Last Updated on May 23, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 499
Context: The Puritan Revolution was the name given to the struggle during the first half of the seventeenth century between the subjects of James I and Charles I and their rulers. Actually there were more than religious factors involved. In the final defeat of royalist Cavaliers by Cromwell's Puritan Roundheads, nonreligious country gentry and city merchants had a hand. This was the period selected by the Bristish satirical poet Butler for a long mock romance that begins: "When civil dudgeon first grew high/ And men fell out they knew not why." Butler, son of a poor farmer, received a grammar-school education, but despite his claims of further study at Cambridge and Oxford, modern scholars doubt that he attended either. He worked as clerk for an eminent Justice of the Peace, Mr. Jefferys, where he had time for reading and studying music and painting. Later he became secretary of the Countess of Kent, where he had access to a good library. He left her to serve Sir Samuel Luke, a rigid Presbyterian who had been one of Cromwell's officers. The household was a stronghold of Puritanism, and many believe Sir Samuel the model for Sir Hudibras in the long poem Butler began writing there. Since 1612, people in England had been able to read the Spanish novel Don Quixote (1605) in their language, and in 1652 another popular translation appeared. Butler got the idea of writing an English Don Quixote in verse, with an ignorant Presbyterian Justice and his Independent squire riding through the land to suppress superstition and correct abuses. Part I, containing three cantos, was published in 1663, when the author was more than fifty years old. In it, Sir Hudibras starts on his quest, full of learned conversation, loaded with classical references. As his Rocinante, he rides a horse so skinny that "his strutting ribs on both sides show'd/ Like furrows he himself had plough'd." In Canto 2, they run into a crowd of people enjoying themselves, a sure sign to the knight that he had discovered an abode of sin. They see peg-leg Crowdero, a fiddler, and Orsin, owner of a bear used for bear baiting. Though Talgol, the butcher, and others fight bravely, Hudibras and his squire Ralpho capture Crowdero, breaking his wooden leg, and putting him in the stocks. In the final canto, Part I, the knight-errant visits a Widow with whom he falls in love. But meanwhile his vanquished victims have rallied. Crowdero is released. They all determine on revenge, and start after Hudibras and Ralpho. Orsin vows to make them regret their deeds, and Cerdon, another in the crowd, agrees.
Quoth Cerdon, Noble Orsin, th'hast
Great reason to do as thou say'st,
And so has ev'ry body here,
As well as thou hast, or thy Bear;
Others may do as they see good;
But if this twig be made of wood
That will hold tack, I'll make the fur
Fly 'bout the ears of that old cur,
And th' other mungrel vermin, Ralph,
That brav'd us all in his behalf.
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