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The Age of Chaucer 1349-1400.

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Presentation on theme: "The Age of Chaucer 1349-1400."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Age of Chaucer

2 I. Major Historical Events
A the bubonic plague spreads in England 1. between one third and one half of the island population died within 18 months 2. fostered a positive English nationalism, abetted by mounting hatred of France during the Hundred Years’ War ( ) B. loosening of ties between England and the Roman church C. division of parliament into House of Lords and House of Commons D. laboring population becomes a scarce commodity 1.formerly despised worker finds nobility bidding against each other 2. English labor realizes worth and demands economic freedoms and reforms

3 E. new patterns of manufacture and trade emerged
1. money was replacing labor service and barter 2. individualism was replacing cooperative communities F. reaction to religious and moral ideals (2 diametrically opposed reactions) 1. some abandoned pretext of piety (clerics brazenly ignored their vows, some assaulted and murdered who announced the merrymaking) 2. others explored more profoundly than ever the depths of faith and the religious life

4 II. Cultural Conditions
A. secularization of English Life 1. first time in over 700 years the most intelligent and creative minds of England were electing a secular rather than a religious career 2. Churchmen were almost as infected by a new materialism as were the people 3. except for the Parson, every ecclesiastical figure among Chaucer’s pilgrims is gross in all appetites except that of self-denying faith

5 B. Chaucer’s age was the first to manifest a distinctly national expression (English historians frequently refer to the Age of Chaucer as “The End of the Middle Ages”) 1. called “The Father of English Poetry” 2. portrayal of uniquely English characters and attitudes 3. kinship with the modern world a. mockery of outworn chivalry b. his scorn of most previous English writings c. love of ancient pagan myth and story d. pragmatism and skepticism e. dislike for tyrannical monarchs f. curiosity for science g. his warm love for humanity C. a large and prosperous middle class was beginning to play important roles in church and state, blurring traditional class boundaries

6 III. Language until end of 13th century writers using English appear apologetic, often have prologues justifying the use of the “ignorant vernacular” tone changes early in 14th century – everybody knows and uses English in 1362 parliament ordered all lawsuits to be conducted in English (rather than French) Royalty resisted abandoning French, the language of prestige Richard II addressed mob during Peasants’ Revolt in English and had to listen to the order in English that deposed him speeches of Henry IV claiming the throne were delivered in English by Chaucer’s day French in England had become outmoded

7 IV. Chaucer (1340-1400) first great poet of English literature
1. one of the greatest love poems in any language, Troilus, would have secured him a place among the major poets. B. not captive of any special moral or political or social ideas, or of any set of manners C. rarely gave way to judgments or condemnations D. Chaucer’s Canterbury pilgrims present realistic gallery of individualistic competitors in a money-haunted society

8 E. Chaucer product of a mercantile class
1. a page to the wife of the king’s son 2. captured in France and ransomed a year later 3. became squire in king’s household, traveled extensively a. brought him into direct contact with the Italian Renaissance, probably acquired manuscripts of works by Dante Petrarch, and other new verse forms 4. became responsible for maintenance of royal palace and other properties 5. buried in Westminster Abbey, since ringed by graves of later English writers, known as the Poets’ Corner

9 The Canterbury Tales I. Framework A. Pilgrimages to Canterbury
1. As early as the 3rd century, pious Christians journeyed to the Holy Land for spiritual reinforcement 2. medieval travel limited the number of palmers (wore a sprig of palm to show they had journeyed to Palestine) 3. holy places were sought within western Europe and in England, most famous shrine was that of Canterbury, contained the relics of St. Thomas a Becket a. Becket was 12th century French cleric who rose to a high secular position under Henry II, becoming chancellor of England, then Archbishop of Canterbury b. became a vigorous supporter of the church against the monarch c. 10-year struggle reached apex with a Christmas Day sermon in 1170, in which Becket condemned and excommunicated many of king’s supporters d. Henry II bitterly reproached his followers saying “Not one will deliver me from this lowborn priest!” e. four knights took statement as a royal command, embarked for England, invaded the cathedral, and slaughtered the archbishop in the midst of a service f. the blood of the martyr was reported to produce miraculous cures

10 by Chaucer’s time pilgrimages had become scandalous to some, medieval man likes the variety and excitement of travel, but expense and difficulties of travel prevented tourism, except when a pilgrimage was the reason 5. medieval pilgrimage frequently buried its religious purpose under gaiety Most of Chaucer’s band seem to be enjoying the April release from winter bondage, original pious purpose shines in Parson, Plowman, and Knight 7. Chaucer conducts 2 fictions simultaneously, that of the individual tale, and that of the pilgrim to whom he has assigned it

11 II. The Prologue Chaucer gives number of pilgrims, including himself, as thirty (with “preestes thre,” perhaps a later scribal error, accompanying the Prioress,, actually gives a count of 32) B. En route pilgrims overtaken by the Canon’s Yeoman, who relates a story and would make the total 33 C. Chaucer intended a total of 120 stories, but wrote only 24, 4 unfinished D. innkeeper, acts as master of ceremonies, purposes the plan of each pilgrim recounting two stories on the way, and two on the return, the best raconteur then being treated to a meal E. Harry Bailly, “oure hooste,” appears to have been a real person, the others unclear, but strongly probably were living models

12 F. Pilgrims widely representative of class and occupation
1. peasants (majority of population, seldom could afford to leave land) – Plowman 2. royalty and hereditary lords, highest rank of society – the Knight and the Squire 3. regular clergy, rank just below the Knight’s class – the Prioress, the Nun’s Priest, the Monk 4. secular clergy – Parson 5. landed gentry – Franklin 6. learned professions – Man of law, Doctor of Physic 7. mercantile class – Merchant, the five Guildsmen, and in a way, the Wife of Bath 8. student – Clerk of Oxford 9. Minor officialdom – the Reeve, Manciple, Summoner 10 contemporary soldier – the Yeoman 11. the seaman – the Shipman 12. specialized trade – Cook, Miller 13. scoundrelly Pardoner rounds out the group


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