The renaissance 1485 – 1625 The English Renaissance was a cultural and artistic movement



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SYMBOLS AND MOTIFS

1.Light and darkness

One of the most often repeated image patterns in the play involves the interplay of light and darkness. The integration of the language indicates an important motif overall. Romeo compares Juliet to light throughout the play. Upon first sight of her, Romeo exclaims that she teaches "the torches to burn bright" (I.v.43). She is also "the sun" who can "kill the envious moon" (II.ii.3), and later in this scene, Shakespeare says that her eyes are like "[t]wo of the fairest stars in all the heaven" (II.ii.15). But hers is a light that shows best against the darkness; she "hangs upon the cheek of night / As a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear" (I.v.44-45).

Romeo is also compared with a light that illuminates the darkness; if Juliet dies, she wants Romeo cut "in little stars/And he will make the face of heaven so fine/That all the world will be in love with night/? And pay no worship to the garish sun" (III.ii.22-25). This quote reminds us that their light shines most brightly in the dark — that it is a muted glow associated primarily with stars, torches, and the dawn, rather than with sunlight, which is almost obscenely bright.

Like their love, darkness is associated with mystery, emotion, and imagination. In fact, the day works against them. At the end of their honeymoon night, Romeo says, "More light and light: more dark and dark our woes" (III.v.36); they must part before the light arrived so that he is not caught and killed.

2.Nighttime

The combination of light and dark makes an interesting motif in Romeo and Juliet. But for our young lovers, the nighttime itself is an important motif as well. The evening hours holds all of the significant moments for Romeo and Juliet. They meet; they pledge their love; they elope; they commit suicide.

Nighttime represents a time when a person can let go of their inhibitions. The same hold true for our title characters. They have a boldness at night that doesn't always show up in the day; this is especially true for Romeo. The night provides privacy and place away from the public's prying eyes, where Romeo and Juliet's love can blossom.

3.Poison

Poison, both sleep inducing and lethal, is the instrument of Romeo and Juliet's deaths. (Technically Juliet stabbed herself, but that never would have happened if not for the sleeping potion.) While poison has a literal purpose in the play, it's also a symbol. The poison symbolizes the Capulet and Montague feud. Not only is the feud deadly in itself, — recall Mercutio's death — it's also the catalyst for Romeo and Juliet's double suicide.



THE PURITAN, RESTORATION AND AUGUSTAN AGE

1625 – 1776

During this period there were 3 religious groups :



  1. The Church of England – the official state Church established by Henry VIII during the Reformation

  2. The Roman Catholic Church ( Catholics)

  3. Puritans, Presbyterians and Dissenters – also known as nonconformists; they had very strict moral principles and believed that the way to salvation lay in a life of hard work and avoidance of all forms of frivolous entertainment.

Charles I believed he had a divine right to rule and his acts were answerable only to God. (the divine right of kings). In 1629 he dissolved the Parliament. When the Parliament demanded control of the army in 1642, Charles refused him, and this led to the Civil War which ended with a Puritan victory. After that the Commonwealth was founded by the Puritan Oliver Cromwell. After 20 years Charles II made possible the Restoration = when the system of government returned to what it had been before the Cromwellian revolution.

During this period took place two events that disturbed the life of the city:



  • The plague in 1665

  • The great Fire of 1666

As the 18th century dawned, two of England’s historic conflicts seemed to have been resolved:

  • The Church of England established as the dominant Church in the land

  • Parliament had gained power at the expense of the monarchy.

The 17th century was a time of constant religious and political fighting and feuding, an age that stabilized the relationships between Church and state, and between Parliament and monarchy.

During 1702 – 1776 the power of the monarch was limited in favour of the Parliament by the Glorious revolution and there were two political parties:

  1. The Tory party which was supported by the old aristocracy and the Church of England

  2. The Whigs party which was supported by the emerging middle classes

THE LITERARY BACKGROUND

The greatest 17th century poet was JOHN MILTON, who belongs in spirit to the Puritan age of Cromwell’s Commonwealth, which he supported fervently. His masterpiece was PARADISE LOST.



ROBERT BURTON, SIR THOMAS BROWNE and JOHN BUNYAN are the most representative prose writers of the period. JOHN BUNYAN and his masterpiece THE PILGRIM’S PROGRESS was the writer who most successfully captured the Puritan spirit.

THE SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTION which took place after the Restoration, also played an important part in creating a new and clear, concise prose style. EMPIRICISM – the idea that scientific assertions had to be tested by experiment – was becoming increasingly important.

The second half of the 17th century saw the emergence of a new literary form : THE DIARY.



AUGUSTAN LITERATURE

The 18th century brought with it a general desire for order, clarity and stability. Writers of the period drew inspiration from the Latin poets Virgil, Horace and Ovid who, under the patronage of Emperor Augustus, created the golden age of classical literature. English writers tried to imitate the Latin poets, and the early and mid-eighteenth century became known as THE AUGUSTAN AGE. The greatest poet of the Augustan Age was ALEXANDER POPE.

The 18th century is also best remembered for the development of prose-writing. The early part of the century witnessed a dramatic rise in prose output in the form of journalism, essay writing, political satire and pamphleteering.

Five dominant literary figures – DANIEL DEFOE, SAMUEL RICHARDSON, HENRY FIELDING, JONATHAN SWIFT and LAURENCE STERNE – moulded fictional prose into a literary form that appealed to the 18th century reader. In doing so they created the dominant literary genre of the next three centuries: THE MODERN NOVEL.

In the second half of the 18th century, the admiration for the classical ideals which had characterized the Augustan Age began to wane (a fi in declin):


  • The grandeur, rationalism and elevated sentiments of the early part of the century gave way to a simpler, more genuine form of expression

  • There was a renewed interest in nature and the simple rural life.

ROBINSON CRUSOE

CONTEXT


Daniel Defoe was born in 1660, in London and witnessed two of the greatest disasters of the seventeenth century: a recurrence of the plague and the Great Fire of London in 1666. These events may have shaped his fascination with catastrophes and survival in his writing. Defoe developed a taste for travel that lasted throughout his life. His fiction reflects this interest; his characters Moll Flanders and Robinson Crusoe both change their lives by voyaging far from their native England. Defoe attended a respected school in Dorking, where he was an excellent student, but as a Presbyterian, he was forbidden to attend Oxford or Cambridge. He entered a dissenting institution called Morton’s Academy and considered becoming a Presbyterian minister. Though he abandoned this plan, his Protestant values endured throughout his life despite discrimination and persecution, and these values are expressed in Robinson Crusoe.  Robinson Crusoe was based on the true story of a shipwrecked seaman named Alexander Selkirk and was passed off as history.  His focus on the actual conditions of everyday life and avoidance of the courtly and the heroic made Defoe a revolutionary in English literature and helped define the new genre of the novel. Stylistically, Defoe was a great innovator. Dispensing with the ornate style associated with the upper classes, Defoe used the simple, direct, fact-based style of the middle classes, which became the new standard for the English novel. With Robinson Crusoe’s theme of solitary human existence, Defoe paved the way for the central modern theme of alienation and isolation. 

ANALYSIS OF MAJOR CHARACTERS

1.Robinson Crusoe

While he is no flashy hero or grand epic adventurer, Robinson Crusoe displays character traits that have won him the approval of generations of readers. His perseverance in spending months making a canoe, and in practicing pottery making until he gets it right, is praiseworthy. Additionally, his resourcefulness in building a home, dairy, grape arbor, country house, and goat stable from practically nothing is clearly remarkable. Crusoe’s business instincts are just as considerable as his survival instincts: he manages to make a fortune in Brazil despite a twenty-eight-year absence and even leaves his island with a nice collection of gold. Moreover, Crusoe is never interested in portraying himself as a hero in his own narration. He does not boast of his courage in quelling the mutiny, and he is always ready to admit unheroic feelings of fear or panic, as when he finds the footprint on the beach. Crusoe prefers to depict himself as an ordinary sensible man, never as an exceptional hero.

But Crusoe’s admirable qualities must be weighed against the flaws in his character. Crusoe seems incapable of deep feelings, as shown by his cold account of leaving his family—he worries about the religious consequences of disobeying his father, but never displays any emotion about leaving. Though he is generous toward people, as when he gives gifts to his sisters and the captain, Crusoe reveals very little tender or sincere affection in his dealings with them.

His insistence on dating events makes sense to a point, but it ultimately ends up seeming obsessive and irrelevant when he tells us the date on which he grinds his tools but neglects to tell us the date of a very important event like meeting Friday. Perhaps his impulse to record facts carefully is not a survival skill, but an irritating sign of his neurosis.

Finally, while not boasting of heroism, Crusoe is nonetheless very interested in possessions, power, and prestige.  His teaching Friday to call him “Master,” even before teaching him the words for “yes” or “no,” seems obnoxious even under the racist standards of the day, as if Crusoe needs to hear the ego-boosting word spoken as soon as possible. Overall, Crusoe’s virtues tend to be private: his industry, resourcefulness, and solitary courage make him an exemplary individual. But his vices are social, and his urge to subjugate others is highly objectionable. In bringing both sides together into one complex character, Defoe gives us a fascinating glimpse into the successes, failures, and contradictions of modern man.

2.Friday

Probably the first nonwhite character to be given a realistic, individualized, and humane portrayal in the English novel, Friday has a huge literary and cultural importance. If Crusoe represents the first colonial mind in fiction, then Friday represents not just a Caribbean tribesman, but all the natives of America, Asia, and Africa who would later be oppressed in the age of European imperialism. At the moment when Crusoe teaches Friday to call him “Master” Friday becomes an enduring political symbol of racial injustice in a modern world critical of imperialist expansion.

Aside from his importance to our culture, Friday is a key figure within the context of the novel. In many ways he is the most vibrant character in Robinson Crusoe, much more charismatic and colorful than his master. Indeed, Defoe at times underscores the contrast between Crusoe’s and Friday’s personalities, as when Friday, in his joyful reunion with his father, exhibits far more emotion toward his family than Crusoe. Whereas Crusoe never mentions missing his family or dreams about the happiness of seeing them again, Friday jumps and sings for joy when he meets his father, and this emotional display makes us see what is missing from Crusoe’s stodgy heart. Friday’s expression of loyalty in asking Crusoe to kill him rather than leave him is more heartfelt than anything Crusoe ever says or does. Crusoe does not seem to value intimacy with humans much, but he does say that he loves Friday, which is a remarkable disclosure. It is the only time Crusoe makes such an admission in the novel, since he never expresses love for his parents, brothers, sisters, or even his wife. The mere fact that an Englishman confesses more love for an illiterate Caribbean ex-cannibal than for his own family suggests the appeal of Friday’s personality. Crusoe may bring Friday Christianity and clothing, but Friday brings Crusoe emotional warmth and a vitality of spirit that Crusoe’s own European heart lacks.

THEMES

1.The ambivalence of mastery

Crusoe’s success in mastering his situation, overcoming his obstacles, and controlling his environment shows the condition of mastery in a positive light, at least at the beginning of the novel. Crusoe lands in an inhospitable environment and makes it his home. His taming and domestication of wild goats and parrots with Crusoe as their master illustrates his newfound control. Moreover, Crusoe’s mastery over nature makes him a master of his fate and of himself. Early in the novel, he frequently blames himself for disobeying his father’s advice or blames the destiny that drove him to sea. But in the later part of the novel, Crusoe stops viewing himself as a passive victim and strikes a new note of self-determination. In building a home for himself on the island, he finds that he is master of his life—he suffers a hard fate and still finds prosperity.

But this theme of mastery becomes more complex and less positive after Friday’s arrival, when the idea of mastery comes to apply more to unfair relationships between humans. In Chapter XXIII, Crusoe teaches Friday the word “[m]aster” even before teaching him “yes” and “no,” and indeed he lets him “know that was to be [Crusoe’s] name.” Crusoe never entertains the idea of considering Friday a friend or equal—for some reason, superiority comes instinctively to him. We further question Crusoe’s right to be called “[m]aster” when he later refers to himself as “king” over the natives and Europeans, who are his “subjects.” In short, while Crusoe seems praiseworthy in mastering his fate, the praiseworthiness of his mastery over his fellow humans is more doubtful. Defoe explores the link between the two in his depiction of the colonial mind.

2.The necessity of repentance

Crusoe’s experiences constitute not simply an adventure story in which thrilling things happen, but also a moral tale illustrating the right and wrong ways to live one’s life. This moral and religious dimension of the tale is indicated in the Preface, which states that Crusoe’s story is being published to instruct others in God’s wisdom, and one vital part of this wisdom is the importance of repenting one’s sins. While it is important to be grateful for God’s miracles, as Crusoe is when his grain sprouts, it is not enough simply to express gratitude or even to pray to God, as Crusoe does several times with few results. Crusoe needs repentance most; Crusoe believes that his major sin is his rebellious behavior toward his father, which he refers to as his “original sin,” akin to Adam and Eve’s first disobedience of God. This biblical reference also suggests that Crusoe’s exile from civilization represents Adam and Eve’s expulsion from Eden.

For Crusoe, repentance consists of acknowledging his wretchedness and his absolute dependence on the Lord. This admission marks a turning point in Crusoe’s spiritual consciousness, and is almost a born-again experience for him. After repentance, he complains much less about his sad fate and views the island more positively. Later, when Crusoe is rescued and his fortune restored, he compares himself to Job, who also regained divine favor. Ironically, this view of the necessity of repentance ends up justifying sin: Crusoe may never have learned to repent if he had never sinfully disobeyed his father in the first place. Thus, as powerful as the theme of repentance is in the novel, it is nevertheless complex and ambiguous.

3.The importance of self-awareness

Crusoe’s arrival on the island does not make him revert to a brute existence controlled by animal instincts, and, unlike animals, he remains conscious of himself at all times. Indeed, his island existence actually deepens his self-awareness as he withdraws from the external social world and turns inward. The idea that the individual must keep a careful reckoning of the state of his own soul is a key point in the Presbyterian doctrine that Defoe took seriously all his life. We see that in his normal day-to-day activities, Crusoe keeps accounts of himself enthusiastically and in various ways. 

Crusoe obsessively keeps a journal to record his daily activities, even when they amount to nothing more than finding a few pieces of wood on the beach or waiting inside while it rains. Crusoe feels the importance of staying aware of his situation at all times. We can also sense Crusoe’s impulse toward self-awareness in the fact that he teaches his parrot to say the words, “Poor Robin Crusoe. . . . Where have you been?” This sort of self-examining thought is natural for anyone alone on a desert island, but it is given a strange intensity when we recall that Crusoe has spent months teaching the bird to say it back to him. Crusoe teaches nature itself to voice his own self-awareness.



MOTIFS

1.Counting and measuring

Crusoe is a careful note-taker whenever numbers and quantities are involved. Counting and measuring underscore Crusoe’s practical, businesslike character and his hands-on approach to life. But Defoe sometimes hints at the futility of Crusoe’s measuring—as when the carefully measured canoe cannot reach water or when his obsessively kept calendar is thrown off by a day of oversleeping. Defoe may be subtly poking fun at the urge to quantify, showing us that, in the end, everything Crusoe counts never really adds up to much and does not save him from isolation.



2.Eating

One of Crusoe’s first concerns after his shipwreck is his food supply. Even while he is still wet from the sea in Chapter V, he frets about not having “anything to eat or drink to comfort me.” He soon provides himself with food, and indeed each new edible item marks a new stage in his mastery of the island, so that his food supply becomes a symbol of his survival. His securing of goat meat staves off immediate starvation, and his discovery of grain is viewed as a miracle, like manna from heaven. His cultivation of raisins, almost a luxury food for Crusoe, marks a new comfortable period in his island existence. In a way, these images of eating convey Crusoe’s ability to integrate the island into his life, just as food is integrated into the body to let the organism grow and prosper. But no sooner does Crusoe master the art of eating than he begins to fear being eaten himself. The cannibals transform Crusoe from the consumer into a potential object to be consumed. Life for Crusoe always illustrates this eat or be eaten philosophy, since even back in Europe he is threatened by man-eating wolves. Eating is an image of existence itself, just as being eaten signifies death for Crusoe.



3.Ordeals at sea

Crusoe’s encounters with water in the novel are often associated not simply with hardship, but with a kind of symbolic ordeal, or test of character. First, the storm off the coast of Yarmouth frightens Crusoe’s friend away from a life at sea, but does not deter Crusoe. Then, in his first trading voyage, he proves himself a capable merchant, and in his second one, he shows he is able to survive enslavement. His escape from his Moorish master and his successful encounter with the Africans both occur at sea. Most significantly, Crusoe survives his shipwreck after a lengthy immersion in water. But the sea remains a source of danger and fear even later, when the cannibals arrive in canoes. The Spanish shipwreck reminds Crusoe of the destructive power of water and of his own good fortune in surviving it. All the life-testing water imagery in the novel has subtle associations with the rite of baptism, by which Christians prove their faith and enter a new life saved by Christ.



SYMBOLS

1.The footprint

Crusoe’s shocking discovery of a single footprint on the sand in Chapter XVIII is one of the most famous moments in the novel, and it symbolizes our hero’s conflicted feelings about human companionship. Crusoe has earlier confessed how much he misses companionship, yet the evidence of a man on his island sends him into a panic. Immediately he interprets the footprint negatively, as the print of the devil or of an aggressor. He never for a moment entertains hope that it could belong to an angel or another European who could rescue or befriend him. This instinctively negative and fearful attitude toward others makes us consider the possibility that Crusoe may not want to return to human society after all, and that the isolation he is experiencing may actually be his ideal state.

2.The cross

Concerned that he will “lose [his] reckoning of time” in Chapter VII, Crusoe marks the passing of days “with [his] knife upon a large post, in capital letters, and making it into a great cross . . . set[s] it up on the shore where [he] first landed. . . .” The large size and capital letters show us how important this cross is to Crusoe as a timekeeping device and thus also as a way of relating himself to the larger social world where dates and calendars still matter. But the cross is also a symbol of his own new existence on the island, just as the Christian cross is a symbol of the Christian’s new life in Christ after baptism, an immersion in water like Crusoe’s shipwreck experience. Yet Crusoe’s large cross seems somewhat blasphemous in making no reference to Christ. Instead, it is a memorial to Crusoe himself, underscoring how completely he has become the center of his own life.

3.Crusoe’s bower

On a scouting tour around the island, Crusoe discovers a delightful valley in which he decides to build a country retreat or “bower” in Chapter XII. This bower contrasts sharply with Crusoe’s first residence, since it is built not for the practical purpose of shelter or storage, but simply for pleasure: “because I was so enamoured of the place.” Crusoe is no longer focused solely on survival, which by this point in the novel is more or less secure. Now, for the first time since his arrival, he thinks in terms of “pleasantness.” Thus, the bower symbolizes a radical improvement in Crusoe’s attitude toward his time on the island. Island life is no longer necessarily a disaster to suffer through, but may be an opportunity for enjoyment—just as, for the Presbyterian, life may be enjoyed only after hard work has been finished and repentance achieved.

GULLIVER’S TRAVELS

CONTEXT

Like almost all the literary men of his time J. Swift, was involved in the struggle between the Whigs and the Tories. His literary work include:



  • Literary satire – The battle of the books – on the controversy between modern and ancient writers
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