In of Classical poetics is another very

In general
when we speak of classicism we refer to the styles, rules,modes,
conventions, themes and sensibilities of the Classical authors, and, byextension,
their in?uence on and presence in the works of later authors. Clas-sicism
implies an emphasis on the virtues of reason, moderation, balanceand harmony,
as well as a view of human beings as essentially social in theirnature. For the
Romans classicism was coterminous with Greek in?uence.Seneca, for example,
imitated the Greek tragedians; Virgil was much in?u-enced by Homer. Then, in
the 12 th c., we ?nd Graeco-Roman models usedby writers of the French and
German courtly romances. The imitation of therules of Classical poetics is
another very important development. Aristotle’s Poetics and Horace’s Ars Poetica
were two major in?uences in the 15th and 16

th c.
Aristotle’s shadow lies heavily over much drama from the

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16

th c. tothe
end of the

18

th c.Many
commentators on Aristotle in the

16

th c.
diffused his theories ofimitation (

q.v

.). His
views of tragedy and epic were regarded as almost gospel.The principal
commentators on Aristotle were mostly Italian: Robortelli,Segni, Maggi Vettori
and Castelvetro. In England, Scaliger’s

Poetica

 (

1561

)was a key
work. Horace’s remarks on decorum (

q.v.

), the
propriety of lan-guage and style, the mutual propriety of action and character,
and his insist-ence on craftsmanship, were also analysed and disseminated
by commentatorsin the

16

 c.,
principally Vida, Robortelli, Joachim du Bellay, Pierre de Ronsardand Sir
Philip Sidney (in

 Apologie
for Poetrie

,

1595

).Another
major Classical in?uence on drama was Seneca, especiallyin tragedy; to such an
extent that we have a subspecies known as Senecantragedy (

q.v

.).Classicism
was strongest in France in the

17

th and

18

th c. but it
was alsovery strong in England. In France, the main authors to follow Classical
pre-cepts were Corneille, Racine, Molière, Voltaire, Boileau and La Fontaine.
Themost in?uential treatise by a Frenchman in this respect
is undoubtedly Boil-eau’s

 Art
poétique

 (

1647

). The major
English authors to follow Classical rulesand modes were Ben Jonson, Dryden,
Pope, Swift, Addison and Dr Johnson.The in?uence of classicism is also very
noticeable in the work of manyGerman writers in the second half of the

18

th c.
(notably, Winckelmann,Lessing, Goethe, Schiller and Hölderlin), and also in the
work of some Italianauthors – especially Al?eri. The Germans, however,
were not interested inFrench neoclassicism (

q.v

.) or the
Roman authors. They went back to theGreeks and imitated Greek forms.Classicism
in literature is by no means extinct. In the

20

th c. there
was aconsiderable revival of interest in Classical themes in drama, ?ction and
verse,especially in French drama, and particularly in the plays of Sartre,
Cocteau,Giraudoux and Anouilh.