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classicism A term as replete with varied and
contradictory meanings as romanticism (q.o.) and considerably complicated by
the antinomy of classicism/romanticis m (q. v.). In general when we speak of
classicism we refer to the styles, rules, modes, conventions, themes and
sensibilities of the Classical authors, and, by extension, their influence on
and presence in the work of later authors. For the Romans classicism was Greek
influence. Seneca, for example, imitated the Greek tragedians; Virgil was much
influenced by Homer. Then, in the rzth c., we find Graeco-Roman models used by
writers of the French and German courtly romances. The imitation of the rules
of Classical poetics is another very impoftant development. Aristotle’s Poetics
and Horace’s Ars Poetica were two major influences in the ryth and r5th c.
Aristotlet shadow lies heavily, and in some cases not at all helpfully, over much
drama from the r6th c. to the end of the rSth c. Many commentators on Aristotle
in the r5th c. diffused his theories of imitation (q.zt.). His views of tragedy
and epic were regarded almost as gospel. The principal commentators on
Aristotle were mosdy ltalian: Robortelli, Segni, Maggi Vettori, Castelvetro and
Piccolomini. In England Scaliger’s Poetica (r55r) is a key work. Horacet
remarks on decorum (q.o.),the appropriateness of language and style, the
appropriateness of action to character, and his observations on the need for
excellence in craftsmanship, were also taken up, analysed and disseminated by
commentators in the r6th c.; principally, Vida, Robonelli, Joachim du Bellay,
Ronsard, Sir Philip Sidney (in Apologie for Poetie, rt9) and Opitz. Another
major Classical influence on drama was Seneca, especially in tragedy; to such
an extent that we have a sub-species known as Senecan tragedy (q.”.).
Classicism was strongest in France in the rTth and rSth c. but it was also very
strong in England. In France, the main authors to follow Classical precepts
were Corneille, Racine, Molibre, Voltaire, Boileau and La Fontaine. The most
influential ffeatise by a Frenchman in this respect is undoubtedly Boileaut Art
Podti.que (t674). The major English authors to follow Classical rules and modes
were BenJonson, Dryden, Pope, Swift, Addison and Dr Johnson. The influence of
r39 classicism/romanticism classicism is also very noticeable in the work of
many German writers in the second half of the rSth c. (notably, ttrflinckelmann,
Lessing, Goethe, Schiller and Hcilderlin), and also in the work of some ltalian
authors – especially Alfieri. The Germans, however, were not interested in
French Neoclassicism(q.a.) or the Roman authors. They went back to the Greeks
and imitated Greek forms. ‘ Classicism in literature is by no means extinct. In
the zot}r c. there has been a considerable revival of interest in Classical
themes in drama, fiction and verse, especially in French drama, and
particularly in the plays of Sartre, Cocteau, Giraudoux and Anouilh. See also

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