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Module: Literature

Grade:2nd Years LMD

Lesson: The Caroline and Cromwellian Literature

The Caroline and Cromwellian literature refers to the era in English and Scottish
period (during the Stuart period 1603-1714).it was time of intense ferment in all areas of life-
religion ,science, politics, and culture .That ferment was reflected in the literature of the era.

The Caroline age of English literature coincides with the reign of Charles (1625-
1649). The writers of this age wrote with refinement and elegance. This era produced a circle
of poets known as the cavalier poets, and the dramatists of this period were the last to write in
Elizabethan tradition.

One sign that England was changing in the 1930s and 1940s was the polarization of
political opinions between those who supported King Charles the first, and the puritan
parliament led by Oliver Cromwell. A group of monarchists collectively known as the
cavalier poet Carew, Herrick, Lovelace, and suckling were the most prominent provided a last
flourish of lyricism before the revolution brought in a different intellectual climate after the
execution of the king (in 1649). The Cavaliers ‘poetry is simpler than that of the
metaphysical. It recalls the writings of Sir Philip Sidney, (in early renaissance writing)rather
than the more deeply engaged writing of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, formally, the
cavaliers ‘poetic master was Ben Johnson.

The poet Robert Herrick, like his contemporary Richard Lovelace, was very much
concerned with the political upheaval of the time and the refinement of the lyric forms may
often contain series reflections, as Lovelace’s impassioned lined of freedom, to Althea, from

Stone walls do not a prison make,

Nor iron bars a cage

These lines were written as the somewhat authoritarian puritan rule took command
under Cromwell, who remains one of the most ambiguous of the English heroes. John Milton
hailed him in a sonnet as “Our Chief of Men”, and praised his defense of liberty and
conscience. Yet two years after his death the monarchy was restored, and for many years the
commonwealth was seen as a black period puritan extremism, austerity and restraint. Many
writers such us Milton and Dryden found themselves changing allegiance as they saw the
revolution lose its impact and decline into a return to older forms and ways.

The cavalier poetry is one of the main streams of the Jacobean poetry. The cavalier
poets are members of the aristocracy who wrote in the 17TH century and supporting King
Charles the first who was later executed as a result of the civil war, they were known as
royalists. Many of the poems centered on sensual, romantic love, beauty, loyalty and
embodied the life and culture of the upper class. For cavalier poets, enjoying life was far more
important than following moral codes, they lived for the moment. The meaning of “cavalier”
means showing arrogant or off hand disregard, dismissive or carefree, this describe the
attitude of cavalier poets. Some of the prominent cavalier poet was Ben Jonson.

The other poetic stream that lay in the intellectual complexity of John Donne is
metaphysical poetry. It opposed completely cavalier poets concentrated on the pleasures of
the moment. The metaphysical poets wrote in figurative, lofty language whereas the cavaliers
were simple to say what they meant in clear terms.

In the Caroline period, although Johnson was still writing, the most significant (tragic)
dramatist was john Ford. His tis pity she’s a whore is a deliberate challenge to moral values
and the decline of virtue. It was seen by puritans as representative of the decadent influence of
the Caroline theater. During this era, there was an increasing use of violence and corruption to
illustrate the playwrights ‘concerns.


It was flourishing in the Elizabethan and Jacobean era due to the master pieces of
Shakespeare and Ben Johnson however during this era drama was suppressed for generations
due to the English civil war and the influence of the puritans which led to the close of the
theaters in 1942 which was the final touch of development of drama.


The two most important poets of the Cromwellian era were Andrew Marvel and john
Milton with producing works praising and encouraging the new government.