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By Hans-Peter Wagner

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In religion, the influence of the middle class was noticeable in the rise and spread of Methodism3, founded by John Wesley (1703-91) and his brother, Charles.  England preserved her agrarian character, for even toward the end of the century, when the "Agricultural Revolution" was followed by the Industrial Revolution, seventy-five per cent of the population lived in the country while the population of London doubW. Hogarth, Marriage à-la-Mode. Plate 1. 1745 led. The contrast between city and country – always a favourite subject of eighteenth-century literature – deepened in the last third of the century, accompanied by more rapid economic and social changes.

His early comedies show him as a lyrical writer imbued with exuberant mirth, buoyancy, and imagination. In Love's Labour's Lost and The Comedy of Errors Shakespeare resorted to the popular inPortrait of Shakespeare. Engraving by Droeshout. 1623 gredients of comedy, such as mistaken identities, surprises, imbroglios, puns, and quibbles. But he was also capable of writing in different veins, producing romantic comedies like The Two Gentlemen of Verona and boisterous plays bordering on farce, such as The Taming of the Shrew.

Finally, Philip Massinger (1583-1640) and James Shirley (1596-1666) followed Ben Jonson's example in comedies and tragedies. Massinger's finest play is a comedy, A New Way to Pay Old Debts (c. 1625), in which he portrays in Sir Giles Overreach a miser who can easily compare to Volpone or Molière's Harpagon. Shirley wrote about 30 plays and produced some of the best comedies before the closing of the theatres. 13 Plutarch (Plutarchos, 50-125), Greek philosopher and historian. His 44 biographies of great Greeks and Romans are written in a lively style and contain many anecdotes, but they are not accurate historical records.

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A History of British Irish and American Literature by Hans-Peter Wagner

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