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1745 led. The contrast between city and country – always a favourite subject of eighteenth-century literature – deepened in the last third of the century, accompanied by more rapid economic and social changes. Slowly but steadily, the growing proletariat began to organize itself, finding radical spokesmen among the intellectuals. To a certain extent, these were the consequences of the Enlightenment. In England, where the middle class and the aristocracy set the tone in culture and philosophy, nature and reason were essential terms based on the belief in man's benevolence and common sense.

The break between 1642 and 1660 was not absolute, as some sort of theatrical entertainment in private houses continued, Sir William Davenant's "entertainments" being the best-known example. Wren’s Theatre Royal. Drury Lane. 1674 With the return of Charles II both the drama and its audience changed. Theatregoing now became a monopoly of the upper class and the court. The fashionable Restoration audience wanted wit, humour, and sex, but little else, and the playwrights catered to these narrow tastes.

His 44 biographies of great Greeks and Romans are written in a lively style and contain many anecdotes, but they are not accurate historical records. THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY 35 When the Puritans finally prohibited stage plays and closed down the theatres in 1642, they did not stop English drama at its height. At this time there was little new development and much imitation of earlier examples. Still, with their decision the Puritans destroyed a tradition of writing and acting. When it was revived two decades later, English drama was not the same.

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A History of British Irish and American Literature by Hans-Peter Wagner


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