• Old & Medieval English

    Old English - Dark Ages, 410-1095
    -Time of wars and invasions
    -Literature was oral covering two cultures: Christina and heroic.
    -Language was mixture of Roman, Scandinavian, with Latin as language of church
    -Themes centered around security for the individual, society, and religious faith.
    410, Romans abandon Britain
    449, Anglo-Saxons invade Britain
    479, Fall of Roman Empire
    c. 700, Beowulf – An Anglo-Saxon epic poem about a Scandinavian prince named Beowulf who rids the Danes of the monster Grendel and his mother.  Later as king he dies while killing a dragon who has devastated his people.
         Leofa Biowulf,    læst eall tela,
         swa ðu on geoguðfeore     geara gecwæde,
         Þæt ðu ne alæte     be ðe lifigendum
         dom gedreosan
    Beloved Beowulf, keep well the vow that you swore long ago in the days of your youth, not to allow yourglory to diminish as long as you lived.
    1066, Norman Conquest – Battle of Hastings is last successful invasion of Britain - William the Conqueror rules England
    Middle English - Medieval, 1095-1485
    -Main spoken form of English is local southern dialect.
    -Love poetry comes in from France, women appear more, first as objects of desire, then as humans with their own feelings
    -Literature of France and Italy influencing English writers
    -Literature questions its society, and gives picture of the fast-changing times.
    -Mystery or Miracle Plays: Original Medieval drama set in and around church at festival times, showing scenes from Bible to audience who don’t understand Latin – performed on moving carts.
    1095 – 1271, The Crusades - A series of wars by Western European Christians to recapture the Holy Land from the Muslims.
    1215, Magna Carta reduced power of king, gave power ad property rights to aristocrats.
    1265, First Parliament
    1340 – 1400, The Canterbury Tales for Geoffrey Chaucer - A collection of stories set within a framing story of a pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral. The poet joins a band of pilgrims on a journey to Canterbury.
         That of hir smylyng was ful symple and coy;
         . . .
         And she was all conscience and tendre herte.
         Who in her way of smiling was very unaffected and modest;
         . . .
         And all was sentiment and tender heart.
    (‘The Prioress’s Tale’)
         But al be that he was a philosophre,
         Yet hadde he but litel golf in cofre;
         But although he was a philosopher,
         Nevertheless he had only a little gold in his coffer.
    (‘General Prologue’)
    1337 – 1453, Hundred Years War between France and England
    1347 – 1451, Black Death – The Plague - An outbreak of bubonic plague causing a decline of about one-third of the population of Europe.
    1445 – 1487, War of the Roses - War between the royal houses of Lancaster and York over the throne of England.
    1440, Gutenberg invents printing in Germany - printing first used to print Bible, brought to England in 1470s and began printing literature.
    1469 – 1470, Le Morte d’Arthur first book published by Malory – Death of Arthur is the first English prose epic telling the story of King Arthur and his legendary knights of the round table. King Arthur probably ruled south-west England around year 500, died in Battle against Saxons in 537. 200 years later stories appear of magician Merlin, Lancelot, Guinevere, Excalibur (the sword pulled out of the stone by hero only)