Literary/ Cultural Context Essay

Janet Todd (University of Cambridge)
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“Sentiment”, “sentimentality” and “sensibility” become key terms in English literature from the 1740s to the 1770s, influencing the narrative form, moral significance and the verbal expression of poetry, prose fiction and drama. After the 1770s these terms decline in popularity, tending more and more to designate theatrical, insincere and self-indulgent emotionality.

Pathetic and sensationally moving elements involving domestic relationships and distressed virtue exist in the Greek drama of Euripides, in medieval morality plays and, most obviously, in the Elizabethan and Jacobean drama of Fletcher, Heywood and Shirley. Pathos resulting from the sudden intrusion of the child-and-parent tie is aroused in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra when the asp becomes a baby at the

2560 words

Citation: Todd, Janet. "Sensibility". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 01 November 2005 [, accessed 05 March 2024.]

1003 Sensibility 2 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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