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Luther wrote that the Pope overestimated his own power, and in doing so, missed the
opportunity to suppress the Reformation:

For when I began to preach and write, the pope scorned and condemned me; he thought: 'Tis
but one poor friar; what can he do against me?' I have maintained and defended this doctrine in
popedom, against many emperors, kings, and princes, what then shall this one man do? If he had
condescended to regard me, he might easily have suppressed me in the beginning.'

Question to Discuss:

If we assume that Luthers interpretation of events is correct and the church did not take him
seriously, what historical factors made it difficult for the Pope to do so? Even if the Pope had
done this, were there other historical factors at work that made the Reformation impossible to
stop? What were these factors and which were most important?

Notes for discussion:

2. In his book the Decameron, Giovanni Boccaccio wrote about the plague:

This scourge has implanted so great a terror in the hearts of men and women that brothers
abandoned brothers, uncles their nephews, sisters their brothers, and in many cases wives
deserted their husbands. But even worse, fathers and mothers refused to nurse and assist their
own children.

Questions to Discuss:
Survivors of the plague faced many problems after the plague swept through their towns and
villages. What were some of these issues? How did the effects of the plague most change life in
the medieval period? How did the plague affect the church?

Notes for discussion:

3. The lowest rung of Europes medieval social ladder was occupied by serfs. William
England in the Piers Plowman describes what life was like for them:

What by spinning they save, they spend it in house-hire, both in milk and in meal to make a
mess of porridge, to cheer up their children who chafe for their food, and they themselves suffer
surely much hunger. And woe in the winter, with waking at nights and rising to rock an oft
restless cradle.

Questions to discuss:

We have studied the caste system in India and now feudalism in Europe. Does the US have a
system of social classes today and if so what is life like for those on the lowest rung? Can it be
compared to the life of the Serf as described in the Piers Plowman ?

Notes for discussion:

4. Eustace Deschamps was a medieval poet who wrote thousands of ballads and poems, in
the following poem he describes the expectation of the ideal Knight:

You who long for the Knightly Order,

It is fitting you should lead a new life;
Devoutly keeping watch in prayer,
Fleeing from sin, pride and villainy;
The Church defending,
The Widows and Orphans succouring.
Be bold and protect the people,
Be loyal and valiant, taking nothing from others.
Thus should a Knight rule himself.

He should be humble of heart and always work,

And follow Deeds of Chivalry.;
Be loyal in war and travel greatly;
He should frequent tourneys and joust for his Lady Love;
He must keep honor with all,
So that he cannot be held to blame.
No cowardice should be found in his doings,
Above all, he should uphold the weak,
Thus should a Knight rule himself.

Questions to discuss:

The poem describes the ideal chivalrous knight. There is a modern saying that chivalry is not dead, do
you agree or disagree? What expectations of a medieval knight are still thought of as ideals in our modern
Notes for discussion:

5. During the renaissance, art and literature began to play a very important role in society
driving the need for individuals to re-invent themselves and become more well-rounded.
Baldassare Castiglione in The Courtier describes this renaissance man as:

Bold, stern, and always among the first, where the enemy are to be seen; and in every
other place, gentle, modest, reserved, above all things avoiding ostentation (showiness)
and that impudent (bold) self-praise by which men ever excite hatred and disgust in all
who hear them.

I would have him more than passably accomplished in letters, at least in those studies
that are called the humanities, and conversant not only with the Latin language but with
Greek, for the sake of the many different things that have been admirably written their-in.
Let him be well; versed in the poets, and not less in the orators and historians, and also
proficient in the writing verse and prose.

Questions to Discuss:

The renaissance man would have been very accomplished, but would all members of
renaissance society have opportunities to attain these abilities? Were the expectations the
same for all social classes -- for women? Do you believe that we still have an ideal
renaissance man/woman today? If so, are the characteristics of the modern renaissance
man/women different from those idealized in The Courtier?

Notes for discussion:

Instructions for Middle Ages-Reformation Socratic Seminar

Approximately 50-55 min.

Group students in groups of four.

Explain that each group member will have the opportunity to spend about ten minutes on
the floor participating in a group discussion (warn girls the day before that they will be on
the floor). In the center of the floor there will be a pile of poker chips, for every
thoughtful or substantial contribution/question that a student makes to the discussion they
will be allowed to pick up one poker chip.

Give each group the first question and explain-that working together, they have five
minutes to research the question, take notes, and prepare for the discussion before one of
them will be expected to join the inner circle.

After five minutes, one student from each group enters the inner circle and the discussion
begins. To allow all students to participate, each discussion should be limited to 8-10
minutes. Remind students that for each substantial statement or question that a student
makes towards the discussion they can pick up a chip from the middle of the circle. The
goal is to earn as many chips for the team as you can. Meanwhile, students on the outside
must write in their observation log at least three points made in the discussion that they
thought were interesting and offer one piece of advice for the discussants.

At the end of the discussion, discussants return to their groups. A new question is handed
out, and again they have five minutes of research, followed by eight to ten minutes of
discussion until all students have had time in the inner circle.
Socratic Seminar
Observation Log

For each discussion that you observe, list three ideas/points that you thought
were interesting and one piece of advice that you could offer to those that
are discussing to help improve their discussion abilities.
Discussion #1:


Discussion #2:


Discussion #3:


My discussion:
Something I contributed:

Something I wish I had said:

What I will do next time:

Score Sheet for Socratic Seminar
Observation Log Points
Total Possible
Discussion #1
Ideas/Points 2 each
Advice 4
Discussion #2
Ideas/Points 2 each
Advice 4
Discussion #3
Ideas/Points 2 each
Advice 4
My Discussion
Something I contributed 2
Wish I had said 4 4
Next time 4 4
Total Possible 40