English literature of the middle centuries


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English literature of the middle centuries Kaliyeva A.,Kurmanova . 403 АОРО


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Plan: I. Literature of Norman Period The Normans The union of the races and languages. Latin, French, and English The English literature as a part of general medieval European literature II. Geoffrey Chaucer (1340-1400) and his famous book “The Canterbury Tales”. III. Folk songs and ballads.


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1.1 The Normans The Normans who conquered England were originally members of the same stock as the 'Danes' who had harried and conquered it in the preceding centuries--the ancestors of both were bands of Baltic and North Sea pirates who merely happened to emigrate in different directions; and a little farther back the Normans were close cousins, in the general Germanic family, of the Anglo-Saxons themselves. The exploits of this whole race of Norse sea-kings make one of the most remarkable chapters in the history of medieval Europe. Normans, fastened themselves as settlers, early in the eleventh century, on the northern shore of France, and in return for their acceptance of Christianity and acknowledgment of the nominal feudal sovereignty of the French king were recognized as rightful possessors of the large province which thus came to bear the name of Normandy. Here by intermarriage with the native women they rapidly developed into a race which while retaining all their original courage and enterprise took on also, together with the French language, the French intellectual brilliancy and flexibility


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1.2 The union of the races and languages. Latin, French, and English In language and literature the most general immediate result of the Conquest was to make of England a trilingual country, where Latin, French, and Anglo-Saxon were spoken separately side by side. With Latin, the tongue of the Church and of scholars, the Norman clergy were much more thoroughly familiar than the Saxon priests had been; and the introduction of the richer Latin culture resulted, in the latter half of the twelfth century, at the court of Henry II, in a brilliant outburst of Latin literature. In England, as well as in the rest of Western Europe, Latin long continued to be the language of religious and learned writing--down to the sixteenth century or even later. French, that dialect of it which was spoken by the Normans--Anglo-French (English-French) it has naturally come to be called--was of course introduced by the Conquest as the language of the governing and upper social class, and in it also during the next three or four centuries a considerable body of literature was produced. Anglo-Saxon, which we may now term English, remained inevitably as the language of the subject race, but their literature was at first crushed down into insignificance.


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1.3 The English literature as a part of general medieval European literature The Norman conquest had a considerable effect on English literature. Before this period English literature was mainly characterized by homilies, religious verses, translations of psalms, parts of Bibles, lives of the saints, rules for an honest religious life, prayers. It was only strongly-religious literature, on the other hand it was deductive literature. There were, however, exceptional authors, genuine artists, masters of meter and narrative, possessed by a true feeling for beauty; and in some of romances the psychological analysis of love, in particular, is subtile and powerful, the direct precursor of one of the main developments in modern fiction. The romances may very roughly be grouped into four great classes. The main characters of this genre unlike the characters of church were not saints, but human beings. The worship of fair ladies motivated the plot of these stories. King Arthur was historical figure, the national hero of Celts. He was described as an ideal king, possessing all virtues of a hero. He was honest, wise, fair to all his vassals. They had their meetings at a round table which Arthur built for their feasts, so that all of them should be equal, consequently this notion has come to our days. This period was also known as the period of such new genre as fable and fabliau. Fables were short stories with animals for characters and conveying a moral. Fabliau was a short funny story with man, people (cunning, sly, stupid husband, unfaithful wives). They didn’t idealize, but showed practical attitude to life, they were humorous, ironic and slightly deductive.


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2. Geoffrey Chaucer, the greatest writer of the 14th century was born in London in 1340. At the age of 17 Geoffrey Chaucer became a page to the lady and the court of King III. At the age of 20 he was in France taking part in the war actions as a squire. There he was captured by the French. His friends helped him, they asked the king to ransom him and he did it. In the 70s he traveled a lot and lived a busy life. Alongside with the diplomatic mission he got interested in the French and Italian literature especially poetry.


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Chronology of Chaucer’s works: 1368-72 The Book of the Duchess before 1372 The first part of the Romaunt of the Rose 1378-83TheHouse of Fame 1380-2 The Parlement of Fowls 1382-6 Boece and Troilus and Criseyde 1380-7 Palamon and Arcite c.1387 The Legend of Good Women 1388-1400 The Canterbury Tales


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At the early period of his creative activity he translated French poems into English and then wrote his own poems alike the French. Thus a famous allegorical poem of the 14th century was “The Romances of the Rose”, it was translated by him. The 2nd period reveals the Italian influence of Dante. During this period he wrote “The house of Fame”, a deductive poem, presented in allegorical form, which criticized English parliament. “Troyles and Criseyde” based on an ancient myth about love of two lovers. The 3rd period – the most important one begins in 1384 when he began writing his masterpiece “The Canterbury Tales” in which he showed various ranks of the contemporary society and summed up the literary genres existed at that time. This book presents a series of stories written in verse. The characters of the book include a knight, a monk, a student, a miller etc. The most pleasant for the author was the knight who opened the list of pilgrims. The knight possessed bravery, modesty.Every of these characters had to tell a story on the way to Canterbury. By means of different stories Chaucer represented all the literary genres at that time. As for the genres he shows a romance, a moral story, a fable, a fabliau. “The Canterbury Tales” were not finished.In the whole world there are only 12 copies of this book. He shows the sings of the end of feudalism and the features of the new bourgeois society.Chaucer was a creator of a new literary language, showed the peculiarity of the language in this work. His poetry is rich, lively, and expressive, he created new words which remained to the present time.Chaucer was the earliest English poet, the founder of the English language and literature which is valued today. He is an ironist, not a satirist; his comedy flickers between human sympathy and an absolute morality.


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Chaucer is an author who makes fun of authority. The tales he himself tells, Sir Thopas and Melibee, would not have won the supper. ‘Sir Thopas’ is a parody of popular tail-rhyme romance, full of silly conventions, empty phrases and bad rhymes. The Host, missing the point, cuts him off with the comment that his rhyming ‘is not worth a turd’. Chaucer then tells ‘a litel thing in prose’, the lengthy moral fable of Melibeus and Prudence. The author, dismissed by his puppet, the Host, shows him the way to wisdom with many sentences. Chaucer repositions himself with the speed of a hummingbird. The detail of the General Prologue does not lead to social realism; there is no steady moral viewpoint. Chaucer’s Gothic switches of genre and tone are allowed by his comprehensive conception of life, physical, social, moral and metaphysical, shown from a variety of viewpoints. As his final Retractions show, Chaucer’s humanity has a theological dimension.


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Later in the 15th century here developed ENGLIISH CHAUCERIANS: Thomas Occleve or Hoccleve (1370-1450) John Lydgate (1370-1449) Alexander Barclay (1474-1552) John Skelton (1467-1529) SCOTTISH CHAUCERIANS: James I of Scotland (1394-1437) Robert Henryson (1425-1500) William Dunbar(1465-1530) Gavin Douglas (1475-1522).


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3. A folk song is a short poem in rhymed stanzas usually set to melody. One of the varieties and the most interesting of folk poetry were the ballads. Ballads were for singing or reciting. Very often they were also for dancing. Ballads can be classified into 3 groups: a) Historical, were based on a historical event, fact; b) Heroic were about people who were prosecuted by the law or by their own families but they made heroic deeds; c) Romantic or lyric described mainly love. Among the most popular heroic ballads were those about Robin Hood who was an outlaw, 40 ballads about his relations with enemies, with his merry men. Ballads continued to develop till the 18th century and many famous English writers used them in their works. Folk poetry especially ballads enriched English literature. The 19th century ballad scholar Francis Child collected 38 separate Robin hood ballads in his ballad collection – as well as a few other ballads which featured Robin Hood in some versions but not in others. composed over hundreds of years, these ballads from the Robin Hood legend. Sceners from these tales have been used in many novels, movies and television shows.


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THE EARLY BALLADS Robin Hood and the Monk This ballad was found in a manuscript collection written about 1450, it is believed to be the oldest surviving written ballad of Robin Hood. It begins with Robin and Little John in the greenwood, they argue then go their separate ways; Robin goes to Saint Mary’s Church in Nottingham, Little John goes to Sherwood. After being recognized in church by a ‘gret hedit Munke’ who runs to Nottingham to inform the sheriff, Robin is captured by the sheriff of Nottingham and his men. The other outlaws learn of their masters capture, so consequently, Little John and Much the Millar’s son set off to find the monk who is on his way to London with a letter, to convey the news to the king. John kills the monk, and Much kills his page, so they themselves make the delivery. Unaware of who they are, the king makes them yeomen of the crown, and sends them back to Nottingham with a letter ordering the sheriff to send Robin to him. On their return, John and Much are received by the sheriff who invites them to dine. After dinner while he is asleep, they free Robin and all return to Sherwood. The sheriff realizes he has been tricked, and is afraid he will be punished, however luckily for him, the king is impressed by the outlaw’s cleverness and he forgives both Robin and the sheriff.


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Robin Hood and the Potter  Robin Hood and the Potter formed part of a manuscript collection written about 1503; this ballad has more of a comic element. The story begins with Robin and Little John fighting with a proud potter in “Wentbreg”, (Wentbridge in Yorkshire) who has refused to pay “pavage” for crossing their territory. Little John has a bout of fisticuffs with the potter then Robin fights him with the sword. The potter uses the quarter-staff and he knocks Robin to the ground. Taking his defeat in good stead, he suggests they exchange clothes for a joke. In the guise of a potter, Robin goes to Nottingham to sell pots. He sells his last pots to the sheriff’s wife who invites him home to dine. After dinner Robin shoots in an archery contest with the sheriff’s men, he wins the contest, which impresses the sheriff who asks the “potter” if he knows Robin Hood. Robin says he will show him the whereabouts of the outlaw’s camp, but predictably the sheriff falls into a trap and is then forced to walk home barefoot. The story ends with Robin paying the potter for his goods. Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne  This complex tale or at least a version of it, was probably in existence before 1475, and was found with others in a manuscript that was rescued from a burning house in Shropshire by Thomas Percy. The manuscript is now known as the Percy Folio. Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne appeared in his Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, published in 1765. The ballad is archaic in language and has some similarity to the play of 1475. This is a much deeper and dramatic story. It begins with Robin dreaming that he has been captured by two yeomen, and on awakening, he goes to the greenwood with Little John to seek these two men. Here they see a yeoman clad in horsehide leaning against a tree. Little John offers to investigate but Robin objects and they quarrel. Little John returns to Barnsdale, where the sheriff’s men have killed two of the merry men and are now persuing Will Scarlett. Little John prepares to shoot, but his bow breaks and he is captured and tied to a tree to await execution.


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