Have you ever heard of the word romance? Love is the 980th most commonly used word in the English language, which connects to the word romance, so there is a very good likelihood that you have. The real question, however, is do you really know what romance means? Romance has several different meanings and the Romantic Era encompasses them all. Despite the fact that the Romantic Era was a hundred years, the Romantics contributed so many things, some of those being romance, the religion of the whole of Europe, and how people thought and felt, and therefore, influenced Europe back then, and how the world is today.
The definition of romance varies. In some definitions it means a medieval narrative, originally one in verse and in some Romance dialect, treating of heroic, fantastic, or supernatural events, often in the form of allegory. In other definitions it means to court or woo romantically; treat with ardor or chivalrousness. Both are correct and both apply to the era. When the Romantic Era first started in 1750 it had originally adapted the medieval meaning, which was a type of ballad or legend.
It started this way because at about this time people started to record folktales and fairytales from all over the world. In these tales, they saw that love became one of the most important themes to the story, which is how the Romantic Era includes the definition of agape (Dearborn, The Encyclopedia of the Romantic Era, Vol. 2 955). The reason this era was started was because of the Age of Enlightenment. The Age of Enlightenment was a time when justice and the government (and basically anything and everyone else) were ruled by reason and logic.
The Romantic Era is the complete opposite of everything that the Age of Enlightenment is, and that was exactly the effect that the Romantics were trying to accomplish. The Romantic Era was a retaliation against the endless reason and logic that had to be applied to everything, including the art of the Age of Enlightenment. The Romantics didn’t like all of the endless logic, and thus, attacked the philosophers of that time for “turning man into a soulless, thinking machine – a robot. They gathered things together, such as imagination, feelings, and freedom and broke free of the stifling binds of intellect from that age (Kreis). The religion of that time had great affect on the Romantic Era. The religion wasn’t one that was set in stone for each person. Rather, each country had its own religion. That’s not to say that each person in each country had exactly the same religion. The only thing that it does say is that each country normally had a religion that it was associated with and was the largely acceptable religion in that country.
For instance, England’s overall religion was Christianity. If you were not baptized as one, you were shunned by society. You couldn’t attend Oxford or Cambridge University. You also couldn’t have a government related job. The same thing happened all over the British Isles in Ireland and Scotland, although the majority of Ireland was Roman Catholic (the official ruling church being the Anglican Church of Ireland. ) and Scotland was dominated by the Presbyterian Kirk. France was a different matter entirely.
What occurred in the British Isles was the complete opposite of what happened here. France was not forced into religion, but reigned against it. Most of them went atheist, although some stayed Roman Catholic, which used to be the country’s main religion. France was the first country to be primarily atheist in this century, and it started a real turning point for most people everywhere during the Romantic Era. Religion was so important during this period of time because their faiths influenced the art work of that day because those are the beliefs they were raised with.
How you are influenced as a child affects how you grow up and shapes your mind set for the rest of your life. For instance, most British Romantic writers were raised going to the Anglican Communion church so would obviously have made a few allusions in their writing, like Percy Bysshe Shelley, even though his writing was called The Necessity of Atheism. Although these allusions may not have been made by practicing Christians, they had definitely read the Bible. You can tell this because if you read their writing you can see the implied references to the bible that they make.
Even Stephen Prickett argued that French, German, and English Romantic thought in general was, “steeped through and through in biblical references. ” Overall, most everyone in this Era was either a practicing, lapsed, or orthodox Christian (Dearborn, The Encyclopedia of the Romantic Era, Vol. 2 930-31). Hans Christian Oersted is a good example of how revolutionary this era really was. He was a Danish scientist who lived in Denmark from 1777 to 1851. He made great discoveries about the affect of electricity on magnetism, how to isolate aluminum, and made the piezometer which measures the compressibility of fluids.
His only contribution to Romanticism was his views of life and how he thought. He believed that science and Christianity weren’t complete opposites, but actually were one and the same, laced together, and on the same side. Another thing that made him have Romantic views was his influence from Immanuel Kant, who has been known to influence many, many other Romantics (Dearborn, The Encyclopedia of the Romantic Era, Vol. 2 822-23). Another interesting character that influenced Romantic religion, politics, and writing is Claude-Henri de Rouvrey, Comte de Saint-Simon.
He lived in France from 1760 to 1825 and was a social theorist and radically changed the opinions of many French citizens. He made them realize that people who have land and do absolutely nothing for a living essentially only have power because the people gave them power and that those people would be nothing without the ‘peasants’ that did all of the work. They realized that they could take the power from the monarchs at any time that they pleased. All of this was caused by the nobility arresting him and putting him on trial for assassination.
This made his name famous and when he was cleared of all the charges, everyone knew him and listened to what he said. His words eventually caused a revolution and he continued to preach his word. He still hated the “idlers” of society and continued to write books about it. Shortly before he died, he realized a great truth that changed him from being a rationalist to being a Romantic. The issue was less the ruling of the elite than the loss of religious faith (Dearborn, The Encyclopedia of the Romantic Era, Vol. 2 983-84). An example of a Romantic playwright and poet is William Shakespeare.
This man is most likely the best known Romantic that lived in the Romantic Era. He made many plays that are still talked about today and were quite amazing. As many people know, he was born and raised in Britain, so of course he is the most treasured there. He is what some call a “genius,” and if he’s this, then he’s an English “genius,” and since Britain during that era was a supreme empire, he could be considered a universal genius. Although he is the most famous, he actually didn’t have much influence on the British Romantic culture at all when he was alive.
Some tried to paint the scenes that he depicted in his plays or poems, but none of them turned out very well. So although Shakespeare was a “genius” and contributed his part to this era, he didn’t really change anything in Britain (Dearborn, The Encyclopedia of the Romantic Era, Vol. 2 1040-41). That said there’s a broad spectrum of the world that is now influenced by the work of Shakespeare, and that goes for many things, not just writing. For example, even Beethoven was so inspired by the work of Shakespeare that he made an opera out of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
Of course, he didn’t get very far, but there are more allusions to it in his work, like in his piano sonata, “The Tempest. ” But Shakespeare’s influence wasn’t just musical; it was also a religious influence. It was what some would think of as an aesthetic license that opened up a burgeoning interest in illustrative, narrative music and was shown through all sorts of different overtures and the tone poem. And this is said to probably be the biggest and most significant influence that Shakespeare had (Dearborn, The Encyclopedia of the Romantic Era, Vol. 2 1041-42).
A great example of a Romantic composer is Carl Maria von Weber. He was a composer that lived in Germany from 1786 to 1826. He took the romance in Romantic Era in stride and used German folklore and myths to create operas, and really focused on nature. He was known for his overtures, which were very dramatic and had very good openings. He was the first to establish a German opera where he lived, and totally broke away from the Italian traditions. He was probably one of the most impressive composers of this time (Sherane). Antonio Canova is a great example of a Romantic sculptor of the Romantic Era.
Canova was a man that lived from 1757-1822 in Italy. He was a very famous sculptor who was compared to Michelangelo Buonarotti, who painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Canova was famous for depicting neoclassical work such as his Orpheus, Eurydice, Napoleon as Mars, Cupid and Psyche, etc. Although his work is mostly classified as neoclassical because it illustrates the old stories of Greece and Rome, it can also be classified as Romanticism because of acknowledgement of the overall story, and not the story’s origins (Dearborn, The Encyclopedia of the Romantic Era, Vol. 149-50). This said, Romanticism almost always is hand in hand with neoclassicism. Neoclassicism was a great inspiration for many artists and authors during that era, not just for Canova. Romantics and Romanticism have influenced our Western society in many ways. It is just recently that we have begun to turn away from Romanticism, and even that is done in a very Romantic way. But unlike in the culture of Romanticism, artists have been demoted from a heroic creative people to an overall voice that is more controlled than controlling, like back then.
But many people may find it ironic how these ideas have stemmed in the same way that Romanticism itself was formed (Romanticism). Romanticism itself, in many instances, is our basis for everything. Romanticism is our past, and without the past we wouldn’t have a present or a future. This idea showed us why it is important to dream and be influenced by them, but it also showed us the importance of not completely rejecting logic. When the Romantic Era ended, most of the Romantic ideas slowly fizzled out and were lost to more logical and happier ideas.
So as Romanticism was a reaction to the Age of Enlightenment, today’s society is a reaction to Romanticism, reforming it until it fit our needs. Although we may treasure Romanticism, we have realized the importance of its end, but also the importance of its beginning and still cherish the great artwork, sculptors, writings, plays, poems, and anything else that the Romantic Era produced in its one hundred years.
Dearborn, Fitzroy. “Canova, Antonio 1757-1822. ” Encyclopedia of the Romantic Era. 1st ed. Vol. 1. New York: Taylor ; Francis Group, 2004. 149-50. Print. Dearborn, Fitzroy. “Shakespeare, William: Britain, Sickness, Oersted, Hans Christian 1777-1851,Religion: Christianity, Romance. ” Encyclopedia of the Romantic Era. 1st ed. Vol. 2. New York: Taylor ; Francis Group, 2004. 822-1049. Print. Kreis, Steven. “Lecture 16: The Romantic Era. ” The History Guide. 4 Aug. 2009. Web. 12 Dec. 2010. . “Romanticism. ” Romanticism. English Department, Brookyln College. , 12 Feb. 2009. Web. 13 Dec. 2010. . Sherane, Robert. “Music History 102. ” Ipl2: Information You Can Trust. Intel and Sun Microsystems, 1 Nov. 2008. Web. 16 Dec. 2010. .