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- The conflicts
of the mid-seventeenth century left few English
men and women untouched. Many poets fought
on one side or the other in the Civil War.
Some, like Crashaw and Hobbes, went into
exile with the court; others, like Milton,
served Cromwell's government. Choose
one of the following, and discuss how the
political, religious, and cultural tensions
of the period are reflected in their poetry
- Robert Herrick (NAEL 8, 1.1653–66)
- Richard Crashaw (NAEL 8, 1.1639–53)
- Henry Vaughan (NAEL 8, 1.1625–39)
- Andrew Marvell (NAEL 8, 1.1695–1736), in poems other than An
- Izaak Walton (NAEL 8, 1.1309–13)
- Richard Lovelace (NAEL 8, 1.1681–86)
were the authors and makers of the laws,
and not the laws of the kings." Both
James I and Charles I defended this absolutist
doctrine, the latter to the death.
- Does James I's theory of Divine Right have
any place for contract? Are there any enforceable restraints on a "Free
Monarch" as James I views him?
- On what grounds did Charles I refuse to recognize
the authority of the court that tried him?
- The trial
and execution of Charles I were traumatic
events and also, in more than one sense,
- To what extent is the account of the trial of Charles I a dramatic
text? Does it portray Charles I and President John Bradshaw as dramatic
- Consider Marvell's description of the execution of Charles I in
the Horatian Ode (NAEL 8, 1.1712–16) in relation to the contemporary
account and to the image of Charles I on the execution
platform. How does each attempt to represent the "truth" of
- Hobbes's Leviathan and
of Kings and Magistrates offer sharply
opposed responses to the political debates
of the seventeenth century. Compare and contrast
Hobbes and Milton on the origins of society
- What assumptions, if any, do the two authors share?
- How does each view the state of nature, and what is the place of contract
in each theory? How would each define "the people" who make
the contract to establish government?
- What seeds of John Locke's political
ideas do you find in Hobbes and in Milton?
- Many of those
who fought on Parliament's side in the
Civil War had aims much more radical than
Parliament's or Cromwell's. They
include the Leveler John Lilburne
and the Digger Gerrard Winstanley (NAEL 8, 1.1751–57).
- What views of government and the people's rights do Lilburne and
Winstanley hold, respectively? How might Lilburne respond to the Diggers' claim
to be "The True Levelers"?
- Like James I in the True Law of Free Monarchies,
Winstanley bases part of his argument on the Norman Conquest. What role
does William the Conqueror play in each man's theory of government?
- One flashpoint
in the conflict over culture in the decades
leading up to the Civil War was the practice
of rural sports and festivals.
- Why, according to Lucy Hutchinson, were James
and Charles so eager to promote rural sports? How does her account tally
with the aims and views expressed in Charles I's Declaration
to His Subjects Concerning Lawful Sports?
- What accounts for the extremity of Prynne's denunciation
of rural sports and masques? What accounts for the extremity of his punishment?
Basilike, with its frontispiece
representing Charles as a Christ-like
martyr, had a religious as much as a
- On what grounds would Milton have considered the engraving prefixed
to Eikon Basilike idolatrous?
- How do the poems of Richard Crashaw, particularly On the Wounds
of Our Crucified Lord (NAEL 8, 1.1644–45) and The Flaming
Heart (NAEL 8, 1.1651–53) help you to understand the power of
- What assumptions
about the grounds of religious toleration
do Roger Williams and
Milton in Areopagitica (NAEL 8, 1.1816–25)
share, and wherein do they differ?
- In Milton's Samson
Agonistes, what are the issues
in the exchange between Samson and the
officer about his performance at the
feast of Dagon? How do they relate to
the situation of Dissenters after the
- In addition
to opposing rural sports, Puritans were opposed
to theatrical performances, which were banned
in 1642 and revived only at the Restoration.
Yet Samson Agonistes is
a dramatic tragedy, albeit a closet drama
never intended for performance on stage.
Why do you think Milton chose this controversial
form? How in his preface does Milton distance
himself from the problems Puritans associated
with the drama?
- The political
and cultural upheavals of the seventeenth
century continue to excite controversy three
hundred years later. Factions which formed
in this period continue to provide models
for a range of modern political movements
and cultural and artistic expressions. Explore
the resources on the Web relating to the English
Civil War, the Diggers, the Levelers,
and the Jacobites (the name given to those
who remained loyal to the House of Stuart
after its second exile in 1688). To what
extent are the battles of the seventeenth
century still being fought today?