Early English literature - HOMEWORK

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Early English literature - HOMEWORK

Post  James_Patras on Wed Feb 11, 2015 11:41 am

Early English literature

Years 900-1600

Hello students! I want you to read through this information and familiarize yourselves with it. It covers what we've been talking about in my classes in the past week. There will be a POP QUIZ on this subject later on, so I suggest you study this material thoroughly.

In this first part of the lessons about English literature, we will study early English literature from around year 900 to year 1600.


Old English Literature

English literature is the mother of American literature.

Around they year 900, the Anglo Saxons ruled over England. The language they spoke was Old English. England is actually derived from the Old English word "Englaland", which means land of the Angles. The Angles were a Germanic tribe that settled in Great Britain during the Early Middle Ages.

The most important work written in Old English is Beowulf. The story is set in Scandinavia. In the story, a monster by the name of Grenold attacks Hrodgar's mead hall. The hero, Beowulf, slays the monster. He then goes home to Sweden and becomes a king. Fifty years later he kills a dragon, but is wounded in the battle and later dies.



Beowulf




Middle English Literature

In 1066, the Norman French invade and conquer England from the Anglo-Saxons. Their leader is William the Conqueror, and he becomes the new King of England. The Norman Conquest started a new period in the English language. The French speaking Normans brought in a lot of new words to the English language. Because French is a latin language, this also meant a latinization of the English language. At this time, people wrote in French and Latin only. The nobles in England spoke only French. Peasants in the countryside spoke Old English they way they had in the past.

Geoffrey Chaucer is known as the father of English literature. Through his books, he created a new version of the English language - Middle English. Middle English was a mix of Old English and French. More and more people started speaking this new version of English. This meant that different parts of the English society, nobles and peasants, could understand eachother much better.

Geoffrey Chaucer is best known for The Canterbury Tales. The tales are mostly written in verse. The book is about a group of pilgrims who are travelling across England to the Canterbury Cathedral. They engage in a story-telling contest, where they tell eachother tales.



Geoffrey Chaucer



The Canterbury Tales




Renaissance English Literature

The Middle Ages were a dark time, ridden with plagues. In the 16th century, things started to turn for the better in England and elsewhere in Europe. Culture and science were blooming. The most famous English author of this period is William Shakespeare. Shakespeare was really more a playright than an author, since he wrote dramas and poetry.



William Shakespeare

Shakespeare was very versatile in his work. He wrote both comedies and tragedies. An example of a Shakesperian comedy is the Merchant of Venice and a Midsummer Night's Dream. These are some of Shakespears early dramas.

In the Merchant of Venice, the merchant wants to marry a rich Venetian heiress, Portia. Since he doesn't have a lot of money, he goes to his friend Antonio to borrow money from him. Antonio takes a loan from Shylock, a shrewd Jewish moneylendor. Shylock grants him the loan, on condition that he can take a pound of flesh from Antonio's body if he doesn't pay him back. When Antonio can't pay the loan back, Shylock wants to claim his pound of flesh. Portia, who acts as a judge in the matter, decides that Shylock can have a pound of flesh from Antonio, as long as he doesn't draw blood from him. Because you can't take a pound of flesh from someone without killing the person, Shylock was defeated. The story ends happily for everyone but Shylock.

The Merchant of Venice has been critized for being antisemitic. In the time that Shakespeare wrote the drama, there was a lot of antisemitism in England, and Jews weren't very popular. Because Jews weren't allowed to take on certain jobs, they became very good merchants. There was a stereotype that Jews were shrewd businessmen with no moral. Some argue that Shakespeare was antisemitic himself, like many others in his time.

Others say that Shakespeare meant for Shylock to be a sympathetic character. In the drama, Shylock gives a famous speech: "Hath not a Jew eyes?". Shylock argues that he is no different than the Christian characters in the play. In the end, maybe Shylock has more moral than some of the Christian characters. "If you wrong us, shall we not revenge?", he says.

The different enterpretations of Shylock show that Shakespeare was good at creating complex characters, who weren't just good or bad. Shakespeare's characters are viewed differently by different people.



The Merchant of Venice


Shakespeare also wrote tragedies; stories with sad endings. One of his most famous tragedies is Romeo and Juliet. The story centers around the relationship between Romeo and Juliet. Their families are bitter rivals. They still manage to see eachother. They secretly love eachother. After Romeo kills Juliet's cousin, he is forced into exile. Juliet is forced to marry Count Paris. Before the wedding, Juliet drinks a potion that puts her in a coma. Everyone thinks Juliet is dead. When the news reaches Romero about Juliet's death, he kills himself. Juliet then wakes up from the coma. When she finds out Romeo killed himself, she stabs herself with a dagger and dies.

A major theme in Romeo and Juliet is, of course, love. Especially young and doomed love. In the play, love is heavily connected with death. Juliet erotically compares Romeo and death: "O happy dagger! This is thy sheath. There rust, and let me die."



Romeo and Juliet


Last edited by James_Patras on Sat Feb 14, 2015 7:45 am; edited 2 times in total
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Re: Early English literature - HOMEWORK

Post  James_Patras on Sat Feb 14, 2015 7:15 am

Updated with information from my lessons.
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