literatura inglesa 2ª lengua MINOR, Apuntes de Idioma Inglés. Universitat de València (UV)

literatura inglesa 2ª lengua MINOR, Apuntes de Idioma Inglés. Universitat de València (UV)

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Asignatura: introducción a la literatura inglesa, Profesor: Rusell Di Napoli Huehnerbein, Carrera: Lenguas Modernas y sus Literaturas, Universidad: UV
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Literatura (2ª lengua): Inglesa


Literatura (2ª lengua): Inglesa Lenguas Modernas y sus literaturas


Unit 1. Medieval Literature

1.Key terms

Old English: Old English (Ænglisc, Anglisc, Englisc) or Anglo-Saxonis the earliest

historical form of the English language, spoken in England and southern and

eastern Scotland in the early Middle Ages. It was brought to Great Britain by Anglo-

Saxon settlers probably in the mid 5th century, and the first Old English literary

works date from the mid-7th century. After the Norman Conquest of 1066, English was

replaced, for a time, as the language of the upper classes by Anglo-Norman, a relative of

French, and Old English developed into the next historical form of English, known

as Middle English.

Middle English: is collectively the varieties of the English language spoken after

the Norman Conquest (1066) until the late 15th century; scholarly opinion varies but the

Oxford English Dictionary specifies the period of 1150 to 1500.[2] This stage of the

development of the English language roughly followed the High to the Late Middle

Ages. During the Middle English period many Old English grammatical features were

simplified or disappeared. Noun, adjective and verb inflections were simplified, a

process that included the reduction (and eventual elimination) of most grammatical

case distinctions. Middle English also saw a mass adoption of Norman

French vocabulary, especially in areas such as politics, law, the arts, religion and other

courtly language.

The English language: English/ˈɪŋɡlɪʃ/ is a West Germanic language that was first

spoken in early medieval England and is now the global lingua franca.[4][5] Named after

the Angles, one of the Germanic tribes that migrated to England, it ultimately derives its

name from the Anglia (Angeln) peninsula in the Baltic Sea. It is closely related to

the Frisian languages, but its vocabulary has been significantly influenced by

other Germanic languages, as well as by Latin and Romance

languages,[6] particularly French.

English dialects: Dialects are linguistic varieties which may differ in pronunciation,

vocabulary and grammar. For the classification of varieties of English in terms of

pronunciation only, see Regional accents of English.

Britannia: Britannia was a Roman-Britain province inhabited by

the Britons, Belgae and Picts, encompassing parts of the island south

of Caledonia (roughly Scotland) of the geographical region of Britain or Great Britain

and Ireland and is the name given to the female personification of the island. It is a term

still used to refer to the island. The name is Latin, and derives from the Greek

form Prettanike or Brettaniai, which originally designated a collection of islands with

individual names, including Albion or Great Britain. By the 1st century


BC, Britannia came to be used for Great Britain specifically. The Romans had initially

called the entire provincial island "Britain" and it was only when the island was split

into four provinces that two were given the name "Britannia"Although Britain had been

designated part of the Roman Empire in 43 AD during the conquest of

emperor Claudius it wasn't until the end of the 2nd century that Britannia had been

pacified and fully adopted Roman practices

The Romans: A Roman or Romans is a thing or person of or from the Roman


Important Roman settlements in Britain: Roman Britain (Latin: Britannia or, later, Britanniae, "the Britains") was the area of the island of Great Britain that was

governed by the Roman Empire, from 43 to 410 AD.:Julius Caesar invaded Britain in 55

and 54 BC as part of his Gallic Wars. The Britons had been overrun or culturally

assimilated by other Celtic tribes during the British Iron Age and had been aiding

Caesar's enemies. He received tribute, installed a friendly king over the Trinovantes,

and returned to Gaul

The Goths and Vandals: The Goths were an East Germanic people, two of whose

branches, the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, played an important role in the fall of the

Western Roman Empire and the emergence of Medieval Europe. The Goths dominated

a vast area,[1] which at its peak under the Germanic king Ermanaric and his sub-

king Athanaric possibly extended all the way from the Danube to the Don, and from the

Black Sea to the Baltic Sea. The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe, or group of

tribes, who were first heard of in southern Poland, but later moved around Europe

establishing kingdoms in Spain and later North Africa in the 5th century.

The Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes: The Angles were one of the

main Germanic peoples who settled in Great Britain in the post-Roman period. They

founded several of the kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England, and their name is the root of

the name England. The name comes from the district of Angeln, an area located on

the Baltic shore of what is now Schleswig-Holstein. The Saxons were a group

of Germanic tribes first mentioned as living near the North Sea coast of what is

now Germany (Old Saxony), in the late Roman empire. They were soon mentioned as

raiding and settling in many North Sea areas, as well as pushing south inland towards

the Franks. Significant numbers settled in large parts of Great Britain in the

early Middle Ages and formed part of the merged group of Anglo-Saxons who

eventually organised the first united Kingdom of England

Northumbria: The Kingdom of Northumbria (/nɔːrˈθʌmbriə/; Old

English: Norþhymbra rīce, "kingdom of the Northumbrians") was a

medieval Anglian kingdom in what is now northern England and south-east Scotland,

which subsequently became an earldom in a unified English kingdom. The name

reflects the approximate southern limit to the kingdom's territory, the Humber estuary.


TheVikings:Vikings (Danish and Bokmål: vikinger; Swedish and Nynorsk: vikingar;

Icelandic: víkingar), from Old Norse víkingar, were Nordic seafarers, mainly speaking

the Old Norse language, who raided and traded from their Northern

European homelands across wide areas of northern, central and eastern Europe, during

the late 8th to late 11th centuries.[1][2] The term is also commonly extended in modern

English and other vernaculars to the inhabitants of Viking home communities during

what has become known as the Viking Age. This period of Nordic military, mercantile

and demographic expansion constitutes an important element in the early

medieval history of Scandinavia, Estonia, the British Isles, France, Kievan

Rus' and Sicily.

Alfred the Great: Alfred the Great (Old English: Ælfrēd[a], Ælfrǣd[b], "elf counsel" or "wise elf"; 849 – 26 October 899) was King of Wessex from 871 to 899.Alfred

successfully defended his kingdom against the Viking attempt at conquest, and by the

time of his death had become the dominant ruler in England.[1] He is one of only two

English monarchs to be given the epithet "the Great", the other being the

Scandinavian Cnut the Great. He was also the first King of the West Saxons to style

himself "King of the Anglo-Saxons". Details of Alfred's life are described in a work by

the 10th-century Welsh scholar and bishop Asser.Alfred had a reputation as a learned

and merciful man of a gracious and level-headed nature who encouraged education,

proposing that primary education be taught in English, and improved his

kingdom's legal system, military structure and his people's quality of life. In 2002,

Alfred was ranked number 14 in the BBC's poll of the 100 Greatest Britons.

William the Conqueror: William I (c. 1028– 9 September 1087), usually known

as William the Conqueror and sometimes William the Bastard, was the

first Norman King of England, reigning from 1066 until his death in 1087. A

descendant of Rollo, he was Duke of Normandy (as Duke William II) from 1035

onward. After a long struggle to establish his power, by 1060 his hold

on Normandy was secure, and he launched the Norman conquest of England six years

later. The rest of his life was marked by struggles to consolidate his hold over England

and his continental lands and by difficulties with his eldest son.

Latin: Latin (Latin: lingua latīna, IPA: [ˈlɪŋɡʷa laˈtiːna]) is a dead classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin

alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets, and ultimately from

the Phoenician alphabet.Latin was originally spoken in Latium, in the Italian

Peninsula.[3] Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became the dominant

language, initially in Italy and subsequently throughout the Roman Empire. Vulgar

Latin developed into the Romance languages, such

as Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, French, and Romanian. Latin, Italian and French have

contributed many words to the English language. Latin and Ancient Greek roots are

used in theology, biology, and medicine.

King Arthur: King Arthur is a legendary British leader who, according to medieval

histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against Saxon invaders in the late 5th

and early 6th centuries AD. The details of Arthur's story are mainly composed

of folklore and literary invention, and his historical existence is debated and disputed by


modern historians.[2] The sparse historical background of Arthur is gleaned from various

sources, including the Annales Cambriae, the Historia Brittonum, and the writings

of Gildas. Arthur's name also occurs in early poetic sources such as Y Gododdin.

Robin Hood: Robin Hood is a heroic outlaw in English folklore who, according to

legend, was a highly skilled archer and swordsman. Traditionally depicted as being

dressed in Lincoln green,[1] he is often portrayed as "robbing from the rich and giving to

the poor"alongside his band of Merry Men. Robin Hood became a popular folk figure in

the late-medieval period, and continues to be widely represented in literature, films and


The Magna Carta: Magna Carta Libertatum (Medieval Latin for "the Great Charter

of the Liberties"), commonly called Magna Carta (also Magna Charta; "(the) Great

Charter"),[a] is a charter agreed to by King John of England at Runnymede,

near Windsor, on 15 June 1215.[b]First drafted by the Archbishop of Canterbury to make

peace between the unpopular King and a group of rebel barons, it promised the

protection of church rights, protection for the barons from illegal imprisonment, access

to swift justice, and limitations on feudal payments to the Crown, to be implemented

through a council of 25 barons. Neither side stood behind their commitments, and the

charter was annulled by Pope Innocent III, leading to the First Barons' War. After John's

death, the regency government of his young son, Henry III, reissued the document in

1216, stripped of some of its more radical content, in an unsuccessful bid to build

political support for their cause. At the end of the war in 1217, it formed part of the

peace treaty agreed at Lambeth, where the document acquired the name Magna Carta, to

distinguish it from the smaller Charter of the Forest which was issued at the same time.

Short of funds, Henry reissued the charter again in 1225 in exchange for a grant of new

taxes; his son, Edward I, repeated the exercise in 1297, this time confirming it as part of

England's statute law.

The Black Death: The Black Death was one of the most

devastating pandemics in human history, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 75 to

200 million people in Eurasia and peaking in Europe in the years 1346–

1353.[1][2][3] Although there were several competing theories as to the cause of the Black

Death, analyses of DNA from people in northern and southern Europe published in

2010 and 2011 indicate that the pathogen responsible was the Yersinia pestis bacterium,

resulting in several forms of plague, including the bubonic plague.

The Hundred Years War: The Hundred Years' War was a series of conflicts

waged from 1337 to 1453 by the House of Plantagenet, rulers of the Kingdom of

England, against the House of Valois, rulers of the Kingdom of France, over the

succession of the French throne. Each side drew many allies into the war. It was one of

the most notable conflicts of the Middle Ages, in which five generations of kings from

two rival dynasties fought for the throne of the largest kingdom in Western Europe. The

war marked both the height of chivalry and its subsequent decline, and the development

of strong national identities in both countries.


The Peasant’s Revolt: The Peasants' Revolt, also called Wat Tyler's Rebellion or

the Great Rising, was a major uprising across large parts of England in 1381. The

revolt had various causes, including the socio-economic and political tensions generated

by the Black Death in the 1340s, the high taxes resulting from the conflict with France

during the Hundred Years' War, and instability within the local leadership of London.

The final trigger for the revolt was the intervention of a royal official, John Bampton,

in Essex on 30 May 1381. His attempts to collect unpaid poll taxes in Brentwood ended

in a violent confrontation, which rapidly spread across the south-east of the country. A

wide spectrum of rural society, including many local artisans and village officials, rose

up in protest, burning court records and opening the local gaols. The rebels sought a

reduction in taxation, an end to the system of unfree labour known as serfdom and the

removal of the King's senior officials and law courts.

The War of the Roses: The Wars of the Roses were a series of wars for control of the throne of England fought between supporters of two rival branches of the

royal House of Plantagenet: the House of Lancaster (associated with a red rose), and

the House of York (whose symbol was a white rose). The conflict lasted through many

sporadic episodes between 1455 and 1487; however, there was fighting before and after

this period between the houses. The power struggle ignited around social and financial

troubles following the Hundred Years' War, combined with the mental infirmity and

weak rule of Henry VI which revived interest in Richard, Duke of York's claim to the

throne. Historians disagree about whether the Wars of the Roses were caused by the

structural problems of bastard feudalism or Henry VI's ineffectiveness as king.[5]

With the Duke of York's death, the claim transferred to his heir, Edward, who later

became the first Yorkist king of England, as Edward IV. His son reigned for 86 days

as Edward V, but Parliament then decided that Edward and his brother Richard were

illegitimate and offered the crown to Edward IV's younger brother, who

became Richard III. The two young princes disappeared within the confines of

the Tower of London.

The final victory went to a claimant of the Lancastrian party, Henry Tudor, Earl of

Richmond, who defeated the last Yorkist king, Richard III, at the Battle of Bosworth

Field. After assuming the throne as Henry VII, he married Elizabeth of York, the eldest

daughter and heir of Edward IV, thereby uniting the two claims. The House of

Tudor ruled the Kingdom of England until 1603, with the death of Elizabeth I,

granddaughter of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York.

William Caxton: William Caxton (c. 1422 – c. 1491) was an English merchant, diplomat, writer and printer. He is thought to be the first Englishman to introduce

a printing press into England, in 1476, and was the first English retailer of

printed books.His parentage and date of birth are both not known for certain, but he may

have been born between 1415 and 1424, in the Weald or wood land of Kent, perhaps

in Hadlow or Tenterden. In 1438 he was apprenticed to Robert Large, a wealthy London

silk mercer. Shortly after the death of Large, Caxton moved to Bruges in

Belgium.Caxton was settled in Bruges by 1450. He went on to become successful in

business and governor of the Company of Merchant Adventurers of London. At this

time Bruges was a wealthy cultured city, and Caxton became interested in reading and

fine literature. During his business travels, he observed the new printing industry

in Cologne, which led him to start a printing press in Bruges in collaboration


with Colard Mansion. He also embarked on the translation of Recuyell of the Historyes

of Troye. At this time Margaret of York, sister of Edward IV, married the Duke of

Burgundy and they moved to Bruges. Caxton became friends with the Duchess and it

was she who encouraged him to continue his unfinished translation of the Troy stories

(similar to those found in the Iliad), which he completed in 1471.Caxton set up a press

at Westminster in 1476 due to the heavy demand in his translation on his return. The

first book known to have been produced there was an edition of Chaucer's The

Canterbury Tales. He printed perhaps the earliest verses of the Bible to be printed in

English, as well as chivalric romances, classical works and English and Roman

histories. He translated into English and edited many of the works himself. He is

credited with the first English translation of Aesop's Fables, in 1484. The rushed

publishing schedule and his inadequacies as a translator led both to wholesale transfers

of French words into English and to misunderstandings. Caxton is credited with helping

to standardise the various dialects of English through his printed works. In 2002, Caxton

was named among the 100 Greatest Britons in a BBC poll.

The Ecclesiastical History of the English People: The Ecclesiastical History of

the English People (Latin: Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum), written by

the Venerable Bede in about AD 731, is a history of the Christian Churches in England,

and of England generally; its main focus is on the conflict between the pre-

SchismRoman Rite and Celtic Christianity. It was originally composed in Latin, is

considered to be one of the most important original references on Anglo-Saxon history

and has played a key role in the development of an English national identity. It is

believed to have been completed in 731 when Bede was approximately 59 years old.

Caedman’s Hymn: Cædmon (/ˈkædmən/ or /ˈkædmɒn/) is the earliest English (Northumbrian) poet whose name is known. An Anglo-Saxon who cared for the animals

at the double monastery of Streonæshalch (Whitby Abbey) during the abbacy (657–680)

of St. Hilda (614–680), he was originally ignorant of "the art of song" but learned to

compose one night in the course of a dream, according to the 8th-century

historian Bede. He later became a zealous monk and an accomplished and

inspirational Christian poet.Cædmon is one of twelve Anglo-Saxon poets identified

in medieval sources, and one of only three of these for whom both roughly

contemporary biographical information and examples of literary output have

survived.[1] His story is related in the Historia ecclesiastica gentis

Anglorum ("Ecclesiastical History of the English People") by Bede who wrote, "[t]here

was in the Monastery of this Abbess a certain brother particularly remarkable for the

Grace of God, who was wont to make religious verses, so that whatever was interpreted

to him out of scripture, he soon after put the same into poetical expressions of much

sweetness and humility in Old English, which was his native language. By his verse the

minds of many were often excited to despise the world, and to aspire to heaven."

Beowulf: Beowulf (/ˈbeɪoʊwʊlf, ˈbiːoʊ-/;[2] Old English: [ˈbeːo̯ˌwulf]) is an Old English epic poem consisting of 3182 alliterative lines. It may be the oldest surviving

long poem in Old English and is commonly cited as one of the most important works

of Old English literature. A date of composition is a matter of contention among

scholars; the only certain dating pertains to the manuscript, which was produced

between 975 and 1025.[3] The author was an anonymous Anglo-Saxon poet, referred to

by scholars as the "Beowulf poet".[4]The poem is set in Scandinavia. Beowulf, a hero of

the Geats, comes to the aid of Hrothgar, the king of the Danes, whose mead


hall in Heorot has been under attack by a monster known as Grendel. After Beowulf

slays him, Grendel's mother attacks the hall and is then also defeated. Victorious,

Beowulf goes home to Geatland (Götaland in modern Sweden) and later becomes king

of the Geats. After a period of fifty years has passed, Beowulf defeats a dragon, but is

fatally wounded in the battle. After his death, his attendants cremate his body and erect

a tower on a headland in his memory.The full poem survives in the manuscript known

as the Nowell Codex. It has no title in the original manuscript, but has become known

by the name of the story's protagonist.[5] In 1731, the manuscript was badly damaged by

a fire that swept through Ashburnham House in London that had a collection of

medieval manuscripts assembled by Sir Robert Bruce Cotton.[6] The Nowell Codex is

currently housed in the British Library.

The History of the Kings of Britain: Historia regum Britanniae (The History of the Kings of Britain), originally called De gestis Britonum (On the Deeds of the

Britons), is a pseudohistorical account of British history, written around 1136

by Geoffrey of Monmouth. It chronicles the lives of the kings of the Britons over the

course of two thousand years, beginning with the Trojans founding the British nation

and continuing until the Anglo-Saxons assumed control of much of Britain around the

7th century. It is one of the central pieces of the Matter of Britain. Although credited

uncritically well into the 16th century,[1] it is now considered to have no value as

history. When events described, such as Julius Caesar's invasions of Britain, can be

corroborated from contemporary histories, Geoffrey's account can be seen to be wildly

inaccurate. It remains, however, a valuable piece of medieval literature, which contains

the earliest known version of the story of King Lear and his three daughters, and helped

popularise the legend of King Arthur.

Layamon’s Brut: Layamon's Brut (ca. 1190 - 1215), also known as The Chronicle

of Britain, is a Middle English poem compiled and recast by the English

priest Layamon. The Brut is 16,095 lines long and narrates the history of Britain: it is

the first historiography written in English since the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Named

for Britain's mythical founder, Brutus of Troy, the poem is largely based on the Anglo-

Norman Roman de Brut by Wace, which is in turn a version of Geoffrey of

Monmouth's Latin Historia Regum Britanniae. Layamon's poem, however, is longer

than both and includes an enlarged section on the life and exploits of King Arthur. It is

written in the alliterative verse style commonly used in Middle English poetry

by rhyming chroniclers, the two halves of the alliterative lines being often linked by

rhyme as well as by alliteration.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Middle

English: Sir Gawayn and þe Grene Knyȝt) is a late 14th-century Middle

English chivalric romance. It is one of the best known Arthurian stories, with its plot

combining two types of folklore motifs, the beheading game and the exchange of

winnings. The Green Knight is interpreted by some as a representation of the Green

Man of folklore and by others as an allusion to Christ. Written in stanzas of alliterative

verse, each of which ends in a rhyming bob and wheel,[1] it draws on Welsh, Irish, and

English stories, as well as the French chivalric tradition. It is an important poem in

the romance genre, which typically involves a hero who goes on a quest which tests his


prowess, and it remains popular to this day in modern English renderings from J. R. R.

Tolkien, Simon Armitage, and others, as well as through film and stage adaptations.

The Canterbury Tales: The Canterbury Tales (Middle English: Tales of

Caunterbury[2]) is a collection of 24 stories that runs to over 17,000 lines written

in Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer between 1387–1400.[3] In 1386, Chaucer

became Controller of Customs and Justice of Peace and, three years later, Clerk of the

King's work in 1389. It was during these years that Chaucer began working on his most

famous text, The Canterbury Tales. The tales (mostly written in verse, although some

are in prose) are presented as part of a story-telling contest by a group of pilgrims as

they travel together on a journey from London to Canterbury to visit the shrine of

Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. The prize for this contest is a free meal

at the Tabard Inn at Southwark on their return.

The Miller’s Tale: The Miller's Tale" (Middle English: The Milleres Tale) is the

second of Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (1380s–1390s), told by the

drunken miller Robin to "quite" (requite) "The Knight's Tale". The Miller's Prologue is

the first "quite" that occurs in the tales (to "quite" someone is to repay them for a

service, the service here being the telling of stories).

The Visions of Piers Plowman: Piers Plowman (written c. 1370–90) or Visio

Willelmi de Petro Ploughman (William's Vision of Piers Plowman) is a Middle

Englishallegorical narrative poem by William Langland. It is written in

unrhymed alliterative verse divided into sections called passus (Latin for "step"). It is

considered by many critics to be one of the greatest works of English literature of

the Middle Ages, along with Chaucer'sCanterbury Tales and the Pearl Poet's Sir

Gawain and the Green Knight. Piers Plowman contains the first known allusion to a

literary tradition of Robin Hood tales.

The Book of Margery Kempe: is a medieval text attributed to Margery Kempe,

an English Christian mystic and pilgrim who lived at the turn of the fifteenth century. It

details Kempe's life, her travels, her alleged experiences of divine revelation (including

her visions of interacting with Jesus as well as other biblical figures), and her presence

at key biblical events such as the Nativity and the Crucifixion.

Le Morte Darthur: Le Morte d'Arthur (originally spelled Le Morte Darthur, Middle French for "the death of Arthur"[1]) is a reworking of existing tales by Sir Thomas

Malory about the legendary King Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, Merlin, and the Knights

of the Round Table. Malory interprets existing French and English stories about these

figures and adds original material (e.g., the Gareth story).Le Morte d'Arthur was first

published in 1485 by William Caxton, and is today one of the best-known works

of Arthurian literature in English. Many modern Arthurian writers have used Malory as

their principal source, including T. H. White in his popular The Once and Future

King and Tennyson in The Idylls of the King.


Everyman: The Somonyng of Everyman (The Summoning of Everyman), usually

referred to simply as Everyman, is a late 15th-century morality play. Like John

Bunyan's 1678 Christian novel The Pilgrim's Progress, Everyman uses allegorical

characters to examine the question of Christian salvation and what Man must do to

attain it.

2. Quiz

Medieval Literature

1. When the Roman Empire fell, in the early fifth century, the Roman legions withdrew from

what was then called Britannia, leaving behind a great many towns and cities, such as London,

York, and Manchester . There followed migrations of peoples from the East of Europe; these

included the Goths and the Vandals, who had broken the power of Rome, and the Germanic

tribes the Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes. The term Anglo-Saxon is used by some historians

to designate these latter three Germanic tribes. The period from their creation of the English

nation to the Norman Conquest is referred to as the Anglo-Saxon period, which runs from

about 476 to 1066

2. Old English was the West Germanic language spoken in the area now known as England

between the 5th and 11th centuries. Speakers of Old English called their language Englisc,

themselves Angle, Angelcynn or Angelfolc and their home Angelcynn or Englaland. Old English

began to appear in writing during the early 8th century. Most texts were written in West

Saxon, one of the four main dialects. The other dialects were Mercian, Northumbrian and

Kentish. Until the mid-twelfth century, Old English was spoken and written by the Anglo-

Saxons and their descendants in parts of what are now England and southern and eastern

Scotland. Middle English refers to the language that developed out of Late Old English in

Norman England until about 1470.

3. Beowulf is the conventional title of an Old English heroic epic poem set in Scandinavia and

commonly cited as one of the most important works of Anglo-Saxon literature. It wasn’t

written, however, until the 9th century. The story has a large number of Christian themes,

believed to have been added by monks. Late in the 9th century the original manuscript of Anglo

Saxon Chronicle, a collection of annals in Old English chronicling the history of the Anglo-

Saxons, was probably created in Wessex during the reign of Alfred the Great. Actively updated

till 1154, the work narrates in a biased fashion Caesar’s invasions of Britain, the departure of

the Romans, and the decades following the Norman Conquest

4 Perhaps the first piece of Christian literature to appear in Anglo-Saxon England is a hymn

written in Northumbria by Caedmon (died in 680). The so-called Venerable Bede (c. 673-735)

embeds this Anglo-Saxon hymn and the legend of its creation within his Latin text, An

Ecclesiastical History of the English People, a book that describes the spread of Christianity in

England. The hymn itself was composed in the mid- or late-7th century and is considered to be

the earliest surviving Old English poem. Bede wrote that the poem was divinely inspired,

because it was written not by an educated monk from the ruling class but by a humble



5. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, Viking raiders struck England in 793. The raiders

killed monks and captured valuables, sacking and looting monasteries that year in

Northumbria, a cultural centre of religious learning. These early raids mark the beginning of

the "Viking Age of Invasion", made possible by the Viking longship, which were effectively used

to raid wide areas in Europe, Asia, and the North Atlantic islands from the late 8th to the mid-

11th century. There was great but sporadic violence from the last decade of the 8th century on

England’s northern and eastern shores: Viking raids continued on a small scale across coastal

England. However, it is little known that in addition to being warriors and pirates, the Vikings

were also merchants and explorers. Alfred the Great, a Christian Anglo-Saxon King of Wessex

from 871 to 899, made a treaty with the Vikings that confined their rule to the north, while he

ruled in the Kingdom of Wssex in the south, which became a great cultural center where many

Latin texts were translated into English.

6. William the Conqueror, who before his conquest of England in 1066 was known as

Guillaume le Bâtard (William the Bastard) because of the illegitimacy of his birth, leading an

army of Normans, Bretons, Flemings, and Frenchmen from Paris and the ile-de-france

conquered Britain and became the first Norman King of England, bringing to Britain the

qualities of French culture and making the Anglo Saxon culture and language despised things.

In the years that followed, the language of the conquerors would blend with the Anglo Saxon

tongue, while Latin was the preferred language of serious texts.

7. The History of the Kings of Britain, written in Latin by the cleric Geoffrey Monmouth in about

1140, chronicles the lives of the kings of the Britains in chronological order beginning with the

the legendary Trojan founding by Brutus of the British nation. The work contains the earliest

known version of the story of King Lear and his three daughters and introduces non-Welsh-

speakers to the legend of King Arthur, a tale that was widely popular in its day, being

translated into various other languages from its original Latin and credited uncritically until the

16th century

8The Chronical of Britain, (ca. 1190 - 1215), or Brut, is a Middle English poem by the English

priest Layamon. It is based on the Anglo-Norman Roman de Brut, by the French Norman poet

Wace (c.1115-c.1170), a version written in verse of Monmouth’s The History of the Kings of

Britain. Layamon’s Brut narrates the history of Britain and includes an enlarged section on the

life and exploits of Arthur, thelegendary leader of the late 5th and early 6th centuries, who,

according to Medieval histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against Saxon

invaders in the early 6th century.

9. In 1215, King John was forced to sign the Magna Carta limiting his powers by law and

establishing the legal rights of the English feudal barons. A royal council was established, which

eventually developed into a parliament that, over the centuries, would limit the power of the

monarchy. However, social instability was not eradicated, and in 1381, the so-called Peasants

Revolt erupted. Earlier, the Black Death, a devastating bubonic plague killing millions of people

across Europe, had struck Great Britain in 1348 and, in the four years that it lasted, wiped out

nearly half of the island’s population, creating a labour shortage. As a result, labourers began

to ask for better wages and more free time. But the monarchy and Parliament refused, and


this sparked a revolt, which was quickly and brutally suppressed; however, the uprising

marked the beginning of the end of serfdom in Britain.

10. Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400) was born at a time of great strife. Britain was involved in

what became known as the Hundred Years’ War with France, waged from 1337 to 1453 over

the disputed French throne, and as a boy he survived the horrific Black Plague. At the time,

French and Latin were the dominant literary languages in England. Though he knew both

languages well, Chaucer was particularly fond of the East Midland dialect of English of London,

which he used to write the Canterbury Tales. William Caxton (1422?-1491), who introduced

the new art of printing with moveable type to English in 1476, printed The Canterbury Tales,

which made Chaucer’s work more easily accessible to new classes of reader. Chaucer’s dialect

would eventually evolve into modern English.

11 The second half of the fourteenth century produced Chaucer and two other great poets—

William Langland (1332-1386), the author of the Middle English allegorical narrative poem

Piers Plowman (considered along with Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales one of the greatest

works of English literature of the Middle Ages) and the anonymous author of Sir Gawain and

the Green Knight. That this happened may have something to do with the fact that all three

were responding to an age of crisis and transition. One very important change is that English

finally began to displace French as the language for conducting business in Parliament and in

the law courts. Although the high nobility continued to speak French by preference, they were

certainly bilingual. Chaucer’s choice to write in English is significant of a change in the status

of English as a literary language, and his own works were greatly to enhance its prestige as a

literary language

12 By the late 14th century secular subjects were becoming more popular. In the drama they

made their way through a new kind of religious or semi-religious work—the Morality, a play

that, unlike the mystery plays, did not take as its subject a story from the Bible. Instead,

moralities aimed to teach moral lessons through allegory from a more secular perspective.

One such morality was William Langland’s The Visions of Piers Plowman (c. 1370-1390), an

allegorical poem that presents a man’s quest for truth occurring within the context of dream

visions that satirize secular religious figures corrupted by greed. A later morality was the play

Everyman (after 1485), which holds that the secular individual, engaged in the crises of his life,

is in truth alone in life and accountable only to God. Though not a morality, a tale emerged in

the 15th century of a popular secular fictional hero known as Robin Hood, a heroic outlaw in

English folklore, initially mentioned in Piers Plowman, and in later ballads in the 15th and 16th

centuries. (The real Robin Hood is believed to have inhabited the forests of Yorkshire during

the early decades of the fourteenth century.) A tale developed of Robin Hood’s "robbing from

the rich and giving to the poor"; it depicted his partisanship of the lower classes, his special

regard for women, his anti-clericalism and his animosity toward the Sheriff of Nottingham.

13 In the years following the Hundred Years’ War, a series of sporadic dynastic wars were

fought from1455 to1487 between the Houses of Lancaster and York, rival branches of the

House of Plantagenet. The conflict is commonly referred to as the Wars of the Roses, owing to

the heraldic badges worn by the two royal houses: the White Rose of York and the Red Rose of

Lancaster. Henry Tudor, of the House of Lancaster, ultimately defeated Richard III of the House


of York, and was crowned Henry VII. The moment is often regarded as the end of the medieval

period in England. The House of Tudor would subsequently rule England and Wales till the

death of Queen Elizabeth I, in 1603.


1The barbarian (i.e., “foreign”) Angles and the Saxons worshipped old Germanic gods.

Thor and Woden are two such gods, whose names are echoed in the weekdays

“Thursday” and “Wednesday”. The literature was originally oral versepassed on from

generation to generation, and only much later given written form. Examples are Beowulf

(which originated abroad) and Caedmon’s “Hymn”. All records of early Old English

literature belong to a non-Christian England, and were written by clerks in monasteries.

Many of these texts came to light after Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in the


2Bede (ca. 673-735) was only seven when he entered the monastery in Northumbria

around 680. He wrote in Latin, and is known most for the Ecclesiastical History of the

English People, which he completed four years before he died. Though the History is an

account of Anglo-Saxon England, it is also about the Christianization of England and

the manifestations of God’s providence or divine guidance and care. Much of the work,

therefore, is a moral hagiography, a biography of saints’ lives.

3One of the miracles that Bede gives account of in the History is “Caedmon’s Hymn”,

which was probably composed between 658 and 680. It is said to be the earliest Old

English poem in existence. Bede tells us that Caedmon was employed by the monastery

as a cowherd. But though he was illiterate and advanced of age, and had never been

taught the art of song, he miraculously became the founder of a school of Christian


4According to Bede, the Abbess Hilda who ruled the monastery, impressed by

Caedmon’s god-given gift for song, ordered him to give up secular life and join the

monastery, where he was taught sacred history, which he converted into song. Some

modern day critics suggest that Caedmon’s real talent was his knowledge of the “vain

and idle” songs of the common people. He had previously been ashamed of this, and

that is why he did not participate in the social gatherings of the monastery, where it was

customary for each of the invited to sing a religious song. Some would say that

Caedmon’s combining the meter of popular music, which the monks in the monastery

were ignorant of, and the language of religious songs on Christian themes, was an


5Bede translated “Caedmon’s Hymn” him into Latin. But later manuscripts of the

History include the Old English version. The poem is an example of Old English verse

style. Many of the short poem’s half-lines refer to aspects of God: He is “Guardian”,

“Measurer”, Glory-father”, “Lord”, “Creator” and “Master”. Because of Old English

poetic diction and interwoven formulaic expressions, it is impossible—as Bede himself

says with regards to his own paraphrased rendition—to fully translate the poetic quality

of Caedmon’s poem.


6Old English is rich in consonants. Traces can be found in modern English words such

as “strength”, “breath”, “crash”, “almighty”, and “weird”.

7The technique employed by Old English poets consisted in dividing a line into two

halves, and giving each half two (though sometimes three or four) heavy stresses using

head-rhyme, a kind of alliteration, but without the first letters having to be the same.

With head-rhyme, words begin with the same sound. Following is an example from

Beuwolf: “Steapstanlitho—stigenearwe”, translated as “Steep stone-slopes, paths


8Caedmon’s “Hymn” has words we still possess, such as “and”, “his”, “he”, and “we”.

There are also words that have changed a little but we still recognize: nu (“now”—still

used in Scotland); meahte (“might”), heofon (“heaven”), hrofe (“roof”), halig (holy),

mid (as in middangeard or middle-earth; think of words like midway, midnight, mid-

winter, etc.), the ancient Romans made the words, Briton and Britain.

9Why does Bede say, in reference to Caedmon’s religious poetry, that “no one could

equal him?” Because “Heavenly grace had especially singled him out”,

10Why was Caedmon’s talent so surprising? Because he was poor, and no one had ever

heard him sing, as he would withdraw from the feasts where the monks took turn


11.Caedmon sang about subjects from the Old Testament and the New Testament. Do

you think his fame would have endured if he had song about matters not derived from

the stories of sacred Scripture?


1The Old English epic poem Beowulf is believed by some to have been written in the

mid-eighth century and by others before the tenth century, which is when the surviving

manuscript that preserves the poem was written. It was seriously damaged in a fire in

London in 1731 before a transcription had been made. It is believed that the extant copy

of the poem, which narrates events that took place a few years before the poem was

written, had previously been corrupted during earlier transcriptions.

2The extant manuscript version of Beowulf reflects a Christian tradition as it is reflected

in The Old Testament of the Bible: God is considered the creator of everything and his

will determines all; however, no reference is made to the New Testament and Jesus

Christ. Rather, the Christianity reflected in the text is fused with an older pagan

tradition. The poem does not invoke the values of Christian or Roman Catholic dogma,

which holds that faith and truths are contained in divine Revelation and the Church’s


3Beowulf depicts a warrior society, in which the most important value invoked is the

relationship between the warrior thane and his lord, to whose will all are subordinated.

At that time, a warrior owed loyalty to his lord, who in turn had to care for and maintain

the respect of his thanes. Lords were to be “protectors of warriors” and “dispensers of


treasures”. The relationship, as it is represented in the poem, seems more spiritual than

material, honor is superior to gold.

4Another significant un-Christian value represented in the poem is revenge. If a

kinsman is slain, a man is duty bound to avenge his death by killing the slayer. In Old

English times, the kinsmen of a slain man—even one who was accidentally killed by

another—could not be happy again until either vengeance was taken or a proper wergild

recompense—the money that the slain individual was considered to be worth—was

exacted from the perpetrator or his kinsmen.

5In the Beowulf poem we see that the potentiality of sudden attack, change, and death is

omnipresent. Everyone is caught up in an ongoing chain reaction of reprisals and

counter-reprisals that define a life of fatal doom. Grendel, an outsider, appears from the

lower depths bringing death and havoc; seeking to avenge the death of her child,

Grendel’s mother also suddenly, surprisingly, appears from outside the normal order of

things, as does also the dragon at the end of the poem. It is the lord’s duty to meet and

put down attacks, even at the cost of his own life. That is the destiny of a truly great

leader, like Beowulf. It is his destiny to constantly test fate and thereby exemplify the

heroic life that a lord and his thanes must engage in courageously,come what may. For

who knows, even fate can be swayed to alter a doomed man’s destiny when he exhibits

extraordinary courage.

6The poem praises the pagan values of immortality. Though doom ultimately claims

him, Beowulf, still an old man, is rewarded lasting fame in the minds of successive

generations because of his heroic actions. As “The Last Survivor’s Speech” conveys, in

the end the hero sacrifices his life to reclaim the treasure the dragon has taken from a

noble race of warriors and accumulated in its hoard. The evil deed is finally avenged

and the rescued treasure is then buried away in the name of the transitoriness of all

earthly things.

7The Danish king Hrothar is a proper lord leading a great band of warriors. He

commands his men to construct a mead-building, called Herot. Herot represents the

brotherhood and unity of the warriors in the tribe. The building is a palace, a seat of

government, a barracks, and a place where people gather to eat and drink, often to

excess. Grendel, an outsider, “a terrible walker alone,” attacks Herot and kills thirty

thanes who are fast asleep after a heavy beer drinking out. The written version, though

probably not the original oral version, refers to Grendel as one of those heathens who in

their spirits only “thought of hell” and “knew not the Ruler, the Judge of Deeds, they

recognized not the Lord God, nor did they know how to praise the Protector of Hell, the

glorious king.”

8The GeatBeowulf and his men come to the Dane Hrothar’s aide. When once again

Grendell attacks Herot, the author tells us, “It was not his fate that when that night was

over he should feast on more mankind,” for he is met by Beowulf. Mortally wounded,

Grendell flees to the cold, underwater “evil space” of his mother, described by the

author as a “monster-wife”, who in revenge for the death of “her only son”, attacks


Herot, kidnapping and then slaying one of Hrothar’s favorite thanes. At Hrothar’s

request, Beowulf seeks out Grendell’s mother, submerging himself alone in the evil

mere in the middle of a dark foreboding swamp, where she resides, in a cave, a symbol

of her life as an outcast. Beowulf then battles many monsters and “strange creatures”

until he reaches the cave of “the accursed dweller in the deep, the mightymerewoman,”

whom he “seizes in his mighty grip.” Ultimately, we are told, “holy God brought about

victory in war; the wise Lord, Ruler of the Heavens, decided it”: Beowulf slays her,

cutting off her head he only carries off her head. Leaving behind her severed head.

9At the end of the tale, Beowulf, “the Guardian of the people”, is an old man. Once

again he chooses to put to the test fate, “the ruler of every man”. Determined never to

let his glory fail while he lives, Beowulf decides “to seek battle, perform a deed of

fame” and defeat “the evil-doer”, a fire-breathing dragon. As a true leader he must

continually test fate.

10The anonymous Beowulf poet tells us that Grendel was “known as a rover of the

borders” , and that Grendel’s mother was a “hateful outcast” What is the significance of

that statement? Grendel and his mother did not belong—they were social outcasts, like

the biblical figure Cain, whose kin we are told they are.

Geoffrey Chaucer

1Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1340-1400) belonged to a growing class. He was not a peasant,

not a priest, not an aristocrat, but the son of a man engaged in trade: His father was a

wine merchant who through connections was able to place his son as a page to the

Countess of Ulster. Subsequently, in the years that followed he acquired aristocratic

manners and an education in the politer languages. But he preferred the East Middle

English dialect over Northern Midland dialect. ,

2The Canterbury Tales pilgrims represent the various medieval social groups of the

time. Each character is inextricably locked into the social condition he or she was born

into. Society was divided into three estates: the clergy (Those who prayed); the nobility

(Those who ruled); and the peasants (Those who did all the work). However, by the late

14th century economic growth was changing all that. The merchant class, to which

Chaucer belonged, was eager to become part of the aristocracy

3Because Chaucer was the son of a prosperous wine merchant, he probably spent his

boyhood in the mercantile atmosphere of London’s Vintry, where ships docked with

wines from France and Spain. Here he would have mixed daily with people of all sorts,

heard several languages spoken, and become fluent in French. He also received

schooling in Latin. But instead of apprenticing Chaucer to the family business, his

father was able to place him, in his early teens, as a page in one of the great aristocratic

households of England, directly related to the royal family. There Chaucer acquired the

manners and skills required for a career in the service of the ruling class

4Chaucer made several trips to mainland Europe. In 1372 he visited Italy, where he

became familiar with, and influenced by, the works of the Italian humanists Dante,


Petrarch, and Boccaccio. In 1353, Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375) first put out his

collection of 100 stories, The Decameron, some of the tales of which Chaucer would

later imitate in The Canterbury Tales(begun in 1386), in the narratives told by the

Shipman, the Merchant, the Franklin, and the Monk.But the difference between the two

works is notable in that, significantly, Boccaccio subtitled his work Prince Galehaut,

for the tales are told by a group of young aristocrats of both sexes, whereas Chaucer’s

narrators, though also of both sexes, are a mixed social class, the nobility being

represented chiefly by only one of the narrators: the Knight.

5Boccaccio’s The Decameronoften focuses on how priests and women use their wits to

get sexual satisfaction. This runs counter to the fact that a primary moral virtue in the

middle ages was chastity. Boccaccio’s tales seem tell us that sex is natural and

irresistible; that religious restrictions on sex are hypocritical; and jealous husbands

deserve to be cheated on. This responds to a strong fabliau tradition stretching back to

around 1150, when in northeast France jongleurs sang songs and told comic metrical

tales that were characterized by sexual and scatological obscenity. They were often

cynical in their treatment of women and the Church. Supposedly pious and devoutly

Catholic society is contrasted with the lustful nature of the people, especially the clergy.

In the 14th century some of those tales were reworked by Boccaccio for The Decameron

and by Chaucer for his Canterbury Tales.

6The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer gave literature something it had never seen before—

observation of life as it is really lived, pictures of people who are real (not just

abstractions from books) and a view of life which, in its tolerance, humour, skepticism,

passion, and love of humanity, we can call “modern”. What had never been done before

was to take a collection of human beings—of different temperaments and social

positions—and mingle them together, make them tell stories, and make these stories

illustrate their own characters. The tone is often satirical, but without moral judgment.

7The poetic meter, or rhythm, used throughout The Canterbury Tales is iambic

pentameter. This means that each line is based on five pairs of syllables, proceeding

from one that is unstressed in normal speech to one that is stressed. This pattern is

called the iamb, and a poetic structure based on it is called iambic. When the English

language is spoken, this pattern occurs naturally, so the rhythm of an iambic poem is

hardly noticeable when read aloud. Because the lines generally have five iambs each,

for a total of ten syllables per line, the rhythm is described as iambic pentameter. In

addition, throughout The Canterbury Tales, lines are paired off into rhyming couplets,

which mean that each pair of lines has similar-sounding words that rhyme at the end.

8The Old English past, with its head-rhyme, its concern with sin and its love of a

sermon, disappears with Chaucer’s writing, which instead looks forward to the future,

with its regular rhyme-patterns, classical learning, wit, color, French stanza forms, often

called the Chaucerian Stanza or Rhyme Royal, consisting of seven iambic pentameter

lines with line endings forming an ABABBCC rhyme scheme. In The Canterbury Tales,

Chaucer uses this form for the tales narrated by the Clerk, the Man of Law, the Second


Nun, and the Prioress. Since these are all religious tales about pious figures, it seems

that Chaucer used the rime royal stanza to convey a serious moral purpose. The rime

royal stanza is more difficult to pull off than just the simple rhyming of couples that

Chaucer usually prefers. (See “The General Prologue” in your dossier, page 12.) For

rime royal, each B-rhyme has to come up with two other B rhymes, as in the following

passage, from the “Prologue” to “The Second Nun’s Tale”:

First wolde I yow the name of seinteCecilieA

Expowne, as men may in hirstorie see.B

It is to seye in Englissh, ‘heveneslilie’ A

For pure chasstnesse of virginitee, B

Or for she whitnessehadde of honesteeB

And grene of conscience, and of good fame C

The sootesavour, lilie was her name. C

Notice how Chaucer has come up with two rhymes for “see”, which he does with

“virginitee” and “honestee.” But note also that to produce the other two B end rhymes

Chaucer takes the liberty to invert the normal English order of sentences, so instead of

saying “First I will explain Cecilia’s name to you” he writes, “First will I Cecilia’s

name explain to you.”

9 “The General Prologue”in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales introduces the pilgrims

who are on their way to the shrine of Saint Thomas à Becket, the Archbishop of

Canterbury murdered in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170 for his unwillingness to follow

King Henry II’s orders to reduce the rights and privileges of the Church. The major

characters of Chaucer’s tales include the Knight and his Squire, the Miller, the Cook,

the Franklin, and the Wife of bath, as well as several representatives of the Church: the

Prioress, the Monk, the Friar, the Summoner, the Pardoner, and the Parson.

10The Miller begins his story, saying there was once a student named Nicholas, who

studied astrology and was well acquainted with the art of love. Nicholas boarded with a

wealthy but ignorant old carpenter named John, who was jealous and highly possessive

of his sexy eighteen-year-old wife, Alisoun. One day, the carpenter leaves, and Nicholas

and Alisoun begin flirting. Nicholas grabs Alisoun, and she threatens to cry for help. He

then begins to weep, and after a few sweet words, she agrees to sleep with him when it

is safe to do so. She is worried, though, that John will find out, but Nicholas is confident

he can outwit the carpenter.

11Nicholas is not alone in desiring Alisoun. A merry, vain parish clerk named Absolon

also fancies her. He serenades her every night, buys her gifts, and gives her money, but

to no avail—Alisoun prefers Nicholas. Nicholas devises a plan that will allow him and

Alisoun to spend an entire night together in her husband’s absence, and soon the plan is


successfully put into effect. In the early dawn, Absolongoes to her house. Hoping to get

from Alisoun a kiss, or perhaps more, Absolonapproaches her bedroom window and

calls to her. She tells him to get lost. Absolon, however, persists, and Alisoun offers him

one quick kiss in the dark. Absolon leaps forward eagerly, offering a lingering kiss. But

it is not her lips he finds at the window, but her “naked ers. She and Nicholas share a

good laugh, while Absolon departs in a rage.

12Chaucer’s ability to play explore human psychology is modern at times, e.g., as

manifested in the last four lines of the “Miller’s Tale” extract in the dossier (page 15).

We are told that Absolon “wept like a beaten child.” The line arouses the reader’s

sympathy for the foolish young parish clerk. Not content to merely satirize the man,

Chaucer provides us with a glimpse of his pathetic human condition. In this way,

Chaucer makes our sympathy flutter and bend. In spite of all, we feel sorry for Absalon,

though at the same time our pity for him also makes us feel a bit ashamed, for Absolon

is a moralist who harms others by denouncing lovemaking

Margery Kempe

1Margery Kempe (ca. 1373-1438) was a medieval housewife from a well-to-do family.

She claimed to have received in personal visions from Christ and the Virgin Mary.

Kempe’s outspoken defense of her visions was well as her highly emotional style of

religious expression embroiled her with fellow citizens and with the church, although

she also won both lay and clerical supporters. Ordered by the archbishop of York to

swear not to teach in his diocese, she courageously stood up for her freedom to speak

from her conscience.

2The Book of Margery Kempe(1436-1438) is considered the first autobiography in

English, though the author, who became a Christian mystic, had to dictate her story to

someone else because, like most women at the time, she was illiterate. The daughter of a

well-to-do merchant and a successful politician, She was married to a local merchant,

with whom she had fourteen children. When she was forty she made a pact of celibacy

with her husband. But instead of becoming a recluse in a convent like the then famous

anchoress Julian of Norwich, Kempe undertook a pilgrimage on her own to the Holy

Land where she experienced mystical visions.

3 Kempe’s behavior was unusual, for most women like her became anchoresses. An

anchoress, or anchorite, was a woman who, like male hermits, for religious reasons

withdrew from secular society in order to dedicate her life to prayer and asceticism in

isolation. But unlike male hermits, Anchorites, were required to remain in one place,

usually in enclosed cells attached to churches, where considered dead to the world, they

only had to answer to the ecclesiastical authority of a bishop. Anchorism in England

came to an end in England when King Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries between

1536 and 1541.

4Kempe tells us that she married when she was twenty, and later suffered terribly giving

birth to her first child. Not finding religious comfort from the priests, she suffered

horrible visions of damnation. In one vision in particular, the devil appeared and


commanded her to deny God and renounce her religion, as well as her family and

friends. Complying with the devil’s wishes, she even slandered her own husband and

desired only wickedness, until one day a handsome looking Jesus Christ appeared to her

and brought her back to her senses.

5Having been restored by Jesus to her senses, Margery Kempe narrates that her pride

got the upper hand of her and she went into the ale brewing business. But she was

unsuccessful at it, which she believes was God’s way of punishing her, although she

acknowledges that she started the business without having had experience in brewing.

She promised to mend her ways thereafter.

6In her narration, Kempe, holding a bottle of ale in her hand one summer evening,

listens as her husband explains to her that he hasn’t tried to have sex with her ever since

she scared the wits out of him after he attempted to copulate with her eight weeks

before. Margery replies that she wants her husband to give her leave to take of vow of

chastity in the presence of the bishop. But the husband refuses to do so, saying that he if

so swore he would be committing a terrible sin should he later break his vow.

7Arresting instances of conversations with God and other celestial powers wasn’t

unusual during the Middle Ages, most famously, perhaps, in fifteenth-century France,

when Joan of Arc testified to hearing angels and saints tell her to lead the French Army

in rescuing her country from English domination. A more intimate example is that of

Margery Kempe, who relates how Christ spoke to her in a “sweet and gentle” voice.

The voice of Jesus gave her advice for negotiating a deal with her frustrated and worried

husband. Until recently, pyschologists have treated such behavior as a form of mental

illness. But recently, pyschologists such as Charles Fernyhough, have been following

ideas popularized by groups such as the Hearing Voices Movement that reject the idea

that hearing voices is a sign of mental illness. Rather, they see it as a normal variation in

human nature. The importance of voice-hearing to many writers might seem to validate

this. They include Charles Dickens, Joseph Conrad, and Virginia Woolf.

8 It is thought that Kempe, of whom little is known, dictated her spiritual biography to

one or several individuals between 1436 and 1438. Another copy was made in at some

point before 1450. Then the book disappeared for centuries, until a manuscript of the

book was discovered in 1934, and subsequently edited. Around 1413, Kempe visited in

her cell the famous anchoress Julian of Norwich, whoseRevelations of Divine Love,

written around 1395, is the first book known to have been written by a woman. The text,

which unlike Margery’s, was not lost, though neither was it widely read, and would not

be edited until 1911. It seems Kempe sought, and received, Julian’s approval for her

visions of and conversation with God, though Julian cautioned her to remain within the

bounds that were permitted by the Church. One can only wonder whether the fact that

Julian did so, and Kempe did not always do so, may have had something to do with the

fact that The Book of Margery Kempe disappeared for so long.


Thomas Malory

1William Caxton (1421-91) set up his printing press in 1476. Among his earliest books

were two editions of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales: the first published in 1476. In

addition to classical works and English and Roman histories, Caxton also produced

chivalric romances, the most important of which was Thomas Malory’s Le

Morted’Arthur(1485). These books appealed to the English upper classes in the late 15th

century. Caxton was supported by, but, significantly, not dependent on members of the

nobility and gentry.

2Arthurian romance, of which Malory’s book is a compilation, is a body of highly

diverse narrative materials that originated at various times among various peoples and

that only gradually became associated with the name Arthur.One of the few prose works

to emerge in the 15th century, Malory’s Le Morted’Arthur (originally spelled Le

MorteDarthur)is the fullest recount we have of the work of the mythical Knights of the

Round Table, their loves, treacheries, their search for the Holy Grail. Malory has

become our main source for the legends of King Arthur, a legendary Briton who, it is

told, led the defense of Britain against Saxon invaders in the late 5th and early 6th

centuries. Malory sets the legends out in a simple, dignified and clear prose: the first

printed work in English prose

3Chivalry is the code that governs the actions of the knight-adventurer who rides out in

search of wrongs that he may right—typically in search of ladies whom he may rescue

from monsters, churls, and wicked knights. The ideal originated in France, in the 12th

century, history, of course never having actually witnessed such knights and ladies. (A

modern times counterpart to the ideal was the American West.) No matter how

extravagant the story he is telling, Malory manages to give it a hard base of realism. His

dialogue is naturalistic, and most of his characters express themselves, in moments of

great emotional tension, with a minimum of words.

4In Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’ Arthur we learn that Sir Agravain and Sir Mordred

hate Arthur’s queen Guinevere and Sir Lancelot. They accuse the queen and the knight

of engaging in secret fornication with each other. Sir Gwain, however, asks Agravain

and Mordred refuse to keep it quiet, for; otherwise, it would lead to dire consequences

for the Round Table. He reminds them that they are all indebted to Lancelot, who once

rescued both Agravain and Mordred from death. The two agree to remain silent for the

time being until further evidence is uncovered.

5Agravain and Mordred and twelve other armed knights block the door to the Queen’s

bedchamber, with Lancelot and Guinevere inside. They order Lancelot to surrender. The

Queen tells Lancelot that she will turn herself over to them while he escapes. This

Lancelot refuses to accept. Then after swearing to his besiegers that matters are not at

all as they appear between him and the Queen, he storms out of the room and battles the

knights, killing all of them,except Mordred who is wounded , King Arthur’s illegitimate



6Sir Gwain refuses to obey King Arthur’s order to execute the Queen by burning her at

the stake. Gwain predicts that if the king goes through with this, that there will be dire

consequences; however, two younger knights, Gwain’s brethren, say they will carry out

the deed against their own consciences if the king so orders them. Gwain retires,

distraught, and Guinevere is eventually rescued by Lancelot.

7Why, one may ask, was Queen Guinevere unfaithful to King Arthur? The obvious

reason is that she loved Lancelot more than she did her husband. It seems justifiable,

too, given that her marriage to Arthur was not derived from romance but from practical

reasons. In Malory’s version, Arthur married Guinevere because the barons wanted an

heir to the throne. Arthur already had a son, Mordred, a bastard whose mother was

Arthur’s half-sister (see Dossier, page 19c). Arthur never proposed marriage to

Guinevere, but rather had asked her father for her hand in marriage, as was customary.

Their marriage, then, was more of business transaction than a bond of love, making the

Queen was, in essence, a royal commodity. In the Middle Ages, marriages among the

nobility were arranged affairs, and normally nobles did not marry for love. In Malory’s

narration, Guinevere and Lancelot are truly in love: theirs, then, is an honorable love,

and that, the author seems to suggests, naturally trumps all that is conventional,

practical, and reasonable. But the king’s honor is at stake. And in the Middle Ages, a

nobleman’s honor was worth more than gold and love.


Unit 2. Renaissance

1. Key terms

The Tudors: Henry VII, Henry VIII, Elizabeth I: Henry VII (Welsh: Harri Tudur; 28 January 1457 – 21 April 1509) was King of England from seizing the crown on 22

August 1485 until his death on 21 April 1509, and the first monarch of the House of

Tudor. He ruled the Principality of Wales[1] until 29 November 1489 and was Lord of

Ireland. Henry VIII (28 June 1491 – 28 January 1547) was King of England from 21

April 1509 until his death. Henry was the second Tudor monarch, succeeding his

father, Henry VII. Elizabeth I (7 September 1533 – 24 March 1603)[1] was Queen of

England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The

Virgin Queen, Gloriana or Good Queen Bess, the childless Elizabeth was the last

monarch of the Tudor dynasty.

The decline of the feudal order: His Medieval Feudal system, feudalism, worked well for many hundreds of years. The decline of feudalism occurred due to a number of

events which occurred during the Medieval times and era. Feudalism was based on the

division of land by the king to nobles and vassals in return for their military service

under the Feudal Levy. Land was the main source of the economy and was dependent

on the peasants who worked on the land.

The Great Chain of Being: The great chain of being is a strict, religious hierarchical structure of all matter and life, believed to have been decreed by God. The chain starts

from God and progresses downward to angels, demons (fallen/renegade angels), stars,

moon, kings, princes, nobles, commoners, wild animals, domesticated animals, trees,

other plants, precious stones, precious metals, and other minerals.The great chain of

being (Latin: scala naturae, "ladder of being") is a concept derived

from Plato, Aristotle (in his Historia animalium), Plotinus, and Proclus. Further

developed during the Middle Ages, it reached full expression in early

modern Neoplatonism.

The rebirth of letters and arts: The printing press was given impetus by the humanist revival, just as humanist works were largely reliant on printing workshops.

Humanism and typography were thus interdependent.The growth of a book economy,

which involved significant amount of money, gave rise to real competition – printers

sought to outdo their competitors by publishing new treatises, or texts that were more

complete or more correct. Scholars visited the Royal Library at Fontainbleau in search

of manuscripts of classical texts or those by the Early Church Fathers. These texts

provided material for contemporary works that represented a new publishing sector.

Technical and scientific treatises were printed with lavish illustrations to facilitate

understanding and provide clarification. In this way, printing technology helped to

further the humanist project of furthering knowledge.


Humanism: Humanism is a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence (rationalism, empiricism) over acceptance of dogma or superstition.

English translations of classics and modern continental authors:

“The Courtier”: The Book of the Courtier (Italian: Il Cortegiano [il korteˈdʒaːno]) is a courtesy book. It was written by Baldassare Castiglione over the course of many

years, beginning in 1508, and published in 1528 by the Aldine Press in Venice just

before his death; an English edition was published in 1561. It addresses the constitution

of a perfect courtier, and in its last installment, a perfect lady.

The “trivium” and the “quadrivium”: The trivium is the lower division of the seven liberal arts and comprises grammar, logic, and rhetoric .

The quadrivium (plural: quadrivia) is the four subjects, or arts, taught after teaching

the trivium (arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy).

The Reformation: The Reformation , also referred to as the Protestant Reformation and the European Reformation, was a schism from the Roman Catholic

Church initiated by Martin Luther, and continued by John Calvin, Huldrych Zwingli,

and other early Protestant Reformers in 16th century Europe. Most experts on the

subject consider the publication of the Ninety-Five Theses by Luther in 1517 as its

starting point, with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 (concluding the Thirty Years' War)

as its ending.

The Spanish Armada: The Spanish Armada (Spanish: Grande y Felicísima Armada, literally "Great and Most Fortunate Navy") was a Spanish fleet of 130 ships that sailed from La Coruña in August 1588, under the command of the Duke of Medina Sidonia with the purpose of escorting an army from Flanders to invade England. The strategic aim was to overthrow Queen Elizabeth I of England and the Tudor establishment of Protestantism in England, with the expectation that this would put a stop to English interference in the Spanish Netherlands and to the harm caused to Spanish interests by English and Dutch privateering.

The plantations of Ireland: Plantations in 16th- and 17th-century Ireland involved the confiscation of land by the English crown and the colonisation of this land with settlers from the island of Great Britain. They followed smaller-scale immigration to Ireland as far back as the 12th century, which had resulted in a distinct ethnicity in Ireland known as the Old


English. Unofficial plantations carried out privately by landlords also took place such as that of Antrim and Down.

Thomas More: Sir Thomas More (/mɔər/; 7 February 1478 – 6 July 1535), venerated by Roman Catholics as Saint Thomas More,[1][2] was an English

lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman and noted Renaissance humanist. He was

also a councillor to Henry VIII, and Lord High Chancellor of England from October

1529 to 16 May 1532.[3] He also wrote Utopia, published in 1516, about the political

system of an imaginary ideal island nation.

DesideriusErasmus: Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus known as Erasmus or Erasmus of Rotterdam was a Dutch Renaissance humanist, Catholic priest, social critic, teacher, and theologian.

Philip Sidney: Sir Philip Sidney (30 November 1554 – 17 October 1586) was an English poet, courtier, scholar, and soldier, who is remembered as one of the most prominent figures of the Elizabethan age. His works include Astrophel and Stella, The Defence of Poesy (also known as The Defence of Poetry or An Apology for Poetry), and The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia.

Edmund Spenser: Edmund Spenser (/ˈspɛnsər/; 1552/1553 – 13 January 1599) was an English poet best known for The Faerie Queene, an epic poem and

fantastical allegory celebrating the Tudor dynasty and Elizabeth I. He is recognized as

one of the premier craftsmen of nascent Modern English verse, and is often considered

one of the greatest poets in the English language. He was deeply affected by Irish faerie

mythology, which he knew from his home at Kilcolman and possibly from his Irish wife

Elizabeth Boyle.

Christopher Marlowe: Christopher Marlowe, also known as Kit Marlowe was an English playwright, poet and translator of the Elizabethan era. Marlowe was the foremost Elizabethan tragedian of his day. He greatly influenced William Shakespeare, who was born in the same year as Marlowe and who rose to become the pre-eminent Elizabethan playwright after Marlowe's mysterious early death..

William Shakespeare: William Shakespeare was an English poet, playwright, and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-

eminent dramatist.] He is often called England's national poet, and the "Bard of

Avon".His extant works, including collaborations, consist of approximately 38 plays,

154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and a few other verses, some of uncertain

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