English Literature The Medieval Period (Middle English)

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  • English LiteratureThe Medieval Period(Middle English)

  • What was it like to live in the Middle Ages?

  • Welcome to England and the English an island of peoples, languages, and divisions...Latin -- church, schoolsFrench -- court, castleEnglish -- commonersThe White Tower in Londonpart of Williams legacyChartres Cathedral

  • The 3 Estates in the Middle AgesThe idea of estates, or orders, was encouraged during the Age, but this ordering was breaking down.ClergyLatin chiefly spoken, those who pray, purpose was to save everyones soulNoblesFrench chiefly spoken, those who fight, purpose was to protectallow for all to work in peaceand provide justiceCommonersEnglish spoken, those who work, purpose was to feed and clothe all above them

  • The Middle Ages(1066-1485)

  • William, Duke of NormandyThe Battle of Hastings (October 1066)

    Daylong battle near Hastings, EnglandDefeated King Harold of England, the last of the Anglo-Saxon kings, this began the Norman ConquestThe new group under Williams reign became known as the Anglo-Normans. The Norman Conquest of England created a powerful Anglo-Norman entity and brought England into the mainstream of European civilization Why did William attack?He was an illegitimate son of the previous Duke of Normandy and cousin to the English king called Edward the Confessor.When Edward died childless, Harold, the earl of Wessex, was crowned the next day.William claimed that the throne had been promised to him.

  • William the Conqueror: Battle of Hastings, 1066 (Bayeaux Tapestry)

  • As a ruler . . .

    An efficient and ruthless soldier, William did not want to eliminate the Anglo-Saxons, he wanted to rule them.England did not start speaking French, they kept their own language.Williams first administrative feat the Domesday Bookoften called Doomsday Book William the Conquerer had everyones personal property catalogued so he could tax it. For the first time people could be taxed on what they owned.Brought a new social system to England - feudalism

  • FeudalismFeudalism was an economic, social and military system in which vassals, or tenants, pledged their loyalty to a lord, exchanging work on his land, or service in his military in return for his protection.

    Land parceled out to lords who supported the Norman king

    Lords then granted land to vassals in exchange for loyalty/oath of military duty

    Feudalism is important as it created ties of obedience and fostered a sense of loyalty between the vassals and their lord.

  • FeudalismNote: though the peasants were the largest group in society, they had the least powerPyramid of Power,religious concept of hierarchy, with the king at the top of the pyramid and peasants at the bottom. (Dont forget about God,above king.)

  • Knighthood

    With feudalism came a sense of formalism knighthood and the code of chivalry.

    Young males, above the serf class, were trained from an early age to become warriors.

    To be sure that their training was strict, they were removed from their home and trained elsewhere.

    Around the age of twenty, a young knight was dubbed, or ceremonially tapped on the shoulder, and only then does he get the full rights of the warrior caste and the title sir.

    Knighthood was grounded in the feudal ideal of loyalty. Knights had a system of social codes that they were not permitted to break.

  • Knighthood and Chivalry

  • A product of feudalism, chivalry was an idealized system of manners and moralsRestricted to nobilityThe Medieval knight was bound to the chivalric code to be loyal toGodhis lordhis lady

    Chivalric ideals encouraged knights to be: generousbravehonestpioushonorableto defend the weak and to battle evil and uphold good.benevolentSir Gawain is an example Chivalry

  • Chivalry and Courtly Love

    A new element of courtly love served to distinguish romances from the earlier epics and gives rise to first romantic literature

    The knights deeds were not performed in the service of king or country, but on behalf of a beautiful, fair, and noble lady who was above him in status and usually married--and therefore unattainable.

    The tradition of courtly love began in the eleventh century by troubadours (poet-musicians) who sang lyrics based on the theme of courtly love.

    In its ideal form it was nonsexual, and viewed as ameans of self-improvement.

    The idea was that a knight acting in the name of a lady would make him braver and better.

    He might wear her colors in battle, glorify her in words, and be inspired by her, but she should always remain pure and out of reach

  • The Crusades (1095-1270)

    a series of wars waged by European Christians against the Muslims, with Jerusalem and the Holy Land as the prize

    Heathens could not occupy the land of Jesus in the minds of English

    England ultimately failed to hold Jerusalem

    BUT, they gained enormous amounts of knowledge in mathematics, astronomy, architecture, and crafts

  • Martyrdom of Thomas a Becket

    Shrine of Sir Thomas a Becket located in CanterburyThomas had risen to great power as chancellor, and was appointed the archbishop of Canterbury by KingHenry IIKing Henry II hoped by appointing a friend to the positionhe would gain an upper hand in any disputes with the ChurchBUT, Thomas took the popes side much more often than King Henrys sideIn December 1170 Henry was furious and raged, Will noone rid me of this turbulent priest? Four of his knightstook him seriously and murdered Becket in his owncathedral.Public outrage led to devotion of St. Thomas the Martyr, this weakened the kings power and strengthened the churchs

  • The New City ClassesBecause the population continued togrow, people began living in towns andcities, eventually making the feudal castle obsolete

    A lower, middle, and upper class developed, theirlives not dictated by a feudal lord

    First cities were London and Canterbury

    People of the cities were free, tied neither to theland nor to knighthood

  • The Magna CartaPower to (some of ) the peoplereturn to older, democratic tendenciessigned by King John in 1215the English barons pushed (in other words,FORCED) him to sign the document, thus endingcentral monarchical power. Magna Carta later became the basis for Englishconstitutional law, which gave rights such as trial by jury and legislative taxation

  • The Hundred Years War

    First major national war for England, waged against the French

    Why? based on the dubious claims to the throne of France by two English kings Edward III andHenry V

    It was ultimately unsuccessful for the English, but it did change the look of England no longer known by a knight in shining armor, rather a green clad yeoman with his longbow, these yeoman formed the nucleus of the English armies

    How long was the Hundred Years War?116 years (1337-1453)

  • The Black Death

    bubonic plague, struck England around 1348highly contagious, spread through infected fleas from ratsthe disease reduced the population by a third, thus causing a labor shortagethis led to the serfs freedom (he was needed forlabor elsewhere) and the complete end of feudalism(this ends the Middle Ages)

  • Enough already!I thought this was an English class!

  • LanguagesLatin was the language of the Roman Catholic Church, which dominated EuropeThe Church was the only source of educationThus, Latin was a common language for Medieval writings.

  • Characteristics of Medieval LiteratureHeroismfrom both Germanic and Christian traditions, sometimes mingledBeowulfSir Gawain and the Green Knight

    Presentations of idealized behaviorliterature as moral lessonloyalty to kingchivalry

  • Use of AllegoryAn allegory is a figurative (symbolistic) mode of representation conveying a meaning other than the literal.Much of medieval literature relied on allegory to convey the morals the author had in mind while writing--representations of abstract qualities, events, and institutions are thick in much of the literature of this time. Everyman is a good example of allegory during this time period.

  • Characteristics of Medieval LiteratureRomanceSir Gawain and the Green KnightA narrative in prose or verse that tells of the adventures and heroic exploits of chivalric heroesexploits of knightsoften a supernatural element involvedChristian messageconcern with salvation and the world to comeno interest in social changeuntil the late 14th centuryChaucer signals new thinking, up-ending social order

  • Characteristics of Medieval LiteratureThe QuestIn addition to the theme of Courtly Love, the Quest was highly important:A quest is a heros journey towards a goal. The objects of quests require great exertion on the part of the hero, and the overcoming of many obstacles.The hero must obtain something, or someone, by the quest and with this object return home.

  • The HeroIs often of divine descent endowed with great strength and ability" or "a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities" Usually, an inner and outer problem for the character is set.The hero is introduced; audience identifies with them The hero lacks something, has a tragic flaw, or a deep wound The call often produces disorientation and discomfort for the hero The call is often in the form of a dire warning

    Characteristics of Medieval Literature

  • The HeroExcuses are used to avoid the call This hesitation illustrates the formidability of the challenge ahead Resistance creates change and strength, allowing the hero to grow A physical or metaphorical crossing is madeThe crossing is an irrevocable leap of faith, from which theres no turning backThe hero faces his greatest fearThe hero dies, so he can be reborn The hero gains new perception This new perception may create a moment of clarityThe moment may be of great self-realization for the hero It may also be an epiphany for the heros companions

    Characteristics of Medieval Literature

  • Authors and Works of the Middle Ages

  • EverymanA morality/miracle play to teach a lesson to its viewers. Its about a character named Everyman who confronts Death and has to find which of his friends will go with him.

  • Dante Aligheri (writes Divine Comedy 1307)Author of the Divine Comedy which is comprised of The Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradisio.

  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (1375)A tale about Arthurs knights and the Round Table, Sir Gawain accepts the Green Knights challenge to exchange blows. The story might really be about redemption and sin.

  • Canterbury Tales (written 1387)Canterbury Tales was written in Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer who is often called the father of English poetry. He is credited with making English respectable. Until Chaucer most literature and documents of importance were done in Latin.


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