What kind of poetry defined the Restoration period? What connection does the poetry have to the political circumstances?.
When Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660 things did not go back to normal in England. Traumatised and severely shaken England had to deal with yet another autocrat and a parliament which had tasted blood. Return of censorship and the dawning of the "Age of Reason" influenced theme, form and content of the poetry created. John Dryden and Alexander Pope are those poets most remembered from this age and their poems are prime examples of what distinguishes this period.
John Dryden was poet laureate from 1668 to 1688. The restored monarchy needed morale and foremost it needed an example. This architects and poets alike found in the early imperialism of Rome. Here greatness, power and (so they thought) moderation had been combined to create a golden age. Dryden's most famous works are MackFlecknoe (published 1682) and Absalom and Achitophel. MackFlecknoe, arguably one of the best embodiments of the mock-heroic poem, is an undisguised attack on Thomas Shadwell, a fellow playwright of Dryden and poet laureate to be. While the manuscript first changed hands without being published (in this version Shadwell's name was spelt out) the published version only printed the first two letters of the name, making the poem even more rude than it already was. MackFlecknoe has fascinated critics and scholars because it formally ponders the question who shall be MackFlecknoe's successor, but content wise is a ruthless attack and refutation on another poet and his values. Dryden's poetry distinguished itself in many ways from the former period, the Renaissance. It was directed at common readers, not only at an aristocracy. It had a clear political message and its values were: simplicity, clarity, restraint, regularity and good sense.
It was Alexander Pope who perfected the heroic couplets and with whom the classical spirit of the Restoration reached its climax.