Is sinking down in its tranquility

—William Wordsworth, Complete Poetical Works

Poets such as William Blake, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, and Percy Bysshe Shelley were also leading lights of the romantic movement.

Mysterious Heroes

Romantic writers created a new kind of hero—a mysterious, melancholy figure who felt out of step with society. “My joys, my grief, my passions, and my powers, / Made me a stranger,” wrote Britain's George Gordon, Lord Byron. He himself was a larger-than-life figure equal to those he created.

After a rebellious, wandering life, he joined Greek forces battling for independence from Turkish rule. When he died of a fever there, his legend bloomed. Moody, isolated romantic heroes came to be described as “Byronic.”

The romantic hero often hid a guilty secret and faced a grim destiny. German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (GUR tuh) wrote the dramatic poem Faust. The aging scholar Faust makes a pact with the devil, exchanging his soul for youth. After much agony, Faust wins salvation by accepting his duty to help others. In Jane Eyre, British novelist Charlotte Brontë weaves a tale about a quiet governess and her brooding, Byronic employer, whose large mansion conceals a terrifying secret.

Painting of a pastoral scene in soft colors, with a couple lounging by a river and a house atop a cliff in the background.

In many of his paintings, romantic artist J.M.W. Turner focused on the effects of light and color.

Analyze Images

How does A View on the Rhine exemplify the characteristics of romantic art?

Glorifying the Past

Romantic writers combined history, legend, and folklore. Sir Walter Scott's novels and ballads evoked the turbulent history of Scottish clans or medieval knights. Alexandre Dumas (doo MAH) and Victor Hugo re-created France's past in novels like The Three Musketeers and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Architects, too, were inspired by old styles and forms. Churches and other buildings, including the British Parliament, were modeled on medieval Gothic styles. To people living in the 1800s, medieval towers and lacy stonework conjured up images of a glorious past.

Romanticism in Music

The orchestra, as we know it today, took shape in the early 1800s. The first composer to take full advantage of the broad range of instruments was the German composer Ludwig van Beethoven. Beethoven's stirring music transcended his own time and culture by conveying universal emotions such as love, loss, death, joy, and fear. For example, the famous opening of his Fifth Symphony conveys the sense of fate knocking on one's door.

His Sixth Symphony captures a joyful day in the countryside, interrupted by a violent thunderstorm. In all, Beethoven produced nine symphonies, five piano concertos, a violin concerto, an opera, two masses, and dozens of shorter pieces that are still popular today.

Romantic composers also tried to stir deep emotions. The piano music and passionate playing of the Hungarian composer Franz Liszt moved audiences to laugh or weep. Other composers wove traditional folk music into their works to glorify their nations' past. In his piano works, Frederic Chopin (shoh PAN) used Polish peasant dances to convey the sorrows and joys of people living under foreign occupation.

Romanticism in Art

Painters, too, broke free from the discipline and strict rules of the Enlightenment. Landscape painters like J.M.W. Turner sought to capture the beauty and power of nature. Using bold brush strokes and colors, Turner often showed tiny human figures struggling against sea and storm.

Romantics painted many subjects, from simple peasant life to medieval knights to current events. Bright colors conveyed violent energy and emotion. The French painter Eugène Delacroix (deh luh KRWAH) filled his canvases with dramatic action. In Liberty Leading the People, the Goddess of Liberty carries the revolutionary tricolor as French citizens rally to the cause.


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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments