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ENGC48H3 Lecture Notes - De Rerum Natura, The Virtuoso, Lucretius

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Steven Minuk

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Restoration Theatre
Duke's company was given rights to Shakespeare's plays
Restoration stage comedy is notorious for its sexual innuendo, a feature encouraged by
Charles II himself whose Court was scandalized by sexual debauchery
Period of meriment where sexual liberty, freedom of expression has begun
Female actresses are now allowed to participate in theatre – no longer men playing
women's roles.
Philosophical Currents in 17C England
Virtuouso by Chadwell?
Background information around the time during which Virtuoso was written
Emergence of philosophies which question the traditional privilege given to a Christian
worldview and a single deity
Philosophers like Hobbes, Locke, Spinosa etc.
A reaction against Christianity and the hold it has on the scientific and academic world.
There is also a revival of works by Epicurus and Lucretius; revival of books; revival of
Greek and Roman philosophy stating that the world is just atoms constantly fluxuating.
Epicureus wrote De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things)
Opening scene of Virtuoso has a character quoting from this book
1650 – Thomas Hobbes publishes Leviathan
He is saying that we need to listen to the king first, and then the church second in order
to maintain a stable society. If we let our sovereign run the society, it will prevent men's
conflicting views and violence that may errupt as a result. In the past there has been
violence and bloodshed, and therefore this is his solution to the problem.
Other philosophers are branded athesists for questioning the Christian ethos: Pierre
Gassendi, Renee Descartes, John Locke.
17C Science – Natural Philosophy
Science was called Natural Philosophy back then
Now we have very rigid divisions between the humanities and the sciences, which did not
exist back then
Scientific Revolution takes place during this period and it is part of the emerging identity of
science as a discipline with its own paradaigms and language
This is satirized in both Virtuoso and The Alchemist
The role of the scientist was still un-established & suffered from public suspicion and
There was also this belief/suspicion that this new science was a kind of atheism which is
why Virtuoso begins with a reading from Lucretius
Science and Religion
Not clear whether philosophy is being substituted for Christianity in the Virtuoso
New scientific discoveries were made by Copernicus
People are branded heretics for accepting this viewpoint instead of supporting Christianity
So philosophers become sensitive about offending the Anglican church
The Royal Society
This was the 1st scientific society in England and still exists today
The Microscope and Telescope
Since satires deal with exaggeration, what is its implication with microscopes? Microscopes
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