By Hans-Peter Wagner
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Additional resources for A History of British Irish and American Literature
He barely escaped imprisonment. Blind, half-fugitive, and disillusioned, he turned to compose some of the most powerful poetic works in the English language, Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained. Paradise Lost was completed in 1665, but held up by the Great Plague and the Great Fire in London, it did not appear until 1667. The subject of this epic is the fall of man. Milton created a new kind of English for this poem, a blank verse which is highly artificial and removed from everyday speech. Yet the diction, however Latinized it may be, is appropriate for the subject and contributes, together with the wealth and freshness of Milton's imagination, to the magnificence of the poem.
Thus Brutus, in Julius Caesar, may be the most righteous of Romans, but Cassius knows his weak points and persuades him into killing Caesar. THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY 33 Shakespeare's last plays, written after his retirement to Stratford in 1610, are of a very different character. Cymbeline, The Tempest, and The Winter's Tale show a soul at rest with itself and with the world and may reflect something of the comfort Shakespeare found in his daughters Judith and Susannah. The Tempest is a romantic drama that has inspired numerous other works of art, including an incomplete opera by Mozart and music by Berlioz and Tchaikovsky.
The central figure of the play is Horner, an ironic libertine who pretends to be impotent in order to seduce his victims the more easily. " The theme of cuckoldry is thus dominant in this play, as in many other Restoration comedies. Wycherley's satire is founded on his cynical mockery of human puppets pursuing illusory pleasures. The following decade saw some plays by Thomas Shadwell (1640-92), who rejected the principles and conventions of the Restoration comedy and tended more to Jonson's comedy of humours.