British English literature was from
the United Kingdom, Isle of Man and Channel Islands and also includes
literature from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. British English
literature has been written in the English language. It is developing into a
global phenomenon because of its use in the former colonies of Britain.
I. Old English Literature
The Old English literary or Anglo-Saxon was from mid-7th century. This period was the earliest
historical form of the English which spoken in England and also in Scotland. This
period have come down to us in late copies which were made three hundred years
after the composition of the poems themselves. Actually the Old English was
developed from a set of Anglo Frisian or Ingvaeonic dialects that originally
spoken by Germanic.
The most famous king of Old English
period was King Alfred and he was called ‘Alfred the Great’. He was also
concerned with the reform of monastic life and had a number of translations
made which are important monuments of (early West-Saxon) Old English.
II. The Early Middle English Literature
The Early Middle English
literature was began in 1006-1485. This period has developments in the history
of England such as the formation of Norman and Angevin dynasties, the internal
struggles between king, nobles, clergy, and also people and the numerous wars
both at home and abroad. The literary more important than definite events were
the general movements of the times such as the rise of the religious orders’,
their early enthusiasm, and their subsequent decline. The blossoming of
chivalry and the spirit of romance, bringing new sympathy especially for women.
The Crusades and the widening of the European outlook which was gradually to
expand into the reborn of the intellect known as the Renaissance.
The famous writer in this period was William Caxton.
He was a writer who set up the first printing press, a translator and importer
of book in England. He established his base at Westminster. He prepared some
translations of works in Latin and French. He was also the translator of many
of the books he published by using his knowledge of French, Latin and Dutch.
III. The Later Middle English Literature
The later Middle English Literature
was started from 1350-1450. This period was considered a serious literary
medium. From the later Middle English
literary point, the greater were the social and intellectual movements of the
period. For more remarkable was the literary and linguistic
revolution which took place in England.
The famous writer in this period was Geoffrey Chaucer.
The outstanding English poet before Shakespeare and “the first finder of our
language.” One of his greatest poetic works in English was “The
Canterbury Tales”. He
also contributed in the second half of the 14th century to the management of
public affairs as courtier, diplomat, and civil servant.
IV. The Renaissance Literature
renaissance period was a cultural movement that started in Italy but actually spread
all over in Europe. This period considered to be the division between the
middle Ages and the Modern Era. This period also began to investigate fields
such as astronomy, anatomy, science and many others. In this period tough took
most years for the “Modern” England to arise, even when it had established
itself, many aspects of the medieval culture still remained side by side to the
famous writer in this period was Thomas More. His work was 1516 book Utopia and
for his untimely death in 1535 after refusing to acknowledge King Henry VIII
the head of the Church of England. He also was canonized by the Catholic Church
as a saint in 1935.
V. The Elizabethan
The Elizabeth period was
began when the Elizabeth I. Some countries experienced religious, political and social
Most of the political leaders elected during this time misused their powers and
this led to oppression of the poor in the society. The social political issues
resulted from land problems in the country. The social differences between the
poor and the rich in the country led to social problems as the poor wanted to
possess land like the rich.
The famous writer in this period and also in
the world’s pre-eminent dramatist was William Shakespeare. He was an actor,
English poet and also playwright. His produced his works between 1589 and 1613
which consist of approximately 39 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems
and also a few other verse. He wrote especially tragedies consist of some of
the finest work and in his last phase, he wrote tragicomedies, known as
romances and collaborated with other playwrights.
VI. Literature The Seventeenth Literature
Seventeenth Century up to 1660 was dominated by Puritanism and it called the
Puritan Age or the Age of Milton. The Puritan movement in literature might
considered as the second and greater Renaissance. The movement of this period stood
for the people from the shackles of despotic ruler as great as the introduction
of morality and high ideals in politics. The name Puritan was at first given to
those who advocated certain changes in the form of worship of the reformed English
Church under Elizabeth. The medieval standards of chivalry, the impossible
loves and romances which we find in Spenser and Sidney, have completely
John Milton was a one of famous literary
in this period and literary
personality of the 17th century. His great learning and poetic
ability found expression in his work “Paradise
Lost”. After studying at St. Paul’s, he entered Cambridge where
he first began to develop his literary talents writing poetry on sacred themes
in Latin, Italian and English. His literary ambitions were interrupted by the
events of the Puritan revolution, of which he was an ardent supporter.