Middle English Literature

  • Added:
    Sep 28, 2012
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The English Medieval literature had many developments and new trends. It began to reflect changes in language. The developmental trends of the English language can be clearly seen in the literature of the time. Geoffrey Chaucer was the greatest English poet during the Medieval Era. It is believed that Chauser was an educated man who could read French, Latin and Italian. Chauser was born in London. The Canterbury Tales is his unfinished masterpiece. It is a collection of stories supposed to be related by a group of pilgrims on their way to Canterbury. The writer describes the pilgrims vividly and he is inspired by direct observation of English life and types of English people.

Religious books were widely read in Middle Ages. Richard Roll was an English religious writer. His work The Form of living (probably written in the thirteenth century), was addressed to religious women- how they have to dress and behave, when they have to be silent and so on. John Wycliffe believed that the Bible should be understood by uneducated people. But this was not possible because the Bible was in Latin. That` s why he organized the translation of the whole Bible into English.

Thomas Mallory`s tales about King Arthur and his knights and their quest for Holy Grail are largely legend and folklore because there is a little historical basis for these stories. However, Mallory`s work has been an influential source for many writers all over the world.

The first English plays were performed in or near the churches and they were called Miracle Plays. These plays told various religious stories and they were acted by people of the town on kind of stage on wheels called pageant. Despite their serious intentions, English comedy was born in them because of a natural tendency of the actors to become recognizably human in their behavior.

The Morality Plays were very similar to The Miracles. The characters in these plays were not people from the Bible: they were good and bad human qualities. For instance, Rage and Compassion walked and talked and presented moral truths in an original and interesting way. Everyman, which was translated from the Dutch is one of the most popular Moralities of the time. When Everyman must face Death, Beauty, Knowledge, and Strength leave him. Only Good Deeds stays with him and says:

Everyman, I will go with thee and be thy guide,

In thy most need to be thy side.

The Interlude was also common in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The Interludes were often entertaining and funny and they were performed in colleges or prosperous people`s homes. One of them is The Four P`s. There is a part of this play where a prize is offered for the greatest lie. A man who claims that he never saw and never met any woman out of patience.

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