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Main article: Languages of the United Kingdom

The English language is the official language of the UK, and is spoken monolingually by an estimated 95% of the British population.[13][note 1]

However, individual countries within the UK have frameworks for the promotion of their indigenous languages. In Wales, all pupils at state schools must either be taught through the medium of Welsh or study it as an additional language until aged 16, and the Welsh Language Act 1993 and the Government of Wales Act 1998 provide that the Welsh and English languages should be treated equally in the public sector, so far as is reasonable and practicable. Irish and Ulster Scots enjoy limited use alongside English in Northern Ireland, mainly in publicly commissioned translations. The Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act, passed by the Scottish Parliament in 2005, recognised Gaelic as an official language of Scotland, commanding equal respect with English, and required the creation of a national plan for Gaelic to provide strategic direction for the development of the Gaelic language.[note 2] There is also an effort underway to recognise Scots as a language in Scotland, though this remains controversial. The Cornish language enjoys neither official recognition nor promotion by the state in Cornwall.

Under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, the UK Government has committed to the promotion of certain linguistic traditions. The United Kingdom has ratified the charter for: Welsh (in Wales), Scottish Gaelic and Scots (in Scotland), Cornish (in Cornwall), and Irish and Ulster Scots (in Northern Ireland). British Sign Language is also a recognised language.

[edit]The Arts

 

[edit]Literature

 

 

William Shakespeare, often called the national poet of England[14]

Main article: Literature of the United Kingdom

At its formation, the United Kingdom immediately inherited the literary traditions of England and Scotland, including the earliest existing native literature written in the Celtic languages, Anglo-Saxon literature and more recent English literature including the works of Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare and John Milton.

 

 

Robert Burns, widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland[15]

The early 18th century is known as the Augustan Age of English literature. The poetry of the time was highly formal, as exemplified by the works of Alexander Pope and the English novel became popular, with Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, Henry Fielding's Tom Jones and Samuel Richardson's Pamela.

From the late 18th century, the Romantic period showed a flowering of poetry comparable with the Renaissance two hundred years earlier and a revival of interest in vernacular literature. In Scotland the poetry of Robert Burns revived interest in Scots literature, and the Weaver Poets of Ulster were influenced by literature from Scotland. In Wales the late 18th century saw the revival of the eisteddfod tradition, inspired by Iolo Morganwg.

 

 

George Orwell



In the 19th century, major poets in English literature included William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Alfred Lord Tennyson, John Keats, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Percy Shelley and Lord Byron. The Victorian period was the golden age of the realistic English novel, represented by Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters (Charlotte, Emily and Anne), Charles Dickens, William Thackeray, George Eliot and Thomas Hardy.

World War I gave rise to British war poets and writers such as Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves and Rupert Brooke who wrote (often paradoxically), of their expectations of war, and/or their experiences in the trench.

 

 

Rudyard Kipling's If— (1895), often voted Britain's favourite poem[16][17]

The most widely popular writer of the early years of the 20th century was arguably Rudyard Kipling. To date the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Kipling's novels include The Jungle Book, The Man Who Would Be King and Kim, while his inspirational poem If— is a national favourite. Like William Ernest Henley's poem Invictus,[18] it is a memorable evocation of Victorian stoicism, a traditional British virtue.[19]

Notable Irish writers include Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Bram Stoker, Jonathan Swift, George Bernard Shaw and W. B. Yeats. The Celtic Revival stimulated a new appreciation of traditional Irish literature. The Scottish Renaissance of the early 20th century brought modernism to Scottish literature as well as an interest in new forms in the literatures of Scottish Gaelic and Scots. The English novel developed in the 20th century into much greater variety and was greatly enriched by immigrant writers. It remains today the dominant English literary form.

Other globally well-known British novelists include George Orwell, C. S. Lewis, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, H. G. Wells, D. H. Lawrence, Mary Shelley, Lewis Carroll, J. R. R. Tolkien, Virginia Woolf, Ian Fleming, Walter Scott, Agatha Christie, J. M. Barrie, Joseph Conrad, Graham Greene, E. M. Forster, Aldous Huxley, Roald Dahl, Helen Fielding, Arthur C. Clarke, Alan Moore, Ian McEwan, Anthony Burgess, Evelyn Waugh, William Golding, Salman Rushdie, Douglas Adams, P. G. Wodehouse, Martin Amis, Anthony Trollope, Beatrix Potter, A. A. Milne, Philip Pullman, Terry Pratchett, H. Rider Haggard, Neil Gaiman and J. K. Rowling. Important British poets of the 20th century include Rudyard Kipling, Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin, John Betjeman and Dylan Thomas. In 2003 the BBC carried out a UK survey entitled The Big Read in order to find the "nation's best-loved novel" of all time, with works by English novelists Tolkien, Austen, Pullman, Adams and Rowling making up the top five on the list.[20]

[edit]Theatre

 

 

The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, opened in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1932, was named after the playwright, William Shakespeare

Main article: Theatre of the United Kingdom

From its formation in 1707, the United Kingdom has had a vibrant tradition of theatre, much of it inherited from England and Scotland. The West End is the main theatre district in the UK, which is located in the West End of London.[21][22] The West End's Theatre Royal in Covent Garden in the City of Westminster dates back to the mid 17th century, making it the oldest London theatre.[23]

In the 18th century, the highbrow and provocative Restoration comedy lost favour, to be replaced by sentimental comedy, domestic tragedy such as George Lillo's The London Merchant (1731), and by an overwhelming interest in Italian opera. Popular entertainment became more important in this period than ever before, with fair-booth burlesque and mixed forms that are the ancestors of the English music hall. These forms flourished at the expense of legitimate English drama, which went into a long period of decline. By the early 19th century it was no longer represented by stage plays at all, but by the closet drama, plays written to be privately read in a "closet" (a small domestic room).

In 1847, a critic using the pseudonym Dramaticus published a pamphlet[24] describing the parlous state of British theatre. Production of serious plays was restricted to the patent theatres, and new plays were subjected to censorship by the Lord Chamberlain's Office. At the same time, there was a burgeoning theatre sector featuring a diet of low melodrama and musical burlesque; but critics described British theatre as driven by commercialism and a 'star' system.[25]

 

 

Andrew Lloyd Webber's musicals have dominated London's West End since the late 20th century.[26]

A change came in the late 19th century with the plays on the London stage by the Irishmen George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde, who influenced domestic English drama and vitalised it again. The Shakespeare Memorial Theatre was opened in Shakespeare's birthplace Stratford upon Avon in 1879; and Herbert Beerbohm Tree founded an Academy of Dramatic Art at Her Majesty's Theatre in 1904.[27] Producer Richard D'Oyly Carte brought together librettist W. S. Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan, and nurtured their collaboration.[28] Among Gilbert and Sullivan's best known comic operas are H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado.[29] Carte built the West End's Savoy Theatre in 1881 to present their joint works, and through the inventor of electric light Sir Joseph Swan, the Savoy was the first theatre, and the first public building in the world, to be lit entirely by electricity.[30][31]

Sadler's Wells, under Lilian Baylis, nurtured talent that led to the development of an opera company, which became the English National Opera (ENO), a theatre company, which evolved into the National Theatre, and a ballet company, which eventually became the English Royal Ballet.[32]

 

 

The statue of Freddie Mercury above the West End's Dominion Theatre where Queen and Ben Elton's musical We Will Rock You has been performed since 2002.[33]

Making his professional West End debut at the Garrick Theatre in 1911, flamboyant playwright, composer and actor Noël Coward had a career spanning over 50 years, in which he wrote many comic plays, and over a dozen musical theatre works.[34] In July 1962, a board was set up to supervise construction of a National Theatre in London and a separate board was constituted to run a National Theatre Company and lease the Old Vic theatre. The Company was to remain at the Old Vic until 1976, when the new South Bank building was opened. A National Theatre of Scotland was set up in 2006. Today the West End of London has a large number of theatres, particularly centred around Shaftesbury Avenue. A prolific composer of musical theatre in the 20th century, Andrew Lloyd Webber has been referred to as "the most commercially successful composer in history".[26] His musicals which include; The Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita, have dominated the West End for a number of years and have travelled to Broadway in New York and around the world as well as being turned into films. Lloyd Webber has worked with producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh, lyricist Sir Tim Rice, actress and singer Sarah Brightman, while his musicals originally starred Elaine Paige, who with continued success has become known as the First Lady of British Musical Theatre.[35]

The Royal Shakespeare Company operates out of Stratford-upon-Avon, producing mainly but not exclusively Shakespeare's plays.[36] Important modern playwrights include Nobel laureate Harold Pinter, Tom Stoppard, Alan Ayckbourn, John Osborne, Michael Frayn and Arnold Wesker.[37][38]

[edit]Music

Main article: Music of the United Kingdom

See also: Britpop, British Invasion, British rock, New Wave of British Heavy Metal, List of Britpop musicians, and List of British blues musicians

While the British national anthem "God Save the Queen" and other patriotic songs such as "Rule, Britannia!" represent the United Kingdom, each of the four individual countries of the UK also has their own patriotic hymns. Edward Elgar's "Land of Hope and Glory", and Hubert Parry's "Jerusalem" set to William Blake's poem And did those feet in ancient time, are among England's most patriotic hymns.[39] Scottish patriotic songs include "Flower of Scotland", "Scotland the Brave" and "Scots Wha Hae"; patriotic Welsh hymns include "Bread of Heaven", set to the tune "Cwm Rhondda", and "Land of My Fathers"; the latter is the national anthem of Wales.[40] The patriotic Northern Irish ballad Danny Boy is set to the tune "Londonderry Air". The traditional marching song, "The British Grenadiers", is often performed by British Army bands, and is played at the Trooping the Colour.[41] Jeremiah Clarke's "Trumpet Voluntary" is popular for wedding music, and has featured in royal weddings.[42]

Other notable British composers: Henry Purcell, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Benjamin Britten, Gustav Holst, William Byrd, Thomas Tallis, Henry Wood, John Taverner, John Blow, Arthur Sullivan, William Walton, John Stafford Smith, Henry Bishop, Ivor Novello, Malcolm Arnold, Michael Tippett and John Barry have made major contributions to British music, and are known internationally. Living composers include Sir George Martin, John Tavener, Harrison Birtwistle, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Oliver Knussen, Harry Gregson Williams, Mike Oldfield, John Rutter, James MacMillan, Joby Talbot, John Powell, David Arnold, Anne Dudley, Trevor Horn, John Murphy, Brian Eno, Clint Mansell, Craig Armstrong and Michael Nyman.

 

"Greensleeves"

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Ballad "Auld Lang Syne"

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Elgar's "Pomp & Circumstance March No. 1"

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The traditional folk music of England has contributed to several genres, such as sea shanties, jigs, hornpipes and dance music. It has its own distinct variations and regional peculiarities. Wynkyn de Worde's printed ballads of Robin Hood from the 16th century are an important artefact, as are John Playford's The Dancing Master and Robert Harley's Roxburghe Ballads collections.[43] Some of the best known songs are Greensleeves, Scarborough Fair, Pastime with Good Company, Over the Hills and Far Away amongst others. The bagpipes have long been a national symbol of Scotland, and the Great Highland Bagpipe is widely recognised. The most famous Scottish folk song, Auld Lang Syne, is well known throughout the English-speaking world, and is often sung to celebrate the start of the New Year, especially at Hogmanay in Edinburgh.[44]

 

 

The Eagle pub in City Road, London, with Pop Goes the Weasel on the wall. Pubs are a significant aspect of British culture.[45]

From the mid-16th century, nursery rhymes began to be recorded in English plays.[46] Some of the best known nursery rhymes from Britain include; Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Roses are red, Jack and Jill, Cock a doodle doo, Baa, Baa, Black Sheep, The Grand Old Duke of York, London Bridge Is Falling Down, Hey Diddle Diddle, Three Blind Mice, Little Miss Muffet, Pat-a-cake, Pop Goes the Weasel, One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, Peter Piper, Hickory Dickory Dock, Rock-a-bye Baby, One for Sorrow, This Old Man, Simple Simon, Old Mother Hubbard, Little Bo Peep, Sing a Song of Sixpence, Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, Old King Cole and Humpty Dumpty.[47]

Christmas carols in English first appear in a 1426 work by John Awdlay, a Shropshire chaplain who lists twenty five "caroles of Cristemas", probably sung by groups of 'wassailers', who went from house to house.[48] Some of the most notable carols from the UK include; We Wish You a Merry Christmas, O Come All Ye Faithful, The First Noel, God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen, The Holly and the Ivy, I Saw Three Ships, Deck the Halls, In the Bleak Midwinter, Joy to the World, Once in Royal David's City, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, What Child Is This?, Good King Wenceslas, Here We Come A-Caroling and While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks. The music of Christmas has always been a combination of sacred and secular, and every year in the UK there is highly publicised competition to be the Christmas number one single, which has led to the production of music which still provides the mainstay of festive playlists. The UK single and album charts are revealed every Sunday on BBC Radio 1, with Elton John's "Candle in the Wind 1997" the all-time best-selling single in the UK, and Queen's Greatest Hits the best-selling album in UK chart history.[49][50]

 

 

The Beatles are the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed band in the history of music, with sales of over one billion units.[51][52][53][54]

The United Kingdom supports a number of major orchestras including the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philharmonia, the London Symphony Orchestra and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. London is one of the world's major centres for classical music: it has several important concert halls and is also home to the Royal Opera House, one of the world's leading opera houses. British traditional music has also been very influential abroad. The Brit Awards, the BPI's annual pop music awards, take place at the O2 Arena every February.[55]

The UK was one of the two main countries in the development of rock music, and has provided global acts including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Pink Floyd, Queen, Elton John, David Bowie, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, The Kinks, Yardbirds, Sex Pistols, The Clash, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, Dire Straits, Bee Gees, Rod Stewart, The Animals, Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Whitesnake, Motörhead, Phil Collins, Duran Duran, Billy Idol, ELO, The Hollies, Sting, Annie Lennox, George Michael, Genesis, The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Police, UB40, Ozzy Osbourne, The Smiths, Joy Division, Foreigner, Elvis Costello, Dusty Springfield, Status Quo, Cat Stevens, Judas Priest, Bonnie Tyler, Pet Shop Boys, Joe Cocker, T. Rex, Depeche Mode, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Roxy Music, The Jam, Rainbow, Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel, Seal, Eurythmics, Free, King Crimson, Moody Blues, The Troggs, Steve Winwood, Robert Palmer, Cream, The Foundations, Herman's Hermits, Procol Harum, Yes, The Pretenders, Simple Minds, Marillion, Nazareth, The Sweet, Human League, Supertramp, Tears for Fears, New Order, Bad Company, Brian Johnson, The Stone Roses, Pulp, Suede, Manic Street Preachers, Travis, Oasis and Blur. It has provided inspiration for many modern bands of today, including Coldplay, Radiohead, The Verve, Snow Patrol, Gorillaz, Muse, Kaiser Chiefs, Placebo, Franz Ferdinand, Bullet for My Valentine, The Libertines, Bush, The Kooks, Bloc Party, Stereophonics, Keane, Florence and the Machine, Mumford & Sons, Lostprophets and Arctic Monkeys. Since then it has also pioneered various forms of electronic dance music including dubstep, acid house, uk garage, drum and bass and trip hop, all of which were in whole or part developed in the United Kingdom. Acclaimed British dance acts include The Prodigy, Massive Attack, Underworld, Orbital, Jamiroquai, Basement Jaxx, The Chemical Brothers, Portishead, Faithless, The KLF, Goldfrapp, Aphex Twin and Fatboy Slim. Other notable British artists in pop music include Spice Girls, Adele, Leona Lewis, Amy Winehouse, Duffy, Lily Allen, Dido, James Blunt, Mika, Calvin Harris, One Direction, Imogen Heap, Kim Wilde, Sade, Fleetwood Mac, Small Faces, Tom Jones, Natasha Bedingfield, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Billy Ocean, Culture Club, Davy Jones, Erasure, Simply Red, Gary Numan, Madness and Robbie Williams. British rap is also becoming increasingly popular, mainly within the youth of large cities such as London, Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham, Leeds and Sheffield. Popular British R&B artists include Taio Cruz, Jay Sean, Tinie Tempah, M.I.A, Tinchy Stryder, Jessie J, Dizzee Rascal, Rita Ora, Joss Stone and N-Dubz.

[edit]Cinema

Main article: Cinema of the United Kingdom

 

 


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