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Graeme Thomson Silvia Maglioni

A Short Anthology of Literature in English


From the Origins to the Contemporary Age
New Literary Landscapes unantologia della letteratura inglese, americana e postcoloniale
in un unico volume che presenta gli autori nel loro contesto storico e culturale. Il testo
suddiviso in 7 capitoli: 1 From Early Britain to the Middle Ages
2 From Renaissance to Restoration
3 The Eighteenth Century
4 The Romantic Age
5 The Victorian Age
6 The Modern Age
7 The Contemporary Age
In questa nuova edizione:
Picture This visual page di introduzione a ciascuna epoca
Timeline cronologia dei principali eventi di ogni periodo
Big Science sezioni che esplorano i legami tra la letteratura e il mondo della scienza
From Brit Lit to It Lit finestre comparative che favoriscono utili raffronti con la
letteratura italiana
Landmarks finestre interdisciplinari e di approfondimento storico-culturale
Dossier sulle forme letterarie inserti che illustrano in modo schematico le
caratteristiche basilari delle tre principali forme letterarie (Poetry, Drama, Fiction)
Movie Links schede cinematografiche con attivit collegate ai testi e agli autori studiati
Art Links opere di arte visiva presentate nel loro contesto storico-artistico
Links collegamenti interni al testo che permettono di tracciare percorsi tematici
Multimedia Lab laboratori multimediali che, a partire da temi di attualit quali
consumismo, guerra, colonialismo e biotecnologie stimolano la discussione in classe e la
contestualizzazione della letteratura nel mondo contemporaneo
ampliamento autori moderni e contemporanei
Chart Your Knowledge verifica sommativa alla fine di ogni capitolo
attivit approfondite di comprensione testuale, analisi critica e stilistica, esercizi di
scrittura creativa, group work e percorsi guidati di esplorazione del web
note lessicali in italiano e testi a fronte per i brani pi difficili
Lopera corredata di:
Literary Connections fascicolo interdisciplinare con attivit di preparazione allesame FCE
CD audio per la classe 978-88-530-0587-8
Videocassetta per la classe (Movie Links) 978-88-7754-557-2
Teachers Guide and Tests 978-88-530-0573-1
Brani e materiale aggiuntivo sul nostro sito web www.cideb.it
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Book + Literary Connections
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Questo volume, sprovvisto del talloncino a fronte, da
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New Literary Landscapes - Blackcat 2011 De Agostini Scuola S. p. A. - Novara
Graeme Thomson Silvia Maglioni
A Short Anthology of Literature in English
From the Origins to the Contemporary Age
LANDSCAPES
NEW
Li t er ar y
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New Literary Landscapes - Blackcat 2011 De Agostini Scuola S. p. A. - Novara
Editors: Robert Hill, Frances Evans, Tessa Vaughan
Cover and design: Nadia Maestri
Layout: Emilia Coari
Picture research: Laura Lagomarsino
Paintings on the front cover (from left to right):
Round Buckle (middle of the 4th century), detail, Celtic Art. Bibliothque nationale de France, Paris.
Westminster Bridge, London (1886) by C. T. Stanfield Moore. Fine Art Photographic Library.
Knife Grinder (1912) by Kasimir Malevich. Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven.
2006 Black Cat Publishing,
an imprint of Cideb Editrice, Genoa, Canterbury
First edition: February 2006
5 4
The authors and publisher would like to thank the following teachers for their invaluable help and comments in the
development of this book: Anna Parente (Liceo Classico San Nazzaro, Napoli), Loredana Battista (Liceo Classico
Garibaldi, Napoli), Elenora Sana (Liceo Scientifico Convitto, Assisi), Elisabetta Marsigli (Istituto Suore Visandine,
Bologna), Carla Peduzzi (Liceo Artistico Mario Maffai, Roma), Luisa Pastina (Liceo Linguistico/Classico Mancinelli,
Roma), Filomena Petrosino (Liceo Scientifico F. Severi, Napoli), Immacolata Pirone (Istituto Magistrale Villari,
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1 From Early Britain to the Middle Ages (700 BC - AD 1485) 7
The Historical Ground
1.1 8 Early Britain: A History of Invasions
9 BIG SCIENCE Stonehenge
1.2 14 Britain after the Norman Conquest
The Literary Ground
1.3 18 Anglo-Saxon Literature
1.4 20 Literature in the Late Middle Ages
23 The Art of Poetry
27 Geoffrey CHAUCER
29 The Canterbury Tales
29 The Knight
31 The Wife of Bath
33 FROM BRIT LIT TO IT LIT Stories Within Stories: Boccaccios Decameron
34 MULTIMEDIA LAB From Pilgrimage To Tourism
38 CHART YOUR KNOWLEDGE
2 From Renaissance to Restoration (1485-c.1690) 39
The Historical Ground
2.1 40 The English Renaissance
42 BIG SCIENCE The Rise of Modern Science: Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo
2.2 44 The Tudors and the Reformation
46 ART LINK Holbein: The Skull Beneath the Skin
50 ART LINK Gower: Portrait of Empire
2.3 52 From the Stuart Dynasty to the Restoration of the Monarchy
The Literary Ground
2.4 54 Literature during the Renaissance
60 The Art of Drama
62 William SHAKESPEARE
65 Romeo and Juliet
69 MOVIE LINK William Shakespeares Romeo + Juliet
70 Hamlet
75 King Lear
81 The Tempest
85 MOVIE LINK Prosperos Books
87 Sonnet 60
89 Sonnet 130
92 LANDMARK Black is Beautiful?
93 MOVIE LINK Shakespeare in Love
94 FROM BRIT LIT TO IT LIT Petrarch and the English Sonnet
95 MULTIMEDIA LAB Courtly Love
99 CHART YOUR KNOWLEDGE
3 The Eighteenth Century (1702-60) 100
The Historical Ground
3.1 101 The Augustan Age
103 LANDMARK The Age of Enlightenment
104 BIG SCIENCE Newton and the Triumph of Science
106 ART LINK Hogarth: A Writers Painter
108 ART LINK Gainsborough: Portrayer of Privilege
The Literary Ground
3.2 110 The Novel in the Eighteenth Century
114 The Art of Fiction
116 Daniel DEFOE
118 Robinson Crusoe
122 Jonathan SWIFT
124 Gullivers Travels
128 Laurence STERNE
129 Tristram Shandy
Contents
2
3
4
5
6
7
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133 FROM BRIT LIT TO IT LIT Se una notte di inverno un viaggiatore
134 LANDMARK The Experimental Novel
135 MULTIMEDIA LAB Empire
139 CHART YOUR KNOWLEDGE
4 The Romantic Age (1760-1837) 140
The Historical Ground
4.1 141 The Age of Revolutions
145 BIG SCIENCE The Rise of Scientific Autonomy in the Romantic Age
148 ART LINK Turner: Turbulent Landscapes
The Literary Ground
4.2 150 Literature in the Romantic Age
150 LANDMARK Isnt it Romantic?
151 LANDMARK The Sublime
158 William BLAKE
160 The Lamb
161 The Tyger
164 ART LINK Blake: Framing Visions
166 MOVIE LINK Dead Man
167 William WORDSWORTH
169 I wandered lonely as a cloud
172 ART LINK Constable: Nature in its Element
174 LANDMARK A Caribbean Spring
175 LANDMARK (Nothing But) Flowers
178 Samuel Taylor COLERIDGE
180 The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
183 LANDMARK Baudelaire and the Albatross
184 Percy Bysshe SHELLEY
185 Ozymandias
187 FROM BRIT LIT TO IT LIT Visions of the Sublime: Leopardis Linfinito
188 John KEATS
189 Ode on a Grecian Urn
193 Jane AUSTEN
194 Sense and Sensibility
198 MOVIE LINK Sense and Sensibility
199 Mary SHELLEY
201 Frankenstein
205 MULTIMEDIA LAB Interfering With Nature
209 CHART YOUR KNOWLEDGE
5 The Victorian Age (1837-1901) 210
The Historical Ground
5.1 211 The Age of Empire
214 LANDMARK The Transformation of Labour
216 LANDMARK The Arguments For and Against Imperialism
218 ART LINK Victoria: The Business of Empire
220 BIG SCIENCE Darwin and the Theory of Evolution
The Literary Ground
5.2 223 Victorian Literature
235 Edgar Allan POE
236 The Fall of the House of Usher
239 Charles DICKENS
240 Hard Times
244 MOVIE LINK Dead Poets Society
246 Great Expectations
249 LANDMARK Jack Maggs: Peter Careys Great Transportation
250 Charlotte BRONT
251 Jane Eyre
255 Herman MELVILLE
256 Moby-Dick
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260 Henry JAMES
261 The Portrait of a Lady
265 MOVIE LINK The Portrait of a Lady
266 Oscar WILDE
269 The Picture of Dorian Gray
272 Alfred TENNYSON
274 Ulysses
278 FROM BRIT LIT TO IT LIT Paveses Ulysses
280 Walt WHITMAN
281 Song of Myself
284 Emily DICKINSON
285 There is a solitude of space
287 Christina ROSSETTI
288 In an Artists Studio
290 ART LINK D. G. Rossetti: Not As She Is
292 MULTIMEDIA LAB Education
297 CHART YOUR KNOWLEDGE
6 The Modern Age (1901-45) 298
The Historical Ground
6.1 299 A Time of War
303 LANDMARK The Poetry of Survival: The Holocaust
306 ART LINK Nash: The Machinery of Death
The Literary Ground
6.2 308 Modern Literature
308 LANDMARK Modernism and the Convergence of the Arts
310 ART LINK Picasso: Reflections in a Broken Mirror
313 BIG SCIENCE Psychology and the Modern Novel
319 Joseph CONRAD
320 Heart of Darkness
320 Extract 1
322 Extract 2
325 MOVIE LINK Apocalypse Now
326 E. M. FORSTER
327 A Passage to India
330 MOVIE LINK A Passage to India
331 Virginia WOOLF
333 Mrs Dalloway
335 LANDMARK Michael Cunninghams The Hours
337 James JOYCE
339 The Dead
343 MOVIE LINK The Dead
344 D. H. LAWRENCE
346 Sons and Lovers
348 LANDMARK From Utopia to Dystopia
349 Aldous HUXLEY
351 Brave New World
355 Ernest HEMINGWAY
356 The Killers
360 ART LINK Hopper: Only the Lonely
362 George ORWELL
364 Nineteen Eighty-Four
368 W. B. YEATS
369 The Second Coming
371 Wallace STEVENS
372 The Snowman
374 T. S. ELIOT
376 The Waste Land
378 The Hollow Men
382 Wilfred OWEN
383 Anthem for Doomed Youth
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385 FROM BRIT LIT TO IT LIT Ungaretti: The Slender Border Between Life and Death
386 W. H. AUDEN
387 Muse des Beaux Arts
390 MULTIMEDIA LAB War
395 CHART YOUR KNOWLEDGE
7 The Contemporary Age (1945 and after) 396
The Historical Ground
7.1 397 The Post-War Period
401 LANDMARK The Rise of Pop Culture
The Literary Ground
7.2 405 Contemporary Literature
406 LANDMARK The Postmodern Condition
410 ART LINK Rauschenberg: Creation and Assemblage
418 Jean RHYS
419 Wide Sargasso Sea
422 Don DELILLO
424 White Noise
426 BIG SCIENCE Writing on the Edge of Catastrophe
428 ART LINK Warhol: The Big Boom
430 ART LINK Lichtenstein: Comic Strip Explosion
432 Angela CARTER
434 Wolf-Alice
437 Bruce CHATWIN
439 In Patagonia
441 FROM BRIT LIT TO IT LIT What Are We Doing Here? Gianni Celatis
Avventure in Africa
443 J. M. COETZEE
444 Foe
447 Salman RUSHDIE
448 Midnights Children
451 Ian McEWAN
453 The Child in Time
455 Jonathan FRANZEN
457 The Corrections
460 Philip LARKIN
461 Wants
463 Derek WALCOTT
464 New World
466 Wole SOYINKA
467 Telephone Conversation
470 ART LINK Rothko: The Art of Being Alone
472 Seamus HEANEY
473 Punishment
476 Margaret ATWOOD
477 It is Dangerous to Read Newspapers
480 ART LINK Bacon: Horror of the Body
482 Samuel BECKETT
484 Waiting for Godot
487 Arthur MILLER
488 Death of a Salesman
491 MOVIE LINK Glengarry Glen Ross
492 John OSBORNE
493 Look Back in Anger
496 Harold PINTER
498 The Caretaker
501 MULTIMEDIA LAB Consumer Culture
505 CHART YOUR KNOWLEDGE
506 Glossary of Literary Terms
509 General Index
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25
26
27
28
29
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1
From Early Britain
to the Middle Ages
(c.700 BC-AD1485)
PICTURE THIS
1 Here are some real and legendary figures from the historical period you are going to study. Read the
captions to find out who they are. Then match each figure with his or her description.
a One of the bravest knights of the Round Table.
b Legendary hero who stole from the rich to give to the poor.
c Roman Emperor who lived at the time of the Roman occupation of Britain.
d French national heroine who fought against England during the 15th century.
e Duke of Normandy who led the Normans against the English at Hastings.
Joan of Arc from the film Jeanne la Pucelle
(1997) directed by Jacques Rivette.
Lancelot from the film Lancelot du Lac (1974)
directed by Robert Bresson.
Robin Hood from the film
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)
directed by Kevin Reynolds.
i ii
iii
William the Conqueror from the
Liber Legum Antiquorum Regum (c.1321).
The British Library, London.
iv
Hadrian (2nd century AD),
bronze head dredged
from the River Thames in
London in 1834.
The British Museum, London.
v
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SARMATIA
SCYTHIA
DACIA
GALATIA
DELPHI
ROMA
TELAMON
LA TNE
MASSILIA
HALLSTATT
APPROXIMATE AREA OF CELTIC
SETTLEMENT IN EUROPE
AT THE BEGINNING OF THE
5TH CENTURY B.C.
EXPANSION OF THE CELTS
BETWEEN THE LATE 5TH
AND MID 3RD CENTURIES B.C.
1.1 Early Britain: A History of Invasions
The history of early Britain is dominated by the invasion of different peoples who settled in the
island and helped to create what is now known as Great Britain. In each case, defeated native
populations were not displaced but became more or less incorporated by the new rulers, which
ultimately led to a partial mixing of the cultures and religions. However, there was often no great
cohesion within each group. The struggle for power was constant, resulting in conflicting
loyalties, internal divisions, and widespread political instability. The main invaders were the
Celts, the Romans, the Anglo-Saxons, the Vikings and the Normans.
The Celts
The Celts first appeared in Britain around the year 700 BC. Originating from the north-west of
Germany, they brought with them an already sophisticated culture. Their weapon-making skills
were highly advanced and they produced elaborate metal jewellery. The Celts were organised
into tribes and were originally a pagan culture who worshipped the elements: the sun and moon,
as well as rivers, trees and stones, all of which were believed to have souls. Water in particular
was considered the most important life-generating element. The Celts believed in the
immortality of the soul. Their places of worship included numerous stone circles erected during
the Bronze age.
The Historical Ground
8
c.700 BC Celts appear in
Britain.
AD 43-410 Roman rule
in Britain.
c.122-28 AD Emperor
Hadrian builds the
wall between Britain
and Scotland.
c.410 Withdrawal of
Roman legions from
Britain
c.450 Anglo-Saxons and
Jutes arrive from
north-west Germany.
597 Establishment of
Saint Augustines
Christian mission at
Canterbury.
793-5 Viking invasions
(Danish and
Norwegian) in
Scotland and northern
and eastern England.
Celtic settlement and
expansion.
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849-99 Reign of King
Alfred the Great.
978-c.1016 Reign of
Ethelred.
1066 Battle of Hastings.
William the
Conqueror of
Normandy defeats
Harold II, the last
Anglo-Saxon king.
1154-89 Reign of
Henry II.
1164 The Constitutions
of Clarendon.
1170 Assassination of
Thomas Becket.
1189-99 Richard I the
Third Crusade.
9
The H|stor|ca| Ground Ear|y Br|ta|n: A H|story of Invas|ons
BIG SCIENCE
Stonehenge
The most famous surviving circle is Stonehenge,
in south-west England, a group of enormous
stones placed in concentric circles. Stonehenge
was an ancient templ e and probabl y an
astronomical observatory too. The construction
of Stonehenge took nearl y 2,000 years.
Although there are many different theories
regarding its mysterious construction, we are
almost certain that the monument was built in
three phases and that three groups of people
took part in it.
The first may have been the late Neolithic
people, just after 3,000 BC. The next group may
have been the Beaker people (c.2100 BC). The
last phase may have been carried out by the
Wessex people (c.1500 BC).
Regardless of who built the stone monument, its
design and construction must have involved
thousands of people. Nowadays, Stonehenge
has become a site of pilgrimage for groups of
New Age travellers interested in reviving ancient
rites and the old pagan cult of sun worship.
Some scientists, however, bel ieve that
Stonehenge was buil t as a very precise
instrument to measure and predict astronomical
alignments and eclipses. In 1966, an American
scientist called Gerald Hawkins published
Stonehenge Decoded, in which he used an early
IBM computer to l ook for astronomical
alignments and argued that the position of some
of the stones indicated that it had been used for
this purpose. Hawkinss theory was extremely
popular at first, but his methodology was later
criticised. Nevertheless, his work gave rise to a
movement of archaeo-astronomists who sought
further evidence that stone circl es l ike
Stonehenge may in fact have been the worlds
earliest computers.
Horizons
1 In pairs surf the Internet and look for more
information and pictures of Stonehenge.
Prepare a short presentation.
Stonehenge, Salisbury Plain.
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The Romans
The Roman conquest of Britain began in the year 55 BC with the invasion of Julius Caesar.
However, Britain was not actually occupied by the Romans until much later (from AD 43) under
the reign of the Emperor Claudius (AD 41-54). The Romans introduced a literate culture into
Britain for the first time in its history: the Latin language and civilisation became part of British
society. Moreover, the Romans built roads, fortifications, towns, baths and amphitheatres where
they settled. Later, the Romanised Britons themselves became the provincial administrators of
Roman laws and taxes.
Roman towns had running water and the houses had a drainage system, heating and water. The
floors were paved in mosaic and the walls were of painted stucco, as found in Roman Italy.
Though at the beginning there was considerable resistance, much of the Celtic population
adapted to Roman ways quite happily, while educated Romans were fascinated by aspects of
Celtic religion. Roman Britain, like the Roman Empire itself, was in fact a polytheistic society and
Roman and Celtic gods were often fused into a single entity. In Britain the economic system of
the early Roman Empire, based on a money economy and trade, was fully accepted. Culturally,
Roman fashions were dominant and classical art and decoration widely adopted. Wealthy Britons
were encouraged to build houses and baths and adopted the opulent lifestyles of the Romans.
Yet the Roman advance was
halted just south of what is now the
border between England and
Scotland. The Caledonians, as the
Romans called the fierce inhabitants
of Scotland, refused to be colonised
and eventually Emperor Hadrian
(AD 76-138) decided to build a wall
to keep the northern raiders out of
Roman Britain. It is still possible to
walk along the ruins of Hadrians
Wall, which stretch from Maryport
in West Cumbria to Wallsend near
Newcastle in the north-east of
England. Under the late Roman
Empire, Christianity was further
introduced into parts of Celtic
Britain. But by the end of the fourth
century, the Roman Empire had begun to fall apart and in AD 409 the Emperor Honorius (AD
384-423) was forced to pull his Roman legions out of Britain to defend Rome against attacks from
the Visigoths, and Britain was left to defend itself. Although much of the civilisation that the
Romans introduced into Britain was afterwards erased, certain aspects such as the procedure for
the division and distribution of land remained.
1 From Ear|y Br|ta|n to the M|dd|e Ages
10
1199-1216 Reign of King
John.
1215 Signing of the
Magna Carta.
1295 Opening of the first
English Parliament
(Model Parliament).
1327-77 Reign of
Edward III.
1337-1453 The Hundred
Years War.
1381 The Peasants
Revolt.
1455-87 The Wars of the
Roses.
1485 The Tudor dynasty
begins with Henry VII
after his victory
against Richard III at
the Battle of
Bosworth.
Hadrian`s Wall today.
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The Anglo-Saxons
After the Romans withdrew definitively from Britain, Germanic tribes invaded the
island. These Anglo-Saxon invaders (Angles, Saxons and Jutes) destroyed many
Roman British towns and soon took control of much of eastern Britain. The Celtic
Britons continued to resist the invaders but suffered from internal fighting.
By the end of the 6th century, the Anglo-Saxons had established seven
recognisable kingdoms in Britain: Kent, Sussex, Essex, East Anglia,
Northumbria, Mercia and Wessex. With the exception of Mercia, all of
these names are used today.
While the Romans had introduced Christianity to Britain, the Anglo-
Saxons, at least in the early stages of their occupation, re-established
pagan values. They were largely illiterate and instead of the Latin
alphabet their writing used characters called runes.
Their gods had both Germanic and Scandinavian origins. Christianity
continued to be practised by some Celts but they lived mostly in isolated communities of monks
in parts of Wales, Scotland and Ireland. In 597, however, a monk called Augustine was sent to
England to re-establish Christianity in Britain. He went to Kent where he became the first
Archbishop of Canterbury, the title now given to the head
of the Church of England. In this way the Roman
Church was able to gain a great deal of influence
over subsequent English kings. Moreover,
monasteries became important centres of culture.
The Vikings
Soon after establishing their kingdoms in England, the
Anglo-Saxons had to defend themselves from a new
wave of invasions from Norway and Denmark: the
Vikings.
The Vikings eventually managed to occupy large parts
of Northumbria, Mercia and East Anglia. As a result of
the Viking incursions, the Anglo-Saxons were forced to
regroup their forces in Wessex, under the leadership of
King Alfred the Great (849-99). Alfred, a fine soldier
and statesman, reconquered the lands the Vikings had
occupied and became the first king to unite England
under one crown. He introduced laws, the first since
the Romans had left. Alfred was also a great scholar
who translated several Latin works and developed
education and scholarship in England. Under his rule
work was begun on a massive history of England
known as The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which is one of
the key sources of information we have about early
medieval England.
11
N
o
r
t
h
u
m
b
r
i
a
Mercia
East
Anglia
Essex
Kent
Sussex
Wessex
Vikings crossing the North Sea from an 11th century
manuscript. Pierpont Morgan Library, New York.
The H|stor|ca| Ground Ear|y Br|ta|n: A H|story of Invas|ons
Gold belt buckle (7th century), from the burial of an
Anglo-Saxon king at Sutton Hoo, Suffolk.
The British Museum, London.
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The Normans
In 1066, William, Duke of Normandy, led the Normans across the English Channel to fight
Harolds English army at the Battle of Hastings. The English were defeated, and Harold was
killed.
Among the things the Normans introduced to England were the French language and the
hierarchical feudal system. This was a pyramidal system by which the king, who owned all the
land, distributed territories to his barons, who in turn gave land to those under them, the knights.
In return for this land, the receivers, or vassals, had to promise loyalty and service to their
overlords. Even the peasants fell into two categories: the villains, or freemen who had land of
their own which they could pass on to subsequent generations, and the serfs, who had no land
of their own and very little freedom.
The main service requested of nobles at this time was to help the king in his wars. But as the
nobles grew wealthier they became reluctant to go and fight, and instead of services they began
giving the king money, which was used to recruit professional soldiers. The cost of war meant
that the king also had to turn to merchant financiers to fund his campaigns. In this way the
merchants gained a great deal of influence at court, and were given titles and land.
The substitution of money for services had two important effects. Firstly, it gave the barons and
merchants more power, since they were now effectively financing the kings campaigns.
Secondly, it led to the mobilisation of large numbers of paid soldiers who were recruited from
peasant workers.
1 From Ear|y Br|ta|n to the M|dd|e Ages
12
The Norman cavalry charging the Anglo-Saxons from The Bayeux Tapestry (c.1077)
The City of Bayeux.
This famous tapestry, originally 70 metres long, tells the full story of the Norman Conquest.
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Check what you know
1 Reread the section about invasions in early
Britain and fill in the following table:
Who When (approximately)
Celts 700 BC
409 AD
8th century
Normans
2 Answer the following questions:
a Where did the Celts originate?
b In what way were they a pagan culture?
3 Are the following statements about the Roman
conquest true or false? Correct the false ones.
a The economic system of the early Roman
Empire, based on a money economy
and trade, was completely rejected.
b Roman fashions and classical art and
decoration became popular.
c The Roman advance was stopped south of
what is now the border between
England and Wales.
d The Caledonians refused to be colonised
and Emperor Augustus decided to build
a wall to keep them out of Roman
Britain.
e Under the late Roman Empire Christianity
was introduced for the first time.
f In AD 509 the Emperor Honorius was
forced to pull his Roman legions out
of Britain.
4 Revise what you have learnt about the Anglo-
Saxons and complete the following statements:
a The Anglo-Saxons were originally ...............
............................................................... .
b They were largely ..................................... .
c Their language used ..................................
............................................................... .
d Their gods had ........................................ .
e In 597 a monk called Augustine .................
............................................................... .
5 Explain the following in your own words:
a How Britain was divided at the end
of the 6th century.
b The importance of Augustine in English
history.
c Where the Vikings came from and what part
of the country they occupied.
d Who Alfred the Great was and what he is
remembered for.
6 Complete the following statements about the
Normans.
a In 1066 William led the Normans across
.......................... to fight ......................... .
at ........................... .
b The English were .......................... and
Harold ........................... .
c The Normans introduced ...........................
and ........................... .
7 Explain how the feudal system worked.
F T
F T
F T
F T
F T
F T
13
Celtic bronze belt buckle
(1st century)
in the shape of
a double-headed bird.
The British Museum, London.
The H|stor|ca| Ground Ear|y Br|ta|n: A H|story of Invas|ons
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1.2 Britain after the Norman Conquest
A time of reform
The last Norman king, Stephen (1135-54), was followed by the first Plantagenet king, Henry II
(1154-89). His reign saw the introduction of the first major reform which weakened the feudal
structure of society. This was Common Law and it concerned the English legal system. Unlike
previous forms of law, Common
Law no longer referred to an
absolute idea of justice decreed by
the king or the Church but to a
relative system based on custom
and comparison with previous
cases. Along with Common Law
came the establishment of trial by
jury, which is still used today in
Britain.
The increasingly wealthy barons
and merchants consolidated their
alliance during the reign of King
John (1199-1216), who imposed
higher taxes to pay for his
disastrous campaigns in France to
protect his lands. On his return
from one of these in 1215, his financiers decided they had
had enough and forced him to sign a document known as the
Magna Carta. The document stipulated that the king could
no longer claim taxes without the approval of a council of
advisors. Furthermore, no free man could be arrested,
imprisoned or dispossessed of his property without fair trial.
Of course, none of this applied to common labourers, and the
number of free men was relatively low, but it marked a
fundamental shift in power away from the king himself to a
small elite of nobles, merchants and senior churchmen.
Moreover, it created the conditions for the rise of the middle
classes of free men.
In 1258, under the leadership of Simon De Montfort, a
parliament was formed and the nobles began to effectively
govern the country themselves. The rebellion was eventually
crushed and De Montfort was killed but Edward I (1272-1307)
recognised the effectiveness of the parliamentary system and
revived the idea in 1295. He widened representation to
include not only barons and clergy but also knights and town
citizens. His Model Parliament, as it was called, laid the
foundations for the modern-day parliament.
1 From Ear|y Br|ta|n to the M|dd|e Ages
King Stephen from an illustration of the four Norman kings of England
in Matthew Paris`s Historia Anglorum (1250-9).
The British Library, London.
14
The Magna Carta.
The British Library, London.
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Church and State
Because a kings legitimacy depended largely on the support of
the Church, the Church in turn had a considerable degree of
control over affairs of state. For this reason the relationship
between Church and State was often an uneasy one, as can be
seen in the case of Thomas Becket (1118-70), who was made
Archbishop of Canterbury by King Henry II. The king hoped
that by giving the job to his friend he could control the power of
the Church. But Becket, faithful to his religious role, turned
against Henry and refused to support his proposed reform bill,
The Constitutions of Clarendon (1164), which was designed
to give the king more authority in appointing bishops and
enable the trial of clergymen in civil as well as ecclesiastical
courts. Eventually Henry resolved the problem of Beckets
opposition by having him murdered in Canterbury Cathedral.
As a result Becket was made a saint and martyr, adding power
and credibility to the Church in England.
By the 14th century, the Church, and in particular the great
monasteries, had amassed vast amounts of land and money and
was regarded with increasing suspicion. Most of the clergy had
become part of an opportunistic ruling class whose financial
and political interests conflicted with the basic principles of
Christian life. As a result of this the Lollardy reform
movement was born. Led by John Wycliffe (c.1320-84), its main objective was to divest the
Church of much of its wealth, and use it for more charitable purposes. The movement, however,
was eventually suppressed and many Lollards were burned as heretics. In their anticlericism,
however, the Lollards anticipated the Reformation of the 16th century.
The fortunes of war
One of the effects of the Norman Conquest was to unite England with Normandy in the north of
France. But there were continual disputes with the French over possession of land and
sovereignty from 1337 onwards which became known as the Hundred Years War.
Englands fortunes fluctuated during the war, from Henry Vs historic victory at the Battle of
Agincourt in 1415 to defeat by a tiny French army led by the
visionary peasant girl Joan of Arc at Orlans in 1429.
The French eventually won a decisive
victory over the English at Castillon in 1453.
Yet when the Hundred Years War came to a
close, a dispute broke out between the two
English rival houses of Lancaster and York.
This dispute degenerated into a civil war
between the rival families, which was to go
on for about 30 years. Because the emblem
of both families was a rose, red for
Lancaster and white for York, it became
known as the Wars of the Roses.
Thomas Becket before Henry II
from a stained-glass window (c.1220)
in Canterbury Cathedral.
15
The H|stor|ca| Ground Br|ta|n after the Norman Conquest
The Battle of Agincourt from Froissart's Chronicles
(c.1460-80). The British Library, London.
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The Black Death
The war with France was interrupted in 1348 by the Black Death, an epidemic of bubonic plague
which spread rapidly through Europe. The Black Death is reported to have killed about a third of
Britains population but, because of the resulting shortage of labour, the living conditions of the
poor paradoxically improved. For the first time peasants were able to demand payment for their
work and better living conditions.
The Peasants` Revolt
The new-found prosperity of the peasant was a cause of great alarm to the nobles and
landowners who controlled parliament. A poll tax was imposed on the population to remove
their financial power. However, at this stage the
peasant workers had already organised
themselves and were preparing for an armed
revolt.
The peasants, led by Wat Tyler, marched on
London and occupied the city, forcing the
government to take refuge in the Tower. The
government agreed to accept the peasants
demands on condition they disperse, but when
they did the government took control again and
executed Tyler and hundreds of protesters. The
peasant population was driven back to servitude.
Yet despite the failure of the revolt, conditions
afterwards generally improved and the working
people began to see themselves as a class with
interests to defend.
The explosion of trades and the emergence of the middle classes
Around the time of the 14th century, the growth of towns brought with it an explosion of new
occupations: artisans and tradesmen of various types such as smiths, shoemakers, carpenters,
butchers, bakers and cloth makers. These
skilled artisans organised themselves into
guilds, or joined forces with merchants to form
trading companies, laying the foundations of
an urban bourgeoisie. Labour became more
organised and many of the old religious taboos
surrounding certain types of work disappeared.
Meanwhile, in the countryside a new minor
aristocracy, which became known as the
gentry, was emerging among freeholders of
land, who were becoming wealthy through the
income generated from agriculture and rents.
Farmers themselves were beginning to enclose
open fields. The idea of labour in the service of
God or of a lord was gradually being replaced by
that of working for money.
1 From Ear|y Br|ta|n to the M|dd|e Ages
16
The Death of Wat Tyler at Smithfield, London, in 1381
from Froissart's Chronicles (c.1460-80).
The British Library, London.
Dyers soaking red cloth from Des Proprietez des Choses
(1482). The British Library, London.
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The rise of the merchants
To understand the forces behind the changes that occurred in the late medieval period we have to
look at the crucial role played by merchants.
In early medieval Europe, the profession of the merchant was among the despised categories of
labour. This was because people believed that mans work had to be in the image of God. For this
reason, the only really approved forms of labour were creative jobs which meant either
cultivation of the land or craftsmanship.
The work of the merchant created nothing except money, and to a pre-capitalist Christian society
the abstract values of money were incomprehensible. These taboos only began to recede with the
economic revolution of the 12th and 13th centuries, which saw the rise of towns and with them
the appearance of a great number of new professions and trades.
The activity of the merchant was justified by a complex series of
excuses and justifications for their unholy labour. For example, it
could be justified by the benefits it brought to the community in terms
of providing products from overseas that were previously unavailable.
Also the risks involved in transportation were considered justification
for the money the merchant earned. Thus the merchant slowly
became a valued and esteemed member of the new society.
Linked to the rise of the merchants was a new idea of time, which
began to be considered an object to be measured in terms of length of a
given operation or process: in this period the expression time is
money started to make sense.
Check what you know
1 Reread the paragraphs on reform and explain
the following:
a What Common Law was and in what ways
it can be considered progressive.
b What the Magna Carta was and when it
was signed.
c What happened in 1258 and 1295.
2 How would you describe the relationship
between the Church and the State during this
period?
3 Explain who Thomas Becket was and what
happened to him.
4 Discuss the Lollardy reform movement.
5 Refer to the section on the Hundred Years War
and say:
a What its causes were.
b When it started.
c What happened in 1415 and 1429.
d When the war ended and who won.
6 Explain how the Wars of the Roses got their
name.
7 List some of the consequences of the Black
Death.
8 Refer to the section on the Peasants Revolt
and say:
a Why it started.
b Who its leader was.
c How it ended.
d What the consequences were.
9 Explain the emergence of the middle classes:
a What were the new occupations created by
the growth of towns around the 14th
century?
b How did the artisans organise themselves?
10 How did the activity of the merchant slowly
become accepted?
17
The Arnolfini Portrait (1434) by Jan van Eyck.
The National Gallery, London.
Giovanni Arnolfini, a merchant from Lucca living in Bruges, was so wealthy that he
could commission a painting by one of the leading artists of the time, such as van Eyck.
The H|stor|ca| Ground Br|ta|n after the Norman Conquest
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1.3 Anglo-Saxon Literature
An oral art
The language used in the Anglo-Saxon period is now called Old English. This was a mixture of
the languages spoken by the Germanic tribes that invaded Britain in the 5th century and was
very different from modern English.
Like much of the worlds earliest literature, the literature of the Anglo-Saxons was first
communicated orally. Having been passed from one person to another by way of mouth, a poem
or tale could change a lot before it was finally put down in written form.
Poetry in its earliest manifestations was simply a way of preserving the history and culture of the
tribe for the benefit of future generations. In Anglo-Saxon culture, the poet, or scop, had this
special role. He knew all the stories and legends of the clan, and was the keeper of a rich poetic
vocabulary and metrical rules, which he combined in different ways to compose a lay, a poetic
composition, which he accompanied on a stringed instrument.
In terms of the improvisational nature of his art, the scop can be compared with the modern day
rapper, who is also expected to compose his/her verses or rhymes spontaneously while at the
same time keep within strict metrical rules. The difference is that while the poets of old sang of
the achievements of the great leaders and heroes of their clan, many modern rappers tend to
boast only of their own accomplishments.
Lyric and epic poems
Much of the oral literature of the Anglo-Saxons has been lost to us, either because it was never
written down or because the manuscripts have not survived.
However, several lyric compositions have survived, preserved in The Exeter Book, a volume
dating from the 10th century. They are characterised by a melancholic tone, as in The Seafarer,
in which the first-person narrator tells of his experiences of exile and solitude.
It is from epic poetry, however, that the most famous Anglo-Saxon poem, Beowulf, originated.
Composed in Old English probably at the end of the 7th century, it is anonymous and at over
3,000 lines it is the longest work of the early period.
18
Rap culture marks
a contemporary
return to oral
culture and tribal
loyalties.
Pictured here are
three members of
New York`s Wu-
Tang Clan, whose
group mythology
is partially based
on Hong Kong
martial arts cinema.
Photography by
Daniel Hastings.
The Literary Ground
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The poem, set in Scandinavia, tells the story of a hero
called Beowulf, who becomes famous by helping
Hrothgar, King of the Danes. Beowulf kills first a half-
human monster called Grendel, who had been
terrifying Hrothgars people, and then Grendels
mother, who has promised to take revenge for her
sons death. After these two acts of heroism, Beowulf
eventually returns to his own country to become
king. Late in life he decides to fight a dangerous
dragon and is killed. In Beowulf we find an interesting
mix of religious and cultural references that tell us
something about the culture which produced it. The
poem contains both pagan and Christian elements. It
mainly derives from old Germanic sagas, but there
are signs of Christian influence in the way some of
the themes are developed. Another important aspect
of the poem is the way it mixes myth and legend with
reported historical fact.
The L|terary Ground
Check what you know
1 Read about the main characteristics of early Anglo-Saxon literature and discuss the following:
a The language used in this period.
b How the literature of the Anglo-Saxons was
first communicated.
c The main function of poetry in this period.
d Anglo-Saxon poets.
e Lays.
f Scops.
2 What is The Exeter Book and when does it date from?
3 Explain what the main features of The Seafarer are.
4 Describe Beowulf in terms of:
a Language.
b Date.
c Author.
d Plot.
e Influences.
Ang|o-Saxon L|terature
The first page of the manuscript of Beowulf.
The British Museum, London.
Anglo-Saxon iron helmet (7th century)
from the Sutton Hoo ship-burial.
The British Museum, London.
19
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1.4 Literature in the Late Middle Ages
An evolving language: The rise of Middle English
As we have seen, the language used in the Anglo-Saxon period is now known as Old English
(c.700-1100). This was a mixture of the languages spoken by the Germanic tribes that invaded
Britain.
Later on, the influence of the Norman invasions completely transformed both the structure and
vocabulary of Anglo-Saxon English. For about two centuries after the Conquest, Norman French
was the dominant language among the higher ranks of society, including the ruling classes and
aristocracy, while the peasants, who had no access to formal education, continued to use the
native Anglo-Saxon language. In general, however, this period was a time of contamination and
bilingualism.
With the growth of hostility between the French and the English from the 13th century onwards
and the Hundred Years War, French became the language of the enemy and English regained its
importance, although by now it was a completely different language in terms of grammar,
vocabulary and pronunciation.
Linguists usually see this period as the passage from Old English to what is called Middle
English (1100-1450). In terms of grammar, one of the main changes to occur in Middle English
was the disappearance of almost all of the Anglo-Saxon inflections. But the main influence of
French over Middle English is to be found in vocabulary, in particular in the fields of law,
fashion, food, architecture, art, medicine and literature. This change involved the loss of a large
part of the Old English vocabulary and the addition of thousands of words from French and Latin.
In some cases, however, both words survived.
At the end of this period Middle English becomes Modern English (1450-present day). It is
interesting to notice how in Modern English two words with more or less the same meaning have
often survived, one deriving from French and the other from Anglo-Saxon English. This is the
case of coexisting words which came to
indicate different meanings, such as, for
example, the Anglo-Saxon words pig and
cow and the French pork and beef, the
former to describe the animal and the latter
to describe the meat.
Medieval Prose
Arthurian romance
The legend of King Arthur dates from the
5th century, around the time of the first
Anglo-Saxon invasions, when Arthur
became symbolic of the Celtic Britons
resistance. It is still uncertain, however,
whether Arthur was a real person perhaps
he was a great military leader or just a
myth.
1 From Ear|y Br|ta|n to the M|dd|e Ages
Scenes from the legend of King Arthur from
Roman de Tristan (15th century).
Archivo Iconografico, Madrid.
20
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Stories about Arthur are told in the courtly romances of the late medieval period. They refer to a
timeless world where the courageous Knights of the Round Table battled for the love of
virtuous women, and offer a full range of fantastic elements such as magicians, fairies, dragons
and enchantments, all reflecting Celtic mythology. They deal with the ideals of chivalry and
courtly love, a chaste quasi-religious idea of love in which women are exalted as ideal but
untouchable objects. Arthurian romances were a European phenomenon, with writers from
various countries such as the French poet Chrtien de Troyes, famous for his romance Lancelot.
The most famous English version is Thomas Malorys Le Morte dArthur, published in 1485,
which represents the climax of the Arthurian tradition. Malorys version leaves out the more
fantastic aspects of the legend and concentrates on the idea of chivalry the knightly values of
loyalty, bravery, honesty and glory as a moral code of honour and as a principle of good
government.
Medieval Drama
Miracle and mystery plays
In the Middle Ages religious festivities and the services which accompanied them were not
only acts of worship for believers, but opportunities for entertainment as well.
During the great Christian festivals, such as Christmas and Easter, the most important events of
the Old and New Testament were represented in forms of dialogues sung between a priest and
the choir. These stories from the Bible were told in Latin and first given dramatic form in the
Church.
In England, as in all over Europe, such performances gradually moved outside into the
churchyard and then into other parts of the town. Latin was replaced by the vernacular as
laypeople took over the roles previously performed by the clergy.
In this way mystery
or miracle plays
came into being in
the 13th century and
developed over the
next two hundred
years. Although there
is not a clear
distinction between
mystery and miracle
plays, mystery plays
usually dealt with
events narrated in
the Bible while
miracle plays used
stories from the lives
of the saints. The name mystery comes from the word mestier, which means trade: people from
different trades (e.g. butchers, carpenters, etc.) performed different episodes of the plays.
The town guilds soon took charge of the performances. As the form developed and the plays
became more elaborate, the various guilds of craftsmen were given charge of individual scenes
on movable stages, called pageants. Although dealing with serious religious themes, the mystery
or miracle plays were a popular form of drama and elements of humour were often added to the
story.
21
Medieval players weaving masks from a medieval manuscript.
Bodleian Library, Oxford.
The L|terary Ground L|terature |n the Late M|dd|e Ages
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Morality plays
The morality plays also represented a popular medium by means of which the message of the
Bible could be conveyed to a wide and mostly illiterate audience. The characters, however, were
not taken from the Bible but were usually static symbols of fixed values and ideas, such as the
vices (greed, envy and so on) or the virtues (patience, temperance and so on) and they would
dispute questions of morality, usually within the framework of Christian dogma. This reflected
the ordered and essentially static medieval view of the world, based on Ptolemys theory of the
earth as the motionless centre of the universe around which the other planets and stars revolved
in concentric spheres.
The most highly regarded of the morality plays is Everyman. Everyman (symbolic of man in
general) is called by Death and asks for the support of his friends (all have allegorical names and
are personifications of
various virtues and aspects
of human life, including
Fellowship, Beauty and
Good Deeds). However,
Everyman finds that none of
them will go with him,
except for Good Deeds.
1 From Ear|y Br|ta|n to the M|dd|e Ages
22
Check what you know
1 Read about the rise of Middle English and say
whether the following statements are true or
false. Correct the false ones.
a The two main languages used
during the two centuries after the Norman
Conquest were Norman French
and Anglo-Saxon English.
b The higher ranks of society spoke
English.
c The rise of Middle English can be
dated to around 1100.
d The influence of French on English
was restricted to grammar.
e Modern English bears no trace of the
linguistic effects of the Norman
invasion.
2 When do the legends of King Arthur date from?
Explain what ideals they deal with.
3 Reread the text on medieval drama and
complete the following statements:
a In the Middle Ages religious festivities were
also opportunities for ......................... .
b During the festivals the most important
events of the Old and New Testament were
......................... .
c These stories were told in ......................... .
d These performances gradually moved
......................... and Latin was replaced by
......................... .
e These developed around .........................
and were called ......................... or
......................... .
f They were performed on .........................
called ......................... .
g Morality plays were different because their
characters were not ......................... but
......................... .
h The most famous morality play is
......................... . It tells the story of
......................... .
F T
F T
F T
F T
F T
The Three Living and the Three Dead
from the Psalter of Robert de Lisle
(c.1310).The British Library, London.
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23
The Art of Poetry
A poem a composition written for
performance by the human voice is the
oldest form of literature. The sound of words
plays an extremely important role in poetry.
The earliest poems were oral, not written, and
many were actually sung rather than spoken
and often accompanied by music and dancing.
According to its oldest classification, poetry
can be divided into three categories:
1. EPIC. By epic poetry we mean a long
narrative poem on a great and serious subject.
Early epics, such as the Iliad and the Odyssey,
were in the oral tradition. The most important
Anglo-Saxon example is Beowulf.
2. DRAMATIC. By dramatic poetry we mean
a poem written in the form of a monologue or
a dialogue. It is written in the voice of a
character assumed by the poet. A famous
dramatic monologue is Ulysses by Alfred
Tennyson.
3. LYRIC. Originally, a lyric was a song
performed in ancient Greece to the
accompaniment of a musical instrument
called a lyre. The term is now used for poems
which are generally quite short and are
written in the voice of a single speaker. The I
of a lyric poem should not be confused with
the voice of the poet. Although it can be said
that a lyric expresses personal feelings, the I
is frequently that of a fictional persona
invented by the poet. Among the principal
types of lyric are the ballad, the ode, the
sonnet and the elegy.
FEATURES OF POETRY
Poetry has three characteristics that
normally distinguish it from narrative prose:
the attention given to sound, its structure on
the page (i.e. its visual layout) and the way it
uses language (the persistent use of what we
call figures of speech).
Sound
Sounds are the raw material from which
words, and thus poems, are composed, and the
combination of sounds a poet uses contributes
to the overall effect and meaning of the poem.
Rhythm
Every polysyllabic word in English is a
combination of more pronounced syllables
(which are called stressed) and less pronounced
ones (which are called unstressed). For
example, the word table, pronounced TA-ble, is
a combination of a stressed followed by an
unstressed syllable. The rhythm of English
words comes from their stress pattern.
Clepsydra (1976) by Bridget Riley.
Private collection.
Riley is a British exponent of
Optical art, whose works aim to
produce an intense sense of rhythm
and movement through the
repetition of patterns made of lines.
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Metre
Each regular combination of syllables is called
a foot. Each line of a poem has a given
number of feet. This is the poems metre.
Lets look at the following line from a poem by
Marlowe. Remember that the stress usually
falls on the words which are most important to
the lines meaning.
Come live / with me / and be / my love
Here we can see that there are four feet: we
call this line a tetrameter, from the Greek
tetra= four. And since each of the feet is an
iamb, its rhythm is iambic (unstressed/
stressed syllables). It is, in fact, an example of
iambic tetrameter.
For centuries the most popular metre in
English poetry was the iambic pentameter,
from the Greek penta= five, which is used in
the sonnets of Shakespeare. When the iambic
pentameter does not rhyme, it is called blank
verse.
Rhyme
A rhyme involves regular repetition of
consonants and vowel sounds. When the final
syllables of two or more words have identical
sound characteristics, usually at the end of a
line, we say that they rhyme (e.g. night, bright).
Rhymes are identified by the letters of the
alphabet. The pattern they create is called the
rhyme scheme. Many poems have fixed
rhyme schemes. This means that the same
sequence of rhyming lines is repeated
throughout. For example:
I was angry with my friend: a
I told my wrath, my wrath did end: a
I was angry with my foe: b
I told it not, my wrath did grow b
(William Blake)
or
When fainting nature called for aid, a
And hovering death prepared the blow b
His vigorous remedy displayed a
The power of art without the show b
(Samuel Johnson)
Assonance
By assonance we mean the repetition of a
vowel sound with different surrounding
consonants. For example:
So well go no more a-roving
(Byron)
The [o] sound is repeated four times in
different words.
Alliteration
By alliteration we mean the recurrence of the
same initial sound in words in close
succession. For example:
Crossing the dead dull fields with
footsteps cold
The rain drips drearily
(Philip Larkin)
Here there is a repetition of the sounds [d] and
[dr].
Onomatopoeia
By onomatopoeia we mean the use of words
whose sound imitates the sound that they
describe. For example:
The ploughman may have heard the splash
(W. H. Auden)
Splash denotes the sound of a body hitting
water.
Structure
The second feature generally characteristic of
poetry is its particular structure or visual
layout.
The basic unit of a poem is the line. A group
of lines forming a definite pattern is called a
stanza. As we have seen, these groups of lines
are usually defined by their rhyme scheme.
The main types of stanza are:
the couplet (two lines)
the tercet (three lines)
the quatrain (four lines)
the sestina (six lines)
the octave (eight lines)
The actual lines of each verse can themselves
be connected or divided in various ways.
There are lines which continue logically or
grammatically without pause into the
24
The Art of Poetry
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following line: this technique is called run-on-
line or enjambement.
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the
cold
(Shakespeare)
Language
Poetry often makes use of linguistic devices
called figures of speech. These can also be
found in a day-to-day conversation, in
expressions such as I slept like a log (simile)
or golden hair or he is a snake (metaphor).
The most common figures of speech are:
simile, metaphor, symbol and personification.
Simile
A simile is a figure of speech that creates a
comparison between two elements. The
subject of the phrase is compared to
something else, usually connected with like
or as, so as to expand its meaning or to
modify the way we perceive it. For example:
The eyes of strangers
are cold as snowdrops
(Philip Larkin)
One function of simile can be to make
something familiar seem strange or give it a
peculiar resonance. Indeed, a simile is more
striking if it is used to compare two things that
would not normally be associated.
Metaphor
Derived from Greek, metaphor literally means
carrying from one place to another place and
so, in literary use, has come to mean the
transfer of a word from its literal meaning. A
metaphor refers to an object through another
one that the writer associates with it, yet the
likeness is never open or declared (as it is in
the case of simile where we often use like or
as). Although the quality that the two things
share is rarely obvious, we can generally say
that there is at least one detectable feature
that the two things have in common. Look at
the following example:
golden hair
In reality hair cannot be made of gold but it
can have approximately the same colour as
gold. A metaphor can be in the form of a
noun, an adjective, an adverb or even a verb,
as in the case of these lines:
Her face it bloomed
(John Clare)
I can wade Grief
Whole Pools of it
Im used to that
(Emily Dickinson)
As with a simile, one function of a metaphor
can be to make something familiar seem
strange and to complicate the way we perceive
something which might seem quite simple.
Symbol
Symbolism is similar to metaphor, but more
ambiguous. If a metaphor refers to A through
B, a symbol says that B suggests A, although A
is never mentioned. Often the symbol is a
concrete thing which represents an idea or
feeling. For example, in common use the dove
is a symbol for peace.
Personification
Personification gives abstract and inanimate
things attributes that are generally considered
human characteristics. It can be conveyed, for
example, through the use of pronouns or
possessive adjectives that usually refer to
people (e.g. he, she, his, her) or through
reference to actions or feelings that we would
not normally associate with inanimate objects
or natural phenomena. In Wordsworths poem
I wandered lonely as a cloud, for example,
the speaker describes daffodils dancing in the
breeze. We know that flowers do not literally
dance, but the verb conveys the daffodils
movements.
25
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1 From Ear|y Br|ta|n to the M|dd|e Ages
Medieval Poetry
The ballad
Ballads began to appear throughout Europe around the time when the idea of courtly love was
gaining popularity amongst the nobility. While they often dealt with similar themes of heroism
and loyalty, ballads were an essentially popular tradition of the uneducated and illiterate, which
recalled the early oral verse narratives of the Celts and the Anglo-Saxons.
Ballads generally used simple language and were composed of short stanzas of two or four
lines which usually rhymed in some way. Rather than compose with words, the balladeer, like
the scop before him, relied on a stock of phrases which he would combine in new ways. For this
reason ballads tend to be repetitive in structure as this makes them easier to remember. A
repeated stanza is called a refrain. In the earliest examples of ballads, the refrain was identical
after each stanza and guaranteed a particular emotional effect which may be comic or elegiac, in
the same way that the choruses of modern pop songs can excite us simply because of their
familiarity. The stories are usually tragic, but unlike their high culture equivalents, often have an
underlying sense of black humour.
Ballads can be classified in many different categories, from the border ballads celebrating the
rivalry between the English and the Scottish people, to outlaw ballads celebrating the lives of
outlaws or criminals such as the cycle of Robin Hood, to ballads of magic recounting stories
about fairies, witches and ghosts, to town ballads which served as a subversive commentary on
difficult urban conditions. But most later ballads involved some form of social or political protest,
satire or polemic.
In 1476, William Caxton established the first printing press in England. From 1477 to 1491 he
published nearly 80 books, many of them translations from French. English works he printed
include Malorys Le Morte DArthur and Chaucers Canterbury Tales. After the printing press was
set up, ballads spread rapidly, printed cheaply on single sheets of paper called broadsides.
Many English and Scottish ballads are difficult to date because they came mainly from ordinary
country people and were transmitted orally long before they were written down and collected.
For example, the ballads celebrating the life and adventures of the legendary outlaw hero Robin
Hood, who was said to be active during the reign of King John, probably date from much later
than their historical setting.
Medieval musicians singing ballads from a
Spanish Manuscript (14th century).
Escurial Library, Madrid.
Check what you know
1 What are the main features of
medieval ballads?
2 What are some of the different types
of ballads and what are their themes?
3 Discuss the influence the invention of
the printing press had on ballads.
4 Why are ballads often difficult to
date?
5 When do the ballads about the life of
Robin Hood date from?
26
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Geoffrey CHAUCER (1343?-1400)
Life and works
Geoffrey Chaucer was born in London between 1340 and 1345. His
father was a wine merchant who had connections with the Court of
Edward III. Geoffrey was educated well, though it remains unknown
whether he went to university. From about the age of 26, Chaucer was
frequently employed on important diplomatic missions both at home
and abroad. The year 1372-3 marks the turning point of his literary life.
He was sent to Italy where it is probable that he met Petrarch in
Florence, and became familiar with the work of Boccaccio and Dante.
In 1374 he worked as a customs official in the port of London, a job
which he did not like much and later complained about in the satirical
poem The House of Fame.
From 1386 he represented the county of Kent in parliament and was
appointed Clerk of the Works (person who oversees building work in
progress) first at Westminster, then at Windsor and the Tower. It was
during the last ten years of his life that Chaucer worked on his masterpiece, The Canterbury Tales,
which was one of the first works to be printed by Caxton, in or around 1476-7. Chaucer died in
1400.
Chaucers works are commonly divided into three periods.
The French period: Although Chaucer wrote almost exclusively in English, his early works,
such as the fragment of The Romaunt of the Rose (after the French Roman de la Rose of the 12th
century) and The Book of the Duchess are, in terms of style, highly influenced by their French
models.
The Italian period: In his middle period, Chaucer expanded his stylistic range following the
examples of Dante and Boccaccio. From this period date such works as The Parliament of Fowls, a
fable with birds and other animals as characters, and The House of Fame, where the influence of
Dantes Divine Comedy is at its most evident. Other works of this period include Troilus and
Criseyde and The Legend of Good Women.
The English period: In the last period of his life, Chaucer was mainly occupied with the writing
of The Canterbury Tales, which were written in Middle English and were probably begun in 1387.
Chaucer originally planned to write 120 tales. At his death the project was less than a quarter
complete with only 24 tales, but what remains is considered one of the greatest works ever
written in English.
Focus on the text: The Canterbury Tales
The tales are structured as a series of stories told by a group of thirty pilgrims who are going to
Canterbury on a pilgrimage to visit the shrine of Thomas Becket, who was murdered there. The
whole cycle is prefaced by a General Prologue, in which the narrator gives us a brief description
of each of the pilgrims, and each tale is preceded by a prologue in which the pilgrim tells us
something about him/herself. It is the host, Harry Bailly, who proposes the tale-telling
competition as a way of passing the time on the journey. Every pilgrim will have to tell two
stories on the way to Canterbury and two stories on the way back, and there will be a prize for
the best story. The allusion is to Boccaccios Decameron, in which a group of young aristocrats
gather to tell stories. But here the situation is somewhat different. The pilgrims have all met by
chance and come from all levels of society. They are often rude and frequently interrupt each
other.
27
Geoffrey Chaucer
(after 1400), detail,
by an unknown artist.
National Portrait Gallery,
London.
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The route the pilgrimage takes is also significant. The pilgrims begin at The Tabard Inn in
London, a place which is linked with pleasure and conviviality of the period, and travel towards
Canterbury Cathedral, a symbol of the holy, celestial city.
The pilgrims come from different social classes, such as the military (e.g. the Knight), the
clergy (e.g. the Friar, the Nun, the Prioress, the Monk, the Parson), the middle classes (e.g. the
Merchant and the Doctor) and the trades (e.g. the Carpenter and the Miller). However, it is worth
noticing that neither the aristocracy nor the poorest ranks of society are included in Chaucers
gallery of human beings.
Chaucer`s pilgrims
The characters of The Canterbury Tales are presented in such a way which renders them at the
same time types drawn from popular and literary tradition the virtuous knight, the
domineering wife, the libertine friar, the elegant prioress, the poor parson, the astute miller and
individuals in their own right. Chaucers characters have a human and individual quality which
makes them extremely vital. In this they are different from characters in medieval ballads, who
can generally be considered static. Many of the pilgrims are portrayed physically, through
detailed description of their clothes and tools which show their character and social standing.
Moreover, the pilgrims are often described morally, including their qualities and their
weaknesses. But Chaucer is highly modern in the way he suspends judgement of his characters,
allowing them free voice so that the reader can decide for himself which are the more or less
praiseworthy.
The tales themselves cover a wide range of themes.
Among the themes are love, marriage (as is evident
in the portrait of the Wife of Bath), corruption,
hypocrisy and chivalry. Many of the tales are ordered
in such a way as to give another point of view to the
ideas proposed in the previous tale. In this sense the
tales permit open dialogue between people from
different levels of society in which no one has the
last word.
The following extracts are translated into modern
English, as Middle English, in which Chaucer wrote,
is difficult for a modern reader to understand.
1 From Ear|y Br|ta|n to the M|dd|e Ages
28
The Pilgrims Outside the Walls of the City of
Canterbury (c.1455-62) by John Lydgate.
The British Library, London.
The route of the pilgrims from London to Canterbury.
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The Knight
(from the General Prologue)
In his General Prologue, Chaucer/the narrator supplies the reader with a description of the pilgrims. Here is
his description of the Knight.
Before you read
1 The following extract introduces the Knight. From what you know about the Middle Ages what kind of
figure do you expect him to be? Choose from the following adjectives:
brave noble cowardly courteous wise
crude rich well-travelled tough cautious
Now read the extract and underline the words and phrases describing him.
A knight there was, and he a worthy man,
Who, from the moment that he first began
To ride about the world, loved chivalry,
Truth, honour, freedom and all courtesy.
Full worthy was he in his liege-lord`s war,
And therein had he ridden (none more far)
As well in Christendom as heathenesse,
And honoured everywhere for worthiness.
At Alexandria, he, when it was won;
Full oft the table`s roster he`d begun
Above all nations` knights in Prussia.
In Latvia raided he, and Russia,
No christened man so oft of his degree.
In far Granada at the siege was he
Of Algeciras, and in Belmarie.
At Ayas was he and at Satalye
When they were won; and on the Middle Sea
At many a noble meeting chanced to be.
Of mortal battles he had fought fifteen,
And he`d fought for our faith at Tramissene
Three times in lists, and each time slain his foe.
This self-same worthy knight had been also
At one time with the lord of Palatye
Against another heathen in Turkey:
And always won he sovereign fame for prize.
Though so illustrious, he was very wise
And bore himself as meekly as a maid.
He never yet had any vileness said,
In all his life, to whatsoever wight.
He was a truly perfect, gentle knight.
C`era dunque un Cavaliere, un valentuomo che fin da
quando aveva iniziato ad andare a cavallo aveva amato
la cavalleria, la lealt, l`onore, la liberalit e la
cortesia. Valorosissimo in guerra per il suo signore,
s`era spinto nei pi lontani paesi cristiani e pagani,
facendosi ovunque onore con la sua prodezza. Era
stato alla resa d`Alessandria, pi volte aveva avuto il
posto d`onore in Prussia fra i rappresentanti di tutte le
nazioni ed aveva guerreggiato in Lettonia e in Russia
pi di qualsiasi altro cristiano del suo grado. Era stato
anche a Granada all`assedio d`Algesir e s`era spinto
fino in Belmaria. Fu alla conquista di Layas e Satalia,
e in molte nobili armate sul Mar Grande. Per ben
quindici volte aveva partecipato a combattimenti
mortali, e a Tramissene tre volte era sceso in lizza per
la nostra fede, sempre uccidendo l`avversario. Questo
prode cavaliere un tempo era anche stato col signore
di Palatia a combattere contro un altro pagano turco,
ricevendo sempre sovrani onori. Bench fosse
valoroso, era prudente e, negli atteggiamenti, mite
come una fanciulla. Non avrebbe mai detto in vita sua
una parola scortese a nessuno. Era un nobile cavaliere
veramente perfetto.
Translated by Ermanno Barisone
29
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Miniature depicting a
knight from a medieval
manuscript.
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Orientation
1 What values is the Knight associated with at
the beginning of the extract?
2 What are the different places the Knight has
been to?
3 Why did he go there?
4 The last few lines of the text give further
information. Which of the following is true?
Support your choices with lines from the text.
Line
a The Knight is extremely vain.
b He is extraordinarily unpretentious
considering his position.
c He is very wise.
d He is very kind and polite.
e He is very pious.
f He is quite vulgar.
Exploration
1 Read the extract again. What is its rhyme
scheme?
2 In drawing his portrait, the narrator is very
specific about all the military campaigns the
Knight had taken part in. What effect does this
detailed list have? Choose from the following
(more than one answer can be correct) and
justify your choice.
a It makes the text more poetic.
b It makes the description more real.
c It provides a historical context.
d It emphasises the qualities of the Knight
expressed in the text.
3 What kind of portrait of the Knight does
Chaucer give us? Choose from the following
and justify your answer.
detailed realistic romanticised poetic
abstract stereotypical literary sober
authentic psychological
4 The text below contains some supplementary
information about knights during Chaucers
times. Fill the gaps with the following words:
courtesy landowner codes soldier
war humble armour
Considering the context of Chaucers times, the
term knight can be interpreted in three
different ways: as a social classification, in a
military sense and in relation to the aristocratic
a
...................... denoted by chivalry.
In social terms, a knight was an average
b
...................... without a hereditary title who
often participated in local government.
In military terms, the knight was a cavalry
c
...................... . He supplied his own horse
and
d
...................... , and sometimes a small
group of foot-soldiers as well. The armed
knight on horseback was the principal weapon
of
e
...................... .
But apart from military courage, the knight was
supposed to cultivate other disinterested
virtues. In personal relations, the knight was to
be
f
...................... but resolute. He cultivated
g
...................... and the art of making fine
speeches and he balanced his ferocity as a
soldier with his refinement as a lover.
Creative writing
Now write your own description of a knight.
Fi rst of al l concentrate on hi s physi cal
appearance. What does the knight look like?
What does he normally wear? How old is he?
In your description you can use some of the
following words:
armour visor shield chain mail
sword heraldic emblem
Now try to connect his physical appearance to
his personality. Is there a special feature which
tells us something about his character? For
example his eyes might be cruel and his gaze
cold and ruthless.
Remember to think about his virtues but also
about his defects. While Chaucers description
presents the Knight only in a positive light, try
to be more critical towards him. For example a
knight may be extremely courageous but he
need not be a good person.
1 From Ear|y Br|ta|n to the M|dd|e Ages
30
LINKS
THEMATIC: Hero and Anti Hero
Multimedia Lab: From Pilgrimage
to Tourism
Tennyson, Ulysses
From Brit Lit to It Lit: Paveses Ulysses
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The Wife of Bath
Still from the General Prologue, here is Chaucer's description of the Wife of Bath.
Before you read
1 Which of the following do you think will be included in the description of the Wife of Bath? Choose
three, then read and check your ideas.
her clothes the pilgrimages she has made her house
her skills in the kitchen her husbands her education
There was a housewife come from Bath, or near,
Who - sad to say - was deaf in either ear.
At making cloth she had so great a bent
She bettered those of Ypres and even of Ghent.
In all the parish there was no goodwife
Should offering make before her, on my life;
And if one did, indeed, so wroth was she
It put her out of all her charity.
Her kerchiefs were of finest weave and ground;
I dare swear that they weighed a full ten pound
Which, of a Sunday, she wore on her head.
Her hose were of the choicest scarlet red,
Close gartered, and her shoes were soft and new.
Bold was her face, and fair, and red of hue.
She`d been respectable throughout her life,
With five churched husbands bringing joy and strife,
Not counting other company in youth;
But thereof there`s no need to speak, in truth.
Three times she`d journeyed to Jerusalem;
And many a foreign stream she`d had to stem;
At Rome she`d been, and she`d been in Boulogne,
In Spain at Santiago, and at Cologne.
She could tell much of wandering by the way:
Gap-toothed was she, it is no lie to say.
Upon an ambler easily she sat,
Well wimpled, aye, and over all a hat
As broad as is a buckler or a targe;
A rug was tucked around her buttocks large,
And on her feet a pair of sharpened spurs.
In company well could she laugh her slurs.
The remedies of love she knew, perchance,
For of that art she`d learned the old, old dance.
E c`era una brava Comare dei dintorni di Bath,
ma, peccato, era un po` sorda. A tessere il panno
era cos pratica, da battere quelli di Ypres e di
Gand. In tutta la parrocchia non c`era donna che
avesse il coraggio di passarle avanti a far
l`offerta: se mai qualcuna s`arrischiava, a lei
veniva una tal bile, che usciva fuori da ogni
grazia. I suoi fazzoletti erano di tessuto
finissimo: giurerei che pesavano dieci libbre
quelli che si metteva in capo la domenica. Le
sue calze erano d`un bel rosso scarlatto, ben
attillate; le scarpe morbidissime e nuove. Aveva
un volto impertinente, bello, di colorito acceso.
Era una donna ricca di meriti, che in vita sua
aveva condotto ben cinque mariti sulla porta di
chiesa, senza contare altre amicizie di
giovent. ma non il caso di parlarne proprio
ora. Tre volte era andata a Gerusalemme, e di
fiumi stranieri ne aveva attraversati molti:
era stata a Roma, a Boulogne, a San Giacomo in
Galizia e a Colonia. Aveva insomma parecchia
pratica di viaggi: i suoi denti infatti erano radi.
Sul cavallo sedeva comodamente, ben avvolta
da un sogglo, con un cappello in testa largo
come un brocchiere o uno scudo; una
gualdrappa intorno ai larghi fianchi, e ai piedi
un paio di speroni aguzzi. In compagnia sapeva
ridere e chiacchierare; e doveva intendersene di
rimedi d`amore, poich di quell`arte conosceva
certo l`antica danza.
Translated by Ermanno Barisone
31
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2 The Wife of Bath
from the Ellesmere
manuscript of
The Canterbury Tales
(15th century).
Huntington Library,
San Marino, California.
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