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Brit Lit Week 2 Notes

by: Alex Richardson

Brit Lit Week 2 Notes ENGL 3010

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Alex Richardson


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Notes on the beginnings of the Romance genre, the works of Marie de France, and describes each of the Pilgrim's in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.
British Literature I: Beginnings to 1700
Dr. Kevin Donovan
Class Notes
british literature, english, chaucer, Romance, marie de france, canterbury tales
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This 5 page Class Notes was uploaded by Alex Richardson on Thursday February 4, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to ENGL 3010 at a university taught by Dr. Kevin Donovan in Spring 2016. Since its upload, it has received 7 views.


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Date Created: 02/04/16
Brit Lit: Week 2 January 26  Romance o Initially applied to any work that was written in French vernacular. Later came to be associated with tales of love and adventure. o Romance was the principal narrative genre for late medieval readers.  Marie De France o Only thing that is known about this important poet is that her name is Marie and that she was born in France. o Marie’s work provides the basis of the “Breton Lay,” a poem of 600-1000 lines about love and chivalry, often involving magic.  Lanval o The story of a Knight from King Arthur’s court, named Lanval. Much is made about Lanval’s sadness. o Lanval travels out in the country, where his horse becomes frightened as they come to a stream. As he allows his horse to rest, he see’s two beautiful women approaching, who say they are on an errand for their mistress. o Lanval accompanies them to their mistress’ tent, that’s so lavishly adorned that it’s said Emperor’s would not be able to afford it. The woman inside is described as even more beautiful. o The Mistress claims that she has come in search of a true love, and that if Lanval can prove himself worthy, he will be granted happiness without measure. On sight, Lanval falls in love with the mistress, and pledges to do whatever she asks. They sleep together, saying that he will never need to wish for anything, and that her only price is that he tell no one of her or their love. o He leaves, and she tells him that if he ever wants to see her again, he only needs to think of a pure place, and she will appear. o Upon his return, Lanval becomes very generous. The queen see’s Lanval through a window and goes to him, confessing her love to him. Lanval denies her, and she becomes angry, accusing him of being a degenerate. o Lanval loses his temper, and defends himself by mentioning the Mistress, saying that even her handmaidens are more lovely than the queen. Naturally, the queen does not take this well. o When Arthur returns, the queen lies, telling him that Lanval tried to seduce her. Arthur is furious, and says that unless Lanval can defend himself, he shall be hanged. o Lanval tries to call to the Mistress, but she will not come, because he broke his promise and mentioned her. o Lanval is put to trial, and it is said that he will be acquitted if his beloved will step forward and defend him. Lanval is sure she will not come. o In the last moment, the lady comes forward. Lanval leaves town with her, and they are never seen again.  Chevrefoil 2 o Marie tells a story of a love so pure that it “caused them to suffer great distress about brought about their death on the very same day. o Tells the story of Tristan, who is in love with the wife of his uncle Mark, who is also the king. When the king finds out, he banishes Tristan, yet Tristan is willing to risk his life for the woman he loves. He travels undercover to Cornwall, where she lives. o Tristan receives word that the king is planning to call his barons to court. Tristan devises a plan to use this to see the queen. o Along the road, he writes his name on a tree so that, when the queen see’s it, she will know that he is there. o The queen stops, see’s Tristan, and there is great sadness when they are force to part. Tristan then composes a lay on his harp. January 28  Geoffrey Chaucer o Medieval society made much of the “three estates”: the Nobility, the Church, and the commoners. o An emerging middle class began to “blur the lines” in a highly caste driven society. o Chaucer was unique in that he actually moved up a caste in life. His working class father secured him a position as a pageboy in the courts, and grew within their ranks, eventually writing poetry for the court. 3 o Chaucer was also unique in that he made contact with the Italian Renaissance in a diplomatic mission, and was subsequently influenced by it.  The Canterbury Tales o A group of pilgrims are traveling to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Beckett of Canterbury. o The story begins with the coming of April.  Companions o The chivalrous knight, who embodies honor. o The son of the knight, a pretty, curly haired squire. He is 20 years old, and has a talent for music. o The Prioress, Madame Egientyne. Though she is not a noble, she goes great lengths to imitate their behavior. She speaks French, but in an English accent. She makes sure to eat very delicately. She loves animals, and “weeps” when one is hurt. She is described as pretty, despite a big forehead. She has the phrase “Amor vincit Omnia”- translated as “love conquers all”- inscribed on a brooch. o The Monk is handsome, loves to hunt, and owns many horses. He lives to have fun, and ignores the church’s taboo against “merriment”. o The Friar, who lives entirely off of begging. He offers “spiritual penance” to those who pay him, and has a good enough relationship with many tavern owners so that he gets free food and drink. However, the Friar looks down on more traditional beggars. o The Merchant, a fast talking man who thinks only of profits. He is very skilled at swindling his customers, yet also has to constantly hide that he is in debt. 4 o The Clerk is a scholar of philosophy at Oxford. He is said to “devour books the way other men devour food.” Very wise and very busy, yet even so, he likes to try and appear far busier than he actually is.  Prologue Conclusion o Chaucer apologizes to the audience for any possible offense that his characters might give, but promises that he can only truthfully report what they say and do. o The Host of the tavern comes to speak with the pilgrims. o Proposes a contest: each of the Pilgrims are to tell two stories on the way to Canterbury, and two on the way back. Whoever tells the best stories win a free meal, paid for by the other pilgrims. o The Host sets himself up as the guide. He will lead the Pilgrims on their journey, but if at any point, one of the Pilgrims disagrees with any of his directions, they are to pay him. o With the terms agreed upon, the Knight begins his tale.  5


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