The Restoration Period
The period from 1660 to 1700 is named as the Restoration period. In 1660 King Charles II was brought to the throne. The people of England were suffering from tension due to the strict rule of Cromwell. Thus the nation welcomed the Restoration of Charles II. This Restoration brought about a revolutionary change in social life and literature. The following characteristics distinguish this period:
 THE RESTORATION:
During this period gravity, spiritual zeal, moral earnestness, and decorum were thrown to winds. The king was a thorough debauch. He had several mistresses. He was surrounded by corrupt courtiers. Corruption was rampant in all walks of life.
 Religious and Political Quarrels:
In the Restoration period we see the rise of two political parties. They were the Whigs and the Tories. The Whigs were opposing and the Tories were supporting the king. The rise of these parties gave fresh importance to men of literary ability. Both parties supported them. The religious controversy was also going on. It was very bitter. The Protestants and the Catholics were face to face. The nation was predominately Protestant. The Catholics were being punished. Dryden’s ‘Absalom and Achitophel’ reflects these religious and political conflicts of the day.
 The Revolution:
Charles’ brother James II ascended the throne in 1685. He tried to establish Catholicism in the country. He became unpopular very soon. The entire nation rose against him. He lost his seat due to the bloodless revolution of 1688. The Restoration, the controversies, and the revolution of 1688 deeply influenced the literature of the age.
 Rise of Neo-Classicism:
During the Restoration period a new literary movement started. It is known as the Neo-Classical movement. This reflected the mood of the century. Reason occupied an important place. The writers of this period agreed upon the rules and principles. Rules and literary conventions became more important than the seriousness of the subject matter. The writers expressed superficial manners and customs of the aristocratic and urban society. They did not pry into mysteries of the human mind and heart. The new epoch is the antithesis of the previous Elizabethan age. It is called classical.
The authors of this period turned to the great classical writers. Thus grew the neo-classical school of poetry. The neoclassicists imitated the rules and ignored the importance of the subject matter. They could not delve deep into human emotions. These things can be noticed in the age of Dryden and Pope.
– The influence of France counted for much. Charles II and his companions demanded that poetry and drama should follow the French style. Now began the so-called period of French influence. Pascal, Racine, Boileau, and other French writers were imitated blindly. The French influence is seen in the Restoration comedy of manners of Dryden, Wycherly, and Congreve. This French influence is also responsible for the growth of opera.
Realism and Formalism:
The writers of the Restoration age reacted against the romanticism of Elizabethan age. They developed realism to a marked degree. The early Restoration writers presented the realistic picture of a corrupt court and society. They emphasized vices rather than virtues. They gave us coarse, low plays without moral significance. They saw only the externals of man, his body, and appetites. They did not see his soul and his ideals. The writers of the age followed formalism of style. They aimed at achieving directness and simplicity of expression.
Dryden was the representative poet of this age. His Absalom and Achitophel and Mac Flecknoe are very popular satires. Samuel Butler and John Oldham are also famous for their satires. John Dryden, John Bunyan, Hobbes, Locke, Temple, etc. were eminent prose writers of this age. Congreve, Etherege, and Whycherly were the eminent writers of the comedy of manners.
Thus the Restoration age has great importance in the literary history of England. This age offered leading authors like Dryden and Congreve whose contribution to the literature is memorable.