THE LATE MIDDLE AGES (1066-1485) DOTT. GABRIELE A. COCCO
1066. THE BATTLE OF HASTINGS William the Bastard (the Conqueror, since 1066) and his people, though technically subjects to the French king and speaking French, the Normans (variant of Norsemen) were Vikings who settled in Normandy a century and a half before. William I introduced into Anglo-Saxon England thecontinental feudal system. England was soon filled with Norman castles. The old Anglo-Danish aristocracy which did not fall at Hastings were later dispossessed and by1100most of the country was under Norman control.
1170. ST. THOMAS BECKET • Geoffrey CHAUCER • The Canterbury Tales, ‘The General Prologue’, ll. 12-17 • Thannelongen folk to goon on pilgrimages • and palmeres for to sekenstraungestrondes • to fernehalwes, kowthe in sondrylondes; • and specially from every shires ende of Engelond, • to Caunterbury they wende, The hoolyblisfulmartir for to seke • that hem hath holpen, whan that they were seeke. • * * * * * * • T.S. ELIOT • A Murder in the Cathedral ,ll. 4-8 • Towards the cathedral? What danger can be • for us, the poor, the poor women of Canterbury? What tribulation • with which we are not already familiar? There is no danger • for us, and there is no safety in the cathedral. Some presage of an act • which our eyes are compelled to witness, has forced our feet • towards the cathedral: we are forced to bear witness. 1107. THE CONCORDAT OF LONDON In England, as in Germany (Concordat of Worms, 1122), a distinction was being made in the king’s chancery between the secular and ecclesiastical powers of the prelates. Employing the distinction, Henry I (1068–1135) gave up his right to invest his bishops and abbots. Henry recognized the dangers of depending on monastic scholars to staff his chancery and turned increasingly to secular scholars (who naturally held minor orders) and rewarded these men of his own making with bishoprics and abbeys. Henry expanded the system of scutage to reduce the monarchy’s dependence on knights supplied from church lands. The conclusion of the brief English investiture controversy was to strengthen the secular power of the king. Under Henry II (1154-89), there came the first great clash between the Crown and the Church. Henry set forth a code of laws, the Constitutions of Clarendon(1164) according to which the king claimed considerable authority in investing the bishops. Such constitutions also ruled that clergymen who committed serious crimes were to be tried by a civil court as well as by an ecclesiastical one. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket(1118-70), strongly opposed this new measure and spent five years in France in self-imposed exile. On his return, four knights sent by the king murdered him in the Canterbury Cathedral. He was soon made a martyr and saint by the Church of Rome.
~ 1205 Laʒamon’s BrutLondon, British Library, MS Cotton Caligula A.ix (C), P1 ff. 3r–194v; P2 ff. 195r-261v • 16,000 line alliterativeverse chronicle with random ‘ornamental’ rhyme • Laʒamon (Lawman) was a priest of Worcestershire • narrates the history of Britain • King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table • Translation of different sources: Geoffrey of Monmouth, Historia Regum Britanniae (1137) Wace, Roman de Brut
~ 1200, The Owl and the Nightingale London, British Library, MS Cotton Caligula A.ix (C), ff. 233ra–246raOxford, Jesus College MS 29 (J), ff. 156ra –168vb • extinction of the Old English language and the Norman influence • 1800 verses in octosyllabic couplet (from French versification) • exempla of opposite allegorical interpretations • the text is believed to have been originally composed between 1189-1216 as the poem mentions of a recently departed King Henry, Henry II who died in 1189. However, it has been suggested that the poem actually refers to Henry III, which would date the poem as later than 1272 • The work is attributed to ‘Master Nicholas of Guildford’, who is mentioned in reverential terms within the text.
1215. MAGNACHARTALIBERTATUM The policy of HEAVY TAXATION established by king JOHN I, called THE LACKLAND (1199-1216), met with fierce resistance by the nobility, the citizens of London and the clergy. The king was forced to grant the MAGNA CHARTA which became the foundation of all future RIGHTS of the English people. Yet, the liberty accorded by the MC only concerned the NOBLES and the FREEMEN (all those with full possession of both civil and political rights).
1295. THE PARLIAMENT A further step towards the modern political system was taken during the reign of Henry III (1216-72). PARLIAMENT was still much of a feudal assembly composed of nobles and high clergy alone. In the years 1264-65, two representatives from each borough were also called to Parliament. This was the beginning of the future HOUSE OF COMMONS. This institution developed further and under Edward I (1272-1307) is generally referred to as the MODEL PARLIAMENT.
~ 1250, Orrmulum (Bodleian Library, MS Junius I, col. 89) Late twelfth-century poem from the East Midlands of some 20,000 short lines. It is named after its author, an Augustinian canon called Orrm, a Scandinavian name meaning ‘serpent’. Hs objective is to give an English paraphrase of the gospels for the year as arranged in the Mass book, supplemented by a homily on each. The text is considered to have been left unfinished. Evidently, it was Orrm’s objective to offer religious teaching in the vernacular both as instruction for a lay audience as well as pastoral care.
1337-1453. THE HUNDRED YEARS’WAR By the 15th century England enjoyed peace and internal stability; as a result, it attempted to expand into a European Empire by repeatedly attacking France. Henry V (House of Lancaster) led England to victory at Agincourt in 1415. His soldiers fought for a King and a Country having a sense of nationhoodthat the French feudal system of independent baronial armies did not share. Henry was acknowledged heir to the throne of France in 1420, consolidating his position by marrying the French Princess Catherine. However, his early death and weak successor, combined with the military success of Joan of Arc, the British were forced back to Calais, which was to remain England’s only French port for other 100 years.
Now is the winter of our discontentmade glorious summer by this sun of York;and all the clouds that lour’d upon our housein the deep bosom of the ocean buried W. Shakespeare, Richard III The Middle Ages “closed” with a long, devastating BLOOD FEUD fought for royal power between the ancient dynastic houses of YORK and LANCASTER. The CIVIL WAR, aggravated by the soldiers returning home from France, discontented and unemployed and ready to continue fighting under new leaders, was not a total war, but a series of sieges, attacks organised by a few wealthy nobles. The wars were finally won by Henry Tudor (House of Lancaster) who defeated Richard III at the battle of Bosworth in 1485 and became Henry VII of England.
LIFE AS A PILGRIMAGE LIFE AS A PILGRIMAGE Life was seen as a short journey leading to true life, after death. A sense of impending death and preparation for the afterlife is common to the spirit of the age. Most of the literary subjects deal with moral and spiritual themes Whan that April with his shouressote The droghte of Marche hath perced to the rote […] So priketh hem Nature in hircorages Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages ‘The General Prologue’ CHAUCER, The Canterbury Tales
“Lordinges”, quod he, in chircheswhan I preche, I peyne me to han an hauteynspeche, ‘The Pardoner’s Prologue’ G. CHAUCER, The Canterbury Tales MINSTRELS, STORYTELLERS, PREACHERS It was an age dominated by anonymous voices. Minstrels, moving from castle to castle, sang some legends (i.e. King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table). Storytellers, in village squares, sang of love, magic and war in the ballads. Preachers addressed people during services and/or in public homilies (selling of indulgences)
Written English literature began to reappear at the end of the 12th century. The change from Old English to Middle English did not immediately begin after 1066. Middle English slowly developed out of Old English, Norse influences and its vocabulary was largely enriched by French and its Latin matrix. When Middle English literature began to take place in the aristocratic circles, they exemplified completely new forms and genres showing French and Italian influence. The standardization of the English language was greatly helped by Chaucer, whose southern dialect was appointed to be the literary language of England. Caxton’s work widened such a phenomenon. A ‘NEW’ LITERATURE, A ‘NEW’ ENGLISH The Conquest caused some serious consequences for the Anglo-Saxon culture. The Normans brought a new language: FRENCH, and a different literary sensibility. The French dialect the Normans spoke is called ANGLO-NORMAN. Anglo-Saxon literature was soon dwarfed by the French models and Old English went on being spoken by the common people. French was spoken in the UPPER CLASSES and at COURT whilst Latin was the language of the Church. The older literary forms, the epic especially and its ideals, died as a consequence of the end of the civilization of which they were an expression .
ROMANCE • Originally, it was a poeticform • originated in France and it reached its climax with the works of Chrétien de Troyes (abt. 1182) • Retells the adventures of knights, both battles and love • Leisure-time literary form for the aristocracy • Turning point form Germanic epic to chivalry and the code of honour
Roman de la Rose • The Roman de la Rose is a medieval French poem styled as an allegorical dream vision. It is a notable instance of courtly literature. The work’s stated purpose is to both entertain and to teach others about the Art of Love. At various times in the poem, the "Rose" of the title is seen as the name of the lady, and as a symbol of female sexuality in general. Likewise, the other characters' names function both as regular names and as abstractions illustrating the various factors that are involved in a love affair. • The poem was written in two stages. The first 4058 lines, written by Guillaume de Lorris circa 1230, describe the attempts of a courtier to woo his beloved. Around 1275, Jean de Meun composed an additional 17,724 lines. Jean’s discussion of love is considered more philosophical and encyclopedic, but also more misogynistic.
THEMES & MATTER Medieval romances were usually concerned with characters (types) and events of the courtlyworld. Their subject matter was love, adventures, supernatural events. In addition, Christian motifs – like the quest of the Holy Grail – are strictly related to supernatural events, apocryphal writings and legends of a far-flung past. MATTER OF ROME: Aeneas, Caesar MATTER OF FRANCE: Charlemagne MATTER OF BRITAIN: King Arthur & the Knights of the Round Table MATTER OF ENGLAND: King Horn, Havelok the Dane.
~ 1375. Sir Gawain and the Green KnightLondon, British Library, MS Cotton Nero A.x , ff. 91r-124v • expansion of an Arthurian episode (mythologema) • 2530 lines mixture of Germanic, Celtic and French influences gathered together by the use of the supernatural. • northern dialect, unknown author • use of a sui generis alliterativeverse as the Old English alliterative measure
The Ballad IAMB a foot comprising an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable (as in a-bove). • Originally anonymous poems meant to be sung and danced, transmitted orally with variants • Organised in several stanzas, generally arranged in quatrains (four line stanzas) • Its meter is consists of alternating iambic lines of four accents (first and third) and three accents (second and fourth). • Stanzas usually rhyme: abab • Since they were sung, refrain, inversion and repetition are frequently employed • it includes standard formulas • The story id often told in a question-answer way
THEMES • The story is simple and direct, concentrates on a singleincident • There is generally little/no background to the facts narrated and little use of detail • Ballads can be classified by the following themes: * BALLADS OF MAGIC Fairies, ghosts, witchcraft. Great imaginative power * BORDER BALLADS Rivalry between England and Scotland * BALLADS OF LOVE AND DOMESTIC TRAGEDY * BALLADS OF OUTLAWS The ‘Robin Hood Cycle’ in Piers Plowman by W.Langland (1377)