British Literature to the 1800's
Intro to the Anglo-Saxons 449-1066 p1-11
Questions/Notes concerning the Anglo-Saxon Introduction:
1. In a society dominated by aggression, what would you expect to find with regards to ethics, family life, the role of women, art, literature and livelihood?
*Develop a graphic organizer to make initial claims, then revisit after in-class discussion.
2. In about 700 B.C., the Celts dominated most of what is now western and central Europe. Skilled craftsmen, they introduced iron to the rest of Europe. They also had a highly developed religion, mythology, and legal system that specified individual rights.
+The Celtic language was dominant in Britain until around the 5th century A.D. Welsh and Gaelic are forms of the Celtic language that may still be heard in Wales, Scotland and Ireland today.
3. Descendants of the Celts still live in Cornwall, the highlands of Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Brittany. The Welsh refer to themselves as cymry, meaning "fellow-countrymen," emphasizing their role as true, native Britons. Cymraeg, the language of Wales, shares origins with languages spoken even now from the Hebrides, islands in the Atlantic west of Scotland, to southern Brittany, a region in northwest France.
+For centuries, the Cambrian mountains of central Wales provided safety for the Britons from the victorious Anglo-Saxons, enabling the Welsh to persevere many Celtic customs along with the language.
4. Using radiocarbon dating methods on charcoal taken from the pits within the circle of the stones, historians have postulated that Stonehenge was in use around 1848 B.C. The huge stones are a type found only in western Wales, three hundred miles away, and some weigh more than eighty tons; how the stones were moved to the present location and arranged in their original positions is a great mystery.
5. At the height of the Roman Empire, the Roman historian Tacitus (c. A.D. 56- c. 120) described the Germanic tribes of the north, including the Angles, as having positive attributes: love of freedom, chaste women, lack of public extravagance.
6. You can read more about the heroic Celtic leader King Arthur in Sir Thomas Mallory's Le Morte Darthur (c.1469), in Alfred, Lord Tennyson's Idylls of the King (1859-1885), or, in T.H. White's The Once and Future King (1958), upon which the musical Camelot is based.
7. King Alfred may be one king who truly deserves the appellation "the great." Not only did he help save Wessex and other Kingdoms in England from the Danes, but he also helped create a cohesive English society from small, fractious kingdoms; restored cities destroyed during the invasions; and revived an interest in learning and in the English language.
8. In the preface to the Consolation of Philosophy, Alfred writes about his authority: "To be brief, I may say that it has always been my wish to live honorably, and after my death to leave to those who come after me my memory in good works."
*Is Alfred's philosophy of leadership applicable to our lives today?
9. The gradual emergence of Christianity among the Anglo-Saxons was to a great extent due to the work of Irish and Continental missionaries, the most important of whom was probably St. Augustine (the second of that name), who converted King Ethelbert of Kent in A.D.597, founded the Cathedral of Canterbury, and became the first archbishop of Canterbury, or leader of the Church of England. His mission, however, was not immediately or permanently successful, since Anglo-Saxon religion persisted.
10. The Anglo-Saxons were a agricultural, semi-nomadic people with a two-class society: the earls, who ruled and who were related to the founder of the tribe; and the churls, bond-servants whose ancestors had been captured by the tribe. Although they admired their warriors, the Anglo-Saxons insisted on a social organization based on more than courage, a society with strict laws and a sense of obligation to others. An absolute ruler and mighty warrior, the Anglo-Saxon king nevertheless consulted with the witan ("wise men"), an assembly of respected earls.
+The churls provided the hard labor for this agricultural society and were bound to the earls' service unless they could earn possessions and special royal favor to become freemen (independent landholders). A woman received honor and power only as a queen, as the wife of a powerful earl, or as a churchwoman. Women's duties were chiefly domestic.
11. The word wyrd was used by the Anglo-Saxons to represent one's fate in life. Since the early Anglo-Saxons did not believe strongly in the afterlife, one lived on or gained immortality through personal fame attained through heroic action.
12. Question: Why might Nazi Germany have chosen the swastika for its symbol before World War II?
13. Question: What do you associate with the word dragon?
+Since the beginning of recorded history, humans have had strong emotional reactions to serpents. The power of serpents to cause harm could account for the fear and respect they evoke, or it could be that, in a sense, snakes inhabit two worlds: They can live on the earth's surface or below it. In fifteenth-century Europe, a serpent eating its tail symbolized the cyclical, positive nature of life. In China, dragons are benevolent tomb guardians. However, in most Western myths, such as the myth of St.George, the dragon symbolizes evil.
++Odin, the god of death and war, was also known as Woden. The vikings believed that if they died as warriors they would enter Valhalla, a hall in Asgard, Odin's home, where they could dine all night after doing battle all day. Surprisingly, these war-like people appreciated poetry--so much so that they brought their skalds, or court poets, to their battles to read verses for luck and victory.
14. The text points out the high esteem in which the bard (or scop) was held in Anglo-Saxon society. What is the role of our writers in today's society? Point out certain specifics in the response.
15. Before Henry VIII disbanded the English monasteries in the early 16th century, there were 28 abbeys, 26 priories, 23 convents, 30 friaries, and 13 cells in Yorkshire alone. All are in ruins today.
16. After defeating the Norse, King Alfred maintained political control over southwest England, which was not part of his Wessex domain, by encouraging a common loyalty to England and use of the English language to create a national identity. He used English, not the customary Latin, to educate his people. In his preface to the English translation of Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica, King Alfred explains his emphasis on English: "Therefore it seems better to me...that we should also translate certain books which are most necessary for all men to know, into the language that we can all understand, and also arrange it...so that all the youth of free men now among the English people...are able to read English writing as well."
Beowulf was the hero who saved Hrothgar's people from the evil Grendel and Grendel's mother, and he battles a dragon to protect the Geats. This was the first great work of English national literature, and it uses a host of traditional motifs, or recurring elements, associated with heroic literature all over the world.
Theme: Heroic deeds as a Reflection of Personal glory
The original work consists of 3,182 lines. The abriged modern version, in English, of 842 lines, divided into seventeen parts, is what is in the literature book.
Literary terms to know: Epic, Epic Hero, Allusion, Imagery, Alliteration, Foil character, Personification, Kennings (p.48-9), Tone
Important names:Beowulf, Brecca, Grendel, Herot, Hrothgar, Unferth, Welthow, Wiglaf
Words to Own: laments, reparation, solace, vexed, reprisal, taut, sinews, murky, pilgrimage, loathsome
Follow-up reading questions for Beowulf: PART ONE
1. What imagery associated with Grendel hints at his evil nature?
2. What is the poet alluding to in l. 5-13?
1. Herot means "hart" or "stag." The hart was a symbol for kingship to the Anglo-Saxons. What do we recognize as a symbol of kingship today?
2. Why do none of Hrothgar's men challenge Grendel?
3. What evidence is there that Grendel symbolizes evil and that the conflict is not only between men, but also between good and evil?
4. What is the implication of the fact that God prevents Grendel from touching Hrothgar's throne?
5. What is the purpose of part two?
6. Although a pagan scop may have composed and sung the story, the Christian monk transcribing it may have added Christian elements. Find some clues that display this idea of dual authorship.
**The Geats lived in what is today southwestern Sweden. Higlac, king of the Geats and Beowulf's kinsman, was killed in a raid on the Franks in 521. In the complete version, the end of the poem forecasts the Geats defeat by another tribe, the Swedes.
**The mail shirt would have been composed of as many as twenty thousand small iron rings riveted or welded shut, creating a mesh-net effect.
1. Does Beowulf's boasting show him to be offensively arrogant?
2. In what siituations might such boasting be expected today?
3. Why do you think Beowulf intends to fight Grendel without a sword?
4. Detail the purpose of part 4 (four items)?
1. Why might Hrothgar find it necessary to remind Beowulf of the time he helped Beowulf's father?
2. What does Hrothgar's speech tell us about him?
1. What is Unferth's motive for challenging Beowulf?
**Unferth's challenge of Beowulf is a regular motif of heroic poetry, allowing the hero to show not only his self-assertiveness but also his restraint and courtesy.
2. What is the purpose of Part 6?
3. What examples of Alliteration do you find in this passage?
1. In what ways does Beowulf compare his defeat of the sea monster to a feast?
2. One theme deals with self versus fate (wyrd). What does Beowulf believe about fate?
3. In literature, a foil is a character who contrasts with another. How does Unferth serve as a foil to Beowulf?
*Killing one's kindred was considered a heinous act among Anglo-Saxon nobility. Wergild ("man-payment"), considered satisfactory recompense to the relatives of the slain man, could not be made to one's own relatives; therefore, one could not make amends for the murder of a kin.
4. What works can you think of that are based on the basic theme of good versus evil? What are the similarities between the heroes of these works and Beowulf?
*Anglo-Saxon women of the time are exhibited in the traits of Welthow, much as they are described in the Exeter book: beloved, cheerful, generous and gracious.
**For an Anglo-Saxon warrior, life without greatness or courage was death. This concept that winning determines one's worth exists to some extent today in competitions of different sorts, whether they be sports or chess or performance art.
5. How is the coming of night personified as the sun sets?
6. What is the purpose of Hrothgar's promise to Beowulf?
1. Why do you think Beowulf allows Grendel to slaughter one of the Geats before taking action himself?
2. What kennings associate Grendel with evil?
3. What specific verbs are used to create a tone of fierceness in Beowulf's confrontation with Grendel?
1. How do the actions of Beowulf's men uphold the Anglo-Saxon code of honor?
2. What additional evidence is there that the fight between Grendel and Beowulf is symbolic of the war between good and evil?
3. Create a three-column chart that will compare and contrast the three battles of Beowulf in the epic: Grendel, Grendel's mother and the Dragon.
4. Why do you think Beowulf hangs Grendel's arm from the rafters of Herot?
**Some scholars point out a close parallel between Grendel's mere and the vision of hell in Sermon 17 of the tenth-century Bickling Homilies, in which St. Paul visits hell under the protection of St. Michael. The parallel is seen as evidence that the Anglo-Saxons would have equated Grendel's lair with the Christian hell.
What imagery in the description of Grendel's lair associates Grendel with death and darkness?
Questions for Beowulf follow-up: PART TWO
1. When Beowulf fights with Grendel's mother, what characteristics help him to remain unbeaten?
2. What saves Beowulf from being killed by Grendel's mother's dagger?
3. Do you feel an sympathy for Grendel's mother? Why?
**Critics who trace Christian parallels throughout the epic have commented that Beowulf's immersion into the lair is kind of a baptism by which he is washed clean of sins. The light in l.646 would indicate God's favor.
1. Why does Beowulf not rest on his laurels at this point instead of fighting , as an aged king, a battle whose odds are against him?
1. Describe Beowulf as he sets out for his final encounter.
2. What do you think is Beowulf's motivation in going after the dragon's treasure hoard?
3. Would you agree or disagree with the following statement:
In his battle with the dragon, Beowulf accepts with valor and virtue his wyrd, the inescapable destiny all people in this world must accept.
4. Why do you think Beowulf's men desert him now when earlier they came to his aid in his fight against Grendel?
***Some critics view the failure of Beowulf's men to come to his aid as an ominous forecast of the demise of the Anglo-Saxons, whose society was built around the Anglo-Saxon code that the leader who rewards his loyal followers with riches may expect loyalty in return.
**Importance of amassing treasure in the Anglo-Saxon code is a way of momentarily defeating wyrd, or fate. Thus, with his dying words, Beowulf is doing more than equating his life with material possessions. Remember, the entire context of this poem must be placed within the Anglo-Saxon codes of conduct and values rather than that of the twenty-first century.
1. Other than Beowulf's men's desertion of him, what might foretell the end of the Anglo-Saxons?
2. Do you think that the Beowulf poet successfully portrays Beowulf as a hero even in the fight with the dragon?
What attitude toward heroes is shown by the Geats? Is our own tradition similar to the Geats?
Use these Links for more insight
http://www.cummingsstudyguides.net/Beowulf.html#Top (Extra Study Material)
The Seafarer p60-65
"The Seafarer" is from the so-called Exeter Book, a manuscript of miscellaneous Anglo-Saxon poems dating from around A.D. 940, copied in A.D. 975, and now preserved at Exeter Cathedral in England. Though the manuscript survived the raids and fires of the centuries, the Exeter Book had not been well cared for. There are signs that its cover had been used as a chopping board; its pages had been marked by beer stains; and some of it had been partly burned. But today its "songs" - copied down by monks - are our chief source of Anglo-Saxon poetry.
The Anglo-Saxons were sea voyagers, and the northern seas were then, as now, especially cruel. The speaker in "The Seafarer" is an old sailor who drifted through many winters on ice cold seas.
Literary Terms: Elegy, Elegiac, Hero Worship, Tone, Imagery, Kenning, Metaphor (Direct, Implied, Extended)
Questions for Review:
1. How would you know that the Seafarer's life was harsh and lonely even if he had not said so directly in l. 26?
2. In the passage from lines 18-26, what is the effect of the nature imagery?
3. Why does the Seafarer return to the ocean time after time?
4. After line 80, it discusses Anglo-Saxon leaders who looked after their followers, even financially. How does this behavior compare to our leaders today?
5. Why might this poem be considered elegiac?
6. How does the Seafarer believe people should act? How does that fit your religious beliefs?
Further Commentary-(from O.S. Anderson, The Seafarer: An Interpretation)
"The Seafarer" has been the subject of scholarly debate for many years, because it seems to shift in tone and subject matter after l.64. Some critics believe the poem is a dialogue between an experienced mariner and a young man eager to go to sea; others see it as the conflicting emotions of one man.
The basis between these two ideas lies in this discussion: the first part is seen as the nature of a homily, allegorical in its form...the voyage, represented by the cold and miserable suffering to be undertaken, make him long for the joys of heaven. So the earthly life of the poet is in full misery and privation...therefore the joys of heaven are the only real concern..."
Intro to the Middle Ages 1066-1485 p1-11
Questions/ Notes concerning the Middle Ages Introduction:
1. Decisions about power during the medieval period were settled by contending rulers and their armies. How would such a power dispute be handled in a democracy?
2. William of Malmesbury, one of the greatest English chroniclers, says of William the Conqueror: "He was of just stature, ordinary corpulence, fierce countenance: his forehead bare of hair; of such strength of arm that it was often a matter of surprise that no one was able to draw his bow which he himself could bend when his horse was on a full gallop: he was majestic whether sitting or standing, although the protuberance of his belly deformed his royal person..."
3. Oaths of fealty were the backbone of the feudal society. Solemn and unbreakable, these oaths were sworn by a vassal to his chosen lord. The lord, in return, expected faithfulness and service without deception. Often vassals made these pledges over religious relics, or with the vassals hands between those of his lord, the sacred alliance would be sealed with a kiss. The oath might be similar to this one: "I promise by my faith that from this time forward I will be faithful to Count William and will maintain toward him my homage entirely against every man, in good faith and without deception."
4. Clearly, the lord benefited from the loyalty of the knight, but what did the knight gain from this loyalty?
5. How do the roles of medieval men and women differ? Where do the women appear to be? How do the women react to the action around them?
6. In The Middle Ages, Morris Bishop describes how the system of chivalry influences us still: "In time the chivalric code was modified, but it has never died. It set a standard for upper-class behavior, especially in the Victorian era. Our esteem for sentimental love is a medieval relic. 'Women and children first' is a chivalric motto."
7. A similar set of ideals and social codes, called bushido, developed among the samurai warrior class in medieval Japan.
8. "The Knight's Tale" by Chaucer, is derived from Boccaccio's epic poem Teseida. Boccaccio's work, twelve cantos written in ottava rima, tells the story of two friends who both fall in love with a woman named Emilia. One finally wins his love in a tournament, but he dies immediately after.
9. Baghdad and Damascus had well established public libraries until the thirteenth century, when they were destroyed. In about 1340, Cairo was a wealthy city of almost half a million people and an important link in the spice trade; London, in contrast, had only fifty thousand inhabitants in the fifteenth century. Arab universities also were established before their European counterparts, some three hundred years in advance.
10. Under Henry II, a system of common law was developed that formed the basis for British common law today. Common law applies to all the people of a country rather than applying only to certain classes of people. The conflict between Henry and Thomas a Becket developed when Henry attempted to bring the church under this system. Before this time, Church courts dispensed mild forms of justice for both clergy and for learned men who claimed "benefit of clergy."
11. How did the murder of Thomas a Becket lead to corruption within the church?
12. Perhaps the best-known figure to come out of the Hundred Years' War is the illiterate French peasant girl known in English as Joan of Arc (1412-1431). Joan persuaded the King of France to allow her to lead the French armies to fight the English. For almost two years she was incredibly successful, until she was captured in Burgundy and sold to the English. Found guilty by an ecclesiastical court for crimes ranging from witchcraft to wearing men's clothes, Joan was burned to death by the English army.
13. Shakespeare's play Henry V is one that depicts the battle of English yeomen with their longbows at the Battle of Agincourt (Oct. 25, 1415).
14. Plague-- defined as "a deadly, infectious epidemic disease"
15. The loyalty that was based on feudalism was required loyalty; it was not voluntary. Is it more noble to volunteer one's loyalty to someone or something?
The movie portrays the actual incidents from the NASA Apollo 13 launch and severe problems that developed for the crew in space.
Links for more information:
Mel Gibson's "Braveheart"- The Story of William Wallace
Links containing Historical Data
Geoffrey Chaucer- The Canterbury Tales p116-149
Geoffrey Chaucer has been regarded by many writers as a great poet. William Caxton, who introduced the printing press into England, praised Chaucer, as did John Dryden some four hundred years later.
Almost everyone from every class in Chaucer's day made a pilgrimage. In fact, many people probably had been on more than one. By the time of the Canterbury Tales, though, pilgrimages were not just taken for religious purposes; they were also trips taken for enjoyment. According to one Chaucerian scholar, "In one year alone in the early fifteenth century, more than one hundred thousand persons from all over Europe have said to have made the Canterbury Pilgrimage."
Canterbury grew in importance way back in the 6th century when St. Augustine established a cathedral there. The cathedral was damaged during World War II, but has since been restored. The pilgrim's way from London to Canterbury was originally a Roman road, known at various times as Cosinge Street and Watling Street. Though one can still travel on the road to Dover, it bears little resemblance to the rural road that passed through hayfields and forests in Chaucer's day. The pilgrims called the road a "slough." It was probably very muddy in April.
Thomas a Becket became a martyr two hundred years before Chaucer's day. In December of the year 1170, the English King Henry II became angry when he heard that Becket, then archbishop, had excommunicated bishops who were supporters of Henry's policies. Becket was killed by four of the king's knights and was named a saint almost immediately. The church believed that his body and blood were sacred and thus had curative powers.People did go to Becket's shrine for other blessings besides healing; for example, Chaucer suggests that the knight is on his pilgrimage to give thanks for a successful campaign.
Southwark was the strating point for pilgrimages not just to Canterbury but also to Holy places all over England, such as Salisbury, Glastonbury, and Walsingham. Discover what was so important about each of these places.
The Tales is a collection of stories set within a framing story of a pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral, the location of Becket's shrine. Raning in status from a Knight to a humble Plowman, they are a microcosm of 14th-century English society.
The contest mentioned at the end of the tale by the Host was to fill the time of the journey by having each character tell two tales on the way to Canterbury and two on the way back to London. So, thirty (30) multiplied by four (4) tales for each person... If Chaucer had written one tale per month it would have taken him ten (10) years to complete The Canterbury Tales. In fact, he wrote only twenty-four (24) of the tales (22 verse tales and 2 long prose), so far as we know, in five (5) years.
The tales represent nearly every variety of medieval story at its best...the Knight's courtly and philosophical romance about noble love...the Miller interrupting with a bawdy story of seduction aimed at the Reeve...the Reeve taking revenge with a tale about the seduction of the Miller's wife and daughter. Thus, the tales develop personalities, quarrels, and diverse opinions of their tellers. The prologues and tales of the Wife of Bath and the Pardoner are high points of Chaucer's art. The Wife, an outspoken champion of her gender against the traditional anti-feminism of the church, initiates a series of tales about marriage and nobility. The Pardoner gives a chilling demonstration of how eloquence in the pulpit turns the hope of salvation into a vicious game.
Although Chaucer in this way satirizes the abuses of church, he also includes a number of didactic and religious tales, concluding with the good Parson's sermon on penitence; this is followed by a personal confession in which Chaucer "retracts" all his secular writings.
Important Terms to Know: Characterization (Direct and Indirect), Frame Story, Iambic Pentameter, Rhyme Scheme, End-Stopped line, Open Couplets, Irony (Verbal, Situational),Knowledge of each of the Seven Deadly Sins
Words to Own: engendering, stature, personable, accrue, statute, benign, guile, diligent, adversity, disdainful, discreet, obstinate, frugal, duress, deferred
The meter of the Prologue is Iambic Pentameter and that the rhyme scheme is couplets. Note also that not all the lines are end-stopped. To get the sense of what they are saying you often have to read on to the next line. This means that Chaucer uses 'open couplets,' a technique that prevents his verse from sounding sing-song.
Questions/Notes for the PROLOGUE to the Canterbury Tales (121-145)
1. Why might people go on pilgrimages at this time of year?
2. Where does the first sentence end? Identify three pairs of subjects and verbs.
3. Compare lines 17-18 of this translation with the original Middle English lines on p.106. How has the translator preserved the rhyming couplet?
Wars covered forty (40) years in fell into three groups:
(1) against the Moors at the west end of the Mediterranean;
(2) against the Turks at the Mediterranean's east end;
(3) against Lithuanians and Tartars on the Russian border.
The Knight's enemies would be considered pagans or infidels--unbelievers in Christ.
4. What qualities does the Knight possess that are different than you might expect from a war-hardened soldier?
5. What does the Knight's clothing reveal about his character?
According to a Chaucer expert named Muriel Bowden, the details of the Squire's clothing stress his youthfulness and frivolity: "Short, embroidered gowns and long, wide sleeves were the marks of the ultra-fashionable in the late fourteenth-century, and pulpit complaints from the disciplinarians were frequent: short coats were denounced as 'indecent'; embroidery was called unnecessarily expensive (the money so spent should be given to the poor)."
6. What does the simile in l. 90-91 suggest about the squire?
7. How does he compare to his father (the Knight)?
An explanation of the Yeoman was given in the Intro to the Middle Ages (point #13).
8. How might the last statement made about the Yeoman be an example of Verbal Irony?
A woman who lived in a convent and took a vow of poverty, chastity and obedience; a prioress was in charge of the nuns. Nuns were not allowed to keep any kind of pets, since they required money that should have gone to the poor. Also included in this short part is a detail made by Chaucer, like his contemporary physiognomists (chart p.130), to highlight exterior features to represent a character's inner nature. A high forehead is a sign of intelligence and good breeding (from wealthy stock).
9. Does the Prioress seem to be a conventional nun?
10. What is the irony in the swearing "by St. Loy!"?
11. Is a coral trinket appropriate for the Prioress to wear?
A member of a religious order who has taken a vow of poverty, chastity and obedience, much like the nun.
12. What about the monk suggests that he is not serious about his vocation?
13. Why is the comparison of the glittering of the Monk's eyes to flames beneath a kettle appropriate?
Unlike monks, who lived in monasteries, friars were supposed to out into the world to preach. Medieval friars belonged to mendicant religious orders, which meant they were to live as beggars, relying on the charity of strangers to provide them with food and lodging. One of the friar's duties is to hear people's confessions and to absolve or forgive them with a penance or penalty of prayer or doing good works.
14. What is suggested about this particular Friar in lines 224-236?
15. What characteristics might Chaucer want a white neck to represent?
16. Do you know any other characters who are subservient only when they stand to gain from it (this is called a sycophant)?
A character who tries to appear more fanciful and wealthy than he actually is.
17. What is your impression of the Merchant?
18. What is the flaw that the Merchant keeps hidden?
**The Oxford Cleric...
In order to enter a medieval university, students had to join a minor religious order of the Church. Once out of school, they were expected to seek secular employment outside of the Church. The Cleric's book would have cost a small fortune.
19. Why would the Cleric's books have been so expensive?
20. What are some visual characteristics of this character?
**The Serjeant at the Law...
21. What evidence is there of the narrator's disapproval of this character?
--Chaucer points out the eating habits of Medieval Britons here. They would only have two meals a day--a mid-morning dinner and an early evening supper. Sop is a mixture of wine, almond milk, ginger, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and mace poured over good bread.
**The Haberdasher, The Dyer, The Carpenter, The Weaver, The Carpetmaker...
Guilds were organizations of trades-people who taught their kinds of work to students, or apprentices. The associations were powerful economic forces, controlling the quality and price of goods they produced.
his open sore on his knee is not pointed out until after describing the Cook's delicious specialties. The humor comes from Chaucer's pretense of not registering the significance of the information.
from Dartmouth, which is a costal shipping town on the English Channel known for its piracy and for the brutality of its sailors--something Chaucer's audience would have known.
Little was know about the workings of the human body in the Middle Ages. Doctors believed that the twelve signs of the zodiac affected different parts of the body, and that the human body contained four kinds of fluids, or humors, also influenced by the stars, that dictated a person's temperament and physical makeup. This explains, in part, Chaucer's attention to each character's physical appearance.
++The four humors, or "moistures": blood (hot), choler (cold), phlegm (wet), black bile (dry)
These caused disease and negatively influenced a person's character when their mixture was out of balance. Too much of any one caused certain issues, such as:
Blood would have made a person too sensual, or in elderly it would cause heart attacks;
Choler (yellow bile) was to cause unkindness, instability and pridefullness.
Phlegm created sloth, obesity, crooked bodies, and hairless skin.
Black bile was associate with depression and delusions.
22. How is Chaucer's depiction of the Doctor satirical?
**The Wife of Bath...
Jerusalem, Rome, Boulogne (in France), St. James of Compostella (in Spain), and Cologne (in Germany) were all famous pilgrimage centers. The Wife of Bath's freedom to travel was a luxury not available to many women in her time. A gap between a person's front teeth was a sign, as thought in the Middle Ages, that the person would travel far. It also suggested that the person was bold and especially suited for love.
23. What words or phrases would you use to describe the Wife of Bath?
24. What sort of tale will the Wife of Bath tell?
The Parson's job is to set an example for and to keep an eye on the spiritual health of the people in his care. The metaphor of gold and iron warns that if gold, a refined, prized metal, may be corroded, then iron, a coarse metal, cannot help but rust. This suggests that if a priest sins, it is unlikely that his parish members will avoid sinning--a prospect the Parson and Chaucer find shameful.
25. From what you know of Chaucer and his values so far, do you think he will approve of the Parson? Why?
26. How does the Parson show that he is a good priest?
Chaucer's portrait of the Plowman may refer to the poem Piers Plowman, written in the late 1300's by William Langland. In Langland's poem, the plowman is portrayed as an instrument of salvation to his community. Chaucer may be similarly idealizing his plowman his Plowman; this is remarkable, as the writings of Chaucer's contemporaries ridiculed peasants.
The passage from lines 544-546 is an allusion to Luke 10:27, in which Jesus Christ cites the commandments "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart...; and thy neighbor as thyself."
Chaucer praises the Plowman, the Parson and the Cleric.
27. What qualities do these men share?
28. In what ways do these men differ?
29. To what objects and animals is the Miller compared?
30. What do the comparisons suggest about the Miller's character?
Saying that he "could wipe their eye" means that the Manciple was able to make fools of his masters or to outdo them. Here (line 603-604), wipe might mean "to swipe, remove, or erase," suggesting the Manciple could steal their eyes.
His hair is cut straight across his forehead, common for priests' hair of the time as a sign of servility.
The Reeve in the Middle Ages was a manager of an estate whose job it was to inspect everything and to impose fines on the workers if he found anything wrong.
31. How does the tone Chaucer takes toward the Reeve change from the initial impression to the end of the passage?
It was the Summoner's job to track down offenders who were having sexual relations outside of marriage and deliver them to the Archdeacon for punishment, which was usually excommunication during this time.
32. What do lines 667-675 imply about his handling of these offenses?
33. What has probably caused the severe skin condition that the Summoner suffers from?
The Pardoner mentioned here by Chaucer was a less than savory fellow, which might be based on an actual Pardoner from Chaucer's time. St. Mary Rouncival Hospital went through a series of money scandals in the 1380's. Long hair was a violation of church rule, as was it for someone who worked for lowly patricians to be well-off. Pardoner's sold relics, which were believed to be human remains (bones, hair, garments, fingernails, etc.) of a holy person. Saying a prayer with a relic in your hand was thought to bring an indulgence, or limited respite from the pains of purgatory after death. Some relics were fakes but brought the seller income as believers willingly bought their goods.
34. What are some of the details that Chaucer mentions to suggest this Pardoner is not the best character?
35. What were the Pardoner's relics made of?
36. Why does he say he sells fakes?
Led the journey to Canterbury, suggested to story-telling contest.
37. Why might the pilgrims agree to do as the Host says even before they know what he will propose?
38. The Host's definition of a good story is one that "gives the fullest measure/ Of good morality and general pleasure." Do you agree with these criteria? Why or why not? Can you propose other criteria for evaluating good stories?
The characterizations of your selected character should be able to show: developed drawing, explanation of appearance, profession, mannerisms, likes/dislikes, special interests, memorable moments, recreational activities, and memorable words used.
Links to help with understanding
"The Pardoner's Tale" p150-160
The story told by Chaucer in "The Pardoner's Tale" has roots that are old and widespread. Avarice as the root of evil is a theme that appears in stories in many lands. Starting with the first part of his story, the Pardoner presents us with an exemplum, an anecdote (short narrative) or example inserted into a sermon to teach a moral lesson. As with every story, Chaucer fits the story to the character of the storyteller.
Words to Own: avarice, covetousness, carouses, abominable, superfluity, blasphemy, pallor, sauntered, transcend, absolution
Literary Terms: Seven Deadly Sins, Irony (Verbal/Situational), Personification, Metaphor, Character Analysis
"The Wife of Bath's Tale" p162-176
No one on the road to Canterbury is more real than the Wife of Bath (a married woman from the city of Bath, west of London). She is Chaucer's most vibrant and irrepressible character, having outlived five husbands (and possibly a sixth on this pilgrimage), she is witty, opinionated, intelligent and sensual. The tale she tells belongs to the "marriage group," several tales that explore what men and women want and ought to do in marriage.
This tale precedes the Pardoner's Tale in the original collection of Chaucer's work, and that is understood from the comments the Pardoner makes at the beginning of the narrative.
Words to Own: implored, concede, extort, void, bequest, prowess, temporal, lineage, suffices, pestilence
Literary Terms: Compare/Contrast, Allusion, Irony, Cause-and-Effect Relationships, Dynamic Character, Metaphor
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight p194-205
This verse of literature was composed in the latter half of the fourteenth century, probably around 1375. The unknown author of this poem is know simply as the Gawain poet, or as the Peal poet, because many believe he also wrote Pearl, Patience, and Purity, three poems included with Sir Gawain in the same manuscript. When this was written, ideals of knightly conduct--courage, loyalty, courtesy--were just beginning to erode from the land.
Gawain, a nephew of the legendary King Arthur, appeared as a model of perfection in early Arthurian literature. However, in later literature, he was no longer the ideal knight, unable to seek divine aid and failing in the quest for the Grail. Is this the heroic exemplary knight or the weaker, less ideal knight as portrayed in the story?
Words to Own: asunder, subtle, daunted, efficacious, feinted
Literary Terms: Romance, Middle English, Characterization, Foreshadowing, Inference, Diction, Irony, Point of View, Climax, Cause and Effect, Symbol
Video of the narrative
Study Guide Link
The Renaissance: A Flourish of Genius 1485-1660 p250-261
Questions/Notes for further understanding of the Section:
1. Historians have come to characterize the changes that began in the time of Charlemagne and continued through the fifteenth or sixteenth century as a series of renaissances.
2. Greek classics were rediscovered through Byzantine and Arab scholarship.
3. The first two chapters of Genesis (p416 in Lit. book) help to illustrate the degree to which the biblical passages inspired the words of Pico della Mirandola (p196, left side of page).
4. True to the definition of a Renaissance person, Michelangelo excelled in many areas. Not only did he execute the masterwork of the Sistine Chapel, but he created powerful sculptures of monumental proportions that convey human emotion and portray the beauty and force of the human physique. Michelangelo also worked as an architect, taking the lead on St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, one of the most important projects of his time. Although he is less famous for it, Michelangelo also wrote poetry, expressing in words the ideas connected to his enormous creative gift.
5. The aim of humanistic teaching, as Milton summarized it in his essay Of Education, was not to produce scholars but to fit students to "perform justly, skillfully, and magnanimously all the offices both public and private, of peace and war."
6. The 16th century printing shop, used by Johannes Gutenberg to print the Bible among other books, was quite different than the modern ones. The process was called engraving, where a sharp instrument called a burin is used to cut a picture or design into the surface of a copper plate. Applied with a cloth, ink was used to fill the indentations of the plate. After the excess ink was removed, the plate, a piece of paper, and a felt blanket are squeezed between rollers of a press, a process which forces the ink onto paper. The print is pulled from the plate, then revealing the design.
7. Spain, Hungary and Poland also had their first printing presses between 1474 and 1476; Denmark and Sweden by 1482-1483. By 1500, forty thousand titles had been printed, constituting a total number of about six million books.
8. Defying custom, Sir Thomas More taught Latin to his daughter Meg; few women were given any kind of higher education in Europe at the time.
9. Book I of More's Utopia is a dialogue analyzing the social, economic, penal, and moral problems in England. Book II is a narrative describing Utopia (from the Greek ou, "not," and topos, "place," ironically meaning "nowhere"). In Utopia, poverty, crime, injustice, and other problems do not exist.
10. Other English humanists were Sir Thomas Elyot and Roger Ascham. Elyot's The Book Named the Govenor (1531) argues that England's leaders need a knowledge of ancient literature, history and philosophy. Ascham's The Schoolmaster (1570), according to Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), "contains the best advice that was ever given to the study of languages." Ascham was Queen Elizabeth I's tutor. Both Elyot and Ascham wrote in English, a sign that Latin would cease to be the language of all learned discourse.
11. This was a time of internal reform in the Church, as well as a time of criticism from those who chose to break away. What is known today as the Counter-Reformation had its roots in this internal reform--some of which actually predated the Reformation.
12. The word Protestant was first used to describe the April 1529 gathering of the small number of German people who protested the Catholic majority's move to have Lutheranism condemned. Later, the word came to refer to anyone who belonged to a Christian Church or sect other than the Catholic or Orthodox Churches.
13. The Wars of the Roses began in 1455 between the rival families of York and Lancaster. By the time the struggle ended in 1485, so many baronial families were extinguished that the hierarchy of succession to the throne in England was permanently altered, allowing Henry VII to become king.
14. James I spent an astonishing amount of money on his wardrobe, averaging 36, 377 pound spent during each of the five years of his reign. Compare that to Queen Elizabeth, who spent only an average of 9,535 pound per year!
15. The puritans strongly condemned what they viewed as excesses and abuses in dress. Phillip Stubbes in The Anatomie of Abuses attacks many aspects of culture, including fashions such as ruffs, pleats and the such.
16. Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots (1542-1587), was Elizabeth's cousin. She should not be confused with "Bloody Mary," who was Mary Tudor (1516-1558), Elizabeth's half-sister. Mary Stuart was the daughter of Henry VII's nephew, James V. Her mother was French. Married to Francis II of France, Mary returned to Scotland in 1560, after her husband's death, to claim the throne of Scotland, which was still independent from England. Mary Stuart's ties to France and Spain through family and religion made her a powerful threat to Elizabeth's England. She was beheaded at Fotheringay on February 8, 1587.
17. "The Doubt of Future Foes" is a poem written by Queen Elizabeth I in which she expressed her concern about Mary Stuart.
18. The names Gloriana, Cynthia, and Faerie Queen come from Edmund Spenser's epic poem The Faerie Queene. The name Cynthia was also used by Sir Walter Raleigh in his poem The Ocean to Cynthia. Cynthia is another name for Diana, the virgin goddess of the moon.
19. James VI was the only son of Mary, Queen of Scots, and her second husband, and English nobleman named Lord Darnly. When James succeeded his mother's cousin Elizabeth as sovereign of England and of Scotland, he was called King James I because he was the first James to rule the newly formed Great Britain. The reign of James is called the Jacobean period.
20. By the time Charles I had risen to the throne, the Puritans had risen to prominence and their Parliamentary party had gained power. By 1642, England was embroiled in a civil war that pitted the Parliamentary party, led by Oliver Cromwell, against the king's party, or Royalists. Cromwell's followers killed the king, and Cromwell, now considered the foremost military and political strategist of his time, wielded power and asserted England's primacy in world affairs in ways reminiscent of the reign of Elizabeth I.
John Milton 1608-1674 p346-358
John Milton (December 9, 1608 – November 8, 1674) was an English poet, prose polemicist and civil servant for the Commonwealth of England. Best known for his epic poem Paradise Lost, Milton is also known for his treatise condemning censorship, Areopagitica.
Very soon after his death (and continuing to the present day) Milton became the subject of partisan biographies, confirming T. S. Eliot's belief that "of no other poet is it so difficult to consider the poetry simply as poetry, without our theological and political dispositions... making unlawful entry". Milton's radical, republican politics and heretical religious views, coupled with the perceived artificiality of his complicated Latinate verse, alienated Eliot and other readers; Samuel Johnson disparaged him as "an acrimonious and surly republican." (Note that for English people living shortly after the English Civil War, the term "republican" indicated anyone who had opposed the Crown during the war.)
Milton’s magnum opus, the blank-verse epic poem Paradise Lost, which appeared in a quarto edition in 1667, was composed by the blind Milton from 1658-1664. It reflects his personal despair at the failure of the Revolution, yet affirms an ultimate optimism in human potential. Milton encoded many references to his unyielding support for the “Good Old Cause.” Though Milton notoriously sold the copyright of this monumental work to his publisher for a seemingly trifling £10, this was not a particularly outlandish deal at the time. Milton followed up Paradise Lost with its sequel, Paradise Regained, published alongside the tragedy Samson Agonistes, in 1671. Both these works also resonate with Milton’s post-Restoration political situation. Just before his death in 1674, Milton supervised the release of a second edition of Paradise Lost, accompanied by an explanation of “why the poem rhymes not” and prefatory verses by Marvell. Milton republished his 1645 Poems in 1673, as well a collection of his letters and the Latin prolusions from his Cambridge days. A 1668 edition of Paradise Lost, reported to have been Milton's personal copy, is now housed in the archives of the University of Western Ontario. During the Restoration Milton also published several minor prose works, such as a grammar textbook, his Art of Logic, and his History of Britain. His only explicitly political tracts were the 1672 Of True Religion, arguing for toleration (except for Catholics), and a translation of a Polish tract advocating an elective monarchy. Both these works participated in the Exclusion debate that would preoccupy politics in the 1670s and '80s and precipitate the formation of the Whig party and the Glorious Revolution. Milton's unfinished religious manifesto, De doctrina christiana, in which he laid out many of his heretical views, was not discovered and published until 1823.
In all of his strongly held opinions, Milton can generally be called a "party of one" for going well beyond the orthodoxy of the time. Milton's idiosyncratic beliefs stemmed from the Puritan emphasis on the centrality and inviolability of conscience.
Philosophy By the late 1650s, Milton was a proponent of monism or animist materialism, the notion that a single material substance which is "animate, self-active, and free" composes everything in the universe: from stones and trees and bodies to minds, souls, angels, and God. Milton devised this position to avoid the mind-body dualism of Plato and Descartes as well as the mechanistic determinism of Hobbes. Milton's monism is most notably reflected in Paradise Lost when he has angels eat (5.433-39) and engage in sexual intercourse (8.622-29) and the De Doctrina, where he denies the dual natures of man and argues for a theory of Creation ex Deo.
Milton's fervent commitment to republicanism in an age of absolute monarchies was both unpopular and dangerous. In coming centuries, Milton would be claimed as an early apostle of liberalism.
Milton was writing at a time of religious and political flux in England. His poetry and prose reflect deep convictions, often reacting to contemporary circumstances, but it is not always easy to locate the writer in any obvious religious category. His views may be described as broadly Protestant. As an accomplished artist and an official in the government of Oliver Cromwell, it is not always easy to distinguish where artistic licence and polemical intent overshadow Milton's personal views.
Milton embraced many theological views that put him outside of contemporary Christianity. A prime example is Milton's rejection of the Trinity in the belief that the Son was subordinate to the Father, a position known as Arianism; and his probable sympathy with Socinianism (modern-day Unitarianism), which held that Jesus was not divine. Another controversial view Milton subscribed to, illustrated by Paradise Lost, is mortalism, the belief that the soul dies with the body. Milton abandoned his campaign to legitimize divorce after 1645, but he expressed support for polygamy in the De doctrina christiana, the unpublished theological treatise that provides evidence for his heretical views. 
Like many Renaissance artists before him, Milton attempted to integrate Christian theology with classical modes. In his early poems, the poet narrator express a tension between vice and virtue, the latter invariably related to Protestantism. In Comus Milton may make ironic use of the Caroline court masque by elevating notions of purity and virtue over the conventions of court revelry and superstition. In his later poems, Milton's theological concerns become more explicit. In his 1641 treatise, Of Reformation, Milton expressed his dislike for Catholicism and episcopacy, presenting Rome as a modern Babylon, and bishops as Egyptian taskmasters. These analogies conform to Milton's puritanical preference for Old Testament imagery. Through the Interregnum, Milton often presents England, rescued from the trappings of a worldly monarchy, as an elect nation akin to the Old Testament Israel, and shows its leader, Oliver Cromwell, as a latter-day Moses. These views were bound up in Protestant views of the Millennium, which some sects, such as the Fifth Monarchists predicted would arrive in England. The Restoration of the Stuart monarchy in 1660 began a new phase in Milton's work. In Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes Milton mourns the end of the godly Commonwealth. The Garden of Eden may allegorically reflect Milton's view of England's recent Fall from Grace, while Samson's blindness and captivity – mirroring Milton's own lost sight – may be a metaphor for England's blind acceptance of Charles II as king. However, despite the Restoration of the monarchy Milton did not lose his own faith; Samson shows how the loss of national salvation did not necessarily preclude the salvation of the individual, while Paradise Regained expresses Milton's continuing belief in the promise of Christian salvation through Jesus Christ.
Though he may have maintained his personal faith in spite of the defeats suffered by his cause, the Dictionary of National Biography recounts how he had been alienated from the Church of England by Archbishop William Laud, and then moved similarly from the Dissenters by their denunciation of religious tolerance in England. "Milton had come to stand apart from all sects, though apparently finding the Quakers most congenial. He never went to any religious services in his later years. When a servant brought back accounts of sermons from nonconformist meetings, Milton became so sarcastic that the man at last gave up his place".
http://books.google.com/books?id=9LU6AAAAMAAJ&dq=John+Milton&printsec=frontcover&source=an&hl=en&ei=me84SoCpGprMMJ-QwYYN&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4#PPP1,M1(Paradise Lost complete version)