The Middle Ages The Fall of the Roman Empire Feudalism The Church Literature
Middle Ages Timeline
The Fall of Rome A.D. : Anno Domino (year of our lord) C.E. : Common era The Roman created an Empire but it became to large. When emperor Diocletian (284 A.D.) came into power, he divided the empire up into two separate empires.
The Fall of Rome By 395 AD, the Roman Empire was formally divided into two empires: East and West . With the invasion of Germanic forces from the north, the Western Roman Empire was conquered and further divided. This left the eastern part of the Roman empire to carry on the Greco-Roman tradition.
The Byzantine Empire under Justinian
Byzantine Empire At first, this Empire controlled only a small area around the eastern Mediterranean, but during the reign of Justinian (527-565), it started to recover much of the territory of the old Roman empire.
Byzantine Empire The Byzantine Empire was wealthy and produced: gold, silk, grain, olives and wine. It traded these for spices, ivory and precious stones from countries as far away as China and India along the Silk Road trade routes.
Laws were fairer to women. They could own property and raise their own children after their husbands died.
Children allowed to choose their own marriage partners.
Slavery was legal and slaves must obey their masters.
Punishments were detailed and fit the crime
His work inspired the modern concept and, indeed, the very spelling of "justice".
The Byzantine empire drew to a close in 1453 when forces from the Muslim Ottoman Empire surrounded and conquered Constantinople.
The ancient Christian city was renamed Istanbul and became the capital of the Ottoman Empire.
Barbarian was originally a term applied to any foreigner, one not sharing a recognized culture or degree of polish with the speaker or writer employing the term. The word derives from the Greek , and expresses with mocking duplication ("bar-bar") alleged attempts by outsiders to speak a "real" language.
Barbarian* tribes were seeping into Britain and Western European lands
Emperors became more like kings
Feudalism : involuntary peasant labor on lands not their own; personal bonds and personal law beginning to replace impersonal law common to large expanses of territory
the Catholic Church , would provide spiritual and moral direction, as well as leadership and material support, during the darkest times of the early Medieval period.
With the Fall of Rome…
Feudalism: system of loyalties and protections during the Middle Ages. As the Roman Empire crumbled, emperors granted land to nobles in exchange for their loyalty. These lands eventually developed into manors.
A manor is the land owned by a noble and everything on it. A typical manor consisted of a castle, small village, and farmland.
During the Middle Ages, peasants could no longer count on the Roman army to protect them. German, Viking and Magyar tribes overran homes and farms throughout Europe.
Serfs would often have to work three or four days a week for the lord as rent. They would spend the rest of their week growing crops to feed their families. Other serfs worked as sharecroppers. A sharecropper would be required to turn over most of what he grew in order to be able to live on the land.
Key facts about feudal society:
The absence of a strong central authority of government
Economy based on agriculture, with limited money exchange
The strength of the Church: Church had the right to a share (tithe) of society's output as well as substantial landholdings. In return, the church was obligated with specific authority and responsibility for moral and material welfare.
Portrait of Life on the Manor
Chivalry A Code of Honor and behavior
Christianity became the universal faith of almost all of the people of Europe.
The Church was often the only way to get an education.
It also allowed poor people to escape a dreary life and possibly rise to power.
Religious workers are called clergy.
In the Middle Ages, the Pope ruled the Christian Church. Other clergy included bishops, priests, nuns, and monks.
Monks: men who lived in monasteries , or small communities of religious workers.
devoted their lives to prayer
Monasteries produced many well-educated men prepared to serve as administrators for uneducated kings and lords.
Monks were responsible for keeping the Greek and Latin “classical” cultures alive. Monks copied books by hand in an era before the printing press. Though few in number, monks played a significant role in the Middle Ages.
The Crusades Holy War The Catholic Church wished to regain control over the Holy Land (Jerusalem) so may Knights went on a Quest to claim “their” land back from Islam. The Plauge: Disease that killed about 1/3 of the population in Europe.
Beowulf is the oldest surviving epic poem in what is identifiable as a form of the English language. (The oldest surviving text in English is Caedmon's hymn of creation.) The precise date of the manuscript is debated, but most estimates place it close to AD 1000.
The story came to England at a time when the Germanic peoples were still part of the same cultural sphere and spoke what really were just dialects of the same language.
It is known only from a single manuscript, kept in the British Library. The manuscript suffered some irreversible damage in a fire in 1731.
The manuscript was written in Old English. Some Old English words and sounds closely resemble modern English. Today most readers read a version of the poem translated into modern english.
Beowulf is an Anglo-Saxon epic poem which relates the adventures of Beowulf, a Scandinavian hero who saves the Danes from the seemingly invincible monster Grendel and, later, from Grendel's mother.
He then returns to his own country, Geatland, and dies in old age in a vivid fight against a dragon. The poem is about encountering the monstrous, defeating it, and then having to live on in the exhausted aftermath.
As a Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University, J.R.R. Tolkien probably taught Beowulf every year of his working life
His scholarly paper, “ Beowulf : The Monsters and the Critics” brought studies of the poem to the forefront of the academic world
Tolkien's imagined world of Arda owes something of it's creation to Beowulf: “ Beowulf is among my most valued sources” (Letters, no.25).
Tolkien used Beowulf in creating his own works and adopting the good vs. evil archetype. Just as our modern English language is based on the ancient English, Tolkien used Old English words in his creation of names.
Tolkien included almost 50 Anglo-Saxon words or phrases from Beowulf in his works.
The Canterbury Tales
Englishman Geoffrey Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales , a collection of stories in a frame story, between 1387 and 1400.
Story about of a group of thirty people who travel as pilgrims to Canterbury (England). The pilgrims, who come from all layers of society, tell stories to each other to kill time while they travel to Canterbury.
Chaucer intended that each pilgrim should tell two tales on the way to Canterbury and two tales on the way back. He never finished his enormous project and even the completed tales were not finally revised. Scholars are uncertain about the order of the tales. As the printing press had yet to be invented when Chaucer wrote his works, The Canterbury Tales has been passed down in several handwritten manuscripts.
The Canterbury Tales is written in Middle English.
1 Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote When April with its sweet-smelling showers
2 The droghte of March hath perced to the roote, Has pierced the drought of March to the root,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour And bathed every vein (of the plants) in such liquid
The Canterbury Tales
Chaucer began work on The Canterbury Tales about 1387
and intended for each of his thirty pilgrims to tell four tales, two while traveling to Canterbury and two while traveling from Canterbury.
However, only twenty-three pilgrims received a story before Chaucer's death in 1400.
Chaucer's Tales gained mass popularity the early fifteenth century.
“ all of humanity moves through its pages.”
Presents humor, at once friendly and satirical.
This facsimile is the first reproduction ever made of this manuscript, considered a prime authority for the text of The Canterbury Tales .
A rich, tapestry of medieval social life
combining elements of all classes, from nobles to workers, from priests and nuns to drunkards and thieves.
When The Canterbury Tales were written:
Christianity was the dominant social force throughout western Europe, including England.
In 1388, while Chaucer was working on the tales, a change occurred in the way that Christianity was perceived and practiced when John Wycliffe, an English reformer,
released a version of the Bible translated into English. For the first time, people from the lower classes, who had not been educated in Latin, could read the Bible themselves instead of having its word interpreted to them by members of the clergy.
The General Prologue consists of character sketches of each member of the group that is going to Canterbury, as described by Chaucer, who is also a character in his own novel. Any other characters in The Canterbury Tales are created by one of the pilgrims, in stories within the novel. Therefore, these lesser characters are so numerous, that it is counter-productive to give them a character sketch.
Since the General Prologue and the main characters overlap almost completely, the character summaries will be combined with the General Prologue, but elaborated on by use of other parts of the text.
Chaucer: He is a character in his own novel, and he writes in the first person as an outside observer traveling with the pilgrims on their way to Canterbury.
Canterbury Tales- some of the characters
The Knight: a warrior who relies on the code of chivalry. Represents the romanticized standards of the feudal system
The Prioress: A nun, named Madame Eglantine. She makes every effort to be refined and elegant, and she cannot bear to see any harm come to any of God’s lesser creatures, like mice. However, when it is her turn to tell a story, hers is violent and full of blood and sorrow.
The Merchant: The merchant is obsessed with his wealth, and talks about money constantly.
The Wife of Bath: A well-traveled middle-aged woman who has been married five times, not counting other lovers she did not marry. She has a large amount of knowledge from experience, and when she questions the authority of the bible, she does it with a very good background from which to debate it.
Poor Priest: lived truly poor and in the service of God. An example of how a traditional priest should live in Chaucer’s time, following the life of Christ.
The Miller: a large and strong man, and is one of the best at telling vulgar stories.
The Pardoner: A clergyman who is outwardly corrupt. His main motivating factor was money, and so if the sinner had the gold, the Pardoner would favor the sinner and help pardon him.
Canterbury Tales: The Retraction
Chaucer concludes his tales with praise to Jesus Christ. "Now preye I to hem alle that herkne thai litel tretys or / rede, that if ther be any thyng in it that liketh hem, that / therof they thanken oure Lord Jesu Crist, of whom procedeth / al wit and al goodnesse" (Chaucer's Retraction, l.1-4).
He adds that if anyone does not understand these tales, then it is due to his ignorance and not his intention, which was to fully capture the goodness of Christ in tale. He requests pardon from Christ for any problems there may be with the text.
He hopes to be granted mercy and kindness so that he may ascend to heaven at his time and concludes the long tales of Canterbury with this final line: "So that I may been oon of / hem at the day of doome that shulle be saved. Qui cum patre, &cetera." Chaucer's Retraction, l.29-30
King Arthurian Legend
Arthurian legend has become the mirror of the ideal of medieval knighthood and chivalry. Arthur:
Was the illegitimate son of Uther Pendragon, king of Britain
Became king of Britain by successfully withdrawing a sword from a stone.
Possessed the miraculous sword Excalibur , given to him by the mysterious Lady of the Lake .
Most invincible knights in Arthur's realm: Sir Tristram and Sir Launcelot of the Lake.
Sir Gawain, Arthur's nephew, who appeared variously as the ideal of knightly courtesy and as the bitter enemy of Launcelot.
After 1225 no significant medieval Arthurian literature was produced on the Continent.
In England, however, the legend continued to flourish. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (c.1370), one of the best Middle English romances, embodies the ideal of chivalric knighthood.
The last important medieval work dealing with the Arthurian legend is the Morte d'Arthur of Sir Thomas Malory , whose tales have become the source for most subsequent Arthurian material.
Sir Gawain & The Green Knight (ca 1370)
This poem tells the story of Gawain, a knight and member of King Arthur’s Round Table
A perfect example of the idealism and romanticism of chivalry
During a New Year’s Eve feast at King Arthur’s court, a strange figure, referred to only as the Green Knight, pays the court an unexpected visit.
challenges the group’s leader or any other brave representative to a game: The Green Knight says that he will allow whomever accepts the challenge to strike him with his own axe, on the condition that the challenger find him in exactly one year to receive a blow in return.
Arthur hesitates to respond, but when the Green Knight mocks Arthur’s silence, the king steps forward to take the challenge.
Dante Alighieri- The Divine Comedy (written from 1306 to 1321)
The Divine Comedy , by Dante Alighieri, is comprised of 3 works:
Inferno the most widely read section
Dante describes a journey through Hell from the entrance at the lowest and less harsh level.
His companion for the travel is Virgil, a mentor and protector. Constructed as a huge funnel with nine descending circular ledges
Dante’s Hell carefully categorizes sinners according to the nature of their sins.
Those who recognize and repudiate their sins are given a change to purify themselves in Purgatorio, the second of three segments in the poem. Therefore, Dante feels Hell is a necessary, painful first step of any man’s spiritual journey.
The Divine Comedy is in no way a comedic literary work.
Dante himself simply called this work "Comedy." because the poem is a optimistic process from Hell toward Heaven, or from worse to better.
Born in Florence, Italy, in 1265. His family was considered part of the lesser nobility
The death of one of his childhood friends a turning point in his life.
At the age of nine, Dante was introduced to Beatrice Portinari in 1274. According to studies by Boccacio, her death in 1290 propelled him to begin an intensive study in the philosophical works of Boethius, Cicero, and Aristotle.
Beatrice is alluded to in several of his other works but specifically The Divine Comedy where she is commemorated as the ideal lady who guides him to redemption in Paradiso.
Dante became increasingly involved with politics. He was elected as one of the six offices of president of the Florentine Guilds in 1300.
After a coup in 1313, Dante fled Florence and lost hope of ever returning. He remained in Verona and a year later moved to Revenna where he died in 1321.
Although Dante is most famous for his poem The Divine Comedy , he also wrote some other highly influential works. These include a collection of early poems published in La Vita Nuova (c. 1293; The New Life). Written in commemoration of Beatrice’s death, The New Life was a new, innovative approach to love poetry and equates love with a mystical and spiritual revelation.
Structure of Inferno
As part of this work, Dante put real-life and mythological figures in the Inferno based on what he saw were their sins, making this work a political and social commentary
He organized the work into Cantos, or short chapters, much like Homer’s uses “books” in creating The Odyssey
The sinners in the nine circles of hell are guilty of one of three types of sin:
Incontinence: losing control of natural appetites and desires
Brutishness: attraction to things which repulse the healthy soul
Malice / Vice: abuse of reason, a human's most god-like quality
Structure of Inferno- Some Examples At the center of the Earth, completely submerged in ice. The three ultimate traitors are held in Lucifer's three mouths. Lucifer's three wings send forth freezing blasts of impotence, ignorance and hatred. Judas, Brutus, Cassius Traitors to lords and benefactors; those who set out to destroy the rightful God Round 3 Canto 34 Concealed in flames Ulysses/ Odysseus Evil counselors subcircle 8 Canto 26-27 Submerged in hot blood, Guarded by centaurs, who shoot any soul which attempts to rise Alexander the Great Attila the Hun Violent Against neighbors & fellow men; murderers, war makers Circle 7 Canto 12 Punishment People Sin Region Canto