Middle English literature is a term used to describe works of literature written in English during the period between 1100 and 1500 AD The English language changed significantly during this period, making it difficult to distinguish Middle English works from those written in more modern English. Many of the works of the Middle English period remain the most influential and widely studied of English literature.
One of the most famous examples of Middle English literature is The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, written around 1387. This collection of stories is a humorous and often ironic portrayal of medieval life and its characters. The tales contain stories on a variety of topics such as love, war, religion, and social customs. The structure of the stories allows Chaucer to explore multiple themes and ideas within the same work.
The Pearl is a poem written by an anonymous author in the late 14th century. It is a dream-vision poem in which the narrator has a vision of a river of pearls that leads him to a garden of wonders. The poem is full of religious symbolism and explores themes of mortality, sorrow, and joy.
Another important Middle English work is Piers Plowman by William Langland, written in the 14th century. This allegorical poem examines medieval society and the social and spiritual values of the time. The poem follows the narrator’s journey as he encounters various characters who illustrate the corruption and vice of the time.
The Romance of the Rose is an allegorical romance poem written by Guillaume de Lorris in the early 13th century. The poem presents a series of fables and dreams in which a knight searches for the perfect rose. The poem is full of symbolism and explores ideas of courtly love, chivalry, and religious devotion.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a poem written in the late 14th century. The poem tells the story of Sir Gawain and his quest to defeat the Green Knight. The poem is full of symbolism and explores themes of courage, honor, and loyalty.
The Morte d’Arthur is a collection of stories written by Thomas Malory in the late 15th century. The stories are a re-telling of the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. The collection of stories explores the ideals of chivalry and courtly love while examining the perils of ambition and pride.
These five works of Middle English literature provide a valuable insight into the culture, beliefs, and values of the time and remain some of the greatest works of English literature. They are all important examples of the breadth of Middle English literature and their influence continues to shape literature and culture today.