thomas Kyd Thomas Kyd (baptised 6 November 1558; buried 15 August 1594) was an English playwright A playwright or dramatist is a person who writes play Play most commonly refers to: * Play (activity), an activity done for enjoyment * Play (theatre), ...
's (1558–1594) ''
The Spanish Tragedy Image:Spanish-tragedy.gif, Title page of the 1615 edition ''The Spanish Tragedy, or Hieronimo is Mad Again'' is an Elizabethan tragedy written by Thomas Kyd between 1582 and 1592. Highly popular and influential in its time, ''The Spanish Tragedy' ...

The Spanish Tragedy
'' (1592). ''
Gorboduc Gorboduc (''Welsh language, Welsh:'' Gorwy or Goronwy) was a legendary king of the Britons (historic), Britons as recounted by Geoffrey of Monmouth. He was married to Judon. When he became old, his sons, Ferrex and Porrex I, Porrex, feuded over who ...
'' is notable especially as the first
verse drama Verse drama is any drama written significantly in poetry, verse (that is: with line endings) to be performed by an actor before an audience. Although verse drama does not need to be ''primarily'' in verse to be considered verse drama, significant p ...
in
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...

English
to employ
blank verse Blank verse is poetry written with regular metre (poetry), metrical but rhyme, unrhymed lines, almost always in iambic pentameter. It has been described as "probably the most common and influential form that English poetry has taken since the 16 ...
, and for the way it developed elements, from the earlier
morality play The morality play is a genre Genre () is any form or type of communication in any mode (written, spoken, digital, artistic, etc.) with socially-agreed-upon conventions developed over time. In popular usage, it normally describes a Category o ...
s and
Senecan tragedy Image:Seneca-berlinantikensammlung-1.jpg, Double Herm of Socrates and Seneca (Antikensammlung Berlin) Senecan tragedy refers to a set of ten Ancient Rome, ancient Roman tragedies, probably eight of which were written by the Stoicism, Stoic philosop ...
, in the direction which would be followed by later playwrights. ''
The Spanish Tragedy Image:Spanish-tragedy.gif, Title page of the 1615 edition ''The Spanish Tragedy, or Hieronimo is Mad Again'' is an Elizabethan tragedy written by Thomas Kyd between 1582 and 1592. Highly popular and influential in its time, ''The Spanish Tragedy' ...

The Spanish Tragedy
'' is an
Elizabethan The Elizabethan era is the epoch in the Tudor period The Tudor period occurred between 1485 and 1603 in and includes the during the of until 1603. The Tudor period coincides with the dynasty of the in England whose first monarch was ...
tragedy Tragedy (from the grc-gre, τραγῳδία, ''tragōidia'', ''tragōidia'') is a genre of drama Drama is the specific Mode (literature), mode of fiction Mimesis, represented in performance: a Play (theatre), play, opera, mime, ball ...

tragedy
written by
Thomas Kyd Thomas Kyd (baptised 6 November 1558; buried 15 August 1594) was an English playwright A playwright or dramatist is a person who writes play Play most commonly refers to: * Play (activity), an activity done for enjoyment * Play (theatre), ...
between 1582 and 1592, which was popular and influential in its time, and established a new
genre Genre () is any form or type of communication in any mode (written, spoken, digital, artistic, etc.) with socially-agreed-upon conventions developed over time. In popular usage, it normally describes a Category of being, category of literature, ...

genre
in English literature theatre, the
revenge play The revenge tragedy, or revenge play, is a dramatic genre in which the protagonist seeks revenge for an imagined or actual injury. The term, revenge tragedy, was first introduced in 1900 by A. H. Thorndike to label a class of plays written in the ...
.
William Shakespeare William Shakespeare ( 26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616) was an English playwright, poet and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's greatest dramatist. He is often called England's and the " of A ...

William Shakespeare
(1564–1616) stands out in this period as a
poet A poet is a person who creates poetry Poetry (derived from the Greek language, Greek ''poiesis'', "making") is a form of literature that uses aesthetics, aesthetic and often rhythmic qualities of language—such as phonaesthetics, soun ...

poet
and
playwright A playwright or dramatist is a person who writes play Play most commonly refers to: * Play (activity), an activity done for enjoyment * Play (theatre), a work of drama Play may refer also to: Computers and technology * Google Play, a digital c ...
as yet unsurpassed. Shakespeare wrote plays in a variety of genres, including
histories Histories or, in Latin, Historiae may refer to: * the plural of history * Histories (Herodotus), ''Histories'' (Herodotus), by Herodotus * ''The Histories'', by Timaeus (historian), Timaeus * The Histories (Polybius), ''The Histories'' (Polybius), ...
(such as ''Richard III'' and ''Henry IV''),
tragedies Tragedy (from the grc-gre, wiktionary:τραγῳδία, τραγῳδία, ''tragōidia'', ''tragōidia'') is a form of drama based on human suffering and, mainly, the terrible or sorrowful events that befall a tragic hero, main character. T ...
(such as ''Hamlet'', ''Othello'', and ''Macbeth'')
comedies Comedy (from the el, wikt:κωμῳδία, κωμῳδία, ''kōmōdía'') is a genre of fiction consisting of discourses or works intended to be humorous or amusing by inducing laughter, especially in theatre, film, stand-up comedy, television ...
(such as ''Midsummer Night's Dream'', ''As You Like It'', and ''Twelfth Night'') and the late romances, or tragicomedies. Shakespeare's career continues in the Jacobean period. Other important figures in Elizabethan theatre include Christopher Marlowe, and Ben Jonson, Thomas Dekker (poet), Thomas Dekker, John Fletcher (playwright), John Fletcher and Francis Beaumont.


Jacobean period (1603–1625)


Drama

In the early 17th century William Shakespeare, Shakespeare wrote the so-called "Shakespearean problem play, problem plays", as well as a number of his best known
tragedies Tragedy (from the grc-gre, wiktionary:τραγῳδία, τραγῳδία, ''tragōidia'', ''tragōidia'') is a form of drama based on human suffering and, mainly, the terrible or sorrowful events that befall a tragic hero, main character. T ...
, including ''Macbeth'' and ''King Lear''. In his final period, Shakespeare turned to Shakespeare's late romances, romance or tragicomedy and completed three more major plays, including ''The Tempest''. Less bleak than the tragedies, these four plays are graver in tone than the comedies of the 1590s, but they end with reconciliation and the forgiveness of potentially tragic errors. After Shakespeare's death, the poet and dramatist Ben Jonson (1572–1637) was the leading literary figure of the Jacobean era. Jonson's aesthetics hark back to the Middle Ages and his characters embody the Humours, theory of humours, which was based on contemporary medical theory. Jonson's comedies include ''Volpone'' (1605 or 1606) and ''Bartholomew Fair (play), Bartholomew Fair'' (1614). Others who followed Jonson's style include Beaumont and Fletcher, who wrote the popular comedy, ''The Knight of the Burning Pestle'' (probably 1607–08), a satire of the rising middle class. Another popular style of theatre during Jacobean times was the
revenge play The revenge tragedy, or revenge play, is a dramatic genre in which the protagonist seeks revenge for an imagined or actual injury. The term, revenge tragedy, was first introduced in 1900 by A. H. Thorndike to label a class of plays written in the ...
, which was popularized in the Elizabethan era by
Thomas Kyd Thomas Kyd (baptised 6 November 1558; buried 15 August 1594) was an English playwright A playwright or dramatist is a person who writes play Play most commonly refers to: * Play (activity), an activity done for enjoyment * Play (theatre), ...
(1558–1594), and then further developed later by John Webster (?1578–?1632), ''The White Devil'' (1612) and ''The Duchess of Malfi'' (1613). Other revenge tragedies include ''The Changeling (play), The Changeling'' written by Thomas Middleton and William Rowley.


Poetry

George Chapman (c. 1559 – c. 1634) is remembered chiefly for his famous translation in 1616 of Homer's ''Iliad'' and ''Odyssey'' into English verse. This was the first ever complete translations of either poem into the English language. The translation had a profound influence on English literature and inspired John Keats's famous sonnet "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer" (1816). Shakespeare popularized the English sonnet, which made significant changes to Petrarch's model. A collection of 154 by Shakespeare's sonnets, sonnets, dealing with themes such as the passage of time, love, beauty and mortality, were first published in a 1609 quarto. Besides Shakespeare and Ben Jonson, the major poets of the early 17th century included the Metaphysical poets: John Donne (1572–1631), George Herbert (1593–1633), Henry Vaughan, Andrew Marvell, and Richard Crashaw.. Their style was characterized by wit and metaphysical conceits, that is far-fetched or unusual similes or metaphors.


Prose

The most important prose work of the early 17th century was the King James Version of the Bible, King James Bible. This, one of the most massive translation projects in the history of English up to this time, was started in 1604 and completed in 1611. This represents the culmination of a tradition of English translations of the Bible, Bible translation into English that began with the work of William Tyndale, and it became the standard
Bible The Bible (from Koine Greek Koine Greek (, , Greek approximately ;. , , , lit. "Common Greek"), also known as Alexandrian dialect, common Attic, Hellenistic or Biblical Greek, was the koiné language, common supra-regional form of Gree ...

Bible
of the Church of England.


Late Renaissance (1625–1660)


Poetry

The Metaphysical poets John Donne (1572–1631) and George Herbert (1593–1633) were still alive after 1625, and later in the 17th century a second generation of metaphysical poets were writing, including Richard Crashaw (1613–1649), Andrew Marvell (1621–1678), Thomas Traherne (1636 or 1637–1674) and Henry Vaughan (1622–1695). The Cavalier poets were another important group of 17th-century poets, who came from the classes that supported King Charles I during the English Civil War (1642–51). (King Charles reigned from 1625 and was executed in 1649). The best known of the Cavalier poets are Robert Herrick (poet), Robert Herrick, Richard Lovelace (poet), Richard Lovelace, Thomas Carew and John Suckling (poet), Sir John Suckling. They "were not a formal group, but all were influenced by" Ben Jonson. Most of the Cavalier poets were courtiers, with notable exceptions. For example, Robert Herrick was not a courtier, but his style marks him as a Cavalier poet. Cavalier works make use of allegory and classical allusions, and are influenced by Roman authors Horace, Cicero and Ovid. John Milton (1608–1674) "was the last great poet of the English Renaissance" and published a number of works before 1660, including ''L'Allegro'',1631; ''Il Penseroso'', 1634; ''Comus (John Milton), Comus'' (a masque), 1638; and ''Lycidas'', (1638). However, his major epic works, including ''Paradise Lost'' (1667) were published in the Restoration period.


Restoration Age (1660–1700)

Restoration literature includes both ''Paradise Lost'' and the John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, Earl of Rochester's ''Sodom, or the Quintessence of Debauchery, Sodom,'' the sexual comedy of ''The Country Wife'' and the moral wisdom of ''
Pilgrim's Progress ''The Pilgrim's Progress from This World, to That Which Is to Come'' is a 1678 Christian Christians () are people who follow or adhere to Christianity, a monotheistic Abrahamic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus in Christia ...

Pilgrim's Progress
.'' It saw Locke's ''Two Treatises on Government,'' the founding of the Royal Society, the experiments and the holy meditations of Robert Boyle, the Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage, hysterical attacks on theatres from Jeremy Collier, the pioneering of literary criticism from Dryden, and the first newspapers. The official break in literary culture caused by censorship and radically moralist standards under Cromwell's Puritan regime created a gap in literary tradition, allowing a seemingly fresh start for all forms of literature after the Restoration. During the Interregnum, the royalist forces attached to the court of Charles I of England, Charles I went into exile with the twenty-year-old Charles II of England, Charles II. The nobility who travelled with Charles II were therefore lodged for over a decade in the midst of the continent's literary scene.


Poetry

John Milton, one of the greatest English poets, wrote at this time of religious flux and political upheaval. Milton is best known for his epic poem ''Paradise Lost'' (1667). Among other important poems include ''L'Allegro'', 1631, ''Il Penseroso'' 1634, ''Comus (John Milton), Comus'' (a masque), 1638 and ''Lycidas''. Milton's poetry and prose reflect deep personal convictions, a passion for freedom and self-determination, and the urgent issues and political turbulence of his day. His celebrated ''Areopagitica'', written in condemnation of pre-publication censorship, is among history's most influential and impassioned defenses of free speech and Freedom of the press#United Kingdom, freedom of the press. The largest and most important poetic form of the era was satire. In general, publication of satire was done anonymously, as there were great dangers in being associated with a satire. John Dryden (1631–1700) was an influential English poet, literary critic, translator, and playwright who dominated the literary life of Restoration England to such a point that the period came to be known in literary circles as the Age of Dryden. He established the heroic couplet as a standard form of English poetry. Dryden's greatest achievements were in satiric verse in works like the mock-heroic ''MacFlecknoe'' (1682). Alexander Pope (1688–1744) was heavily influenced by Dryden, and often borrowed from him; other writers in the 18th century were equally influenced by both Dryden and Pope.


Prose

Prose in the Restoration period is dominated by Christianity, Christian religious writing, but the Restoration also saw the beginnings of two genres that would dominate later periods, fiction and journalism. Religious writing often strayed into political and economic writing, just as political and economic writing implied or directly addressed religion. The Restoration was also the time when John Locke wrote many of his philosophical works. His two ''Treatises on Government,'' which later inspired the thinkers in the American Revolution. The Restoration moderated most of the more strident sectarian writing, but radicalism persisted after the Restoration. Puritan authors such as John Milton were forced to retire from public life or adapt, and those authors who had preached against monarchy and who had participated directly in the regicide of Charles I of England, Charles I were partially suppressed. Consequently, violent writings were forced underground, and many of those who had served in the Interregnum attenuated their positions in the Restoration.
John Bunyan John Bunyan (; baptised 30 November 162831 August 1688) was an English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early m ...

John Bunyan
stands out beyond other religious authors of the period. Bunyan's ''The Pilgrim's Progress'' is an
allegory As a literary device A narrative technique (known for literary fiction Literary fiction is a term used in the book-trade to distinguish novels that are regarded as having literary merit, from most commercial or "genre" fiction. However, the b ...

allegory
of personal salvation and a guide to the Christian life. During the Restoration period, the most common manner of getting news would have been a broadsheet publication. A single, large sheet of paper might have a written, usually partisan, account of an event. It is impossible to satisfactorily date the beginning of the novel in English. However, long fiction and fictional biographies began to distinguish themselves from other forms in England during the Restoration period. An existing tradition of ''Romance'' fiction in France and Spain was popular in England. One of the most significant figures in the rise of the novel in the Restoration period is Aphra Behn, author of ''Oroonoko'' (1688), who was not only the first professional female novelist, but she may be among the first professional novelists of either sex in England.


Drama

As soon as the previous Puritan regime's ban on public stage representations was lifted, drama recreated itself quickly and abundantly. The most famous plays of the early Restoration period are the unsentimental or "hard" comedies of John Dryden, William Wycherley, and George Etherege, which reflect the atmosphere at Court, and celebrate an aristocratic machismo, macho lifestyle of unremitting sexual intrigue and conquest. After a sharp drop in both quality and quantity in the 1680s, the mid-1690s saw a brief second flowering of the drama, especially comedy. Comedies like William Congreve (playwright), William Congreve's ''The Way of the World'' (1700), and John Vanbrugh's ''The Relapse'' (1696) and ''The Provoked Wife'' (1697) were "softer" and more middle-class in ethos, very different from the aristocratic extravaganza twenty years earlier, and aimed at a wider audience.


18th century


Augustan literature (1700–1745)

During the 18th century literature reflected the worldview of the Age of Enlightenment (or Age of Reason): a rational and scientific approach to religious, social, political, and economic issues that promoted a secular view of the world and a general sense of progress and perfectibility. Led by the philosophers who were inspired by the discoveries of the previous century by people like Isaac Newton and the writings of Descartes, John Locke and Francis Bacon. They sought to discover and to act upon universally valid principles governing humanity, nature, and society. They variously attacked spiritual and scientific authority, dogmatism, intolerance, censorship, and economic and social restraints. They considered the state the proper and rational instrument of progress. The extreme rationalism and skepticism of the age led naturally to deism and also played a part in bringing the later reaction of romanticism. The Encyclopédie of Denis Diderot epitomized the spirit of the age. The term Augustan literature derives from authors of the 1720s and 1730s themselves, who responded to a term that George I of Great Britain preferred for himself. While George I meant the title to reflect his might, they instead saw in it a reflection of Ancient Rome's transition from rough and ready literature to highly political and highly polished literature. It is an age of exuberance and scandal, of enormous energy and inventiveness and outrage, that reflected an era when English, Welsh, Scottish, and Irish people found themselves in the midst of an expanding economy, lowering barriers to education, and the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution.


Poetry

It was during this time that poet James Thomson (poet), James Thomson (1700–1748) produced his melancholy ''The Seasons (Thomson poem), The Seasons'' (1728–30) and Edward Young (1681–1765) wrote his poem ''Night Thoughts'' (1742), though the most outstanding poet of the age is Alexander Pope (1688–1744). It is also the era that saw a serious competition over the proper model for the pastoral poetry, pastoral. In criticism, poets struggled with a doctrine of ''decorum,'' of matching proper words with proper sense and of achieving a diction that matched the gravity of a subject. At the same time, the mock-heroic was at its zenith and Pope's ''Rape of the Lock'' (1712–17) and ''The Dunciad'' (1728–43) are still considered to be the greatest mock-heroic poems ever written. Pope also translated the ''Iliad'' (1715–20) and the ''Odyssey'' (1725–26). Since his death, Pope has been in a constant state of re-evaluation.


Drama

Drama in the early part of the period featured the last plays of John Vanbrugh and William Congreve (playwright), William Congreve, both of whom carried on the Restoration comedy with some alterations. However, the majority of stagings were of lower farces and much more serious and domestic tragedies. George Lillo and Richard Steele both produced highly moral forms of tragedy, where the characters and the concerns of the characters were wholly middle class or working class. This reflected a marked change in the audience for plays, as royal patronage was no longer the important part of theatrical success. Additionally, Colley Cibber and John Rich (producer), John Rich began to battle each other for greater and greater spectacles to present on stage. The figure of Harlequin was introduced, and pantomime theatre began to be staged. This "low" comedy was quite popular, and the plays became tertiary to the staging. Opera also began to be popular in London, and there was significant literary resistance to this Italian incursion. In 1728 John Gay returned to the playhouse with ''The Beggar's Opera''. The Licensing Act 1737 brought an abrupt halt to much of the period's drama, as the theatres were once again brought under state control.


Prose, including the novel

In prose, the earlier part of the period was overshadowed by the development of the English essay. Joseph Addison and Richard Steele's ''The Spectator (1711), The Spectator'' established the form of the British periodical essay. However, this was also the time when the English novel was first emerging. Daniel Defoe turned from journalism and writing criminal lives for the press to writing fictional criminal lives with ''Roxana: The Fortunate Mistress, Roxana'' and ''Moll Flanders.'' He also wrote ''Robinson Crusoe'' (1719). If Addison and Steele were dominant in one type of prose, then Jonathan Swift author of the satire ''Gulliver's Travels'' was in another. In ''A Modest Proposal'' and the ''Drapier Letters'', Swift reluctantly defended the Irish people from the predations of colonialism. This provoked riots and arrests, but Swift, who had no love of Irish Roman Catholicism, Roman Catholics, was outraged by the abuses he saw. An effect of the Licensing Act 1737, Licensing Act of 1737 was to cause more than one aspiring playwright to switch over to writing novels. Henry Fielding (1707–1754) began to write prose satire and novels after his plays could not pass the censors. In the interim, Samuel Richardson (1689–1761) had produced ''Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded'' (1740), and Henry Fielding attacked, what he saw, as the absurdity of this novel in, ''Joseph Andrews'' (1742) and ''Shamela''. Subsequently, Fielding satirised Richardson's ''Clarissa'' (1748) with ''The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, Tom Jones'' (1749). Tobias Smollett (1721–1771) elevated the picaresque novel with works such as ''Roderick Random'' (1748) and ''Peregrine Pickle'' (1751).


Age of Sensibility (1745–1798)

This period is known as the Age of Sensibility, but it is also sometimes described as the "Age of Johnson". Samuel Johnson (1709–1784), often referred to as Dr Johnson, was an English author who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer. Johnson has been described as "arguably the most distinguished man of letters in English history". After nine years of work, Johnson's ''A Dictionary of the English Language'' was published in 1755, and it had a far-reaching effect on Modern English and has been described as "one of the greatest single achievements of scholarship." The second half of the 18th century saw the emergence of three major Irish authors: Oliver Goldsmith (1728–1774), Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751–1816) and Laurence Sterne (1713–1768). Goldsmith is the author of ''The Vicar of Wakefield'' (1766), a pastoral poem ''The Deserted Village'' (1770) and two plays, ''The Good-Natur'd Man'' (1768) and ''She Stoops to Conquer'' (1773). Sheridan's first play, ''The Rivals'' (1775), was performed at Covent Garden and was an instant success. He went on to become the most significant London playwright of the late 18th century with a play like ''The School for Scandal''. Both Goldsmith and Sheridan reacted against the sentimental comedy of the 18th-century theatre, writing plays closer to the style of Restoration comedy. Sterne published his famous novel ''Tristram Shandy'' in parts between 1759 and 1767. In 1778, Frances Burney (1752–1840) wrote ''Evelina'', one of the first novel of manners, novels of manners. Fanny Burney's novels "were enjoyed and admired by Jane Austen".


Precursors of Romanticism

The Romantic movement in English literature of the early 19th century has its roots in 18th-century poetry, the Gothic novel and the novel of sensibility. This includes the graveyard poets, from the 1740s and later, whose works are characterised by gloomy meditations on mortality. To this was added, by later practitioners, a feeling for the Sublime (philosophy), 'sublime' and uncanny, and an interest in ancient English poetic forms and folk poetry. The poets include Thomas Gray (1716–1771), ''Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard'' (1751) in and Edward Young (1683–1765), ''The Complaint, or Night Thoughts on Life, Death and Immortality'' (1742–45). Other precursors are James Thomson (poet), James Thomson (1700–1748) and James Macpherson (1736–1796). James Macpherson was the first Scottish poet to gain an international reputation, with his claim to have found poetry written by the ancient bard Ossian. The sentimental novel or "novel of sensibility" is a genre which developed during the second half of the 18th century. It celebrates the emotional and intellectual concepts of sentiment, Sentimentalism (literature), sentimentalism, and sensibility. Sentimentalism, which is to be distinguished from sensibility, was a fashion in both poetry and prose fiction which began in the 18th century in reaction to the rationalism of the Augustan literature, Augustan Age. Among the most famous sentimental novels in English are Samuel Richardson's ''Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded'' (1740), Oliver Goldsmith's ''Vicar of Wakefield'' (1766), Laurence Sterne's ''Tristram Shandy'' (1759–67), and Henry Mackenzie's ''The Man of Feeling'' (1771). Significant foreign influences were the Germans Goethe, Schiller and August Wilhelm Schlegel and French philosopher and writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778).J.A. Cuddon, pp. 588–89. Edmund Burke's ''A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful'' (1757) is another important influence.''The Oxford Companion to English Literature'', pp. 957–58. The changing landscape, brought about by the Industrial revolution, industrial and British agricultural revolution, agricultural revolutions, was another influence on the growth of the Romantic movement in Britain. In the late 18th century, Horace Walpole's 1764 novel ''The Castle of Otranto'' created the Gothic fiction genre, that combines elements of Horror fiction, horror and Romance (heroic literature), romance. Ann Radcliffe introduced the brooding figure of the gothic villain which developed into the Byronic hero. Her ''The Mysteries of Udolpho'' (1795) is frequently cited as the archetypal Gothic novel.


Romanticism (1798–1837)

Romanticism was an artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century. Romanticism arrived later in other parts of the English-speaking world. The Romantic period was one of major social change in England and Wales, because of the depopulation of the countryside and the rapid development of overcrowded industrial cities, that took place in the period roughly between 1750 and 1850. The movement of so many people in England was the result of two forces: the British Agricultural Revolution, Agricultural Revolution, that involved the Enclosure of the land, drove workers off the land, and the Industrial Revolution which provided them employment. Romanticism may be seen in part as a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, though it was also a revolt against aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment, as well a reaction against the scientific rationalization (sociology), rationalization of nature. The French Revolution was an especially important influence on the political thinking of many of the Romantic poets. The landscape is often prominent in the poetry of this period, so much so that the Romantics, especially perhaps Wordsworth, are often described as 'nature poets'. However, the longer Romantic 'nature poems' have a wider concern because they are usually meditations on "an emotional problem or personal crisis".


Romantic poetry

Robert Burns (1759–1796) was a pioneer of the Romantic movement, and after his death he became a cultural icon in Scotland. The poet, painter, and printmaker William Blake (1757–1827) was another of the early Romantic poets. Though Blake was generally unrecognised during his lifetime, he is now considered a seminal figure in the history of both the poetry and visual arts of the Romanticism, Romantic Age. Among his most important works are ''Songs of Innocence'' (1789) and ''Songs of Experience'' (1794) "and profound and difficult 'prophecies' ", such as "Jerusalem: the Emanation of the Giant Albion" (1804–c.1820). After Blake, among the earliest Romantics were the Lake Poets, including William Wordsworth (1770–1850), Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834), Robert Southey (1774–1843) and journalist Thomas de Quincey (1785–1859). However, at the time
Walter Scott Sir Walter Scott, 1st Baronet (15 August 1771 – 21 September 1832), was a Scottish historical novelist, poet, playwright and historian. Many of his works remain classics of European and Scottish literature Scottish literature is literatu ...

Walter Scott
(1771–1832) was the most famous poet. In 1784, with ''Elegiac Sonnets'', Charlotte Smith (writer), Charlotte Smith (1749–1806) reintroduced the sonnet to English literature. The early romantic poetry, Romantic Poets brought a new emotionalism and introspection, and their emergence is marked by the first romantic manifesto in English literature, the "Preface" to ''Lyrical Ballads'' (1798). The poems in ''Lyrical Ballads'' were mostly by Wordsworth, though Coleridge contributed "Rime of the Ancient Mariner". Among Wordsworth's most important poems are "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey", "Resolution and Independence", "Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood" and the autobiographical epic ''The Prelude''. Robert Southey (1774–1843) was another of the so-called "Lake Poets", and Poet Laureate for 30 years, although his fame has been long eclipsed by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Thomas De Quincey (1785–1859) is best known for his ''Confessions of an English Opium-Eater'' (1821). Essayist William Hazlitt (1778–1830), friend of both Coleridge and Wordsworth, is best known today for his literary criticism, especially ''Characters of Shakespeare's Plays'' (1817–18).


Second generation

The second generation of Romantic poets includes Lord Byron (1788–1824), Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822), Felicia Hemans (1793–1835) and John Keats (1795–1821). Byron, however, was still influenced by 18th-century satirists and was, perhaps the least 'romantic' of the three, preferring "the brilliant wit of Alexander Pope, Pope to what he called the 'wrong poetical system' of his Romantic contemporaries". Byron achieved enormous fame and influence throughout Europe and Goethe called Byron "undoubtedly the greatest genius of our century". Shelley is perhaps best known for ''Ode to the West Wind'', ''To a Skylark'', and ''Adonais'', an elegy written on the death of Keats. His close circle of admirers included the most progressive thinkers of the day. A work like ''Queen Mab'' (1813) reveals Shelley "as the direct heir to the French and British revolutionary intellectuals of the 1790s". Shelley became an idol of the next three or four generations of poets, including important Victorian era, Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite poets such as Robert Browning, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, as well as later W. B. Yeats. Though John Keats shared Byron and Shelley's radical politics, "his best poetry is not political", but is especially noted for its sensuous music and imagery, along with a concern with material beauty and the transience of life. Among his most famous works are "Ode to a Nightingale", "Ode on a Grecian Urn", and "To Autumn". Keats has always been regarded as a major Romantic, "and his stature as a poet has grown steadily through all changes of fashion". Although sticking to its forms, Felicia Hemans began a process of undermining the Romantic tradition, a deconstruction that was continued by Letitia Elizabeth Landon, as "an urban poet deeply attentive to themes of decay and decomposition".The Encyclopaedia of Romantic Literature, edited by Frederick Burwick, Nancy Goslee and Diane Hoeveler Landon's novel forms of metrical romance and dramatic monologue were much copied and contributed to her long-lasting influence on Victorian poetry.


Other poets

Another important poet in this period was John Clare (1793–1864), the son of a farm labourer, who came to be known for his celebratory representations of the English countryside and his lamentation for the changes taking place in rural England. His poetry has undergone a major re-evaluation and he is often now considered to be among the most important 19th-century poets. George Crabbe (1754–1832) was an English poet who, during the Romantic period, wrote "closely observed, realistic portraits of rural life [...] in the heroic couplets of the Augustan literature#Poetry, Augustan age". Modern critic Frank Whitehead has said that "Crabbe, in his verse tales in particular, is an important—indeed, a major—poet whose work has been and still is seriously undervalued."


Romantic novel

One of the most popular novelists of the era was Sir
Walter Scott Sir Walter Scott, 1st Baronet (15 August 1771 – 21 September 1832), was a Scottish historical novelist, poet, playwright and historian. Many of his works remain classics of European and Scottish literature Scottish literature is literatu ...

Walter Scott
, whose
historical romance Historical romance (also historical novel) is a broad category of fiction in which the plot takes place in a setting located in the past. Walter Scott helped popularize this genre in the early 19th-century, with works such as ''Rob Roy (novel), ...
s inspired a generation of painters, composers, and writers throughout Europe. Scott's novel-writing career was launched in 1814 with ''Waverley (novel), Waverley'', often called the first historical novel. Jane Austen's works critique the sentimental novel, novels of sensibility of the second half of the 18th century and are part of the transition to 19th-century realism. Her plots in novels such as ''Pride and Prejudice'' (1813) and ''Emma (novel), Emma'' (1815), though fundamentally comic, highlight the dependence of women on marriage to secure social standing and economic security. Mary Shelley (1797–1851) is remembered as the author of ''Frankenstein'' (1818).


Romanticism in America

The European Romantic movement reached America in the early 19th century. American Romanticism was just as multifaceted and individualistic as it was in Europe. Like the Europeans, the American Romantics demonstrated a high level of moral enthusiasm, commitment to individualism and the unfolding of the self, an emphasis on intuitive perception, and the assumption that the natural world was inherently good, while human society was corrupt.George L. McMichael and Frederick C. Crews, eds. ''Anthology of American Literature: Colonial through romantic'' (6th ed. 1997) p 613 Romantic Gothic literature made an early appearance with Washington Irving's ''The Legend of Sleepy Hollow'' (1820) and ''Rip Van Winkle'' (1819), There are picturesque "local color" elements in Washington Irving's essays and especially his travel books. From 1823 the prolific and popular novelist James Fenimore Cooper (1789–1851) began publishing his
historical romance Historical romance (also historical novel) is a broad category of fiction in which the plot takes place in a setting located in the past. Walter Scott helped popularize this genre in the early 19th-century, with works such as ''Rob Roy (novel), ...
s of frontier and Indian life. However, Edgar Allan Poe's tales of the macabre that first appeared in the early 1830s, and his poetry were more influential in France than at home.


Victorian literature (1837–1901)


The Victorian novel

It was in the Victorian era (1837–1901) that the novel became the leading literary genre in English. Women played an important part in this rising popularity both as authors and as readers, and monthly serialising of fiction also encouraged this surge in popularity, further upheavals which followed the Reform Act of 1832". This was in many ways a reaction to rapid industrialization, and the social, political, and economic issues associated with it, and was a means of commenting on abuses of government and industry and the suffering of the poor, who were not profiting from England's economic prosperity. Significant early examples of this genre include ''Sybil, or The Two Nations'' (1845) by Benjamin Disraeli, and Charles Kingsley's ''Alton Locke'' (1849). Charles Dickens (1812–1870) emerged on the literary scene in the late 1830s and soon became probably the most famous novelist in the history of English literature. Dickens fiercely satirised various aspects of society, including the workhouse in ''Oliver Twist'', and the failures of the legal system in ''Bleak House''. An early rival to Dickens was William Makepeace Thackeray (1811–1863), who during the Victorian period ranked second only to him, but he is now known almost exclusively for ''Vanity Fair (novel), Vanity Fair'' (1847). The Brontë sisters, Emily, Charlotte and Anne, were other significant novelists in the 1840s and 1850s. ''Jane Eyre'' (1847), Charlotte Brontë's most famous work, was the first of the sisters' novels to achieve success. Emily Brontë's (1818–1848) novel was ''Wuthering Heights'' and, according to Juliet Gardiner, "the vivid sexual passion and power of its language and imagery impressed, bewildered and appalled reviewers," and led the Victorian public and many early reviewers to think that it had been written by a man. ''The Tenant of Wildfell Hall'' (1848) by Anne Brontë is now considered to be one of the first Feminism, feminist novels. Elizabeth Gaskell (1810–1865) was also a successful writer and her ''North and South (1855 novel), North and South'' contrasts the lifestyle in the industrial north of England with the wealthier south. Anthony Trollope's (1815–1882) was one of the most successful, prolific and respected English novelists of the Victorian era. Trollope's novels portray the lives of the landowning and professional classes of early Victorian England. George Eliot, pen name of Mary Ann Evans (1819–1880), was a major novelist of the mid-Victorian period. Her works, especially ''Middlemarch'' (1871–72), are important examples of literary realism, and are admired for their combination of high Victorian literature, Victorian literary detail, with an intellectual breadth that removes them from the narrow geographic confines they often depict. George Meredith (1828–1909) is best remembered for his novels ''The Ordeal of Richard Feverel'' (1859), and ''The Egoist'' (1879). "His reputation stood very high well into" the 20th-century but then seriously declined.''The Oxford Companion to English Literature'' (1996), pp. 650–51. An interest in rural matters and the changing social and economic situation of the countryside is seen in the novels of Thomas Hardy (1840–1928), including ''The Mayor of Casterbridge'' (1886), and ''Tess of the d'Urbervilles'' (1891). Hardy is a Victorian realist, in the tradition of George Eliot, and like Charles Dickens he was also highly critical of much in Victorian society. Another significant late-19th-century novelist is George Gissing (1857–1903), who published 23 novels between 1880 and 1903. His best known novel is ''New Grub Street'' (1891). Although pre-dated by John Ruskin's ''The King of the Golden River'' in 1841, the history of the modern fantasy literature, fantasy genre is generally said to begin with George MacDonald, the influential author of ''The Princess and the Goblin'' and ''Phantastes'' (1858). Wilkie Collins' epistolary novel ''The Moonstone'' (1868), is generally considered the first Detective fiction, detective novel in the English language. Robert Louis Stevenson (1850–1894) was an important Scottish writer at the end of the nineteenth century, author of ''Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde'' (1886), and the historical novel ''Kidnapped (novel), Kidnapped'' (1886). H.G. Wells's (1866–1946) writing career began in the 1890s with science fiction novels like ''The Time Machine'' (1895), and ''The War of the Worlds'' (1898) which describes an invasion of late Victorian England by Martians, and Wells is seen, along with Frenchman Jules Verne (1828–1905), as a major figure in the development of the science fiction genre. He also wrote realistic fiction about the lower middle class in novels like ''Kipps'' (1905).


American novel (From Romanticism to realism)

(See also the discussion of American literature under Romanticism above). By the mid-19th century, the pre-eminence of literature from the British Isles began to be challenged by writers from the former American colonies. A major influence on American writers at this time was Romanticism, which gave rise to New England Transcendentalism, and the publication of Ralph Waldo Emerson's 1836 essay ''Nature (essay), Nature'' is usually considered the watershed moment at which transcendentalism became a major cultural movement. The romantic American novel developed fully with Nathaniel Hawthorne's (1804–1864) ''The Scarlet Letter'' (1850), a stark drama of a woman cast out of her community for committing adultery. Hawthorne's fiction had a profound impact on his friend Herman Melville (1819–1891). In ''Moby-Dick'' (1851), an adventurous whaling voyage becomes the vehicle for examining such themes as obsession, the nature of evil, and human struggle against the elements. By the 1880s, however, psychological and social realism were competing with Romanticism in the novel. American realist fiction has its beginnings in the 1870s with the works of Mark Twain, William Dean Howells, and Henry James. Mark Twain (the pen name used by Mark Twain, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, 1835–1910) was the first major American writer to be born away from the East Coast—in the border state of Missouri. His regional masterpieces were the novels ''Adventures of Tom Sawyer'' (1876) and ''Adventures of Huckleberry Finn'' (1884). Twain's style changed the way Americans write their language. His characters speak like real people and sound distinctively American, using local dialects, newly invented words, and regional accents. Henry James (1843–1916) was a major American novelist of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Although born in New York City, he spent most of his adult years in England. Many of his novels center on Americans who live in or travel to Europe. James confronted the Old World-New World dilemma by writing directly about it. His works include ''The Portrait of a Lady'', ''The Bostonians'' (1886), ''The Princess Casamassima'' (1886).


Genre fiction

The premier ghost story writer of the 19th century was Sheridan Le Fanu. His works include the macabre mystery novel ''Uncle Silas'' (1865), and his Gothic novella ''Carmilla'' (1872) tells the story of a young woman's susceptibility to the attentions of a female vampire. Bram Stoker's horror story ''Dracula'' (1897) belongs to a number of literary genres, including vampire literature, horror fiction, gothic novel and invasion literature. Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes is a brilliant London-based "consulting detective", famous for his intellectual prowess. Conan Doyle wrote four novels and 56 short stories featuring Holmes, which were published between 1887 and 1927. All but four Holmes stories are narrated by Holmes' friend, assistant, and biographer, Dr. Watson. The Lost World (genre), Lost World literary genre was inspired by real stories of archaeological discoveries by imperial adventurers. H. Rider Haggard wrote one of the earliest examples, ''King Solomon's Mines'', in 1885. Contemporary European politics and diplomatic maneuverings informed Anthony Hope's Ruritanian romance, Ruritanian adventure novel ''The Prisoner of Zenda'' (1894).


Children's literature

children's literature, Literature for children developed as a separate genre. Some works become internationally known, such as those of Lewis Carroll, ''Alice's Adventures in Wonderland'' (1865) and its sequel ''Through the Looking-Glass''. Robert Louis Stevenson's (1850–1894) ''Treasure Island'' (1883), is the classic Piracy, pirate adventure. At the end of the Victorian era and leading into the Edwardian era, Beatrix Potter was an author and illustrator, best known for her children's books, which featured animal characters. In her thirties, Potter published the highly successful children's book ''The Tale of Peter Rabbit'' in 1902. Potter eventually went on to publish 23 children's books and became a wealthy woman.


Victorian poetry

The leading poets during the Victorian period were Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892), Robert Browning (1812–1889), Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–61), and Matthew Arnold (1822–1888). The poetry of this period was heavily influenced by the Romantics, but also went off in its own directions. Particularly notable was the development of the dramatic monologue, a form used by many poets in this period, but perfected by Robert Browning. Literary criticism in the 20th century gradually drew attention to the links between Victorian poetry and modernism. Tennyson was Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom during much of Queen Victoria's reign. He was described by T.S. Eliot, as "the greatest master of metrics as well as melancholia", and as having "the finest ear of any English poet since Milton". Matthew Arnold's reputation as a poet has "within the past few decades [...] plunged drastically." Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882) was a poet, illustrator, painter and translator. He founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848 with William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais. Rossetti's art was characterised by its sensuality and its medieval revivalism. Arthur Clough (1819–1861) and George Meredith (1828–1909) are two other important minor poets of this era.. Towards the end of the 19th century, English poets began to take an interest in French Symbolist poetry, Symbolism and Victorian poetry entered a decadent ''Fin de siècle, fin-de-siècle'' phase. Two groups of poets emerged in the 1890s, the ''The Yellow Book, Yellow Book'' poets who adhered to the tenets of Aestheticism, including Algernon Charles Swinburne, Oscar Wilde and Arthur Symons and the Rhymers' Club group, that included Ernest Dowson, Lionel Johnson and Irishman William Butler Yeats. Yeats went on to become an important modernist in the 20th century. Also in 1896 A.E. Housman published at his own expense ''A Shropshire Lad''. Writers of comic verse included the dramatist, librettist, poet and illustrator W.S. Gilbert (1836–1911), who is best known for his fourteen comic operas, produced in Gilbert and Sullivan, collaboration with the composer Sir Arthur Sullivan, of which the most famous include ''H.M.S. Pinafore'', and ''The Pirates of Penzance''. Novelist Thomas Hardy (1840–1928) wrote poetry throughout his career, but he did not publish his first collection until 1898, so that he tends to be treated as a 20th-century poet. Now regarded as a major poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins's (1844–1889) ''Poems'' were published posthumously by Robert Bridges in 1918.


American poetry

America also produced major poets in the 19th century, such as Emily Dickinson (1830–1886) and Walt Whitman (1819–1892). America's two greatest 19th-century poets could hardly have been more different in temperament and style. Walt Whitman (1819–92) was a working man, a traveler, a self-appointed nurse during the American Civil War (1861–65), and a poetic innovator. His major work was ''Leaves of Grass'', in which he uses a free-flowing verse and lines of irregular length to depict the all-inclusiveness of American democracy. Emily Dickinson (1830–1886), on the other hand, lived the sheltered life of a genteel, unmarried woman in small-town Amherst, Massachusetts. Within its formal structure, her poetry is ingenious, witty, exquisitely wrought, and psychologically penetrating. Her work was unconventional for its day, and little of it was published during her lifetime.


Victorian drama

A change came in the Victorian era with a profusion on the London stage of farces, Victorian burlesque, musical burlesques, extravaganzas and comic operas that competed with productions of Shakespeare's plays and serious drama by dramatists like James Planché and Thomas William Robertson. In 1855, the German Reed Entertainments began a process of elevating the level of (formerly risqué) musical theatre in Britain that culminated in the famous series of comic operas by Gilbert and Sullivan and was followed by the 1890s with the first Edwardian musical comedies. The length of runs in the theatre changed rapidly during the Victorian period. As transport improved, poverty in London diminished, and street lighting made for safer travel at night, the number of potential patrons for the growing number of theatres increased enormously. Plays could run longer and still draw in the audiences, leading to better profits and improved production values. The first play to achieve 500 consecutive performances was the London comedy ''Our Boys'', opening in 1875. Its record of 1,362 performances was bested in 1892 by ''Charley's Aunt''. Several of Gilbert and Sullivan's comic operas broke the 500-performance barrier, beginning with ''H.M.S. Pinafore'' in 1878, and Alfred Cellier and B.C. Stephenson's 1886 hit, ''Dorothy (opera), Dorothy'', ran for 931 performances. After W.S. Gilbert, Oscar Wilde became the leading poet and dramatist of the late Victorian period. Wilde's plays, in particular, stand apart from the many now forgotten plays of Victorian times and have a much closer relationship to those of the Edwardian dramatists such as Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950), whose career began in the last decade of the 19th century, Wilde's 1895 comic masterpiece, ''The Importance of Being Earnest'', holds an ironic mirror to the aristocracy and displays a mastery of wit and paradoxical wisdom.


20th century


Modernism (1901–1939)

English literary modernism developed in the early twentieth-century out of a general sense of disillusionment with Victorian era attitudes of certainty, conservatism, and belief in the idea of objective truth. The movement was influenced by the ideas of Charles Darwin (1809–1882), Ernst Mach (1838–1916), Henri Bergson (1859–1941), Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), James G. Frazer (1854–1941), Karl Marx (1818–1883) (''Das Kapital'', 1867), and the psychoanalytic theories of Sigmund Freud (1856–1939), among others. The continental art movements of Impressionism, and later Cubism, were also important. Important literary precursors of modernism, were: Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821–1881); Walt Whitman (1819–1892); Charles Baudelaire (1821–1867); Rimbaud (1854–1891); August Strindberg (1849–1912). A major British lyric poet of the first decades of the twentieth-century was Thomas Hardy (1840–1928). Though not a modernist, Hardy was an important transitional figure between the Victorian era and the twentieth-century. A major novelist of the late nineteenth-century, Hardy lived well into the third decade of the twentieth-century, though he only published poetry in this period. Another significant transitional figure between Victorians and modernists, the late nineteenth-century novelist, Henry James (1843–1916), continued to publish major novels into the twentieth-century, including ''The Golden Bowl'' (1904). Polish-born modernist novelist Joseph Conrad (1857–1924) published his first important works, ''Heart of Darkness'', in 1899 and ''Lord Jim'' in 1900. However, the Victorian Gerard Manley Hopkins's (1844–1889) highly original poetry was not published until 1918, long after his death, while the career of another major modernist poet, Irishman W.B. Yeats (1865–1939), began late in the Victorian era. Yeats was one of the foremost figures of twentieth-century English literature. But while modernism was to become an important literary movement in the early decades of the new century, there were also many fine writers who, like Thomas Hardy, were not modernists. During the early decades of the twentieth-century the Georgian poets like Rupert Brooke (1887–1915), and Walter de la Mare (1873–1956), maintained a conservative approach to poetry by combining romanticism, sentimentality and hedonism. Another Georgian poet, Edward Thomas (poet), Edward Thomas (1878–1917) is one of the First World War poets along with Wilfred Owen (1893–1918), Rupert Brooke (1887–1915), Isaac Rosenberg (1890–1917), and Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967). Irish playwrights George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950), J.M. Synge (1871–1909) and Seán O'Casey were influential in British drama. Shaw's career began in the last decade of the nineteenth-century, while Synge's plays belong to the first decade of the twentieth-century. Synge's most famous play, ''The Playboy of the Western World'', "caused outrage and riots when it was first performed" in Dublin in 1907. George Bernard Shaw turned the Edwardian theatre into an arena for debate about important political and social issues. Novelists who are not considered modernists include H. G. Wells (1866–1946), John Galsworthy (1867–1933), (Nobel Prize in Literature, 1932) whose works include ''The Forsyte Saga'' (1906–21), and E.M. Forster's (1879–1970), though Forster's work is "frequently regarded as containing both modernist and Victorian elements". Forster's most famous work, ''A Passage to India'' 1924, reflected challenges to imperialism, while his earlier novels examined the restrictions and hypocrisy of Edwardian society in England. The most popular British writer of the early years of the twentieth-century was arguably Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936), a highly versatile writer of novels, short stories and poems. In addition to W.B. Yeats, other important early modernist poets were the American-born poet T.S. Eliot (1888–1965) Eliot became a British citizen in 1927 but was born and educated in America. His most famous works are: "Prufrock" (1915), ''The Waste Land'' (1922) and ''Four Quartets'' (1935–42). Amongst the novelists, after Joseph Conrad, other important early modernists include Dorothy Richardson (1873–1957), whose novel ''Pointed Roof'' (1915), is one of the earliest examples of the stream of consciousness (narrative mode), stream of consciousness technique, and D.H. Lawrence (1885–1930), who published ''The Rainbow'' in 1915—though it was immediately seized by the police—and ''Women in Love'' in 1920. Then in 1922 Irishman James Joyce's important modernist novel ''Ulysses (novel), Ulysses'' appeared. ''Ulysses'' has been called "a demonstration and summation of the entire movement".


Modernism (1923–1939)

The modernist movement continued through the 1920s, 1930s, and beyond. Important British writers between the World Wars, include the Scottish poetry, Scottish poet Hugh MacDiarmid (1892–1978), who began publishing in the 1920s, and novelist Virginia Woolf (1882–1941), who was an influential Feminism, feminist, and a major stylistic innovator associated with the Stream of consciousness (narrative mode), stream-of-consciousness technique in novels like ''Mrs Dalloway'' (1925) and ''To the Lighthouse'' (1927). T.S. Eliot had begun this attempt to revive poetic drama with ''Sweeney Agonistes'' in 1932, and this was followed by others including three further plays after the war. ''In Parenthesis'', a modernist epic poem based on author David Jones (poet), David Jones's (1895–1974) experience of World War I, was published in 1937. An important development, beginning in the 1930s and 1940s was a tradition of working class novels actually written by working-class background writers. Among these were coal miner Jack Jones (novelist), Jack Jones, James Hanley (novelist), James Hanley, whose father was a stoker and who also went to sea as a young man, and coal miners Lewis Jones (writer), Lewis Jones from South Wales and Harold Heslop from County Durham. Aldous Huxley (1894–1963) published his famous dystopia ''Brave New World'' in 1932, the same year as John Cowper Powys's ''A Glastonbury Romance''. Samuel Beckett (1906–1989) published his first major work, the novel ''Murphy'' in 1938. This same year Graham Greene's (1904–1991) first major novel ''Brighton Rock (novel), Brighton Rock'' was published. Then in 1939 James Joyce's published ''Finnegans Wake'', in which he creates a special language to express the consciousness of a dreaming character. It was also in 1939 that another Irish modernist poet, W.B. Yeats, died. British poet W.H. Auden (1907–1973) was another significant modernist in the 1930s.


Post–modernism (1940–2000)

Though some have seen modernism ending by around 1939, with regard to English literature, "When (if) modernism petered out and postmodernism began has been contested almost as hotly as when the transition from Victorianism to modernism occurred". In fact a number of modernists were still living and publishing in the 1950s and 1960, including T.S. Eliot, Dorothy Richardson, and Ezra Pound. Furthermore, Basil Bunting, born in 1901, published little until ''Briggflatts'' in 1965 and Samuel Beckett, born in Ireland in 1906, continued to produce significant works until the 1980s, though some view him as a post-modernist. Among British writers in the 1940s and 1950s were poet Dylan Thomas and novelist Graham Greene whose works span the 1930s to the 1980s, while Evelyn Waugh, W.H. Auden continued publishing into the 1960s. Postmodern literature is both a continuation of the experimentation championed by writers of the modernist period (relying heavily, for example, on fragmentation, paradox, questionable narrators, etc.) and a reaction against Enlightenment ideas implicit in Modernist literature. Postmodern literature, like postmodernism as a whole, is difficult to define and there is little agreement on the exact characteristics, scope, and importance of postmodern literature. Among postmodern writers are the Americans Henry Miller, William S. Burroughs, Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut, Hunter S. Thompson, Truman Capote and Thomas Pynchon.


The novel

In 1947 Malcolm Lowry published ''Under the Volcano'', while George Orwell's satire of totalitarianism, ''Nineteen Eighty-Four'', was published in 1949. Other novelists writing in the 1950s and later were: Anthony Powell whose twelve-volume cycle of novels ''A Dance to the Music of Time'', is a comic examination of movements and manners, power and passivity in English political, cultural and military life in the mid-20th century; Nobel Prize in Literature, Nobel Prize laureate William Golding's Allegory, allegorical novel ''Lord of the Flies'' 1954, explores how culture created by man fails, using as an example a group of British schoolboys marooned on a deserted island. Philosopher Iris Murdoch was a prolific writer of novels throughout the second half of the 20th century, that deal especially with sexual relationships, morality, and the power of the unconscious. Scottish writer Muriel Spark pushed the boundaries of realism in her novels. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (novel), ''The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie'' (1961), at times takes the reader briefly into the distant future, to see the various fates that befall its characters. Anthony Burgess is especially remembered for his utopian and dystopian fiction, dystopian novel ''A Clockwork Orange (novel), A Clockwork Orange'' (1962), set in the not-too-distant future. During the 1960s and 1970s, Paul Scott (novelist), Paul Scott wrote his monumental series on the last decade of British rule in India, ''The Raj Quartet'' (1966–1975). Scotland has in the late 20th century produced several important novelists, including the writer of ''How Late it Was, How Late'', James Kelman, who like Samuel Beckett can create humour out of the most grim situations and Alasdair Gray whose ''Lanark: A Life in Four Books'' (1981) is a dystopian fantasy set in a surreal version of Glasgow called Unthank. Two significant Irish novelists are John Banville (born 1945) and Colm Tóibín (born 1955). Martin Amis (1949), Pat Barker (born 1943), Ian McEwan (born 1948) and Julian Barnes (born 1946) are other prominent late twentieth-century British novelists.


Drama

An important cultural movement in the British theatre which developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s was Kitchen sink realism (or "kitchen sink drama"), a term coined to describe art, novels, film and television plays. The term angry young men was often applied to members of this artistic movement. It used a style of social realism which depicts the domestic lives of the working class, to explore social issues and political issues. The drawing room plays of the post war period, typical of dramatists like Terence Rattigan and Noël Coward were challenged in the 1950s by these Angry Young Men, in plays like John Osborne's ''Look Back in Anger'' (1956). Again in the 1950s, the Absurdism, absurdist play ''Waiting for Godot'' (1955), by Irish writer Samuel Beckett profoundly affected British drama. The Theatre of the Absurd influenced Harold Pinter (born 1930), (The Birthday Party (play), The Birthday Party, 1958), whose works are often characterised by menace or claustrophobia. Beckett also influenced Tom Stoppard (born 1937) (''Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead'', 1966). Stoppard's works are however also notable for their high-spirited wit and the great range of intellectual issues which he tackles in different plays. An important new element in the world of British drama, from the beginnings of radio in the 1920s, was the commissioning of plays, or the adaption of existing plays, by Radio drama, BBC radio. This was especially important in the 1950s and 1960s (and from the 1960s for television). Many major British playwrights in fact, either effectively began their careers with the BBC, or had works adapted for radio, including Caryl Churchill and Tom Stoppard whose "first professional production was in the fifteen-minute ''Just Before Midnight'' programme on BBC Radio, which showcased new dramatists".. John Mortimer made his radio debut as a dramatist in 1955, with his adaptation of his own novel ''Like Men Betrayed'' for the BBC Light Programme. Other notable radio dramatists included Brendan Behan, and novelist Angela Carter. Among the most famous works created for radio, are Dylan Thomas's ''Under Milk Wood'' (1954), Samuel Beckett's ''All That Fall'' (1957), Harold Pinter's ''A Slight Ache'' (1959) and Robert Bolt's ''A Man for All Seasons'' (1954).


Poetry

Major poets like T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden and Dylan Thomas were still publishing in this period. Though W.H. Auden's (1907–1973) career began in the 1930s and 1940s he published several volumes in the 1950s and 1960s. His stature in modern literature has been contested, but probably the most common critical view from the 1930s onward ranked him as one of the three major twentieth-century British poets, and heir to Yeats and Eliot. New poets starting their careers in the 1950s and 1960s include Philip Larkin (1922–1985) (''The Whitsun Weddings'', 1964), Ted Hughes (1930–1998) (''The Hawk in the Rain'', 1957), Sylvia Plath (1932-1962) (''The Colossus and Other Poems, The Colossus'', 1960) and Irishman (born Northern Ireland) Seamus Heaney (1939–2013) (''Death of a Naturalist'', 1966). Northern Ireland has also produced a number of other significant poets, including Derek Mahon and Paul Muldoon. In the 1960s and 1970s Martian poetry aimed to break the grip of 'the familiar', by describing ordinary things in unfamiliar ways, as though, for example, through the eyes of a Martian. Poets most closely associated with it are Craig Raine and Christopher Reid. Another literary movement in this period was the British Poetry Revival was a wide-reaching collection of groupings and subgroupings that embraces performance poetry, performance, sound poetry, sound and concrete poetry. The Liverpool poets, Mersey Beat poets were Adrian Henri, Brian Patten and Roger McGough. Their work was a self-conscious attempt at creating an English equivalent to the Beat generation, American Beats. Other noteworthy later twentieth-century poets are Welshman R.S. Thomas, Geoffrey Hill, Charles Tomlinson and Carol Ann Duffy. Geoffrey Hill (born 1932) is considered one of the most distinguished English poets of his generation,. Charles Tomlinson (born 1927) is another important English poet of an older generation, though "since his first publication in 1951, has built a career that has seen more notice in the international scene than in his native England..


Literature from the Commonwealth of Nations

See also: Postcolonial literature, Postcolonial, Australian literature, Australian, Canadian literature, Canadian, Caribbean literature, Caribbean, Indian English literature, Indian, New Zealand literature, New Zealand, Pakistani English literature, Pakistani, African literature, African.And see former British colonies, Nigeria, Kenya, South African literature, etc and Migrant literature. From 1950 on a significant number of major writers came from countries that had over the centuries been settled by the British, other than America which had been producing significant writers from at least the Victorian period. There had of course been a few important works in English prior to 1950 from the then
British Empire The British Empire was composed of the dominions, Crown colony, colonies, protectorates, League of Nations mandate, mandates, and other Dependent territory, territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. ...

British Empire
. The South African literature, South African writer Olive Schreiner's famous novel ''The Story of an African Farm'' was published in 1883 and New Zealand literature, New Zealander Katherine Mansfield published her first collection of short stories, ''In a German Pension'', in 1911. The first major novelist, writing in English, from the Indian English literature, Indian sub-continent, R. K. Narayan, began publishing in England in the 1930s, thanks to the encouragement of English novelist Graham Greene. Caribbean literature, Caribbean writer Jean Rhys's writing career began as early as 1928, though her most famous work, ''Wide Sargasso Sea'', was not published until 1966. South Africa's Alan Paton's famous ''Cry, the Beloved Country'' dates from 1948. Doris Lessing from Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, was a dominant presence in the English literary scene, frequently publishing from 1950 on throughout the 20th century, and she won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2007. Salman Rushdie is another post Second World War writers from the former British colonies who Migrant literature, permanently settled in Britain. Rushdie achieved fame with ''Midnight's Children'' 1981. His most controversial novel ''The Satanic Verses'' 1989, was inspired in part by the life of Muhammad. V. S. Naipaul (born 1932), born in Trinidad, was another immigrant, who wrote among other things ''A Bend in the River'' (1979). Naipaul won the Nobel Prize in Literature. From Nigerian literature, Nigeria a number of writers have achieved an international reputation for works in English, including novelist Chinua Achebe, as well as playwright Wole Soyinka. Soyinka won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1986, as did South African novelist Nadine Gordimer in 1995. Other South African writers in English are novelist J.M. Coetzee (Nobel Prize 2003) and playwright Athol Fugard. Kenyan literature, Kenya's most internationally renowned author is Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o who has written novels, plays and short stories in English. Poet Derek Walcott, from St Lucia in the Caribbean, was another Nobel Prize winner in 1992. An Australian literature, Australian Patrick White, a major novelist in this period, whose first work was published in 1939, won in (1973). Other noteworthy Australian writers at the end of this period are poet Les Murray (poet), Les Murray (1938–2019), and novelist Peter Carey (novelist), Peter Carey (born 1943), who is one of only four writers to have won the Man Booker Prize, Booker Prize twice. Major Canadian novelists include Carol Shields, Lawrence Hill, Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro. Carol Shields novel ''The Stone Diaries'' won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and another novel, ''Larry's Party'', won the Orange Prize for Fiction, Orange Prize in 1998. Lawrence Hill's ''Book of Negroes'' won the 2008 Commonwealth Writers' Prize Overall Best Book Award, while Alice Munro became the first Canadian to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2013. Munro also received the Man Booker International Prize in 2009. Amongst internationally known poets are Leonard Cohen and Anne Carson. Carson in 1996 won the Lannan Literary Award for poetry. The foundation's awards in 2006 for poetry, fiction and nonfiction each came with $US 150,000.


American writers

From 1940 into the 21st century, American playwrights, poets and novelists have continued to be internationally prominent.


Genre fiction in the twentieth-century

Many works published in the twentieth-century were examples of genre fiction. This designation includes the crime novels, spy novel,
historical romance Historical romance (also historical novel) is a broad category of fiction in which the plot takes place in a setting located in the past. Walter Scott helped popularize this genre in the early 19th-century, with works such as ''Rob Roy (novel), ...
, fantasy, graphic novel, and science fiction. Agatha Christie (1890–1976) was an important crime writer of novels, short stories and plays, who is best remembered for her 80 detective novels as well as her successful plays for the West End theatre. Another popular writer during the Golden Age of detective fiction was Dorothy L. Sayers (1893–1957). Other recent noteworthy writers in this genre are Ruth Rendell, P.D. James and Scot Ian Rankin. Robert Erskine Childers, Erskine Childers' ''The Riddle of the Sands'' (1903), is an early example of spy fiction. Another noted writer in the spy novel genre was John le Carré, while in Thriller (genre), thriller writing, Ian Fleming created the character James Bond 007. The novelist Georgette Heyer created the
historical romance Historical romance (also historical novel) is a broad category of fiction in which the plot takes place in a setting located in the past. Walter Scott helped popularize this genre in the early 19th-century, with works such as ''Rob Roy (novel), ...
genre. Emma Orczy's original play, ''The Scarlet Pimpernel'' (1905), a "hero with a secret identity", became a favourite of London audiences, playing more than 2,000 performances and becoming one of the most popular shows staged in England to that date. Among significant writers in the fantasy genre were J.R.R. Tolkien, author of ''The Hobbit'' and ''The Lord of the Rings''. C.S. Lewis author of ''The Chronicles of Narnia'', and J.K. Rowling who wrote the highly successful ''Harry Potter'' series. Lloyd Alexander winner of the Newbery Honor as well as the Newbery Medal for his ''The Chronicles of Prydain'' pentalogy is another significant author of fantasy novels for younger readers. Like fantasy in the later decades of the 20th century, the genre of science fiction began to be taken more seriously, and this was because of the work of writers such as Arthur C. Clarke (''2001: A Space Odyssey (novel), 2001: A Space Odyssey'') and Michael Moorcock. Another prominent writer in this genre, Douglas Adams, is particularly associated with the comic science fiction work, ''The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy''. Mainstream novelists such Doris Lessing and Margaret Atwood also wrote works in this genre. Known for his macabre, darkly comic fantasy works for children, Roald Dahl became one of the best selling authors of the 20th century, and his best-loved children's novels include ''Charlie and the Chocolate Factory'', ''Matilda (novel), Matilda'', ''James and the Giant Peach'', ''The Witches (novel), The Witches'', ''Fantastic Mr Fox'' and ''The BFG''. Noted writers in the field of comic books are Neil Gaiman, and Alan Moore, while Gaiman also produces graphic novels.


Literary criticism in the twentieth century

Literary criticism gathered momentum in the twentieth century. In this era prominent academic journals were established to address specific aspects of English literature. Most of these academic journals gained widespread credibility because of being published by university presses. The growth of universities thus contributed to a stronger connection between English literature and literary criticism in the twentieth century.


Nobel Prizes in English literature


See also

* British literature ** Theatre of the United Kingdom ** Literature of Birmingham * English novel * English poetry ** List of English-language poets * Irish literature ** Irish theatre ** Literature of Northern Ireland * Literature in the other languages of Britain * Scottish literature ** Theatre in Scotland * Welsh literature in English ** Theatre of Wales * Women's writing in English * List of Commonwealth Writers prizes


Notes


References


Bibliography

* . * . * . * . * . * . * . * .


External links


The English Literary Canon

British literature – Books tagged British literature
LibraryThing
''Discovering Literature: Shakespeare''
at the British Library
''Discovering Literature: Romantics and Victorians''
at the British Library
''Discovering Literature: 20th century''
at the British Library
Luminarium: Anthology of Middle English Literature (1350–1485)

Luminarium: 16th Century Renaissance English Literature (1485–1603)

Luminarium: Seventeenth Century English Literature (1603–1660)

Luminarium: Eighteenth Century English Literature (1660–1785)

Eighteenth-Century Poetry Archive (ECPA)


Ed. José Ángel García Landa, (University of Zaragoza, Spain) {{DEFAULTSORT:English Literature English-language literature, English-language culture History of literature in the United Kingdom