Themes in English Literature
The variety of themes in English language can overwhelm any literature fan. Every period was conducted with the new topics. Representatives initiated modern issues. Usually, they were connected with the time and society in which authors lived. From time to time, some themes became relevant because of their actuality, or vice versa, lost it, becoming uninteresting. However, still there is one theme that will be actual, despite it remains in the literature during many decades, and this theme of love.
The period of great development of English literature was the Middle Ages. However, at the beginning of this period, the theme of love was not so topical, while the topics about the nature of heroic life, the function, and character of leadership in heroic society were rather actual. The precise example of such themes is Beowulf. It is a long narrative epic poem, where the author, who is unknown, describes the life of the extremely brave and courageous knight. In the poetry depicting this warrior society, the most important of human relationships was the one that had existed between the warrior the thane and his lord and a relationship based less on subordination of one man's will to another's than on the mutual trust and respect (Greenblatt, 1943).
In order to see all profoundness of themes in the Middle English one should also review Geoffrey Chaucer`s work, which is titled The Canterbury Tales. Curtly love is one of the items that was very popular and occupied an honorable place in the Medieval Literature. Curtly love is the medieval way of showing or expressing love. It exists outside marriage, on a spiritual plane, and it does not need to be a physical phenomenon. Like all medieval relationships, the curtly love relationship was hierarchical. In contrast to real life, in which men were assumed to be superior to women, in curtly love literature the lady dominated the lover (Hallissy, 1995). Geoffrey Chaucer in his work Wife of Bath again reveals the theme of love, but love, which is linked with money or economics. This time, he does not depict love as one of the innocent or fair feeling, but rather as something material and imitative. Even the very word ‘love’ here, in this context obtains artificial meaning.
The theme of love also appears in William Shakespeare`s Sonnets. In his sonnets, love does not have only one meaning, but rather, lots of features that are put together in order to make one big power that will resist or withstand all obstacles. If one takes Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116, here love is depicted as a power that can overcome even death. It seems that the author wants to show the reader the intensity and force of this phenomenon. The poet achieves a positive definition of love through a series of negative assertions: “Love is not love”, “Love`s not, time`s fool” (Bloom, 1999). The manner of author`s writing, the style, the way of describing such feeling as love is quite different, but unique. This is what makes English literature unique, but recognizable.
While observing Shakespeare`s Sonnets, one cannot forget about the famous writer of those times Henry Howard with his work Love, that doth Reign and Live within my Thought. John Donne: Love`s Diet, Love`s Exchange, and, of course, Andrew Marvell’s The Definition of Love. According to the author, the main theme and at the same time the main problem in this poem is that the destiny will never allow two perfect loves to come together. Therefore, this theme of love is not so optimistic and simple. The author wants to show all sufferings that love can bring. The modern English literature has much in common with the Medieval one, especially if one considers the theme of love. Many representatives such as Flaubert, Tolstoy, Ibsen, Kafka, Joyce, and Eliot continue to describe this feeling in their works. However, their works are much more realistic, even when they are writing about love.
Obviously, the topic of love will always be actual and it is not tiresome, because every author depicts it in his own unique manner. Evidently, this theme still occupies the first position among all the other topics. During all decades, this topic has been the main center of English literature; almost all writers eventually touched and reveled this theme.