A Student's Guide to Literature (ISI Guides to the Major by R.V. Young

By R.V. Young

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Sample text

His major works are, predictably, learned and overtly engaged with the leading issues of his society. The case of Milton shows us the kind of works that the “unlearned” Shakespeare would have produced had he enjoyed the extensive formal education and worldly advantages that disdainers of “the man from Stratford” think he should have had in order to write his plays and sonnets—which in fact are rather popular and earthy in tone and style in contrast to Milton’s highly intellectual and scholarly poetry.

The central character’s generally futile efforts to dwell in the enchanted realm of unfettered fancy are thus instrumental in laying down the realistic boundaries of the workaday world AUSTEN, Jane (1775-1817), was the daughter of a clergyman of the Church of England. She never married and lived with her family throughout her apparently uneventful life, thus giving the lie to the notion that powerful writers must have wide experience of the world, extensive education, and deal with great events (she never mentions the French Revolution or Napoleon).

Faustus and at least a few of Ben Jonson’s comedies—for example, Volpone and The Alchemist—should not be missed. Seventeenth-century France boasts its great triumvirate: the tragedians Corneille and Racine and the comedian Molière. For Corneille, Le Cid is the obvious choice; for Racine, Andromache or Phaedra; for Molière, The Misanthrope or Tartuffe. Spanish Golden-Age drama— the theatre of Cervantes’ contemporaries—is an undiscovered treasure for most Americans. Lope de Vega is notable for his prodigious fecundity rather than for any one outstanding play.

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