16Th Century Poetry


16Th Century Poetry Essay, Research Paper

Part I:

1. Name three of the Germanic tribes that brought to England the dialects that make up the basis of the language we now call Old English.

The Germanic tribes that brought the dialects were the Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes.

2. Give an example from Beowulf of three of the following poetic devices: alliteration, the kenning, variation (repetition of appositives), or the litote (understatement).

There are several examples of alliteration in lines 3079-3084, “Nothing we advised could ever convince the prince we loved, our land’s guardian, not to vex the custodian of the gold, let him lie where he was long accustomed, lurk there under earth until the end of the world. He held to his high destiny.”

I found lines 427-429 to be a good use of the caesura, “And so, my request, O king of Bright-Danes, dear prince of the Shieldings, friend of the people and their ring of defense”.

The author used the kenning several times in the sentence on lines 647-651, “He realized that the demon was going to descend on the hall, that he had plotted all day, from dawn-light until darkness gathered again over the world and stealthy night-shapes came stealing forth under the cloud-murk.” He used dawn-light to mean morning or dusk, night-shapes to mean demons, and cloud-murk to mean fog.

3. Name three epic conventions and tell in what way each is used in Beowulf.

Beowulf certainly consist of an epic journey by which Beowulf travels by sea from southern Sweden, home of the Geats, to Zealand, home of the Danes. It involves single-handed combat, “I hereby renounce sword and the shelter of the broad shield, the heavy war-board: hand-to-hand is how it will be,” lines 436-439. It also involved someone who was not an ordinary man, “There was no one else like him alive. In his day, he was the mightiest man on earth,” lines 196-197.

4. Name some of the types of literature Chaucer uses in The Canterbury Tales. Tell what types of literature three of the Prologues and Tales assigned for the course represent.

The romance, the sermon, and the confession are all types of literature that Chaucer uses. The Pardoner’s Prologue and The Wife of Bath’s Prologue are examples of the confession. An example of the sermon is found in The Pardoner’s Tale. The Wife of Bath’s Tale is a good example of the romance.

5. Chaucer is a master of irony. Give one example of his use of each of these three types of irony: verbal, dramatic, and situational. The examples may come from any of the Chaucer selections assigned.

Chaucer uses verbal irony describing the Summoner in The General Prologue in line 650, “A better felawe sholde men nought finde”, saying that the Summoner is a good man when he truly thinks of him as a sinner.

Part I:

6. What military event, which took place in what year, made French the most widely used written language in England for over 150 years?

The Norman Conquest of 1066.

7. Why is the Knight on the pilgrimage? How does Chaucer indicate this?

The knight was on the pilgrimage for fun. Chaucer indicated this by telling of the knight just coming from a voyage of battle, and he now does not wear his armor.

8. In what century did the Germanic tribes whose dialects form the basis of Old English arrive in England?

In the fifth century, between 450 and 600 A.D.

9. In what month did the pilgrimage described in The Canterbury Tales take place? Who wore “a brooch of gold ful sheene, / On which ther was first writen a crowned A, / And after, Amor vincit omnia”? Who was “The holy blissful martyr…That hem hath holpen whan that they were seke”? Who said, “I preche of no thing but for coveitise”?

The pilgrimage takes place in April after the drought of March had broken. The Nonne, a Prioresse, wore the “brooch of gold ful sheene.” St. Thomas ? Becket was the “holy blissful martyr.” It is The Pardoner who says “I preche of no thing bur for convetise”.

10. Of whom is it said, “Ther nas no man nowher so vertuous; He was the beste beggere in his hous”? Of whom is it said, “But greet harm was it, as it thoughte me, That on his shine a mormal hadde he,?” Of whom is it said, “And for to festne his hood under his chin / He hadde of gold wrought a ful curious pin; / A love-knotte in the grettere ende ther was”? Who had “a thumb of gold”? Of whom is it said, “And gladly wolde he lerne, and gladly teche”?

The Frere is regarded as “the beste beggere in his hous”. The cook is referred to as the one with a “mormal” on his head. The monk is said to have a pin of gold. The Millere had a thumb of gold. The clerk, a student at Oxford, was willing to learn and teach.

11. What character brought along little dogs (”small hounds”) on the pilgrimage? Of whom is it said, “He hadde a paire / Of legges and feet so clene and faire / That al myn herte I gave unto his hoold”? Of whom is it said, “He was a gentil harlot and a kinde; / A bettre felawe sholde men nought finde”?

The monk brought along his greyhounds. Janekin the clerk was said to have “feet so clene and faire”. The Somnour is thought to be “a gentil horlot”.

12. In whose armor did Sir Lancelot arm himself in Queen Guinevere’s chamber?

He wore Sir Colgrevance’s armor after he killed him with a blow to the head.

13. Who was in the barge in which Sir Bedivere placed King Arthur?

His half-sister, Queen Morgause was one of the three ladies in the barge.

Part I:

14. Identify the following: Sir Mordred, Sir Gaheris, Joyous Garde.

Sir Mordred is the only knight that survived during the attack on Lancelot while he was visiting Guinevere. He is a manipulative person only out for his own gain and helped instigate the attack on Lancelot. It is said that he later betrays King Arthur. Sir Gaheris is one of the two unarmed knights that is slain by Lancelot during the rescue of Guinevere. His death causes Sir Gawain to lust for revenge and turn against Lancelot, who he held in the highest regard. Joyous Garde is Lancelot’s castle in England that he and Guinevere retreat to after her rescue.

15. What vocation did Sir Lancelot follow at the end of his life?

Following Guinevere’s example of entering a nunnery, Sir Lancelot enters into priesthood.

Part II:

1. “The attitudes toward life of the authors of Beowulf and The Canterbury Tales differ greatly.” Discuss this statement, including in your discussion your opinion as to which author has the more affirmative view of life.

It is apparent through reading Beowulf and The Canterbury Tales that the authors had distinctly different perceptions of life or at least different ideas of the impressions of life that they wanted to convey to the readers. This is likely due to what we know about the authors. Chaucer had the fortune to be raised in a middle class family and mingled with people of all sorts from various lands, speaking many languages. He was around every class of person from the lowest peasant to the most noble. This variety gives him a more direct approach to writing about life by giving his representation of how each character would be if they truly existed. On the other hand, the author of Beowulf is widely believed to be a Christian, and possibly a Christian priest. Being a priest in this time would limit his access to the different social classes that existed, so he wrote in a more indirect approach towards life. Although he did not see the different social classes, by being a Christian and/or Priest, he was likely able to associate with people that he could relate to, such as the ones who did not believe in Christianity or simply did not know. The situations that both authors were in gave both of them an excellent perspective on the characters that they were writing about. Chaucer included characters from all classes except the nobility, which is indicative of the classes he was welcomed into by the participants. The author of Beowulf is dedicated to serving his God and it is acceptable to believe that he spent a great deal of time with people that did not share his views. He makes sure to state in lines 180-183 that the characters do not know who hid God is, so the characters that he wrote about would not be that far different than the people he associated with in his life. In my opinion, both authors did an excellent job of conveying life at that time based on how life was presented to them. I do feel that Chaucer has the more affirmative view of life simply because he has more knowledge of it. He was able to see the many facets of the classes of his time, and because of that he was able to give a more accurate description medieval life.

Part II:

2. Discuss one of the two following statements with reference to the selections from Morte Darthur and Beowulf assigned: 1) In the epic, men are presented as women would like for them to be, while in the Romance, women are presented as men would like for them to be. 2) In the epic, women are presented as men would like for them to be, while in the Romance, men are presented as women would like for them to be.

Epics are stories that almost all men are enthralled with, and fantasize about being involved with the resolution of. Every aspect of the epic hero is what men wish that they are, and more importantly how others view them. This fantasy of being the epic hero also reflects their views on women, that they would like them to act like the women presented to us in the epic stories. Women in the epics basically put men on a pedestal and treat them as if they are extremely important in their society and deserve special treatment because the man’s role is more important than the woman’s. Of course the women do not truly believe this, but they still do perform these actions and make the men feel most important. In lines 612-641 of Beowulf, the author describes Wealhtheow, the queen. He conveys her actions in all of the ways that men, then and now, would like women to treat them. She comes in serving all of them drinks all the while telling them how great they are; yet you could still sense the confidence and regality she had while performing the task. In Morte Darthur the roles were completely different. Most men are portrayed as chivalrous, passionate beings that thought of women as more than objects there for their own personal use. The romance displays a very different type of hero than the epic, one that women would like men to be like. From our readings of Morte Darthur, there are two passages that exemplify this. The first, on pages 425-426, where the knights find Lancelot and Guinevere together in her chamber, and Lancelot fights them all to protect her and vows to come back and save her should the king try to execute her. The second, on page 427, when Lancelot came to save the queen, rushing through the mass of onlookers and attacking all that were between them so blindly that he killed two of his good friends. I think women want to believe that men are like that, to always be there to save them under any circumstance. It’s just my opinion, but I consider the epic to display women how men would like them to be, and the romance displays men how women would like them to be.

Part II:

3. Why is the Pardoner on the pilgrimage? How is this reason (or these reasons) made clear?

The Pardoner is on this pilgrimage simply for the purpose of making money. He and the Summoner are riding together and they can travel wherever they wish, by the order of the church. There two positions work together very well, the Summoner looks for sinners and the Pardoner will dissolve your sins for money. In line 694 of The General Prologue, “Bretful of pardon, come from Rome al hoot”, the Host lets us know that the Pardoner has just come from Rome with his newest batch of pardons. His intent is to travel with this group and sell his pardons to anyone who wishes to purchase them. A pilgrimage of holy people traveling to a holy land, should supply him with plenty of willing people to sell his pardons to, although the pilgrims he is traveling with are unlikely sales since he honestly tells them of is misdeeds and selling imitation relics. Lines 113-118 of The Pardoners Prologue show that all he is concerned with is that his sermons convince people that they should pay for his pardons, because the money they pay he is going to keep. Had the host not made fun of the Pardoner when he was taunted, the Pardoner would have gladly taken any offering from his fellow travelers. He admits on lines 101-102 that he has made 100 marks every year since he has been pardoner selling his imitation relics. Since he does not work for the good of the Church or man, his only reason to be on this journey is to find as many people as possible that are ignorant enough to buy his fake relics

Part III:

Seamus Heaney, who wrote the translation of Beowulf that we read in our text, wrote this article. He begins giving the history of Beowulf, it was written between the 7th and 10th century and it over 3000 lines long. He tells us that the land of the Geats is present day Scandinavia. It is interesting to find out that only one manuscript of Beowulf exists today, and it is located at the British Library. He gives a brief description of the passages of Beowulf that is contained in our text. He notes that scholars have been studying all aspects of Beowulf for a long time trying to determine when it was written and to use it as a historical reference of the countries mentioned in the story. J.R.R. Tolkien receives credit for his book about Beowulf because it changed the way people viewed the poem and the author’s intent when writing it. Mr. Heaney then goes on to give a detailed description of why new readers of this poem will likely have trouble reading and understanding it. He goes on to describe about how the author tells of the dragon, and he shows great enthusiasm and excitement about the way the author chose to do so.

Mr. Heaney was offered to translate Beowulf in the 1980’s, and he accepted. His excitement soon turned into disenchantment due to the difficult task and slow process of the translation. He took a break from the job and thought about quitting, but he soon went back. By using some of his Irish background, he was able to translate the words that used symbols we no longer use by noticing how the word had evolved. He gives a description and examples of why he sometimes does not follow the rules that the original author used when writing the poem.


Heaney, Seamus. “Seamus Heaney on Beowulf and His Verse Translation.” http://www.wwnorton.com/nael/beowulf/ Norton Topics Online.

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