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English literature

English literature

The Middle Ages

The oldest literatury monument of the Anglo-Saxon period is the old Germanic legend about Beowulf. During these ages Roman Catholic Church was stongly criticised by John Wycliffe, a profesor of Oxford University. With his students he translated the Bible into English.

The Renaissance and Humanism

The most important person of this period was the author of Canterbury Tales – Geoffrey Chaucer. It’s a brilliant portrait of 30 pilgrims who travelled to Canterbury and each of them tells 4 stories. The greatest personality of these ages is William Shakespeare.

17th Century

John Milton is the main figure of this period. His masterpiece is Paradise Lost which is about the revolt of Satan against Heaven and God.

18th Century

Jonathan Swift’s most popular work is Gulliver’s Travels. Gulliver’s travelling through imaginary countries. Swift criticizes politics in England. Daniel Defoe was a politician, traveller and journalist. His most famous work is Robinson Crusoe. Robinson, shipwrecked on a lonely island.


Emphasis emotions and passions. Sir Walter Scott is a founder of historical novel. His romantic novels are Ivanhoe and Waverley. The best English romantic poets are William Wordsworth, Samuel Coleridge, Lord George Gordon Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Very popular is Byron’s main work Child Harold’s Pilgrimage.

19th Century - Victorian Age (Critical Realism)

Among the best authors of this period belong Emily Brontё and her novel Wuthering Heights and Charlotte Brontё with the novel Jane Eyre. Charles Dickens described poor people. His novels are David Copperfield and Oliver Twist. William Thackeray wrote novels against snobbery. His main novel is Vanity Fair. Robert Lewis Stevenson wrote romantic adventurous stories: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Treasure Island. Oscar Wilde was from Dublin. He wrote The Picture of Dorian Gray.

The First Half of the 20th Century

Kipling was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. He wrote short stories about India, the sea, the jungle and its animals – The Jungle Book. John Galsworthy won the Nobel Prize in 1932 – Forsyte Saga. James Joyce – Dubliners. George Bernard Shaw – Pygmalion, Widower’s Houses.

Contemporary Literature

William Golding, a Nobel Prize winner is famous for his Lord of Flies (A legyek ura). The other famous authors belong George Orwell and Agatha Christie.
Samuel Becket was also awarded the Nobel Prize. He’s important both for drama and prose. His famous play is Waiting for Godot.
William Shakespeare

He’s the greatest of all dramatists all over the world. He was born in Stradford-upon-Avon. In 1582 he married Anne Hathaway, who was 8 years older than William. They had two daughters, but he left his family and went to London. First he helped adapt or re-write older plays but later he started to write his own plays and he was successful. He went back to Stradford and lived quiet life with his family. He died on the same day as he was born.

Romeo and Juliet

It’s about the unhappy love and death of two youngsters, the only children of two powerful houses of Verona – the House of Montague and the House of Capulet. These houses hate each other and Romeo Montague meets Juliet Capulet at the ball. He fells in love with her and they ask Friar Laurence to marry them. Their love and marriage are secret and by an unfortunate coincidence Romeo kills Tybalt who was Juliet’s cousin. Prince of Verona sends Romeo to the exile outside the city and Juliet is forced to get married to a young nobleman called Paris. She asks Friar Laurence for help again and he gives her magic drops after which she fells asleep for several hours and looks as if she was dead. Romeo learns about Juliet’s death and hurries in a churchyard. He doesn’t know anything about the trick and kills himself. Soon after that Juliet wakes up and when she sees Romeo dead, she kills herself too. Both Montague and Capulet Houses reconciliate only after death of their beloved children.

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