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ENGLISH LITERATURE – from the beginnings until the end of the 19th century
The English epic poem, Beowulf (10th century), is the most important example of early English literature. It is the story of the warrior Beowulf who kills a monster called Grendel. One of the next well-known great works of English literature is the story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (circa AD 500) . Many historians believe that the legend is based on fact.
The first work of English language written in the language of the ordinary people was The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (circa 1340 – 1400). A group of pilgrims who are travelling to the town of Canterbury (including a knight, a cook, a carpenter, a doctor, a nun, and Chaucer himself) each tells a story to pass the time. The first English printing press was made by William Caxton around 1470. This, of course, made it much easier to print cheaper books and meant that now many people could read works like The Canterbury Tales, for example.
One of the best-loved stories of the 15th Century tells of Robin Hood and his Merry Men who stole from the rich to give to the poor. They lived in Sherwood Forest where they hid from the Sheriff of Nottingham and his men. William Shakespeare, the greatest name in English literature (perhaps in world literature) lived 1564 – 1616. He wrote such famous plays (comedies and tragedies) as Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, King Lear, The Taming of the Shrew and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as well as many others. He is also famous for his Sonnets. No other writer has been so important in the history of English literature.
The Authorised (King James) Version of the Bible was published and printed for the first time in 1611. It has remained the standard English Bible until this day.
Since the time of William Shakespeare there have been so many great writers of English literature. Her are some of the most important:
- John Milton, 1608 – 1674
- James Boswell, 1740 – 1795
- William Blake, 1757 – 1827
- Robert Burns, 1759 – 1796
- Jane Austen, 1775 – 1817
- William Wordsworth, 1770 – 1850
- Walter Scott, 1771 – 1832
- Percy Bysshe Shelly, 1792 – 1832
- John Keats, 1795 – 1821
- Thomas Carlyle, 1795 – 1881
- Alfred Tennyson, 1809 – 1892
- John Ruskin, 1890 – 1900
- Charles Dickens, 1812 - 1870
- George Elliot, 1819 - 1880
- William Morris, 1838 – 1896
- Thomas Hardy, 1840 – 1928
- Rudyard Kipling, 1895 – 1936
- John Bunyan, 1628 – 1688
- John Drydon, 1638 – 1700
- Daniel Defoe, 1660? – 1731
- Johnathan Swift, 1667 – 1745
- Alexander Pope, 1688 – 1744
- Henry Fielding, 1707 – 1754
- Oliver Goldsmithh, 1730 – 1774
- Edward Gibbon, 1734 - 1794
These are just 25 of some of the key figures in the History of English literature until the end of the 19th century – there are many, many more important writers of that period including many from the United States. Starting from the beginning of the 20th century the list of important writers in English is almost endless and they include writers not only from Great Britain and the USA but also from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India, Africa and the West Indies – in fact, from every country where England is the first, or one of the first, languages.
Who are your favourite writers of English? Many, from Agatha Christie to J. K. Rowling, from Raymond Chandler to Martin Amis, are loved and admired all over the world.
Perustuu ohjelmaan: Alright? Alright! Teksti: David Mitchell. Vuosi: 2005.