The Victorian age
It is the period covered by the reign of Victoria (1832-1901).
It is the period of great contradiction.
-Social and political background: it was a period of peace, growing in economy, and political expansion. The growing in economy is due to development of industry (invention of machineries: the stream engine) and improvement of transports.
1851 Great exhibition in London.
Built a crystal palace (palace of glass), where there were showed all the industrial products and new technical inventions.
The greatest expansion of the empire: territories in Asia (India), South Africa, America, but the centre of the empire was India, called “The jewel of the crown”, and in 1877 Victoria became the empress of India. India was very important for trading (silk, cottons and spices).
- Home politics: there was a general call for democracy and political reforms.
Three reform bills: they extended the right of voting to different social classes. Bills regarding public health in order to improve sanitation and against disease.
The role of women: women at work became aware of their role in society and their independence. In 1860 it was founded the National women Suffrage Association.
Middle class was the protagonist of Victorian Age (middle class: the men of the city). Values:
1. Humanitarism (work houses). The poverty was seen as a sin.
2. Morality and respectability: the family of Queen Victoria became a model (hypocrisy)
- Victorian compromise: the Victorian Age was a period of optimism. It was a period of progress and prosperity and at the same time of great social evils (poverty, prostitution, exploitation of labour), but the Victorians made a compromise between these two aspects, they hide them selves behind optimism and hypocrisy and they don’t want too see problems, they have only an idealized vision of their society and age.
- Currents of thoughts influencing the public opinion:
1. Charles Darwin and the Evolution theory
2. Socialist (Marxism) theory
3. Theory of Utilitarism created by Jeremy Bentham and developed by Mill. The main principle is “The great happiness for the great number”, so the goal of the life of man is material satisfaction.
- The Victorian literature: we see both the prose and the poetry. The Victorian age was the golden age of prose and novel as the second is the favourite genre of middle class. There was an enlargement of reading public, because more people were able to read. They read newspapers, magazine, where the novel where published.
* Features: Victorian novel is realistic, there is a linear plot (a beginning, a middle stage and the end). There is a third omniscient narrator. The novel has a meaning of denouncement of social problems, but gives no solutions for them. The happy ending is guaranteed by humanitarism. Self developing novel: the main characters make a route of personal growing.
* Subgenres: Short stories (detective, horror) and Poetry dramatic monologue. This form comes from Italian poetry of renaissance and the main exponent is Robert Browning, it is a narrative poem in which one character speaks. He can speak of himself or of another historical character, and his speech is addressed to a listener whose presence can only be guessed.
* Content: the narrator presents a specific situation which is critical, and the result of it is the revelation of the real nature of the character. Dramatic monologue is written in blank verse (Iambic pentameters).