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The Canterbury Tales Background Information Mr. Czarnecki British Literature.

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Presentation on theme: "The Canterbury Tales Background Information Mr. Czarnecki British Literature."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Canterbury Tales Background Information Mr. Czarnecki British Literature

2 The Medieval Period The Medieval Period  The Norman Conquest  William “the Conqueror” the Duke of Normandy defeated the king of England and conquered the entire nation, bringing the Anglo-Saxon and Normans together. Gradually William fused the two into a national English character, a subtle blend.  Many found they could raise their station through the Church. A prominent example is Thomas a Becket who went from Lord Chancellor to Archbishop of Canterbury. He defended the claims of the Church against the interested of the King for which he was murdered. Thereafter he became a saint.

3 The Medieval Period The Medieval Period Land and the Feudal System William had a great deal of land at his disposal after wiping out the Anglo Saxon landowners, so he retained much of it and granted the rest to those who fought faithfully for him brought the largest change in land ownership in the history of England. William felt that the land of England was his by right and that he was free to deed the land to his vassals, or subordinates, by royal charter and expected obedience and service in return. This practice became the feudal system.

4 The Medieval Period The Medieval Period Feudalism  A complicated system of landholding  No one owned land independently, only as a vassal of an overlord  Overlord in turn owed allegiance either to some great noble or to the king.  Elaborate chain of loyalties with rent paid principally in military service to the overlord  To avoid disputes, William had a complete inventory of all property drawn up in Domesday Book, sometimes called Doomsday, the book of judgment.

5 The Medieval Period The Medieval Period The Medieval Church  From the 11 th to the 15 th century, the people belonged to one homogeneous society with a common culture and a common set of beliefs: the Medieval Church  Latin, the language of the Church, became the language of all educated persons.  Despite fierce national loyalty, every person was also responsible to the Church; all were sons and daughters of the Church  Abbeys and monasteries were the main centers of learning and the arts  The Church was the dominant force in preserving and transmitting culture – in teaching, writing, and translating, and in copying, collecting, and distributing manuscripts

6 The Medieval Period The Medieval Period Medieval Life  Those who lived in the country were attached to a feudal manor. They worked their own fields and the lands of the lord of the manor, to whom they owed their allegiance.  Herding became more important than farming as the wool by English sheep was considered preferable to that of almost any other part Europe. A large percentage of the population became involved in the wool industry: carding and combing, spinning and weaving, even dying the cloth.  Wide scale exportation of wool led to the growth of cities, and more moved to cities rather than living in manors, sparking a new merchant class. These merchants became popular often to the point of entering the gentry or even the nobility based on favors of the court.

7 The Medieval Period The Medieval Period  The merchants formed guilds, societies to regulate prices and standards.  Later the cottage workers formed guilds (almost like today’s unions) to assure fair wages and prices and good standards of material and workmanship.  The guild system encouraged a kind of extended family life --- many in the same trade would live together.  This is also the time of great English cathedrals, the construction of which stretched over a period of several hundred years. Guilds were founded for many of these workers: stonecutters and masons, carpenters and woodcarvers, glass blowers and stainers. Much of the communal life of the city centered upon these magnificent monuments where the first English dramas were performed.  Travel was difficult and dangerous; Food offered little variety and as there was no way to preserve food, diet was limited in winter.

8 The Medieval Period The Medieval Period English Law  One of William’s innovations was to institute written public documents for most government actions.  Established common law: a law that is common to the whole country and all its people, in contrast to kinds of law applying only to certain classes of persons. It was based on custom and usage, not on legal statutes.  Established primogeniture: the firstborn son given exclusive rights to inherit his father’s titles, lands, and estates. It is still the rule in England today.  Matters of law settled by “ordeals” in which a person’s innocence or guilt was decided upon by the performing of certain tasks. If you were successful in completing the tasks you were innocent. Disputes between two people were settled personal combat.

9 The Medieval Period The Medieval Period  The Crusades  Several military expeditions made by European Christians in the 11 th to 13 th centuries; religiously motivated wars.  Started in 1095, and continued in 1191, 1202, 1217 and 1270  Each began in high hope with a genuine desire to rescue, but most ended in raiding, looting, and a tangle of power politics.  Being exposed to Arabic culture led to an increased knowledge of mathematics and medicine.  Encouraged the ideal of true knightly behavior known as chivalry  Knightly warrior as devout and tenderhearted off the battle field, bold and fearless on the battlefield  A code of conduct  Joined to the companion idea of romance in literature

10 The Medieval Period The Medieval Period The Wars of the Rose  1348 England was struck by Black Death, the first of a series of plagues that killed more than a third of the population.  Lack of labor due to plague ended feudalism and led to economic and social unrest.  A civil war between the House of York, emblem = a white rose, and House of Lancaster, emblem = red rose, from until Henry VII united the feuding families through marriage, ended the wars, and founded the Tudor line.

11 The Medieval Period The Medieval Period Medieval Literature  Romance: tales of chivalry relating to the quests knights undertook for their ladies to which were added a love interest and all sorts of wonders and marvels – fairy enchantments, giants, dragons, wizards, and sorceresses  Although there is almost no historical basis, one principal source of such romantic tales were from the stories of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table as told by Sir Thomas Mallory in his Morte d’Arthur  Illustrate the chivalric ideals of honor, courage, courtesy and service to women  Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is one of the finest examples of verse romance in English, about one of the knights in the court of King Arthur  Folk poetry, a collection of recited songs called ballads, was collected and published and later influenced the English Romantic poets  Origins of drama occurred during this time, although its rise in popularity reached a tremendous height in the Elizabethan Age.  Miracle plays: rough dramatizations of Biblical stories. Evil characters (the Devil) were portrayed comically as a rule  Morality plays: elaborate and sophisticated dramatic allegories in which characters representing various virtues and vices confronted one another.

12 Rise of the Middle Class  Medieval society was broken up into a distinct estate, or class, system consisting of the Church, the Court (or nobility [less than 1% of population), and the Commoners.  However, in the summer of 1348, the Black Death, or plague, devastated England killing mainly rural peasants.  As a result, peasants became much more expensive and choosy about where they worked, and how they related to lords.  In a sense, the Black Death gave way to a new middle class of tradesmen, craftsmen, and merchants—a class of people who challenged and questioned authority.

13 Geoffrey Chaucer 1340?-1400  Born to a family of rising middle class, obtained a position as page in a household closely associated with the court of King Edward III.  Mastered Latin, French and Italian. Able to translate literary work in all three languages, equipped him for diplomatic and civil service.  Before he was 20 he served as a soldier in France, was captured but ransomed by his king as he was a court favorite.  Served his country loyally – as courtier, diplomat, civil administrator, and translator for diplomatic missions.  Died in 1400 and is buried at Westminster Abbey; the first English poet to be buried in what is known as the Poets’ Corner.  Most important contribution to English literature is his development of the resources of the English language for literary purposes  The Canterbury Tales  Group of stories told during a springtime pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral to the shrine of St. Thomas à Becket who had been murdered there two centuries before  It was customary for members of all classes to travel to religious shrines to seek miraculous cures, to gain remission of their sins, or to simply satisfy their wanderlust.  Provides a cross-section of medieval society – feudal, ecclesiastical (of the church), and urban  Each pilgrim in the poem was to tell two tales on the way there and two on the way back, however, Chaucer died before he could finished, so instead of 124 stories he wrote only 24.

14 Geoffrey Chaucer The Canterbury Tales – General Prologue Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote The droghte of March hath perced to the roote, And bathed every veyne in swich licour Of which vertu engendred is the flour; Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth Inspired hath in every holt and heeth The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne Hath in the Ram his half cours yronne, And smale foweles maken melodye, That slepen al the nyght with open ye (So priketh hem Nature in hir corages), Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages, And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes, To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes; And shortly, whan the sonne was to reste, So hadde I spoken with hem everichon That I was of hir felaweshipe anon, And made forward erly for to ryse, To take oure wey ther as I yow devyse. And specially from every shires ende Of Engelond to Caunterbury they wende, The hooly blisful martir for to seke, That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke. Bifil that in that seson on a day, In Southwerk at the Tabard as I lay Redy to wenden on my pilgrymage To Caunterbury with ful devout corage, At nyght was come into that hostelrye Wel nyne and twenty in a compaignye Of sondry folk, by aventure yfalle In felaweshipe, and pilgrimes were they alle, That toward Caunterbury wolden ryde. The chambres and the stables weren wyde, And wel we weren esed atte beste.


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