Medieval Period (1066-1485)

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This was the time of knights and their ladies fair. The chivalric code of honor was very important to literature of this time, and romances became popular. Religion was still a major reason for literature, as well, and plays that instructed the illiterate masses in moral codes, called morality plays, were produced.One of the major genres of this period was the folk ballad.

Characteristics

Content:
  • plays that instruct the illiterate masses in morals and religioun
  • chivalric code of honor/romances
  • religious devotion

Style/Genres:

  • oral tradition continues
  • folk ballads
  • mystery and miracle plays
  • morality plays
  • kennings
  • frame stories
  • moral tales
  • allegory
  • irony
  • rhyming couplet
  • beast fable
  • allusion
  • characterization
  • symbolism
  • exemplum

Effect:

  • church instructs its people through the morality and miracle plays
  • an illiterate population is able to hear and see the literature
Historical Context:
  • Crusades bring the development of a money economy for the first time in Britain
  • trading increases dramatically as a result of the Crusades
  • William the Conqueror crowned king in 1066
  • Henry III crowned king in 1154 brings a judicial system, royal courts, juries, and chivalry to Britain

Literature:

  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl
  • Domesday Book
  • L’Morte de Arthur
  • Geoffrey Chaucer