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1. CHAUCER; 14th C.

Against this dark background we seemed to see only two bright figures, that of Chaucer,
strangely kindled to radiance by momentary contact with the renascence, and that of
Wyclif, no less strange and solitary, striving to light the torch of reformation, which, hastily
muffled by those in authority, smouldered and sparkled fitfully a hundred years before it
burst into blaze.
our study of the Piers the Plowman cluster of poems has shown us that the confused voice
and that mighty vision were the voice and vision, not of one lonely, depised wanderer, but
of many men, who, though of diverse tempers and gifts, cherished the same enthusiasm for
righteousness and hate for evil.


a statute, in 1362, ordered the pleadings in the law courts to be conducted in English, on the
ground that French was no longer sufficiently understood. Even noblemen had left off
teaching their children French.

a school arose which worked to some extent on artistic principles, it was characterised more
or less by a reversion to the old rule of alliteration. This carried with it a good deal of
archaism of language; so that, notwithstanding the high poetical merit of such works as
Pearl and Sir Gawayne and the Grene Knight, it was not possible that they should form the
basis of a poetical development which should reconcile English and French tastes in
literature. To accomplish this reconciliation was pre-eminently the task of Chaucer, who,
however, in genius and in culture was so far in advance of his generation that he can hardly
be regarded as, in any sense, typical. The mere fact that he alone of the poets of his time was
capable of being vitally influenced by Italian literature, by Dante and Boccaccio, is enough
to remove him from the common level.
Also the work of one who, in a certain sense, stands by the side of Chaucer, though he is a
man of talent only, not of geniusthe author of Confessio Amantis

Gower's verse is by turns religious, political, historical, and moralthough he has been
narrowly defined as "moral Gower" ever since Chaucer graced him with the epithet. His
primary mode is allegory, although he shies away from sustained abstractions in favour of
the plain style of the raconteur.
1. His earliest works were probably ballades in Anglo-Norman French, which are not known
to have survived. The first work which has survived is in the same language, however: it is
the Speculum Meditantis, also known by the French title Mirour de l'Omme, a poem of just
under 30,000 lines, containing a dense exposition of religion and morality.
2. Gower's second major work, the Vox Clamantis, was written in Latin: it takes as its
subject the state of England, and incorporates commentary on the Peasants' Revolt that
occurred during the composition of the poem. Gower takes the side of the aristocracy, and
appears to have admired the techniques Richard II used to suppress the revolt.
3. His third work is the Confessio Amantis, a 30,000-line poem in English, which makes use
of the structure of a Christian confession (presented allegorically as a confession of sins
against Love) as a narrative frame within which a multitude of individual tales are told. Like

his previous works, the theme is very much morality, even where the stories themselves
have a tendency to describe rather immoral behaviour.
Gower's poetry has had a mixed critical reception. In the fifteenth century, he was generally
regarded alongside Chaucer as the father of English poetry. Over the years, however, his
reputation declined, largely on account of a perceived didacticism and dullness. During the
twentieth century he has received more recognition, notably by C.S. Lewis in The Allegory
of Love. However, he has not obtained the same following or critical acceptance as other
major poets of the period.
John Gower, encouraged, perhaps, by the example of Chaucer, adopted English as his
vehicle of literary expression.

1. The first book, written in the French language, is divided into ten parts, and, treating of
vices and of virtues, as also of the various conditions of men in the world, endeavours
rightly to teach the way by which the sinner who has trespassed ought to return to the
knowledge of his Creator. A the title of this book is Speculum Meditantis. 1
2. The second book, metrically composed in the Latin language, treats of the various
misfortunes which happened in England in the time of king Richard II, whence not only the
nobles and commons of the realm suffered great evils, but the cruel king himself, falling
from on high by his own evil doings, was at length hurled into the pit which he dug
himself. 2 And the name of this volume is Vox Clamantis
3. The third book, which was written in the English language in honour of his most
valorous lord Henry of Lancaster, then earl of Derby, 3 marks out the times from the reign
of Nebuchadnezzar until now, in accordance with the prophecy of Daniel on the changes of
the kingdoms of this world. It treats, also, in accordance with Aristotle, of the matters in
which king Alexander was instructed by his discipline, both for the governance of himself
and for other ends. But the chief matter of the book is founded upon love, and the infatuated
passions of lovers. And the name appropriated to this work is Confessio Amantis.

Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1343 October 25, 1400) was an English author, poet, philosopher,
bureaucrat (courtier), and diplomat. He is often referred to as the Father of English Literature.
Although he wrote many works he is best remembered for his unfinished frame narrative The
Canterbury Tales. He is sometimes credited with being the first author to demonstrate the
artistic legitimacy of the vernacular English language, rather than French or Latin.
Chaucer's early works were Anelida and Arcite and The House of Fame. Chaucer wrote many
of his major works in a prolific period while working as customs comptroller. His Parlement
of Foules, The Legend of Good Women and Troilus and Criseyde all date from this time. He is
best known as the writer of The Canterbury Tales, a collection of stories (told by fictional
pilgrims on the road to the cathedral at Canterbury) that would help to shape English

The Canterbury Tales contrasts with other literature of the period in the naturalism of its
narrative, the variety of stories the pilgrims tell and the varied characters who are engaged in
the pilgrimage which sets it apart from other literature of the period. Many of the stories
narrated by the pilgrims seem to fit their individual characters and social standing, although
some of the stories seem ill-fitting to their narrators, probably representing the incomplete
state of the work. Chaucer drew on real life for his cast of Pilgrims. The many jobs Chaucer
held in medieval society; page, soldier, messenger, valet, bureaucrat, foreman and
administrator probably exposed him to many of the types of people he depicted in the Tales.
He was able to ape their speech, satirise their manners and still offer them popular literature.
Chaucer's works are sometimes grouped into, first a French period, then an Italian period and
finally an English period, with Chaucer being influenced by those countries' literatures in
turn. Certainly Troilus and Criseyde is a middle period work with its reliance on the forms of
Italian poetry. In Troilus and Criseyde Chaucer draws heavily on his source, Bocaccio, and on
the late Latin philosopher Boethius. However, it is The Canterbury Tales, wherein he focuses
on English subjects, with bawdy jokes and respected figures often being undercut with
humour, that has cemented his reputation.
-continental accentual-syllabic metre, a style which had developed since around the twelfth
century as an alternative to the alliterative Anglo-Saxon metre.,
-five-stress line, the iambic pentameter, in his work, with only a few anonymous short works
using it before him.
rhyme royal
- five-stress line into rhyming couplets was first seen in his The Legend of Good Women, was
used in much of his later work and became one of the standard poetic forms in English. His
early influence as a satirist is also important, with the common humorous device, the funny
accent of a regional dialect, apparently making its first appearance in The Reeve's Tale.
The Canterbury Tales is a collection of stories written by Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th
century (two of them in prose, the rest in verse). The tales, some of which are originals and
others not, are contained inside a frame tale and told by a group of pilgrims on their way from
Southwark to Canterbury to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket's at Canterbury
Cathedral[1]. The Canterbury Tales are written in Middle English.
The themes of the tales vary, and include topics such as courtly love, treachery and avarice.
The genres also vary, and include romance, Breton lai, sermon, and fabliau. The characters,
introduced in the General Prologue of the book, tell tales of great cultural relevance.
Some of the tales are serious and others humorous; however, all are very precise in describing
the traits and faults of human nature. Religious malpractice is a major theme as well as
focusing on the division of the three estates. The work is incomplete, as it was originally
intended that each character would tell four tales, two on the way to Canterbury and two on
the return journey. The structure of The Canterbury Tales is easy to find in other
contemporary works, such as The Book of Good Love by Juan Ruiz and Boccaccio's
Decameron, -

CHAUCERs characters are of extremely varied stock, including representatives of most of

the branches of the middle classes at that time. Not only are the participants very different, but
they tell very different types of tales, with their personalities showing through both in their
choices of tales and in the way they tell them.
It is sometimes argued that the greatest contribution that this work made to English literature
was in popularising the literary use of the vernacular language, English (rather than French or
Latin). However, several of Chaucer's contemporariesJohn Gower, William Langland, and
the Pearl Poetalso wrote major literary works in English, making it unclear how much
Chaucer was responsible for starting a trend rather than simply being part of it.

William Langland is the conjectured author of the 14th-century

English dream-vision Piers Plowman.
Piers Plowman (w. ca. 13601399) or Visio Willelmi de Petro
Ploughman (William's Vision of Piers Plowman) is the title of a
Middle English allegorical narrative by William Langland. It is
written in unrhymed alliterative verse divided into sections
called "passus" (Latin for "steps"). Piers is considered one of the
early great works of English literature. It is one of only a few Middle
English poems that can stand comparison with Chaucer's Canterbury
Tales. The poem part theological allegory, part social satire
concerns the narrator's intense quest for the true Christian life,
which is told from the point of view of the medieval Catholic mind.
This quest entails a series of dream-visions and an examination into
the lives of three allegorical characters, Dowel ("Do-Well"), Dobet
("Do-Better"), and Dobest ("Do-Best").

Le Morte d'Arthur is Sir Thomas Malory's compilation of some

French and English Arthurian romances. First published in 1485 by
William Caxton, Le Morte d'Arthur is perhaps the best-known work of
English-language Arthurian literature today.
. The motive forces are the elemental passions of love and bravery, jealousy and revenge,
never greed, or lust, or cruelty. Courage and the thirst for adventure are taken for granted, like
the passion for the chase, and, against a brilliant and moving throng jof the brave and fair, a
few conceptions are made to stand forth as exceptionala Lancelot, a Tristram, or a Mark.
Perhaps most skilful of all is the restraint exercised in the portrayal of Arthur. Neither a hero
of hard knocks nor an effective practical monarch, he is not to be assigned to any known type,
but remains the elusive centre of the magical panorama.


Italy gave it birth and it gradually spread beyond the Alps into
Germany, France and England. In the end it created, almost
imperceptibly, a cosmopolitan republic where Erasmus, by universal
consent, ruled as chief..
The enthusiasts of the classical renascence, who had spent time and pains in mastering the
secrets of style of the literary artists of antiquity, were somewhat disdainful of their mother
tongues. They were inclined to believe that cultured thought could only find fit expression
in the apt words, deft phrases and rhythmical cadences, of the revived language of ancient
Rome. They preferred to write in Latin, and the use of the common speech of their
cosmopolitan republic gave them an audience in all parts of educated Europe.
Nevertheless, the classical renascence had a powerful effect in moulding the literary
languages of modern Europe and in enriching them with graces of style and expression. Its
influence was so pervading and impalpable that it worked like leaven, almost
imperceptibly, yet really and potently.

Saint Thomas More (7 February 1478 6 July 1535), was an English lawyer, author, and
statesman and Catholic martyr. During his lifetime he earned a reputation as a leading
humanist scholar . More coined the word "utopia", a name he gave to an ideal, imaginary
island nation whose political system he described in a book published in 1516. He is chiefly
remembered for his principled refusal to accept King Henry VIII's claim to be the supreme
head of the Church of England, a decision which ended his political career and led to his
execution as an English traitor and a Catholic martyr.
Had a reputation as a Christian humanist in continental Europe, and his friend Erasmus of
Rotterdam dedicated his masterpiece, In Praise of Folly, to him. Erasmus also described
More as a model man of letters in his communications with other European humanists. The
humanistic project embraced by Erasmus and Thomas More sought to reexamine and
revitalize Christian theology by studying the Bible and the writings of the Church Fathers in
the light of classical Greek tradition in literature and philosophy.

In 1515 More wrote his most famous and controversial work, Utopia, a book in which a
fictional traveller, Raphael Hythloday (whose surname means "dispenser of nonsense" in
Greek), describes the political arrangements of the imaginary island nation of Utopia (a play
on the Greek ou-topos, meaning "no place", and eu-topos, meaning "good place"). In the
book, More contrasts the contentious social life of Christian European states with the
perfectly orderly and reasonable social arrangements of the non-Christian Utopia, where
private property does not exist and almost complete religious toleration is practiced. Many
commentators have pointed out that Karl Marx's later vision of the ideal communist state
strongly resembles More's Utopia.
Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus (also Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam) (October 27,
probably 1466 July 12, 1536) was a Dutch humanist and theologian. Erasmus was a
classical scholar who wrote in a "pure" Latin style.
Although Erasmus remained a Roman Catholic throughout his lifetime, he harshly criticised
what he considered excesses of the Roman Catholic Church and even turned down a
Cardinalship when it was offered to him. He prepared new Latin and Greek editions of the
New Testament. Erasmus wrote The Praise of Folly, Handbook of a Christian Knight, and On
Civility in Children.Erasmus's best-known work was The Praise of Folly, (Latin: Moriae
Encomium) a satirical attack on the traditions of the Catholic Church and popular
superstitions, written in 1509 and published in 1511 and dedicated to his friend Sir Thomas
The Protestant Reformation was a movement in the 16th century to reform the Catholic
Church in Western Europe.
At first, as in the Middle Ages, schools conceal individuals, the same material is re-used and
authorship is difficult to settle. But, as in the cases of More and Tindale, the weight of wellknown names begins to be felt, and the printing press, fixing once for all the very words of a
writer, put an end to processes which had often hidden authorship. The needs of controversy

hastened the change, and individualism in literature began.