Literature summary



Literature summary


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Literature summary




Old-English Literature

The Anglo-Saxons brought from their homes on the continent stories, which they told repeatedly from one generation to the next. Their first literature was preserved in their memories and was passed to later generations orally.

When talking about the Anglo-Saxons, we must mention the story of Beowulf (6th century). This great epic poem is a high point of Anglo-Saxon literature.


6th – 8th century

The first known writers were Caedmon and Venerable Bede.

Caedmon lived in the 6th century – he wrote religious poetry. In the 8th century the greatest figure was Venerable Bede, who wrote Caedmon’s biography – history of the English Church.


9th century

Alfred the Great translated a number of Latin works. He devoted his time to improving the education of common people. This period will finish with the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle – perhaps the most important prose work in Old English. It is the wok of monks in various monasteries and record of people in England from 9th to 10th century.


Middle English Literature (1066 – 1485)

This period is connected with William the Conqueror.

William Langland – a satirist who protested against social injustice especially in his work “The Vision of Piers the Plowman”.

Geoffrey of Monmouth – is considered the real author of Arthurian legends. He wrote History of Britons, where he deals with king Arthur, his knights and the round table.

John Wycliffe – professor at Oxford University. The Bible was translated under his leadership by many scholars.

Geoffrey Chaucer – represents poetry. He is considered to be the greatest poet of England. His well-known work is The Canterbury Tales, which is a collection of stories told by pilgrims on the way to Becket’s shrine – it remained unfinished. The source of Chaucer’s tales can be found in the Decameron. Chaucer and his realism influenced future development in English literature.


15th century

Literature seems to be quite old-fashioned comparing to Chaucer’s works.

The year 1477 is linked with William Caxton, who set up the first English printing press, where the works of English and French authors were published.


16th century

Renaissance (connected with the House of Tudor)

It was a period of new learning; scholars lead people to believe in their own reason and senses.

Humanists: Erasmus (of Dutch origin) travelled all over Europe, spreading the new ideas and he had big impact on Thomas More, who wrote the Utopia in Latin. It was an imaginary country, where people were equal, without wars, all were educated, worked 6 hours a day.

Roger Ascham – he had influence on Elisabeth I – he was her tutor, responsible for her education.

Philosophy: Francis Bacon

Elizabethan drama: she supported art and artists

Christopher Marlowe – wrote Dr. Faustus – a story used by German poet Goethe in Faust


William Shakespeare – the greatest personality of English renaissance and the Elizabethan age. We can even say he has been the greatest so far.

  • 1st period: these works are marked by youthful dreams – The Merchant of Venice, Taming of the Shrew, A Midsummer night’s dream, Romeo and Juliet – a romantic tragedy.
  • 2nd period: romantic comedies and chronicles – The Merry Wives of Windsor, two plays about king Henry IV. He wrote also for the Globe theatre – Much Ado about Nothing, As You Like It.
  • 3rd period: marked by depression – wrote tragedies and some of his best plays – Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth.
  • 4th period: marked by the place of warmth – A Winter’s Tale.


His contemporary – Ben Johnson invented a genre called comedy of humour.


17th century

This period is connected with the Stuarts and it is a century of advance (Newton, Bacon, Lock).

John Milton supported the ideas of Puritanism. His masterpiece is Paradise Lost – the revolt of Satan against heaven and God. Later he wrote Paradise Regained.

John Bunyan spoke for common people in his works; he joined a Baptist group (spent 12 years in prison). He wrote Pilgrim’s Progress – the best syllabus of Protestantism. It is an allegory written in a way as if it was a dream.

1660 – 1700: the age of Dryden – a fine poet, lyric poet, satiric, critic; well known for his poetic plays, political satires and literary criticism. He is often called the father of English prose. (asi by malo byt poetry, neviem, či som sa pomýlila ja, alebo profka, alebo je naozaj aj otcom anglickej prózy).

Heroic play – All for Love: he retells Shakespeare’s story Anthony and Cleopatra; Absolom and Achitophel – he exposed intrigues, disloyalty, produced the best of his satires.

He selected contemporary themes for his poetry.

This period is called 3-John period: John Milton, John Bunyan, John Dryden.


18th century

It is called the age of reason, a century of prosperity and stability of the English middle class. Western development of the society and economy, journalism, drama, novels developed very much. Literature became popular among the middle class – the first authors immerged from these circles.

Journalism: first periodicals were published – Richard Steele, Joseph Edison – the Tatler (3 times a week), later on the Spectator was founded and it reached a higher literary level than the Tatler.

Poetry: greatest poet was Alexander Pope, who wrote beautiful classical poetry – he was a poet of his age.

The elegant society of the 18th century flowered in the writings of Swift, Defoe and Fielding. Novels became the main literary genre.

Jonathan Swift: born in Dublin, had a very sharp tongue and even sharper pen. His masterpiece is Gulliver’s travels – a satire on humanity in general. Swift’s satire is directed against politics in the English kingdom, corrupt courts, armies, bad politicians and judges.

Daniel Defoe: the founder of English fiction. In Robinson Crusoe he describes the adventures of a shipwrecked sailor. Crusoe embodies the qualities which the middle class needed in capitalist competition – he was energetic, skillful, hard working.

Samuel Richardson: Pamela (written in the form of a letter) and Virtue rewarded – these two works can be regarded as the first novel in English on psychological development of characters. He wrote his works in the form of letters.

Fielding: his masterpiece is Tom Jones – a new kind of hero: handsome, brave and generous, with heart in the right place, instincts not always in his control.

Early novelists: Tobias Smalet, Lawrence Stern – they mixed satire and sentiment.

Oliver Goldsmith – the Vicar of Bakerfield

Robert Burns – he is considered to be a great songwriter.

Sheridan – wrote comedies: The School for Scandal, which is a brilliant satire on life in fashionable society.


19th century – Romanticism

A group of poets named Lake Poets: they adopted this name because they wrote poetry in the Lake District.

W. Wordsworth, Colridge, Taylor, Walter Scott looked for models in the English and Italian renaissance and Middle Ages.

Poetry: Percy B. Shelly, J. Keats

Prose: Walter Scott – historical novel Ivanhoe – it is a reconstruction of Middle Ages and renaissance.

Jane Austin – in her works we can find realistic tendencies in romantic period: Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility

Elizabeth Gaskell – used criticism in Mary Barton – reveals the poverty of the workers and a desperate struggle for existence.


Victorian period

End of romanticism – critical realism.

It was a period of advance in many areas – inventions, science, commerce, industry, finance, etc.

The problems created by these advances occupied the deepest thought of Victorian writers in poetry, essays, particularly in novels.

Among the best writer of this period belong the Brontë sisters who revealed in their novels the dark side of the English society and protested against everything that was inhuman and cruel. There were 3 of them: Emily (Wuthering Heights), Charlotte (Jane Eyre) – both dealt with moral and psychological problems, Anne (2 novels, but she’s not very famous).

The most typical representative of the English social criticism is:

Charles Dickens, who described lives of poor people in England in the 19th century – his stories are partly autobiographical, because he was poor as a child. He wrote Little Dorrit, David Copperfield, The Pickwick Papers, Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, etc.

William Thackeray wrote novels against snobbery and hypocrisy: Vanity Fair, in which he compares carriers of 2 different characters.

The Book of Snobs – a satirical panorama of English social and political life.

Thomas Hardy – link period between the Victorian era and modern times. He was influenced by Zola. His masterpiece is Tess of D’Uberville, where he concentrates mostly on inner personal life, the struggle of the people living in the country.

Oscar Wilde – a poet, novelist, essay and storywriter famous for his witty and brilliant dialogues; his best comedy is The Importance of Being Earnest. His stories include The Happy Prince, The Selfish Giant. He wrote only 1 novel: Picture of Dorian Gray.

Adventure themes appear in works of R. L. Stevenson, whose best novel is The Treasure Island.

Poetry: a well known, great official poet during the reign of queen Victoria: Alfred Tenausson.

Modern criticism was represented by Robert Browning – Pipa Passes. His wife, Elizabeth Barrett Browning also wrote poetry – she protested against the practice of employing children in factories and mines: The Cry of the Children, Sonnets from the Portuguese – most powerful of her poems on love.


20th century

Prose in the 1st half of the 20th century was represented by Joseph Conrad, who was of Polish origin. He created characters of various nationalities. He also wrote short stories and novels about the sea and exotic countries from his own experience – Lord Jim.

Rudyard Kipling – born in India. He was a master of both short story and short novel – he was awarded a Nobel Prize as the 1st British author. His best-known works are The Jungle Book and The 2nd Jungle Book.

John Galsworthy – a critical novelist, who wrote The Forsyte Saga. It is a description of the decay of Victorian middle class.

Aldous Huxley represents the intellectual stream. He wrote The Brave New World – it is a kind of sci-fi, but not typical, a kind of satire.

A group of authors who tried to explore inner aspects of human lives:

Virginia Woolf – people seen from many different angles, she disclosed inner lives of her heroes totally – with understanding and intelligence: To the Lighthouse, Mrs. Dalloway.

James Joyce – his novels are disclosing the inner state of mind of characters. He wrote a collection of short stories – Dubliners; novels Ulysses, Odysseus.

Graham Greene – most successful with his literary study of crime, guilt, morality. Divides his works into entertainment (detective stories, thrillers) and novels (The Power and the Glory).

Archibald Chronin – depicts private lives of his heroes: The Citadel – life of a doctor in a coal mining area in Scotland.

The English novel since WW II: many were disillusioned and there appeared a group of writers called Angry Young Men. Their central figures are antiheroes – disgusted young men looking for their place in the society, reject many things, object to many things and disillusioned men show their anger directed against the establishment.

John Braine – Room at the Top (a struggle of a young educated man who wants a carrier).

John Waine – Hurry on Down (a satirical novel – a graduate of Oxford is looking for a job, but can’t find any).

John Osborne – Look Back in Anger was a turning point in English drama.

Kingsley Amis – novel Lucky Jim: a lecturer at a small university goes through many funny situations.


Modern drama of the 20th century

The first playwright G. B. Shaw, who was born in Dublin, attacked the whole society with his criticism – historical themes are found in Caesar and Cleopatra, his first play Widower’s Houses display open the discussion of prostitution, criticism of middle class and its hypocrisy – he was awarded a Nobel Prize. He excels in writing witty interesting dialogues.

T. S. Elliot: Thomas Sterns – especially poetic drama, the first historical play about T. Becket – Murder in the Cathedral. Philosophical comedies – The Cocktail Party, Family Reunion. A Nobel Prize winner.

Writer and playwright William Somerset Mourn – short stories – revived the comedy of manners – e.g. Our Betters; best drama – The Circle.

Shaw O’Casey – Irish dramatist, his plays mix tragedy and comedy, depicted tragic women characters – wrote a play Juno and the Peacock.

John Millington Singe – he presented Irish heroes, ordinary country people struggling for their happiness – The Playboy of the Western world, The Shadow of the Glen.

Harold Pinter – 1930 – represents the drama of absurd. He wrote stage dramas: The Caretaker, The Homecoming; influenced by Kafka, Samuel Beckett.


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Literature summary

Old English literature


Literature started to appear in England after the Anglo-Saxon invasion. They brought no written literature with them. Their war songs and sagas were handed down by word of mouth from generation to generation. Only after the introduction of Christianity into Britain in the 6th century monks started to write songs down. The monasteries in Winchester and Jarrow became centers of culture. The language, in which this literature was written, is called Old English. The themes and genres (žonre) were rather limited. They were mostly elegies, war poems, heroic epics.

The best preserved Old English heroic poem is BEOWULF. It is of Scandinavian origin and its author is unknown. It was first heard about 700 A.D., but it was written down later. Beowulf, a young warrior of the Jutes, kills the evil monster Grendel and his mother, who trouble the Danish king Hrothgar. Later Beowulf becomes king, rules for fifty years, but then he is killed as he is saving his people from a fiery (faieri-ohnivý) dragon.

The best-known lyrical poem is The WANDERER (putnik). It is monoloque of an old man who has buried his master and feels lonely. (It was written by CAEDMON.

The best-know poets of religious poetry are CAEDMON and CYNEWULF, whose best poems are The Fates of the Apostles and Elene.

The most important work of prose in this period are The Ecclesiastical (ikli:ziestikl církevný) History of the English Nation by the  VENERABLE BEDE, a Benedictine monk of Jarrow, which was written in Latin, and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which was begun by Alfred the Great, King of Wessex. He was a great scholar, law-giver and defender of his country. He established schools a monasteries and invited learned men from abroad to teach them. Alfred also translated Bede’s History and wrote some school books.

After the Norman Conquest in 1066 (the battle of Hastings)h, Anglo-Saxon Leterature practiccally ceased to exist, but its spirit and tratition survived.


The middle ages literature


After the Norman Conquest in 1066 the French language gained a privileged position. The Anglo-Saxon language lost its importance at the Royal Court and in commerce and government. It took about two centuries for the English language to regain its dominant position in society and literature.  When Henry II found himself in difficulties in 1265, his proclamation to the people was written in English. A rapid development of the English language (that is now called Middle English ) began in the middle of the fourteenth century and was encouraged by feelings of nationalism connected with the Hundred Years’ War. Middle English developed from the conflict of Old English and Norman-French. At the beginning this new language was broken into many dialects, dialect of London, the capital and Oxford, Cambridge. From 1362 the E.l. was used in courts, by 1385 it was in general use in schools, and the last king to speak French was Richard II (died in 1399).

The most talented poetess of the time Henry II was MARIE DE FRANCE. We know about her only that she came from France and lived at the Court of England around 1175. Her poems, called lays (lies balada), were usually sung to the accompaniment of some musical instrument. In her poems she expresses a woman’s attitude to the stories about courtly love and life.

Among the most popular themes of the Middle Ages were those relating to King Arthur, Alexander the Great and Troy, they inspired whole cycles of legends and romances.  The conception of King Arthur first appeared in the History of the King of Britain by  GEOFFREY OF MONMOUTH, one of many chroniclers of English history.




ENGLISH LITERATURE IN THE 14th and 15th centuries

During the Hundred Years’ War the condition of the labouring people worsened. Epidemic of the Plague – the Black Death – reduced the population by one-third and brought total chaos in the countryside. There were high taxes, corruption.

The wars with France continued with various interruptions. Civil war between the House of York (White Rose) and the House of Lancaster (Red Rose)

All over Europe in the fourteenth century, the practices of the Roman Catholic Church face strong criticism. In England the leading figure in the opposition to Rome was JOHN WYCLIFFE, a professor of Oxford University whose Latin works calling for reform were written with the support of the Court. Then he lost support of king and was condemned  (odsudiť). He translated the whole Bible into English.

The literature in the 14th century was very variable and can be divided into ecclesiastical and secular (svetský) as for its subject matter. (prose works, chronicles, romances, hymns, visions, dramatic pieces, allegories, songs)

A great poet of that period was WILLIAM LANGLAND. He was poor priest, a professor of Oxford University, in his works he attacked the secular spirit and wealth of the clergy (klerdzi – duchovenstvo). Langland’s poem The Vision Concerning Piers the Plowman (plaumen oráč) he had as he slept by a brook (bruk potok, riečka). He was critical and he praise honest laborers and condemned not only oppressors, barons, tax-collectors and corrupt clergy, but also the rogues (darebák, podliak) among the poor.

GEOFFREY CHAUCER – he knew the busy life of London as he was the son of a wine merchant in the city of London. When he was 17 he became a page at the court. There he met John of Gaunt, he became his patron. He merried into royal family and was later entrusted (poveriť) with the diplomatic mission to France, Italy and Netherlands. Thus he became acquainted (ekveitid oboznámený) with Italian and French poetry and even with Petrarch and Boccaccio.

The most famous are his Cantebury Tales, in which he described the pilgrimage (púť) to the shrine (svätyna, oltár) of the murdered St. Thomas Becket at Canterbury.  All the pilgrims are vividly described in the Prologue, which is a real gallery of types. There are representatives of nearly all classes there: a knight, a nun, a friar, a pardoner, a poor parson, a lawyer, a clerk.

He was not reformer. His criticism was very mild, mostly humorous. He did not express the popular discontent   (nespokojnosť) of his time. Therefore he may be called “the morning star of the renaisance”.  He was first poet to be buried in Westminster Abbey in Poets Corner.

One of the prominent authors of the court romances was Sir Thomas MALORY. As a resulat of disorders spent almost twenty years in prison, where he translated French stories about King Arthur and wrote Le Morte Darthur. Written in very poetic style. The legends narrated (porozprávať, opísať) there were later used by many poets such as Spenser, Tennyson, and Mark Twain. In 1485 Le Morte Darthur was printed by Wiliam Caxton, who introduce letter-printing into England in 1474.

The most skillful Scottish poet WILLIAM DUNBAR, he was diplomat,  his allegory The Thistle (Otisle –bodliak) and the Rose celebrated the wedding of James IV (thistle) and Marguerite Tudor a daughter of Henry VII, King of England. 


15.century – barren century




At the end of the 15 century English literature was influence by the renaissance, which spread from Italy. It was the period of great geographical discoveries and development in trade when the transition  from feudalism to capitalism started. It was the rediscovery of the ancient Roman and Greek cultures that stimulated the reaction against the medieval way of thinking and a revolt (vzbúra)  against the church’s authority. The scholars returned to the philosophy of Plato and even more to that of Aritotle who led people to believe in their own reason and senses. Renaissance scholars began to truss in their own individual power to achieve what they wanted. The first ones who devoted themselves to the new learning, known as “studia humana” are called humanists.

(humanist prose)

One of them was ERASMUS DESIDERIUS ROTTERDAMUS, a Dutch humanist, who travelle all over Europe spreading the new ideas a meeting the most educated and distinguished people on the Continent. He was an intimate friend of Sir Thomas More who encouraged him to write his wonderful satire on theologists and Church dignitaries : Encomium Moriae.

Sir Thomas More – studied Latin, Greek and law at Oxford. He became Lord Chancellor to Henry VIII. But he resigned the post in 1532 in protest against Henry’ rejection of the Popes authority and he was against Henry”s divorce from Catherine of Aragon. He was therefore imprisoned in the Tower. Then beheaded.  More’s principal work is The Utopia, written in Latin, describing an imaginary island where people live in a community of equal beings, gold is used for childrens toys, wars are banned, both men and women are educated, people work only 6 hours a day and religious tolerance is recognized. 

Sir Philip Sidney wrote ARCADIA a prose romance with the pastoral and chivalrous (čivelrs – rytiersky, gavaliersky) themes of the Middle Ages.  He put sonnet form on a very high artistic level in Astrophel and Stella, a series of sonnets inspired by his love for Lady Rich. His love to poetry led to his writing The Apologie for Poetrie, and answer to Puritan attacks on poetry. Thus he became one of the first literary critics.

(Humanist poetry)

Lyric poetry in the 16th centruy in England was at first strongly influenced by Italian poets, in particular by Francesco Petrarch, the master of sonnets.

The genre of sonnet was introduced in English literature by SIR THOMAS WYATT, he used the form of Petrarch’s rhymed sonnet .

Henry HOWARD EARL OF SURREY  developed a new form of sonnet that was later taken over by Shakespeare, Sidney and Spencer.

Sir Philip Sidney, a courtier, diplomat, soldier and poet is first author of a cycle of love sonnets Astrophel and Stella. The poems are addressed to Penelope, daughter of the Earl )

(grof) of Essex.

EDMUND SPENCER  was the first master of the new English language and at the same time, great master of  word music. He wrote epic The Faerie Queene. It is romantic allegory dealing with the struggle of Virtue against Vice and, teh same time, it is a symbolic portrayal of the bitter struggle between Queen Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots.



The first Englisch plays were written in the 16th century. The first Englisch comedy is Ralph Roister Doister, written by NICHOLAS UDALL. It was influenced by the Latin comedies of Plautus.

Thomas  KYD, a tragedy of revenge in which Hieronymo tries to find the murderers of his son. He succeeds and his son is revenged, but in the end all the main characters perish (zahynúť).

Chrislopher MARLOWE  the best playwright before Shakespeare, was a rebel against society, a secret political agent, and an atheist. He was killed in a tavern brawl before he was thirty. He wrote The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus , he sells his soul to the devil. Doctor Faustus becomes a man who longs to immense power. The Jew of Malta is also a cruel tragedy of revenge, the rich Jew is trapped by the very preparations he had made for the other’s.



He was one of the greatest writers of all time. He was born 23.04.1564. His father was a tradesman. He attended local grammar school, but his father had financial trouble and at age 14 he started to support the family. When he was 18 he married Anne Hathaway, who was eight years older. Their marriage was not very happy. Three children were born to them.  He left Stratford for London wher he became an actor and a playwright. He joined the theatre company known as The Lord Chancellor’s Players. The successs of his plays increase from year to year, he was famous and wealthy. He became the principal shareholder of the Globe Theatre.  In 1610 he retired to his home town where he bought a house called the New Place. He died there. S. wrote about 37 plays, but his authorship has been proved only in 34. Besides plays his work includes two poemsVenus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece, and the Sonnets, addresse partly to a young man and partly to a dark lady.

S. work is usually divide into several groups: comedies, tragedies, historical plays and later romances.

Comedies – The Comedy of Errors, The Taming of the Shrew, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, A Midsummer- Nights Dream, The Merchant of Venice.


First Tragedy, Romeno and Juliet, Hamlet, Othelo, Macbeth, King Lear

Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy of love. Two rich and powerful families of Verona hate each other. Romeo, the son of Lord Montague and Juliet the daughter of Lord Capulet fall in love with each other and get married secretly. Juliet is then forced by her family to marry Paris, but she refuses and is found apparently dead on her wedding day. Romeo hurries to the crypt where she lies and dies of poison at her feet. Juliet, who has been feigning death, wakes up only a moment after and seeing Romeo dead, thrusts Romeos dagger into her heart. The two families forget their mutual hatred over the dead bodies of their children.

Macbeth is a tragedy of ambition

Othello is a tragedy of jealousy. Othello, a heroic Moor of Venice, and his white wife Desdemona are in fact destroyed by the intrigues of Iago, who hates Othello. Iago manages to convince Othelo that his wife is unfaithful. Othello is so jealous that he becomes desperate and throttles Desdemona in her bed. But soon after he finds out the real truth, he commits suicide.

King Lear – this is a tragedy about loyalty and treason (trizn –zrada).  King Lear banishes his youngest daughter Cordelia who refuses to speak to him with exaggerated insincere (neuprimný, falošný)  affection like her sisters, but says only that she loves him according to her duty. The king is later banish (vyhostený, vyhnať) by his elder daughters. Cordelia comes with her husband the King of France help to her father. She is imprisoned with husband and then hanged and King Lear dies of grief (zármutok, žiaľ).


Comedies: Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like it, Twelfth Night, What you Will


BEN JONSON – he is known for his brilliant commedies above all Volpone or the Fox, The Alchemist and Bartolomew Fayere. He invented a genre called “comedy of humours”, in which the characters, “humours”





Puritanism in English litarature

The English Revolution had a great influence not only on the social, but also the cultural life of the country. The Puritans neglected science, art and literature and as strong defenders of morality they were suspicious (nedôverčivy) of knowledge and beauty. 


M. was born in London.  Studied at Cambridge. He had a terrible calamity and became totally blind. His feelings about his blindness are expressed in the sone On His Blindness. His second wife died sonn after the marriage. Later he married for the third time. The greatest Englisch epis poem – PARADISE LOST. The theme is taken from Bible. It describes Satans revolt against God, which leads to a war in heaven, in which the rebel angels are defeated.

Philosophy – Bacon, Hobbes and Locke.

Francis Bacon

John Locke – he was defender of the rights of the middle class and the earlier exponent of liberalism of the future. In his works (Two Treatises of Government) he defends parliamentary democracy in the form which was established after Glorious Revolution in 1688.



The restoration of the Monarchy in 1660 and the Glorious Revolution in 1688 brought about profound changes in the political and social life of England. This period was the first stage in the history of modern capitalist England .

Development of journalism. For writers it was beginning of the age of Reason or classicism, which culminated in the 18th century. Reason and Wit  (rozum),


JOHN DRYDEN – he was influenced by French classical poetry and was the predecessor (predchodca) of Pope, the greatest classical poet in E.l.

Group of poets “ Metaphysical Poets” – John Donne, George Herbert, Thomas Carew, Richard Crashaw, Henry Vaughan, Andrew Marwel.

MARWEL – celebrated English revolution – ode On the Death of Oliver Cromwell

ALEXANDER POPE – His life was full of disadvantages. He was deformed and weak. He was not allowed to study at an university. In spite of that, he won great fame for himself.

He wrote two didactic poems, The Essay of Criticism and The Essay on Man.



Jonathan Swift – was one of the greatest English satirists.  He was born the only son of Jonathan Swift, a steward of the Kings Inns in Dublin, who died before his son was born. Jonathans mother was then dependent on her husbands brother.  When the boy was three years old his mother left him in his uncles care. His uncle gave him the best education. Then he went to London, where he became secretary to Sir William Temple. Sir William was a diplomat. In his house Swift met many politicians who gave him an insight (vniknutie, nazretie) into political world and its intrigues. In Temples house Swift wrote his famous satires, which were published later: A TALE OF A TUB, THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS.

In 1712 S. publisched a pamphlet, The Conduct of the ALLIES, against the war waged (viesť) by England on the continent.

The most famous is th satire Gullivers Travels.

Henry Fielding  - son of general, he got an excellent education at Eton and in Holland. At first be became a journalist and a lawyer but soon he started his literaty career. He wrote political and social satires, in one he offended Prime Minister and his plays were banned.  It was impulse for him to turn to journalism and writing novels, as a means of supporting his family.  He wrote The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling – a novel about a rather controversial character of an adventurous sincere boy, respectless to the  moral codes of society, but with a good heart and a natural sense of justice.

Daniel Defoestarted his literary career as a journalist and pamphleteer. He was in prison, he became a political spy, a speculator, traveller and journalist.

Robinson Crusoe, one of the most popular books, especially among the children. R. Crusoe, shipwrecked on a lonely island, embodied the qualities which the middle class needed in capitalist competition. He is energetic, hardworking, and skillful, and on the desert island he creates a miniature civilization with his own hands. .

Moll Flanders – he gives a realistic picture of the life and adventures of a London prostitute.

Laurence Sterne – was a provincial clergyman who began as a satirist pamphleteer involved in local church politics. He is know as the author of only one novel The Life and Opinios of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman.

OLIVER GOLDSMITH – he studied medicine a travelled through Europe, paying his expenses from money earned by playing the flute. He wrote comedies, poems, and novels. He is remembered mostly for The Vicar of Wakefield – good but naive vicar, his wife and six children who live their quiet life in the county. In the second half of the novel, the family suffers from many misfortunes, but is saved in the end. The vicars stay in prison reveals the desperate plight (mrzutosť) of people whose lives depend on the mercy (milosrdenstvo, súcit, zmilovanie)  of a corrupt aristocracy.

SAMUEL JOHNSON – His central work is Dictionary of the English Language.



The 19th century can be characterized by rapid economic development in Britain. New technology, new inventions and machines were partly replacing the manual work of workers.  This development, called the Industrial Revolution. Victorian era – queen Victoria – reigned 64 years.  The poets turned again to senses and sentiments, they were preoccupied with folk traditions, ancient history, exotic settings and natural mysticism. The writers were influenced by Jean Jacques Rousseau and his ideas of returning to nature and freeing men from the harmful influence of civilization. Another important source of inspirations for Romanticism was Geraman idealistic philosophy, represented by I. Kant a G.W. F. Hegel, and the therories about “the soul of nations”, reflected in folk oral literary tradition (ballads, songs, proverbs).

Robert BURNS – Scottish folk poetry is reflected.  He was a farmer, he wrote The Cotter’s Saturday Night  and other poems. Burns was invite to Edinburgh and for one season became the most popular man.  – Romantic Movement in poetry- in the centre of poetic works there is a romantic individual, strong and genuine, but isolated and lonesome.

Wordsworth and Coleridge published their Lyrical Ballads – representatives of the so-called Lake Poets. 

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH – devoted his life entirely to poetry. He traveled to France and Italy and returned home enchanted by the ideas of the French Revolution. When  England declared war on France 1792, he experienced a great moral shock, but changed his attitude later.  He wrote The Prelude – his autobiographical poem, Ruth, Sonnets Dedicated to Liberty, The Excursion. (his poetical works were based on his personal experience)

SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE his poetry is purely imaginative, the themes being highly fantastic and even magical. As a student he was charming, brilliant and impressive talker. As a young man suffering from rheumatism, he began to take opium to relieve his pain and he became an opium addict. The deepest emotion he felt in his life was love for Sara Hutchinson, the sister of Wordsworths wife. This unfulfilled love (his wife did not want to agree with a separation), his bad health led to  unhappiness and depressions.  He wrote poem Kubla Khan, a vision in a dream. Christabel – gothic atmosphere,  The Rime of the Ancient Mariner – mariner abandoned by God and man was left to his own torment. In a sense, it was partly autobiographical.  He was the first critic who was not superficial.

GEORGE GORDON NOEL LORD BYRON – was born into aristocratic family in London. He traveled a lot to Portugal, Spain, France, Italy. After publishing two cantos of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage he became famous overnight. The poem bears many autobiographical features. Tired of life, Childe Harold travels all over Europe, his noble genius is contrasting markedly with the hypocritical society round him. In 1815 B. married, a year later separated, most probably a love-affair between Byron and Augusta, his half-sister. He left England never to return. He traveled in Europe. His expedition to help the Greek people in their fight against Turkish rule, during which he died of fever, shows his courge and revolutionary spirit in fighting against tyranny and oppression.

In 1818 he wrote Don Juan a satirical poem, in which hero in followed in his adventures from his boyhood in Spain through the years of his exile in the Mediterranean, Turkey, and Russia as far as England, where he comes in his maturity.

Percy Bysshe SHELLEY – was a close friend to Byron and schared his belief in individual freedom. He was also a rebel against convention, rejected the romantic melancholy. His great epics The Revolt of Islam and Prometheus Unbound give both a revolutionary program for the present and a vision of the future. Prometheus is a portrait of a philanthropist and a rebel against constituted authority, represented by Jupiter the Tyrant.

JOHN KEATS – had much in common with Shelley. He was the youngest of the late generation of Romantics. He was the son of a stable-keeper. He studied medicine and was greatly discouraged by the negative criticism of his first poems. He wrote odes: Ode on a Grecian Urn, On Melancholy, Ode to a Nightingale and To Autumn.  Isabelle  or the Pot of Basil is outstanding poems, its theme is based on a story from Boccaccios Decameron. Isabella, a lady from Florence, falls in love with Lorenzo, a servant in the house. Her brothers, wanting to wipe away the shame, murder Lorenzo and hide his body far from the town. In a dream, Isabella sees Lorenzo who tells her whole story. She goes to the forest and brings home his head. Finally she dies of grief after her brothers have stolen her pot where Lorenzo’s head was hidden under several sprigs (vetvička) of basil (bezl bazalka).


The prose of this period is represented by the novel of manners and by the historical novel.

Walter Scott – born into a lawyer”s family in Edinburgh, was the creator of the romantic historical novel. In his boyhood, spent at his granfather”s farm, absorbed all the elements that were used in his work: the oral tradition of the Borders, Scotland as a whole, shepherds (pastier)  and folklore.  He studied law, philosophy, and German. His best known romantic poem, inspired by folk ballads, is The Lady of the Lake. His first historical nove WAVERLY – was publische anonymously. It was an experiment, and it was a success. After that every year brought a new historical novel. His novels can be divided into three major groups: stories of English history in the Tudor and Stuart periods, the story of English and Europe history of the Middle Ages a stories of the Scottish history.


JANE AUSTEN  novel Pride and Prejudice


The greatest literary figures of the victorian Age:

The long reign of Queen Victoria covered a period of prosperity, industrial progress, and the growth of the British Empire. The influence of the upper classes increased together with their wealth. At the same time, the social position of workers was becoming worse and worse. The novelists were more interested in contemporary problems, their works reflected sharp sociall criticism and they wanted to give a broad description of English society with all its types. During Victorian Age, the novel was the most popular and influential literary form.

Charles DICKENS  was the greatest representatives of realism of the 19th century. D. was born as a son of naval clerk. The family moved to London where he attended school. But his education was interrupted, as his father was imprisoned for debts. Dickens was sent to work. He pasted labels on bottles in a blacking factory. This experience affected his whole life. A small legacy saved the family and after his father had been released from prison and had got a job as a reporter, D. was sent to school for two more years. After his school days he became a clerk in a firm of solicitors and in his spare time he learnt shorthand. Then he became a Parliamentary reporter. Later he worked as a reporter for The Morning Chronicle. He was soon in great demand as a reporter because of his skill in shorthand which enabled him to produce accurate transcript of the speeches.

D. began to write novels depicting the life of contemporary English society, being conscious of the demands of the reading public.


David Copperfield

A Tale of Two Cities

The Pickwick Papers

WILIAM MAKEPEACE THACKERAY – was born into a rich family and got the best university education in Cambridge. His extravagant style of life brought him into debt and he was forced to work to make his living. He became a journalist and began to write novels. His antipathy towards snobbery, hypocrisy and the nature of the English social system form the basis of Vanity Fair, his best novel. In this novel he describes the career of two completely different characters: daughter of rich businessman and a shrewd (šru:d) chytrý, inteligentný) Becky Sharp. Thackeray also attacked snobbery mercilessly in a collection of papers published originally in Punch and later collected as The book of Snobs.

BRONTE sisters

Charlotte, Emily, Anne. Their childhood was not happy at all. They were six children in the family and as their mothers died young, four of the girls were sent to a boarding school, where two of them died. Charlotte and Emily were then taken home because their aunt took care of the whole family. All three girls liked to read, they also read several newspapers. The Emily was the shyest of them. They all had inferiority complex, which was probably a result of their isolation and of the fact they were not rich and were not well dressed. Charlotte and Emily went to Brussels to learn French and some German. They were unhappy there. They were older than the other girls and shy, and that isolated them. For Charlotte it was an important part of her life and work. In her novels The Professor and Villette she described their life there. They stayed in Brussels for nine month. Their aunt fell ill and they returned. But their aunt died. Their lives at home were miserable. They decided to publish a volume  of poems under pseudonyms. Emily”s were the best. The Charlotte published her novel JANE EYRE, in which she described her terrible experience at the boarding school. Emily wrote Wuthering Heights – has a romantic plot but is realistic in scenary and characters.

THOMAS HARDY – Tess of the D”Urbevilles. Influence by Emile Zola, he is the most important representative of the naturalistic trend in English l. Poor in his early life, Hardy had a deep understanding of the difficulties of poor country people, he was not afraid of criticizing the aristocracy and middle-class. In his works he concentates mostly on the inner personal life and struggles of the people living in the country.

OSKAR WILDE was born in Dublin into a family of an outstanding doctor and studied in Dublin and Oxford. So he refused using art for depicting social and political problems. Following the success of his comedies, Wilde was lionized by London society. In 1895 he was sentenced to two years”imprisonmet  for homosexuality. He came out of prison as a broken man and afterwards was living in France where he soon died. Under the influence of French literature Wilde wrote The Picture of Dorian Gray, a decadent but stylistically perfect novel. The Happy Prince. He shows his profound sympathy for the poor and unhappy.

ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON – His famous Treasure Island  became popular only after it had been republished. As he suffered of his tuberculosis, he traveled extensively for the sake of his health.

SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE – is called the father of the English detective story. He wrote novels and short stories about a genuine detective Sherlock Holmes whose brilliant deduction and perfect manners of an English gentleman.




ELIZABETH BARRET BROWNING – was an outstanding Victorian poetess. She published Poems including the poem The Cry of the Children  in which she protested vehemently against the practice of employing children in factories and mines. She met Robert Browning and later on she became his wife. She dedicated to him her collections of love sonnets, Sonnets from the Portuguese.


The Twentieth century

The rapid technological progress, the invention of cars and aero planes,  gave the world new means of travel and also new means of mass slaughter in both world wars. All those events caused  the growth of an entirely new generation of young people, who with the new opportunities of travel eluded the guidance of the older generation and quickly freed themselves from the Victorian inheritance.

RUDYARD KIPLING – represents the “literature of deed”, with his belief in man”s activity and optimistic views of the system. He wrote many short stories dealing with India, the jungle and its beasts and the sea. In some of his stories e.g. Plain Tales from the Hills he even shows clearly his contempt for the native people. Nowaday The Jungle Book and The Second Jungle Book are widely popular as children”s reading. R. Kipling was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907.

WILIAM BUTLER YEATS –  was born in Dublin. His father was a celebrated painter. When he was 21 years old, he began to write poems, mostly under the influence of Shelley and Rossettti. But hen he took part in the nationalist movement in Dubliln and used images and myths from Irish folklore. His early study of Irish lore and legends resulted in Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry, The Celtic Twilight, and The Secret Rose, in which he discusssed his ideas of beauty, love and courage. His later poems, such as The Wild Swans at Coole, Michael Robartes and the Dancer, and others combine symbolicism and realism with irony.  In 1923 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.

GEORGE BERNARD SHAW – was born in Dublin. His father, from an old Scottish noble family was a public servant and his mother was a teacher of music.

He wrote Pygmalion, a satire on high society. Ceasar and Cleopatra

JOHN GALSWORTHY – he was a representative of the so-called social novel. He was born into a wealthy bourgeois family in Surrey and studied at Harrow and Oxfordn. He became a lawyer, but devoted himself mainly to literature. Nobel Prize in 1932.  With his next book, The Man of Property,  G. opened a series of studies dealing with the life of the well-to-do middle classes where he satirized the selfishness of the modern theory of property as well as the family life that based on it. In The Forsyte Saga  and A Modern Comedy, G. describes the history of the Forsyte family from the late Victorian period to his own days.

THOMAS  STEARNS ELIOT  - he was American-born, although his poetry career and his personal sympathies were English. He attended Harvard University, then he continued in Paris and at Oxford University.The Waste Land  his most famous work. The poem depicts modern society and modern European culture as “wasteland” being too far from its spiritual roots. Human beings are isolated, and suxual relations are sterile and meaninglesss.


SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL – 4 volumes his memorial. He was very good politician. Very good painter. Allround personality. No sports.



G.B. SHaw, T.S. Eliot

WILLIAM SOMERSET MAUGHAM (mom) – he wrote traditionally realistic short-stories, novels and dramas. He was a brilliant story-teller, with a sense for paradoxes, black humour and irony, and a talented observer of English society. His autobiographical novel Of Human Bondage reveals the poverty of the working people. Its main character, a studen of medicne, disappointed by the evils of the world, finds life”s meaning in  his pure affection for an ordinary girl.  Maugham”s experience in Malaysia, India and China form the background to many of his works. His novel The Moon and Sixpence was inspired by the lief of a French artist, Paul Gaugiun, and Cakes and Ale is a satirical novel based on the life of Thomas Hardy.

SEAN O’CASEY – His plays mix tragedy and comedy.  His play The Shadow of a Gunman deals about the persecution of  Irish Republicans; The Plough and the Stars reflects the Dublin Uprising in 1916. O.Casey”s controversial plays raised political and cultural debates and polemic. After many sharp attacks by Irish Nationalists, O.Casey left Ireland for Britain, where he lived until his death.

JOHN MILLINGTON SYNGE -  in his plays, he, for the first time, presented Irish contemporary heroes, ordinary country people who struggle for their happiness and self-dignity. He created the poetry of the real speech of Irish peasants (pezent-roľník, sedliak, vidiečan). His first successful comedy was The Shadow of the Glen , it was followed by one-act drama Riders to the Sea.  The critics consider The Playboy of the Western World his best play.

HAROLD PINTER –The main representative of the “Theatre of the Absurd”  was born in London, where he studied acting. He became a member of a repertory company. His first play, The Room, was written for performance at the University of Bristol. Pinter”s first great success was The Birthday Party. Pinters later plays e.g. Old Times, No Man”s Land and Betrayal with repeated motifs of love relationship, homosexuality, unfaithfulness and treason. He was influenced of Kafka and Beckett.  His most important stage dramas are The Caretaker and The Homecoming.  The Caretaker is a play about two brothers, Mick and Astor, who live together. Astor brings home Davies, an old man whom he defended  in a row, and they make him caretaker of the house. When Astor leaves, Davies finds out that Mick is owner of the house and so he takes his part and sets Mick on Astor. Finally both brothers try to expel (ikspel – vyhnať) Davies.

SAMUEL BECKET – was born in Dublin, but later settled in Paris. He became James Joyce”s secretary and his profound admirer. He wrote his plays mostly in French and then translated them into English.  In his famous play Waiting for Godot  two tramps are waiting for Godot.



Apart from the “Theatre of the Absurd” , another trend in English drama was begun by John Osorne”s Look back in Anger, which was produce in 1956 at the Royal Court Theatre in Chelsea.

JOHN OSBORNE – belongs to the group known as the “Angry Young Men”. His anti-hero from the play Look Back in Anger , Jimmy Porter, a university graduate, is another angry man who refuses to make a compromise which could secure him a good position and a good life for his wife Alison and himself. He expresses the disgust and disillusionment of the post-war generation that had believed in the promised of the pos-war generation that had believed in the promises of Labour Party in 1945.  His dissafisfaction is directed mostly at his wife, Alison, a passive and submissive woman. He cannot forgive her coming from a higher social class.Jimmy”s anger is too wide and involves everything in society, it is also caused by his inability to make something positive in his llife.  Hies angry rhetoric seems now rather egoistic, neurotic and not so persuasive, but in the 1950s the play was a real breakthrough presenting a new type of drama and anti-hero. He leads a vegetative life and almost loses his vife. When she comes back to him, they start a new life, but on inferior terms, as they cannot understand each other any more. Though the reader is able to see the reason form Jimmy”s discontent, he is not willing to agree with his whining selfpity and self-dramatization.

JOHN BRAINE – Room at the Top, his first novel – tried to reveal the forces which regulate the life of a young man in a class society. He depicts the life of a young, educated, and ambitious clerk who desperately wants to advance in his career. In the hypocritical British democracy this is very difficult for a man from a working-class family. Joe Lampton succeeds in gaining his position only thanks to the love of Susan Brown, a rich manufacturer”s daughter, and the convenient suicide of Alice, a woman who loved him. 

KINGSLEY AMIS – Lucky Jim. Amis depicts the situation in a small university. Only a piece of luck enables Jim Dixon to become a lecturer in medieval history. He tries to keep his post at he university, but everything turns out wrong. He is invited to the house of a professor, offends him, gets drunk, and then gets into a row with his son Bertrand, from whom he wins Margaret, a beautiful girl. Finally during his own lecture he parodies all the eminent professors at th university. He is dismissed, but happy with Margaret. Then he finds employment in the house of a rich man, Amis mocks the pseudoscholarly society at the university, and although all the scenes are very funny, they are never over-exaggerated.  Then he wrote Take a Girl Like You, One Fat Englishman. 

JOHN WAIN – Hurry, On Down



The poets who decide about 1913 nto to describe the world on paper in the ordinary way. The chief imagists: Richard Aldington, Siegried Sassoon. He came home from the First World War an invalid and devoted all his strength to a poetical campaign against war such he saw as mass slaughter, and not as the heroic deeds of men anxious to give their lives for their coutry.  Sassoon wrote angry poems about the war – Counter Attack.

In prose James Joyce –  was born and educated in Dublin. Dissatisfied with the narrowness and bigotry of Irish Catholicism, as he saw it, he went to Pariss for a year and after returning to Dublin for a short time he left Ireland for ever. He spent the rest of his life abroad, mainly in Trieste, Zurich and Paris, supporting himself by teaching English. Ulysses is Joyce”s masterpiece.


Other writers of the 20th centruy

Graham Greene

Aldious Huxley

Archibald cronin

Evely wAUGH



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