In the history of English literature the period dating from 1660 to 1700 is called the Age of Dryden. Also called the Restoration Period, this was an era of change in political and social as well as in literary fields. In politics the period saw the reign of three rulers, two dynasties and a revolution. The social life of this period was influenced much by the French manners. The life of the people of England was greatly affected by the Great Plague of 1665 and the Great Fire of 1666. The city ravaged by the violent outbreak was later devastated by fire. The entire city was re-built. There was also a change in literary tastes during this time owing to the French influence. Literature appealed more to the head than to the heart and reason and good sense replaced emotion and imagination.
The year 1660 was a landmark in the history of England. The Stuart Dynasty which had been removed from throne and exiled to France following the beheading of Charles I was restored in the form of his son Charles II. Charles II was born and brought up in France. So he brought back with him French manners and language. His court was notorious for its licentiousness and deceit. The Puritan Age which preceded the Restoration period was known for its moderateness in morality and earnestness in religion. But with the fall of the Puritans, the moral ideals were discarded and there was an apparent lowering of the general moral tone. The theatres which had been closed because of the extreme moral sense of the Puritans were reopened and all the wild delights and pleasures like sports, music and dancing were once in vogue.
Charles II ruled England from 1660 to 1685. The Restoration saw the revival of the king, the Parliament and the Anglican Church. Charles was an advocate of toleration but this principal was not acceptable to the Parliament. Several acts were passed persecuting the Roman Catholics and the Non Conformists. The power of the Church of England over the king and the Parliament was tremendous. He made a secret treaty with the French king to restore Catholic faith in England and repealed the penal laws against the Roman Catholics and the Non Conformists. But the Parliament made him revoke all his acts and even tried to make him disinherit his Catholic brother James from the throne.
After the death of Charles, his brother James was made king as James II. He was a staunch Catholic and wanted to restore Catholicism in the country. He was a tyrant and his rule demonstrated the rise of Roman Catholics to every key position in the country. He issued orders to repeal the penal laws against his favoured faction. He also tried to suspend the laws disapproving to him.
In 1685, the Duke of Monmouth, an illegitimate son of Charles II gathered a group of people in support of him and rose in rebellion against the king. The royal forces easily put down the rebellion. Monmouth was defeated in the battle of Sedgemoor and was executed. The...