THE PURITAN AGE: RIASSUNTO
The Commonwealth.Civil War: owing to his difficulties with Scotland,Charles was obliged to call a Parliament again in 1640.But this did not grant money;besides it passed important acts in opposition to the king.In 1641 the Commonsasked the king to relinquish control of all military, civil and religious affairs.The king refused and the Civil War broke out.
The monarchy was abolished with the House of Lords: England was proclaimed a COMMONWEALTH and a free state, with a unicameral Parliament, the Commons. In 1654 England was divided into 11 districts, ruled by Major Generals, and Oliver Cromwell was made Lord Protector of England and Ireland.
He reduced Scotland and Ireland to submission, revived English sea-power and reorganized the Navy. In 1651 he renewed the Navigation Acts, by which goods imported into England could only be carried by English ships. This fact led to a war with Holland, which had been master of the sea for a generation and had the greatest share of the cargo trade. The Dutch were defeated and obliged to accept the English terms.
Cromwell tried to diminish the power of the Army. The major part of people wanted to rivive the monarchy; the crown was offered to Cromwell but he refused it. When cromwell died , his son Richard became Protector, but he was not supported by the Army and was obliged to design. After 18 months of confusion, there wa sthe formation of a free Parliament, which restored the monarchy; the late King’s son, the future Charles II, was recalled from Paris, on condition that he allowed religious toleration. The return of Charles II from his exile marked the beginning of the Restoration Period.
THE PURITAN AGE: SOCIAL BACKGROUND
The puritan age. Social Background. Under Charles I, in England there was the religious clash between Puritans and Anglicans: this event become a social and political conflict.
The Puritans based their theories on Calvin’s teaching: they advocated more semplicità and moral rigour in the Chirch; they abolished what still seemed Catholic in the rituals, such as processions, music,ceremonies, etc. They were agains almost any form of amusement and prohibited Maypole dancing, horse racing and bear-baiting; besides, in 1642, they closed the theatres as improper places for honest people. They loved work for work’s sake, and considered the material success a sign of God’s grace, while poverty was seen as a crime. They dressed in a very simple way, and wore their hair cut short: their nickname was “Roundheads”.
The Anglicans wanted to mantain their religion as it had been established by Elizabeth. The members of the nobility still dressed in satin and velvet garments and wore elaborate plumed hats over their wigs or their natural curls. Since they were minly courtiers, they were usually called “Cavaliers”.
When the civil war broke out, they supported the king and were called “Royalists”,while the roundheads supported Parliament and were considered “Republicans”. Their resistance to despotism in Church and State transformed Puritanism from an exclusively religious matter into a great national movement diffusing the ideals of freedom and progress. The supporters of this movement belonged mainly to the middle class: in this way even the voice of the common people began to be heard.
THE PURITAN AGE: HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
John Milton (1608 – 1674). He was the greatest of all the Puritans writers and was the best representative of the historical period in which he lived. He was born in London on December 8, 1608. He studied at Cambridge and, when he finally left the university in 1632, was conversant with the works of classical and contemporary writers, well acquainted with hebrew, Latin. Greek, Italian and french, and had already begun to write poems: but his real vocation was the poetry. Besides he travelled above all in France and Italy, where he visited Galileo in Florence. He was in Naples when the Civil war broke out in his country, and for this reason he returened to England. He settled in London, where he began to work as a teacher. He was a fervent Puritan, in fact he sided with Cromwell, whose cause he supported with his writings till the end. He was abandoned by his wife, Mary Powell: this sad event led him to reconsider the laws regarding the dissolution of marriage and write some pamphlets on divorce.
THE PURITANS: RIASSUNTO
After the execution of Charles I, Milton became Latin Secretary to Cromwell’s Council of state, a post which required much written work, above all in Latin. The poet’s eyesight grew worse, and by 1652 he was totally blind. In 1658 Cromwell died, and in 1660 the Commonwealth was definitely brought to an end with the restoration of the monarchy in the person of Charles II; for this reason Milton’s life was in danger. No real punishment was inflicted on him, however, for he had powerful friends. He lived in London for the rest of his life, in relative poverty and obscurity, together with his daughters.This last part of his life was nevertheless the most creative: in fact he produced his three masterpieces. He died in London in 1674.