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The period takes its name from the restoration of the Stuart line (Charles II) to the English throne in 1660, at the end of the Commonwealth; it is regarded as lasting until 1700. The urbanity, wit, and licentiousness of the life centering on the court, in sharp contrast to the high seriousness and sobriety of the earlier Puritan regime, is reflected in much of the literature of this age.

The theaters came back to vigorous life after the revocation of the ban placed on them by the Puritans in 1642. Etherege, Wycherley, Congreve, and Dryden developed the distinctive comedy of manners called Restoration comedy, and Dryden, Otway, and other playwrights developed the even more distinctive form of tragedy called heroic drama. Dryden was the major poet and critic, as well as one of the major dramatists. Other poets were the satirists Samuel Butler and the Earl of Rochester; other notable writers in prose were Samuel Pepys, Sir William Temple, the religious writer John Bunyan, and the philosopher John Locke.

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