Samuel Butler (1612-1680) was born at Strensham, Worcestershire, of a well-to-do yeoman, and educated at King's School, Worcester. He later became familiar with the law, possibly as a student at Gray's Inn or as clerk to a justice. After the Restoration he held several appointments, notably as secretary to George Villiers, the second Duke of Buckingham. Hudibras had an enormous success upon its publication and in 1678 Butler was given a royal pension by Charles II. Most of his minor works, including his interesting prose Characters, were not published until 1759, some not until this century.
The originality of Hudibras comes of a new combination of traditional elements. From Scarron Butler could draw the method of travesty, a reduction of high epic matter to low, familiar language. From Cervantes he has obviously drawn many mock-heroic techniques and examples of romance-parody. Also he had closer literary occasions for parody: Davenant's rational epic, Gondibert; the strained wit of such late metaphysical poets as Benlowes; and the canting style of many dissenting preachers. Butler's own skeptical mind comes through in his ridicule of men intoxicated with metaphysical speculation; but, even more, he forges one of the great satiric images of the cruel folly and hypocrisy (as he saw it) of the Puritan Commonwealth. His hero is named for the rash, hardy, "melancholy" knight in Spenser's Faerie Queene (II, ii), who woos the sour, pleasure-hating Elissa.
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