The 17th century was a time of great change and innovation in the world of literature. The Renaissance and the Reformation had a significant impact, while the invention of the printing press allowed for the mass production of books and papers. The era saw many notable authors and groundbreaking literary movements, including the rise of the novel and the emergence of satire and social commentary. In this article, we’ll take a deeper look at some of the best books of the 17th century, their authors, and their impact.
The Dawn of Modern Literature
The 17th century is considered as the dawn of modern literature, as it marked the beginning of a new era of writing. This was a time when authors experimented with new forms and styles of writing, and many of them also focused on shedding light on themes surrounding the human condition. One of the significant influences on this period, particularly in terms of the quality and quantity of new literature, was the revolution brought about by the printing press.
The Impact of the Printing Press
The invention of the printing press led to unprecedented growth in the field of literature, particularly in Europe. One of the significant positive outcomes of this development was that books became more readily available and accessible to the general population. As a result, writers could reach broader audiences, which in turn helped them share new ideas and insights with more people and gave them a voice.
The printing press also allowed for the standardization of language and the dissemination of knowledge. Writers could now publish their works in a standardized format, making it easier for readers to understand and follow their ideas. The printing press also facilitated the creation of dictionaries and encyclopedias, which helped to standardize language and promote the spread of knowledge.
The Influence of the Renaissance and Reformation
The Renaissance period, which marked a significant shift in European art and culture, had a profound impact on the literature of the 17th century. This period inspired a resurgence in classical writings and an emphasis on humanism. Humanism, which focuses on the value and agency of human beings, encouraged writers to explore themes related to the human condition, such as love, death, and morality.
The Reformation, which challenged the established authority of the church, sparked an exploration of new religious ideas, leading to increased diversity in religious thought and writing. This diversity is reflected in the literature of the period, with writers exploring themes related to religion, spirituality, and faith in new and innovative ways.
In conclusion, the 17th century was a time of great change and innovation in the field of literature. The printing press revolutionized the way books were produced and distributed, while the Renaissance and Reformation inspired new ideas and themes in writing. These developments paved the way for the modern era of literature, which continues to evolve and expand to this day.
Notable Authors and Their Masterpieces
The 17th century saw the rise of many notable authors who created some of the best literary works of the era. Their contributions varied in style and form, but they all shared a commitment to new and innovative writing. Let’s look at some of them and their masterpieces.
William Shakespeare and His Timeless Works
William Shakespeare is regarded as one of the greatest playwrights of all time. He was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, England in 1564 and died in 1616. He wrote numerous plays and poems, and his works continue to be studied and performed even today. His plays, such as “Hamlet,” “Macbeth,” and “Othello,” demonstrated his impressive command of language, themes, and storytelling.
Shakespeare’s works are known for their universal themes, which explore the human condition. His plays often deal with love, power, betrayal, and the struggle for identity. He is also known for his use of language, which is both poetic and accessible. Shakespeare’s influence can be seen in literature, theater, and film, and his works continue to be adapted and reimagined for new audiences.
John Milton and the Epic Poem “Paradise Lost”
John Milton was a poet and writer who wrote some of the best literary works of the 17th century. He was born in London in 1608 and died in 1674. His seminal work, “Paradise Lost,” was an epic poem that explored complex religious themes, such as the nature of free will, the fall of mankind, and the role of evil in the world. The character of Satan in the poem is still considered to be one of the most complex literary creations of all time.
Milton’s work was heavily influenced by his religious beliefs. He was a Puritan and believed in the importance of individual freedom and the need for a moral society. His works often explored these themes and the tension between individual freedom and societal responsibility. “Paradise Lost” is considered to be one of the greatest works of English literature and has had a profound influence on subsequent writers.
Molière and the Golden Age of French Theater
Molière was a French playwright who wrote some of the most famous and enduring works of the 17th century. He was born in Paris in 1622 and died in 1673. His plays, such as “Tartuffe” and “The Misanthrope,” were known for their satirical edge and their sharp commentary on French society. His work significantly contributed to the development of French theater, which emerged as one of the most influential forms of theater in Europe at the time.
Molière’s plays were often controversial and were frequently banned by the French authorities. His work was seen as a threat to the established order and was seen as subversive. Despite this, Molière continued to write and perform his plays, and his work remains popular to this day. His influence can be seen in the works of subsequent French writers and playwrights, and his legacy continues to inspire new generations of artists.
Groundbreaking Genres and Literary Movements
The 17th century saw a remarkable transformation in the literary world with the emergence of several groundbreaking genres and literary movements that helped shape the literary landscape of the time. Let’s explore some of them.
The Rise of the Novel
The 17th century saw the emergence of the novel as a popular literary form. Writers such as Aphra Behn, Daniel Defoe, and Samuel Richardson pioneered the genre with works such as “Oroonoko,” “Robinson Crusoe,” and “Pamela,” respectively. These works were unique in their focus on individual characters and their exploration of human emotions, which helped shape the novel into the form we know today.
The novel was a revolutionary form of literature that allowed authors to delve deep into the psyche of their characters and explore the complexities of human nature. The characters in these novels were often flawed and complex, making them more relatable to readers. This focus on character development and emotional depth paved the way for the modern novel, which continues to be one of the most popular forms of literature today.
The Emergence of Satire and Social Commentary
Satire and social commentary also emerged as an important literary form in the 17th century, with writers such as Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope leading the charge. Their works, such as “Gulliver’s Travels” and “The Rape of the Lock,” respectively, were known for their critique of political, social, and cultural issues of the time.
These writers used satire and humor to expose the flaws and hypocrisies of society, and their works continue to be studied and appreciated today for their sharp wit and incisive commentary. Satire remains an important form of social commentary and political critique in modern times, and the works of Swift and Pope continue to inspire and influence writers today.
The Flourishing of Poetry and Drama
Poetry and drama also continued to flourish during the 17th century. Many of the era’s writers, such as John Donne and Ben Jonson, were known for their experimentation with form and their exploration of human emotions and experience.
These writers used poetry and drama to explore the complexities of human nature and to express their own personal experiences and emotions. Their works continue to be studied and appreciated today for their beauty, depth, and emotional resonance. The poetry and drama of the 17th century paved the way for the development of these forms of literature in the centuries that followed, and their influence is still felt today.
The Role of Women Writers in the 17th Century
The 17th century was a time of great change and innovation, particularly in the world of literature. While men dominated the literary landscape for centuries, this era saw the emergence of women writers who created influential works that broke barriers and paved the way for future generations of female writers. Let’s take a closer look at some of these trailblazing women.
Aphra Behn and the Birth of the Female Playwright
Aphra Behn is considered to be one of the most important figures in the history of English literature. She was not only a writer but also a spy for the English crown in the Netherlands. Her work, such as “The Rover,” challenged traditional gender roles and impacted the development of the theater in England. Behn’s plays were groundbreaking in their portrayal of female characters who were strong, independent, and unafraid to challenge the status quo. She paved the way for future female playwrights, who would continue to push boundaries and challenge societal norms.
Margaret Cavendish and Her Contributions to Science Fiction
“The Blazing World”
Margaret Cavendish was a writer and philosopher who explored many themes in her work, including gender, science, and philosophy. She was one of the first women to attend the Royal Society, a scientific organization in England. Cavendish wrote several works of science fiction, including “The Blazing World,” which is considered to be one of the earliest examples of science fiction in history. Her work was ahead of its time, and she is now recognized as a pioneer in the genre.
Anne Bradstreet and the Voice of Early American Poetry
Anne Bradstreet was an early American poet who wrote about themes such as family, home, and spirituality. She was one of the first poets to be published in the American colonies, and her work helped shape the voice of early American poetry. Bradstreet’s poems were deeply personal, often exploring the joys and struggles of motherhood and marriage. Her work was influential in the development of American literature, and she is now recognized as one of the most important early American poets.
Overall, these women writers of the 17th century were pioneers in their respective fields. They challenged societal norms and paved the way for future generations of female writers, who continue to push boundaries and break down barriers today.
The 17th century was an exciting time in literature, marked by the emergence of new forms and styles of writing, as well as the contributions of many notable authors. While this article covers only a few of the best books of the era, it is clear that the 17th century played a significant role in shaping the course of literature in the centuries that followed.
What are the best books written in the 17th century?
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, Paradise Lost by John Milton, the Shakespeare plays, and Oroonoko by Aphra Behn are some of the most well-known pieces of literature from the 1600s.
Why should I read a book written in the 17th century?
17th-century literature can teach you a huge amount about history, society, and expectations in this period. This was an experimental period of time for literature, as ideas were beginning to defer away from traditional values.
William Shakespeare is undeniably the most influential author from the 17th century.