The Restoration period covers the reign of Charles II (1660–1685) and the brief reign of his younger brother James II (1685–1688).
The term ‘Restoration’ is not only used to describe the event by which the monarchy was restored to England but also the period from 1660 to 1700 that witnessed an era of new political, socio-cultural and literary movements.
The return of monarchy was marked by a violent reaction against the Puritan manners and morals. There was an intense reaction against the stern morality of the Puritans.
The French influence was predominant during the rule of Charles II because the king had spent a number of years in exile in the French court. Popularly known as the Cavaliers, the courtiers had returned from a period of exile in French court.
One of the most able and popular Stuart kings, Charles II wanted the freedom of Crown from any kind of parliamentary control.
No sooner Charles II ascended the throne of England than he decided to dissolve the union of England, Ireland and Scotland.
The Conventional Parliament was replaced by the Cavalier Parliament in 1661. The Presbyterians, dominant in the Convention, remained a handful of fifty members.
The era witnessed the system of religious repression inspite of the efforts of the king to bring religious toleration.
The Popish plot of 1678 was a conspiracy that was conceived by Titus Oates and Israel Tonge. They spread the rumours that the Jesuits were conspiring to kill Charles II to replace him by his brother James in order to establish Roman Catholicism in England.
Charles II did not have a legitimate heir to descend to the throne of England.
James I succeeded to the throne as James II in 1685. He was committed to Roman Catholicism which did not go well with the Protestant sentiments of Englishmen.
The Glorious Revolution of 1688 politically ended the Restoration Period. It ushered in a new era in which the power of Stuart kings was curtailed and the power of the Parliament to make or unmake a king was established.
The country was divided into two political parties-the Tories and the Whigs. In the political field, there were signs of strife between the Whigs and the Tories.
With the coming of Charles II back to England a great change came in the social life of England. The social life and manners underwent a process of transformation.
London society took shape in the new quarter of St James’s. Tea, coffee and chocolate were drunk in places of public recreation.
The Restoration Period was marked by increasing commercial prosperity and wealth. Increased literacy, combined with wealth led the British people to an increasingly public life.
Literature of the Restoration Period too was deeply influenced by revolutionary changes in social, political and religious life of England.
Literature of the Restoration Period was influenced by France- its ideas, tastes and literature. Charles II had spent most of his years of exile in France, and when he returned to England he brought with him a new admiration for French literature.
Dramatic entertainments were made illegal during Cromwell’s rule, all theatres were closed in 1642. With the restoration of Stuart succession in 1660 theatres were reopened. Public theatres were back in business and the publishing trade also flourished.
Restoration comedy or the Comedy of Manners, known for its wit, its urbanity, its sophistication, is the most characteristic literary product of Restoration society.
Heroic play or Heroic tragedy was also produced during the Restoration Period. The form was introduced by William Davenant but it was popularized by John Dryden.
The Restoration Period witnessed a growth of prose writers. Prose became a vehicle to give expression to the events of everyday life. Pamphlets were written in abundance on the socio-political life of England.
The Restoration poetry reflected the social, cultural and political concerns of the age. Poetry became the vehicle of argument, controversy, personal and political satire.
The last and greatest works of John Milton and John Bunyan were written in the beginning of the Restoration Period.