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Lecture 4

EN 3191 Lecture Notes - Lecture 4: Moll Davis, Aphra Behn, Middle Ages

Course Code
EN 3191
Doug Freake

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Wednesday, May 8th, 2019
Lecture 4: John Wilmot
Title: The Second Earl of Rochester
England Reformation: going back and forth from Catholicism to Protestantism until
finally Elizabeth I who reigned from 1558-1603. It was a very long time to be in
power and she converted England to Protestantism. She is known as the virgin
The throne pasted to her nephew: Mary Stuart’s—queen of Scots son James who
was already the king of Scotland also inherited the English throne. He did not unify
England and Scotland as such but they were provisionally unified under his rule.
Background: Restoration England
1625: James I dies and his son Charles I takes the throne
He ruled fairly well
Excitement when he took the throne because he was a male monarch and he already
had three children when he had taken the throne.
Henry just like Arthur died before reaching maturity and Charles I was forced to
take the throne.
1642: Civil War begins
1649: Charles I executed
He was not a good monarch and ran into various problems and had confrontations
with the monarch
England also had a revolution during which their king was beheaded.
1649-1660: Interregnum: the period between kings; Commonwealth of England (republic);
Oliver Cromwell
During the interregnum, the puritans took power
The reformation was the movement from Catholicism to Protestantism. It did not
stop there. Protestantism immediately hatched a number of various branches. The
most important for England was the puritans. The puritans were an extremist
branch of Protestantism. They pushed for further reformation. The puritans were
anti-sexuality and anti-theatre, anti-fashion, anti-excesses in clothing.
For 11 years England was a republic that was primarily run by the Puritan fashion
Public theatres were closed during this time and it was a period of censorship
Their aim of their revolution was the quite opposite which was to elevate
censorship and gain freedom but they achieved the opposite during this period.
In this poetry, we see the reaction against the puritans and the reaction against the
1660: Charles II takes the throne; monarchy restored
Even during the interregnum there were a lot of people that supported the
Monarchy is restored
Charles II brings with him a lot of continental influences, he opens theatres and he
reverses a lot of censorship.
Charles II was exiled because his father was executed
1660: Theatres re-open after 18-year Puritan ban

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Charles II: 1630-1685
Charles II was a great lover of theatre (and of actresses: he had children by Moll
Davis and Nell Gwyn), and generally encouraged hedonism and sexual adventure at
He was also a (potential) catholic. He did not allow that to influence his internal
policy. Whether he was or was not a catholic did not become a problem during his
Charles II the Merry Monarch
He had numerous, numerous children with his mistresses’
Even the illegitimate children received titles but they couldn’t have inherited the
He was considered a weak monarch because much of his energy was put to
maintaining his mistresses and it he couldn’t focus on his political advances.
Restoration Drama:
Restoration is the restoration of monarchy. 1660 to the end of the 17th century. This
drama is much more interested in the comedy itself rather than finding the good in
people. It targets human flaws and it is often very vicious
Tends to address social problems in some fashion
Has no “good” characters, only characters who are more or less flawed
Frequently vicious toward both its characters and the audience
Restoration Comedy is known as “comedy of manners”comedy that specifically
focuses on ways to behave and speak in refined society. It often satirizes both the
country bunkums—those who don’t know how to behave in society and the
pretensions of a particular social class, focusing on witty dialogue and play on
John Wilmot: An Overview
Less known than William Shakespeare but still very well known in their own right
Born in 1647, to a Puritan mother and a father who was a royalist general under
Charles I
He is simply taking the fashion of witty/sexual writing at the time to the logics of its
Wilmot’s father supported Charles II, and was granted a title (Earl of Rochester) in
gratitude. After restoration, Charles II also granted John a substantial pension
His family only recently belonged to the aristocracy
Came to court when he was 17, took part in the Second Dutch War and married a
heiress Elizabeth Malet (a very romantic story; I recommend the 2004 film The
o Romantic story, they fell in love and her family was against it for all sorts of
reasonsrecent aristocrat, not very wealthy and his reputation. She insisted
on marrying him and it was a fairly happy marriage
Thing to note about Wilmot is that he isn’t a very straight forward person and he
was involved in a various number of scandals
Repeatedly banished from the court in 1670s and was almost brought to trial for
disrupting the peace in 1676 (and after this his reputation seems to have been
irreparably damaged). He was almost brought to trial because he was involved with

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a public altercation with the police of peace and they were killed in that altercation.
He was never brought to trial because he was an aristocrat but his reputation was
badly damaged.
In the last years of the 1670s, showed interest in religious philosophy and became
friends with Gilbert Burnet (who would later become bishop of Salisbury)
Became seriously ill and died in 1680
Refer to the title of the person as the territory they are from. He is John Wilmot but
he is also Rochester
Aphra Behn: The Disappointment
Considered the first professional female writer in English. Doesn’t mean she is the
first English writer
Her origins are obscure: she was probably born in 1640s, and there at least two very
different theories about her travelling to Surinam at some point (based on her
nowcanonical short novel Oroonko published in 1688). She was not an
aristocratic. She had very humble origins.
Returned to England in 1664 and was briefly married
Was part of Charles II’s secret service in the Netherlands in 1666, but apparently,
was not rewarded for it. Also, speculated that she was a spy but that didn’t pay very
Had to turn to professional writing to support herself and is held to be the first
professional woman writer in England.
Produced a number of plays that were widely performed and also produced poetry
Two writers that were writing roughly at the same time and they were both writing
for different reasons and they voice were also very distinct.
Some Literary Terms
Parody: “a mocking imitation of the style of a literary work or works, ridiculing the
stylistic habits of an author or school by exaggerated mimicry. Parody is related to
burlesque in its application of serious style to ridiculous subjects to satire in its
punishment of eccentricities and even to criticism in its analysis of style.
o In order to parody something, you need to understand it in great detail
o Humour takes conventions in a particular genre and mocking themthis is
exactly what parody does
o It doesn’t mock a particular work by openly making fun of it but by taking the
conventions that are known to the audience and making them a hyperbole
Burlesque: A kind of parody that ridicules some serious literary work either by
treating its solemn subject in an undignified style or by applying its elevated style to
a trivial subject
o Erectile dysfunction is a serious topic and it is being made fun of.
The Disappointment:
What is the genre of the disappointment? What are some of the features of the
o Two people are having sex but they are out in nature
o Their names are significant: Cloris and Lisander. They are defiantly not
English names. They are conventional names that are applied to Shepard and
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