English Language and Literature in the Middle Ages

624 Words3 Pages
English Society of the Middle Ages saw many developments and new trends, but none so plainly as the developments witnessed in the Language and Literature of that time. It began with the Norman Conquest: eloquent French words substituted for the “harsh” Saxon equivalents, primarily in the upper levels of society. Literature began to reflect these changes in the language, and continued to evolve throughout the Renaissance. Together, these aspects helped define the Middle Ages. The Norman Conquest took place in 1066 with the death of King Edward. William of Normandy, later to be referred to as “The Conquerer”, fought King Harold in order to claim the crown in Britain. Succeeding, William integrated Norman life into the Old English culture, concentrating in the higher courts and political scene. This integration of the Norman culture then filtered down to the underclass. The developmental trends of the English Language can be clearly seen in the literature of the time. Geoffrey Chaucer, who's works were a precursor to the Renaissance, wrote The Canterbury Tales, a collection of stories set within a framing story of a pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral, the shrine of Saint Thomas à Becket. The poet joins a band of pilgrims, vividly described in the Prologue, who assemble at the Tabard Inn outside London for the journey to Canterbury. Ranging in status from a Knight to a humble Plowman, they are a detailed view of 14th-century English society. Another glimpse into the life of Middle England was created by William Langland, who was supposedly the author of the religious allegory known as Piers Plowman, considered one of the greatest English poems of medieval times. This work satires corruption among the clergy and the secular authorities, and upholds the dignity and value of labor, represented by Piers Plowman. Sir Thomas Malory, a translator and compiler, was the
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