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Middle English Language and Literature

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 7 months ago







Social Structure




Europe was under the feudal system that the land is property of the king, not of the tribe. People like knights, princes of the church, king’ nobles  all rented out part of their lands to others below them in rank in return for their services.





    William was king in England but duke in France .He kept to the Saxon system of sheriffs and used these to control local nobles.This made England different from the rest of Europe because instead of a large number of powerful nobles it had one powerful family.

      The word feudalism comes from the French word feu which the normans used to refer to land held in return for dut yor service to a lord.


























William Duke of Nomandy claimed throne after King Edward died. He invaded England and established his rule all over the country thanks to his barons. William established a central administration to keep the political power of his barons in check. He imposed a unified legal system and the common law.




There was often conflict between church and crown. The great churchmen were subject to king as landholders, but they had also enormous influence over the king’ subjects due to their claim to be God’s representatives on each.




During King John’ administration, he pressed for money to wage wars but he lost wars, almost all his French territories, and he had to sign a charter Magna Carta whose general sections are still valid English law.




In 1348 the catastrophic epidemics, killing probably over a third of the population, hit Britain. This created a huge labour shortage. Thus, many serfs obtained their freedom while landlords were competing for workers.




Feudalism was imposed England as a centralized system; its successes, the growth of trade and its wars undermined it, strengthening the crown, the merchant, the serfs against the feudal barons.









                                                              MİDDLE ENGLİSH LİTERATURE


   In times there were changes in English  literature.Between old english and modern english there is a phase of transition.This phase

is known as middle english. The literary art which has been preserved of the Norman period was written in French.It was courtly in nature, not heroic.I t was not intended for warrior audience as in Anglo -Saxon days.There were love poems which were personal in nature.There is love poetry like fire songs Alison which was has the refrain:


               An hendy hap ichabben yhent

          Ichot from hevene it is me sent

          From alle wymmen my love is lent

          Ant lyht on Alisun


We may translate this as followed:By a gracious change I have caught it.

I know it has been sent from heaven

From all other women I have taken away my love.

It has alighted on Alison.


     ( Biblical code)      




  There were much religious poetry, often also personally expressive ,as it was part of the great movement of religious enthusiasm.


Their themes were biblical.



   Alliterative verse form was used in old english but in the middle english literature Allegory was used.Allegory is a story ,play,picture,etc in which each character or event is a symbol representing an idea or quality such a truth,evil,death.Alliteration really refers to words beginnig with the same letter, which is not always the same thing as beginning with the same sound.English verse has traditionally used END-RHYME (or ordinary,rhyme,as may call it).





Medieval English is the name which is given to the diverse name of spoken English between the Norman invasion of 1066 and about 1470.




The grammar was simplified and the vocabulary greatly enlarged.





  • The inflections (special wod endings showing relationships between sentence parts) virtually disappear in Middle English.


  • The word order Chaucer’s time was like that of Modern English, with the subject coming before the predicate and the modifier the word modified. Example: “oure fadir”; not “faeder ure.”


  • The vocabuşary of Old English was primarily Germanic, But Middle English was enriched by borrowed words.


  • Middle English spelling is less uniform because it incorporates several regional dialects, each with its own system of represesnting sounds in writing.


  • The natural gender evolved in Middle English. We uniformly refer to male being as masculine, female one as feminine, unlike other European languages.


  • The pronunciation of Old English guttural sounds was softened in Middle English , but with no consistent system, leading to varied pronunciations of words with the same ending. Examples: plough, hiccough, rough, cough, though and slough.








    Most of the common English people spoke only English. They could neither speak Latin which was the language of the church and education nor could they speak French which was the language of the norman aristocracy and of law. İt took a long time before English became the language of the ruling class.




    A great number of French words entered the English language and often kept a more polite meaning than the old Anglo-Saxon words. For example the word chair which came from the French describes a better piece of furniture than the  Anglo-Saxon word stool. In the same way the Anglo-Saxon word belly was used in polite society instead of stomach.














 The first english drama started in the church.It consisted of religious themes and also representations of the stories in the Bible.After a while drama gradually moved to the churchyard and the public marketplace because the audiences became more unruly





 Mystery,miracle and morality plays are among the earliest formally plays in medieval Europe.




Mystery plays are stories from the Bible.Some of these stories are:


                              the Nativity                                   the Fall of Adam and Eve                              Noah and the Flood                                            Jonah and the Whale






The subject matter of miracle plays are the lives of saints.Almost all surviving miracle plays concern with either the Virgin Mary or St.Nicholas.

                  e.g  St Francis of Assis






Morality plays were designed to enlighten and discipline their audiences.These plays were the personification of 7 deadly sins.

7 deadly sins are:




                                                                             1-Gluttony              5-Wrath


                                                                             2-Greed                  6-Pride


                                                                             3-Envy                    7-Sloth







One of the morality plays is "Everyman".This play may be the translation of the Dutch play or may be derived independently from a Latin work named "Humolus".Nothing is known about the author.In this play Everyman(humanica) is summoned by Death to the day of judgement.He wants to find a companion for the journey.He asks Fellowship,Kinred,Cousin and Goods to come with him,but all of them refuses to go.The only companion to go with him to the grave is Good Deeds.Everyman and Good Deeds ascend into heaven,where they are welcomed by an Angel.































































    William was king in England but duke in France. He kept to the Saxon system of sheriffs and used these to control local nobles.This made England different from the rest of Europe because instead of a large number of powerful nobles it had one powerful family.
      The word feudalism comes from the French word feu which the normans used to refer to land held in return for dut yor service to a lord.





Comments (1)

Anonymous said

at 8:06 pm on Dec 25, 2008

Themes of Middle English Language and Literature were love songs and romances , courtly loves, religious poetry... One of the differences between the Old English Literature is that in Old English Literature poems were written to show loyalty to king , but in Middle English Literature poems were written to have better conditions, that is the contents of the poems were demanding better conditions

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