The Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Periods 449 - 1485

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					The Anglo-Saxon and
 Medieval Periods
     449 - 1485
                     English IV
                     Ms. Reyes
 *notes from The Language of Literature, pgs. 18 - 29

   In 55 B.C., Julius Caesar sailed from what is now France to Britain
    to assert Rome’s authority over it.
   A century after his visit, the Roman armies conquered the Britons
    and Britain became part of the great Roman Empire.
   The Romans introduced cities, written scholarship, and eventually
   Early in the 5th century, Roman armies abandoned Britain to
    defend the city of Rome. It was not long before Britain too was
      The Anglo-Saxon Period (449 – 1066)
   Anglos, Saxons, and other
    Germanic people left their
    northern European homelands
    and began settling on Britain’s
    eastern and southern shores.
   The area of Germanic settlement
    became known as Angle-land, or
    England, and its people came to
    be called English.
   Early society centered on
    ancestral tribes, each ruled by a
    chieftain surrounded by a group
    of warriors who served him in
    return for rewards and protection.
The Growth of Christianity
            Early invaders brought their pagan
             religion marked by a strong belief
             in wyrd, or fate.
            People admired heroic warriors
             whose wyrd it was to prevail in
            In 597, a Roman missionary
             named Augustine arrived in Kent,
             where he established a monastery
             at Canterbury.
            Christianity spread so rapidly that
             by 690 all of Britain was at least
             nominally Christian.
               The Danish Invasions
   In the 790’s, the Danes (a.k.a. the Vikings)
    began to devastate the flourishing culture
    and in time gained control of much of
    northern and eastern England.
   In the south, the Danes were forced to
    agree to a truce and accept Christianity
    after being defeated by Alfred the Great.
    The tug-of-war continued, however, even
    after Alfred’s death.
   The last successful invasion of Britain (The
    Norman Conquest) was led by William the
    Conqueror (Duke of Normandy) in 1066
    and William was crowned King of
                   Literary History
   The spread of Christianity also
    brought a spread of literacy in
   The Roman alphabet was
    introduced in place of the runic
   Poems were more likely to be
    written down, even though they
    were primarily an oral art; most
    poems had an anonymous
   The most famous survivor of
    poetry is the epic Beowulf,
    about a legendary hero of the
    northern European past.
The Medieval Period (1066 – 1485)
                  Before invading England, the
                   Normans had adopted French
                   ways. William now introduced
                   these practices to England.
                  William introduced the idea of a
                   social ladder and feudalism, a
                   political and economic system in
                   which the hierarchy of power
                   was based on the premise that the
                   king owned all the land in the
                  Strong castles, cathedrals and
                   abbeys were constructed.
          The Medieval Period cont.
   When Henry II, a descendant of
    William, took the throne, he
    instituted royal courts, established a
    system of juries, and initiated the
    formation of English common law.
   As a former French queen, Henry’s
    wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, brought
    the idea of chivalry: a code of honor
    intended to govern knightly
   The code of honor encouraged
    knights to protect their ladies and to
    go on holy quests.
           The Decline of Feudalism
   In medieval towns, merchants and
    craftspeople formed organizations
    called guilds to control the flow
    and price of goods.
   The growth of towns meant the
    decline of feudalism, since wealth
    was no longer based exclusively
    on land ownership.
   As towns were becoming centers
    of commerce, universities were
    becoming England’s chief centers
    of learning.
              The Hundred Years’ War
   A long struggle between England and
    France that continued on and off for
    more than a century
   Also significant to the Hundred Years’
      Black Death – plague which killed a
       third of England’s population
      The Peasants’ Revolt of 1381

      Richard II’s forced abdication in
      Henry IV takes the throne

      Wars of the Roses

   The end of the Wars of the Roses
    marked the end of Middle Ages in
                  The Epic
A long, narrative poem that celebrates a hero’s
    Came into existence as spoken words and
     were retold by poet after poet from one
     generation to the next
    Many epics based on historical fact

    Epics provided both entertainment and

     education for audience
            Characteristics of epics
   The hero is of noble birth or high
    position, and often of great
    historical or legendary
   The hero’s character traits reflect
    important ideals of his society.
   The hero performs courageous
    deeds that reflect the values of
    the era.
   The actions of the hero often
    determine the fate of a nation of
   The setting is vast in scope, often
    involving more than one nation.
         Characteristics of epics
   The poet uses formal diction and a serious tone.
   Major characters often deliver long, formal
   The plot is complicated by supernatural beings
    or events and may involve a long and dangerous
    journey through foreign lands.
   The poem reflects values such as courage and
   The poem treats universal themes, such as good
    and evil or life and death.
         Features of epic poetry
   Stock epithets – adjectives that point out
    special traits of particular persons or things
    (e.g., “swift-footed” used to describe Achilles)
   Kennings – poetic synonyms that may be a
    descriptive phrase or compound word that
    substitutes for a noun (e.g., in Beowulf, “the
    Almighty’s enemy” and “sin-stained demon”
    are used in place of Grendel’s name)
         Features of epic poetry
   Alliteration – repetition of consonant sounds at
    the beginning of words, used to heighten
    moods, emphasize words or images, or create
    musical effects
   Caesura – Old English poetry has a strong
    rhythm, with each line divided in two parts by
    a pause, called a caesura

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