The Caroline Age in English Literature: Characteristics, Themes & Poets


The Caroline Age has its time span of Charles First during 1625-1649 and the name Charles derived from the Latin word ‘Carolus’ which means Charles. After the demise of James First, Charles First was appointed as the King in 1625, and in 1649, he was executed as a result of a Puritan uprising under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell.

The Age of Charles First was also known as the Caroline Period and during this span of time, the spirit of the Renaissance began declining. The period is very fruitful in terms of its creative writings.

John Milton started his writing in this period. This age is the time for religious poet George Herbert and the prose writers Robert Burton and Sir Thomas Browne apart from the Cavalier poets like Robert Herrick, Richard Lovelace, and Sir John Suckling.

Political Unrest & Civil War

The whole period emphasized the Civil War which divided people into frictions. It dealt with England Civil War that was fought between the supporters of the King, known as the Cavaliers, and the supporters of Parliament, known as Roundheads.

The crisis started when James First reclaimed the right of royalty from an Act of Parliament and supported the Divine Right while ignoring the importance of Parliament.

The Puritans influenced the English middle classes since the reign of James I and play a powerful force role in the social life of the age and initiated the movement for social and constitutional reforms.

The hostilities and atrocities which began in 1642, ended with the banishment of Charles I in 1649. There was great political instability during 1649-1660 and the establishment of the commonwealth under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell. But the political chaos and volatility ended with the restoration of King Charles II in 1660.

Caroline Poets

John Milton

Characteristic features of this age are incomplete without mentioning John Milton’s contributions to the literature. Milton, is a Puritan poet and is a classicist and humanist in nature.

He was a passionate lover of beauty and delight in the things that his eyes pleased. He wrote early poems including “On the Morning of Christ‘s Nativity” (1929), “L‘Allegra” (1645), and “II Penseroso” (1645) which exhibit eternal beauty.

“Lycidas” (1637) is a pastoral elegy written on his friend death Edward King who was drowned on a voyage to Ireland, expresses the uncertainty and torment condition of Milton’s mind while “Comus” express Puritanic moral zeal in the Renaissance form of the mask.

The purpose of Paradise Lost is “to justify the ways of God to man”, Paradise Regained depicts Christ’s resistance to Satan’s temptations and his victory over them and Samson Agonistes also emphasizes the Biblical aspects and is inundated with moral earnestness and righteousness.

All these works are universal in appeal. Milton, by and large, influenced the poetry of classical and romantic of the Eighteenth Century.

The Metaphysical Poets have several features in common. Their focus was on either amorous or religious poetry. As H.J.C Grierson says “The metaphysical of the seventeenth century combined two things…the fantastic dialects of medieval love poetry and simple, sensuous strain caught from the classics…”

John Donne

John Donne, the founder of the Metaphysical School of Poetry wrote extensively love poetry in his youth and religious poetry after 1610. He is essentially a psychological poet who expresses his feeling through words. George Herbert is an ardent religious poet in the Church of England whose poems have been collected in

Temple (1633)

His poetry is marked by the clarity and naturalness of expression, concrete imagery, and conceits. Henry Vaughan is a mystic at heart and religious in nature. As Edward Albert states “His regard for natures moreover, has a closeness and penetration that sometimes suggest Wordsworth.

Other Poets

The Caroline Poets are lyrical in nature and primarily deal with love, war, and religion. Robert Herrick was influenced by Jonson and classics whose two volumes of poems are The Noble Numbers (1647) and Hesperides (1648). His poems are characterized by the freshness and felicity of expression and focus on the enjoyment of nature and the outlook of life.

Richard Lovelace is a Cavalier poet who fought on behalf of the King during the Civil War. His poems “To Althea, from Prison” and “To Lucasta going to the Warres” are the results of his experiences of politics and association with important figures of this age. Sir John Suckling, an English Cavalier poet was the inventor of the card game cribbage. His noticeable poem is “Ballad Upon a Wedding”.


To sum up, the Caroline age is the age of poetry because poets were wholeheartedly devoted to writing poetry. There are very few writers who tend to write plays. Poetry has been written on political, economic, social milieu, and love aspects. Nevertheless, it is a highly productive age in terms of its creativity in literature as well as poets experimented with different styles of writing and narrative techniques which are quite successful.