What are some Restoration period features, important writers and their works?

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The Restoration period in English literature is a short one, lasting from 1660–1688 and corresponding with the restoration of the Stuart monarchy to the English throne. A prominent feature of Restoration literature was the burst of theatre activity and the writing of new plays. The theater had been banned as immoral under the Puritan rule of Oliver Cromwell, so it came back with renewed vigor. Plays were often bawdy, comic, and risqué, a reaction to the soberness of the preceding period. Playwrights associated with the period include William Wycherley, most famous for the risqué drama, The Country Wife.

Puritanism, however, did not disappear with the end of Cromwell's reign. In this period, Bunyan published Pilgrim's Progress, while Milton published Paradise Lost. As dissenting religious groups faced increasing persecution after the Restoration, there was a growth of spiritual memoir. Newspapers began to become popular too, leading to the rise of the essay. John Dryden, a playwright, poet, and essayist, rose to prominence in this era. Aphra Behn, a woman playwright and writer, published Love Letters Between a Nobleman and his Sister.

All in all, this was a fertile and vibrant artistic era that set the stage for both the eighteenth century's comic literature and literature of sentiment.

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The term “Restoration” refers to the return from France of Charles II in 1660.  The major literary changes took place in Drama/Theatre, because that is the genre that reflected the social changes that accompanied Charles' return. Some of the drama’s changes (and drama is the most public and visible literary form to reflect the changes) are actresses, comedies of wit, indoor theatre, wing-and-drop sets, the actor/manager configuration, and short runs, compared to Elizabethan, Jacobean, and Carolinian plays.    The French influences on Charles II are reflected in the risqué sexual references in the scripts, and the “party” atmosphere of theatre attendance.

 Some notable writers for Restoration theatre are William Congreve (Love for Love, The Way of the World), John Dryden (Aureng-Zebe, All for Love), George Etheridge (The Man of Mode), and George Farquhar (The Beaux' Stratagem, The Twin Rivals).   Aphra Behn (City Heiress), the first female playwright, should also be mentioned.

 

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