British Literature


british literature

British Literature

The history of British Literature is very long and we may find its origins in the 10th century. About that time was written an epic poem Beowulf telling the story of a legendary hero. The author of the story remains unknown.

The Canterbury Tales

In the late Middle Ages there was a poet Geoffrey Chaucer whose most well-known piece of writing is “The Canterbury Tales”, a collection of stories told by pilgrims going to Canterbury Cathedral. The tales (mostly in verse, although some are in prose) are told as part of a story-telling contest by a group of pilgrims as they travel together on a journey from Southwark to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. In a long list of works, including "Troilus and Criseyde", "House of Fame", "Parliament of Fowls", the Canterbury Tales was Chaucer's magnum opus.

 

William Shakespeare

In 16th century England was born a great playwright William Shakespeare. He came from Stratford-on-Avon but in 1592 he left his town and came to London. After some time he set up his own theatre, the Globe, and he wrote plays for ordinary people. His dramas reflected the reality of his times and were very innovative in comparison to classical drama. His best known plays are tragedies such as Macbeth, Hamlet, Othello, Romeo and Juliet or King Lear. 

 

Lord Byron

In the epoch of Romanticism there was one man that had a great influence on British and world literature, namely George Gordon Lord Byron. He was born in 1788 and came from an aristocratic family. However, as a man striving for freedom and adventures he left England at the age of 28 and travelled across Europe. In his works there is usually a figure of some romantic hero struggling against injustice and fighting for love and freedom. He wrote poems, poetical poems and dramas and his most significant works were Giaour and Don Juan

Charles Dickens

The nineteenth century was the era of realism in literature. At that time one of the most popular British novelists was Charles Dickens, an author of such books as A Christmas Carol, David Copperfield, Great Expectations and The Posthumous Paper of the Pickwick Club. Generally his works present lives of the poor as well as social evils and injustice.  

Other significant writers of that age were: Walter Scott, Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, Brontë  sisters, H.G. Wells and Lewis Carroll. 

In the 20th century, especially in its second part, the literature flourished and most famous writers of the time are: Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, Kenneth Grahame, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, George Orwell, Agatha Christie, William Golding, George Orwell and Anthony Burgess.  

George Orwell

His real name was Eric Arthur Blair. He wrote many books but is mostly known as an author of Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm. Both are dark and gloomy visions of dystopian reality full of cruelty, wickedness, indifference and ignorance. During most of his career, Orwell was best known for his journalism, in essays, reviews, columns in newspapers and magazines and in his books of reportage: Down and Out in Paris and London (describing a period of poverty in these cities), The Road to Wigan Pier (describing the living conditions of the poor in northern England, and the class divide generally) and Homage to Catalonia. According to Irving Howe, Orwell was "the best English essayist since Hazlitt, perhaps since Dr Johnson."

William Golding

William Golding is mostly known as an author of Lord of the Flies published in 1954. Using the example of a group of young boys who land one day on a deserted island and try to govern themselves, the author shows how human culture fails when people are separated from the rest of society and raises the controversial subjects of human nature and the interests of the individual in contrast to the common good. 

Anthony Burgess

He was born in 1917 and died in 1993. Even though he was an author of a great number of novels as well as theatre plays, he is known mainly for the most controversial A Clockwork Orange which appeared in 1962. The book tells the story of 15-year-old Alex, a juvenile delinquent, who, together with his companions forms a gang of teenagers who rob, rape and kill defenceless inhabitants of the town in wild acts of 'ultra-violence'. Finally caught and sentenced to 14 years in prison, Alex volunteers to undergo the experimental 'Ludovico Technique' in order to shorten his sentence. However, he is unaware of the consequences of this 'treatment'. 
 

Among the leading contemporary writers there are: Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan, Terry Pratchett and JK Rowling.