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Sully-sur-Loire, a

medieval castle visited by

(among others) Joan of
Arc, Louis XIV

Notre-Dame church in
Orleans, France
Giotto Madonna and child
Middle Ages
Middle Ages/Medieval Period: 476 to 1453 C.E. Also known as the Dark Ages
"Middle Age: invented by Italian scholars in the early 15th Century. Until this
time it was believed there had been two periods in history, that of Ancient times
and that of the period later referred to as the "Dark Age.

Renaissance means rebirth
The humanistic revival of classical art, architecture, literature, and learning that
originated in Italy in the 14th century and later spread throughout Europe.
The period of this revival, roughly the 14th through the 16th century, marking the
transition from medieval to modern times.

Ancient Classical Period Middle Ages Renaissance
Medieval Period in a Historical Nutshell
Rome attacked in 476 C.E.
The beginning of the Middle Ages is often called the "Dark Ages
Fall of Greece and Rome
Life in Europe during the Middle Ages was very hard.
Very few people could read or write and nobody expected conditions to improve.
Only hope: strong belief in Christianity; heaven would be better than life on earth.
In contrast:
The Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa studied and improved on the
works of the ancient Greeks
Civilization flourished in sub-Saharan Africa, China, India, and the Americas.
Great change by about 1450
Columbus & America
literacy spread
scientists made great discoveries
artists created work that still inspires us today.
The Renaissance is the beginning of modern history.

The Renaissance
Middle Ages: General Timeline
476 C.E.
Fall of
1066 C.E.
invasion of
Dantes Divine
1386 C.E.
1455 C.E.
850 C.E.
900 C.E.
Fall of
Empire with
invasion of
Ottoman Turks
306 C.E.
comes to
power in
Eastern Roman
beginning of
450 C.E.
1375-1400 Sir
Gawain &
Green Knight
With the Fall of Rome..
Barbarian* tribes were seeping into Britain and Western European
Emperors became more like kings
Feudalism: involuntary peasant labor on lands not their own;
personal bonds and personal law beginning to replace impersonal
law common to large expanses of territory
Medieval Guilds
the Catholic Church, would provide spiritual and moral direction,
as well as leadership and material support, during the darkest
times of the early Medieval period.

Barbarian was originally a term applied to any foreigner, one not sharing a recognized
culture or degree of polish with the speaker or writer employing the term. The word derives
from the Greek, and expresses with mocking duplication ("bar-bar") alleged attempts by
outsiders to speak a "real" language.

Key Concepts of the Middle Ages

Feudalism: The
Middle Ages
social order
Church became deeply involved in government
Christianity provided the basis for a first European "identity,"
unified in a religion common to most of the continent until the
separation of Orthodox Churches from the Catholic Church in
Crusades: Popes, kings, and emperors unite and defend
Christendom from the perceived aggression of Islam
From the 7th century onward, Islam had been gaining ground
along Europe's southern and eastern borders.
Feudalism: system of loyalties and protections during the Middle Ages. As the
Roman Empire crumbled, emperors granted land to nobles in exchange for their
loyalty. These lands eventually developed into manors. A manor is the land
owned by a noble and everything on it. A typical manor consisted of a castle,
small village, and farmland.
During the Middle Ages, peasants could no longer count on the Roman army to
protect them. German, Viking and Magyar tribes overran homes and farms
throughout Europe.
Serfs would often have to work three or four days a week for the lord as rent.
They would spend the rest of their week growing crops to feed their families.
Other serfs worked as sharecroppers. A sharecropper would be required to turn
over most of what he grew in order to be able to live on the land.
Key facts about feudal society:
The absence of a strong central authority of government
Economy based on agriculture, with limited money exchange
The strength of the Church: Church had the right to a share (tithe) of society's
output as well as substantial landholdings. In return, the church was obligated
with specific authority and responsibility for moral and material welfare.

The Church
Christianity became the universal faith of almost all of the people
of Europe.
The Church was often the only way to get an education.
It also allowed poor people to escape a dreary life and possibly rise to
Religious workers are called clergy.
In the Middle Ages, the Pope ruled the Christian Church. Other clergy
included bishops, priests, nuns, and monks.
Monks: men who lived in monasteries, or small communities of
religious workers.
devoted their lives to prayer
Monasteries produced many well-educated men prepared to serve as
administrators for uneducated kings and lords.
Monks were responsible for keeping the Greek and Latin classical
cultures alive. Monks copied books by hand in an era before the printing
press. Though few in number, monks played a significant role in the Middle

Medieval Literature
Beowulf is the oldest surviving epic poem in what
is identifiable as a form of the English language.
(The oldest surviving text in English is Caedmon's
hymn of creation.) The precise date of the
manuscript is debated, but most estimates place it
close to AD 1000.
The story came to England at a time when the
Germanic peoples were still part of the same
cultural sphere and spoke what really were just
dialects of the same language.
It is known only from a single manuscript, kept in
the British Library. The manuscript suffered some
irreversible damage in a fire in 1731.
The manuscript was written in Old English. Some
Old English words and sounds closely resemble
modern English. Today most readers read a
version of the poem translated into modern
Beowulf is an Anglo-Saxon epic poem which relates the adventures of
Beowulf, a Scandinavian hero who saves the Danes from the seemingly
invincible monster Grendel and, later, from Grendel's mother.
He then returns to his own country, Geatland, and dies in old age in a vivid
fight against a dragon. The poem is about encountering the monstrous,
defeating it, and then having to live on in the exhausted aftermath.
Map: The Geography of Beowulf
As a Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University,
J.R.R. Tolkien probably taught Beowulf every year of his
working life
His scholarly paper, Beowulf: The Monsters and the
Critics brought studies of the poem to the forefront of the
academic world
Tolkien's imagined world of Arda owes something of it's
creation to Beowulf: Beowulf is among my most valued
sources (Letters, no.25).
Tolkien used Beowulf in creating his own works and
adopting the good vs. evil archetype. Just as our modern
English language is based on the ancient English, Tolkien
used Old English words in his creation of names.
Tolkien included almost 50 Anglo-Saxon words or phrases
from Beowulf in his works.
The Canterbury Tales
Englishman Geoffrey Chaucer wrote The
Canterbury Tales, a collection of stories in a
frame story, between 1387 and 1400.
Story about of a group of thirty people who
travel as pilgrims to Canterbury (England). The
pilgrims, who come from all layers of society,
tell stories to each other to kill time while they
travel to Canterbury.
Chaucer intended that each pilgrim should tell
two tales on the way to Canterbury and two tales
on the way back. He never finished his
enormous project and even the completed tales
were not finally revised. Scholars are uncertain
about the order of the tales. As the printing press
had yet to be invented when Chaucer wrote his
works, The Canterbury Tales has been passed
down in several handwritten manuscripts.
The Canterbury Tales is written in Middle

Canterbury Tales

1 Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
When April with its sweet-smelling showers
2 The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
Has pierced the drought of March to the root,
3. And bathed every veyne in swich licour
And bathed every vein (of the plants) in such
4. Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
By the power of which the flower is created;
5. Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
When the West Wind also with its sweet breath,
6. Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
In every holt and heath, has breathed life into
7. The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
The tender crops, and the young sun
8. Hath in the Ram his half cours yronne,
Has run its half course in Aries,
9. And smale foweles maken melodye,
And small fowls make melody,
10 That slepen al the nyght with open ye
Those that sleep all the night with open eyes
11 (So priketh hem Nature in hir corages),
(So Nature incites them in their hearts),
12 Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
Then folk long to go on pilgrimages,
13 And palmeres for to seken straunge
And professional pilgrims (long) to seek
foreign shores,
14 To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
To (go to) distant shrines, known in various lands;
15 And specially from every shires ende
And specially from every shire's end
16 Of Engelond to Caunterbury they wende,
Of England to Canterbury they travel,
17 The hooly blisful martir for to seke,
To seek the holy blessed martyr,
18 That hem hath holpen whan that they were
Who helped them when they were sick.

The Canterbury Tales
Chaucer began work on The
Canterbury Tales about 1387
and intended for each of his thirty
pilgrims to tell four tales, two while
traveling to Canterbury and two while
traveling from Canterbury.
However, only twenty-three pilgrims
received a story before Chaucer's death
in 1400.
Chaucer's Tales gained mass
popularity the early fifteenth
all of humanity moves through
its pages.
Presents humor, at once friendly
and satirical.
This facsimile is the first reproduction
ever made of this manuscript,
considered a prime authority for
the text of The Canterbury Tales.
Canterbury Tales
A rich, tapestry of medieval social life
combining elements of all classes, from nobles to workers, from priests and
nuns to drunkards and thieves.
When The Canterbury Tales were written:
Christianity was the dominant social force throughout western Europe,
including England.
In 1388, while Chaucer was working on the tales, a change occurred in the
way that Christianity was perceived and practiced when John Wycliffe, an
English reformer,
released a version of the Bible translated into English. For the first time,
people from the lower classes, who had not been educated in Latin, could
read the Bible themselves instead of having its word interpreted to them by
members of the clergy.
Canterbury Tales
The General Prologue consists of character sketches of each member of the
group that is going to Canterbury, as described by Chaucer, who is also a
character in his own novel. Any other characters in The Canterbury Tales are
created by one of the pilgrims, in stories within the novel. Therefore, these
lesser characters are so numerous, that it is counter-productive to give them a
character sketch.
Since the General Prologue and the main characters overlap almost completely,
the character summaries will be combined with the General Prologue, but
elaborated on by use of other parts of the text.
Chaucer: He is a character in his own novel, and
he writes in the first person as an outside
observer traveling with the pilgrims on their
way to Canterbury.
Canterbury Tales- some of the characters
The Knight: a warrior who relies on the code of chivalry.
Represents the romanticized standards of the feudal system
The Prioress: A nun, named Madame Eglantine. She makes
every effort to be refined and elegant, and she cannot bear to see
any harm come to any of Gods lesser creatures, like mice.
However, when it is her turn to tell a story, hers is violent and
full of blood and sorrow.
The Merchant: The merchant is obsessed with his wealth, and
talks about money constantly.
The Wife of Bath: A well-traveled middle-aged woman who has
been married five times, not counting other lovers she did not
marry. She has a large amount of knowledge from experience,
and when she questions the authority of the bible, she does it
with a very good background from which to debate it.
Poor Priest: lived truly poor and in the service of God. An
example of how a traditional priest should live in Chaucers
time, following the life of Christ.
The Miller: a large and strong man, and is one of the best at
telling vulgar stories.
The Pardoner: A clergyman who is outwardly corrupt. His main
motivating factor was money, and so if the sinner had the gold,
the Pardoner would favor the sinner and help pardon him.

Canterbury Tales: The Retraction
Chaucer concludes his tales with praise to Jesus Christ. "Now
preye I to hem alle that herkne thai litel tretys or / rede, that if
ther be any thyng in it that liketh hem, that / therof they thanken
oure Lord Jesu Crist, of whom procedeth / al wit and al
goodnesse" (Chaucer's Retraction, l.1-4).
He adds that if anyone does not understand these tales, then it is
due to his ignorance and not his intention, which was to fully
capture the goodness of Christ in tale. He requests pardon from
Christ for any problems there may be with the text.
He hopes to be granted mercy and kindness so that he may
ascend to heaven at his time and concludes the long tales of
Canterbury with this final line: "So that I may been oon of / hem
at the day of doome that shulle be saved. Qui cum patre,
&cetera." Chaucer's Retraction, l.29-30

King Arthurian Legend
Arthurian legend has become the mirror of the ideal of medieval
knighthood and chivalry. Arthur:
Was the illegitimate son of Uther Pendragon, king of Britain
Became king of Britain by successfully withdrawing a sword from a
Possessed the miraculous sword Excalibur , given to him by the
mysterious Lady of the Lake .
Arthur's enemies: sister Morgan le Fay and his nephew Mordred.
Morgan le Fay was usually represented as an evil sorceress,
scheming to win Arthur's throne for herself.
Mordred (or Modred) was variously Arthur's nephew or his son by
his sister Morgawse.
He seized Arthur's throne during the king's absence.
Later he was slain in battle by Arthur, but not before he had fatally
wounded the king.
Most invincible knights in Arthur's realm: Sir Tristram and Sir Launcelot of the Lake.
Sir Gawain, Arthur's nephew, who appeared variously as the ideal of knightly courtesy and as the
bitter enemy of Launcelot.
After 1225 no significant medieval Arthurian literature was produced on the Continent.
In England, however, the legend continued to flourish. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (c.1370),
one of the best Middle English romances, embodies the ideal of chivalric knighthood.
The last important medieval work dealing with the Arthurian legend is the Morte d'Arthur of Sir
Thomas Malory , whose tales have become the source for most subsequent Arthurian material.
Sir Gawain & The Green Knight (ca 1370)
This poem tells the story of Gawain, a knight and member
of King Arthurs Round Table
A perfect example of the idealism and romanticism of
Plot Overview
During a New Years Eve feast at King
Arthurs court, a strange figure, referred to
only as the Green Knight, pays the court an
unexpected visit.
challenges the groups leader or any other brave
representative to a game: The Green Knight says
that he will allow whomever accepts the challenge
to strike him with his own axe, on the condition
that the challenger find him in exactly one year to
receive a blow in return.
Arthur hesitates to respond, but when the
Green Knight mocks Arthurs silence, the
king steps forward to take the challenge.

Dante Alighieri- The Divine Comedy (written
from 1306 to 1321)
The Divine Comedy, by Dante Alighieri, is comprised of 3
Inferno the most widely read section
Dante describes a journey through Hell from the entrance at the
lowest and less harsh level.
His companion for the travel is Virgil, a mentor and protector.
Constructed as a huge funnel with nine descending circular ledges
Dantes Hell carefully categorizes sinners according to the nature
of their sins.
Those who recognize and repudiate their sins are given a change to
purify themselves in Purgatorio, the second of three segments in
the poem. Therefore, Dante feels Hell is a necessary, painful first
step of any mans spiritual journey.
The Divine Comedy is in no way a comedic literary work.
Dante himself simply called this work "Comedy." because the
poem is a optimistic process from Hell toward Heaven, or from
worse to better.
Dantes Life
Born in Florence, Italy, in 1265. His family was considered part of the lesser
The death of one of his childhood friends a turning point in his life.
At the age of nine, Dante was introduced to Beatrice Portinari in 1274.
According to studies by Boccacio, her death in 1290 propelled him to begin an
intensive study in the philosophical works of Boethius, Cicero, and Aristotle.
Beatrice is alluded to in several of his other works but specifically The Divine
Comedy where she is commemorated as the ideal lady who guides him to
redemption in Paradiso.
Dante became increasingly involved with politics. He was elected as one of the
six offices of president of the Florentine Guilds in 1300.
After a coup in 1313, Dante fled Florence and lost hope of ever returning. He
remained in Verona and a year later moved to Revenna where he died in 1321.
Although Dante is most famous for his poem The Divine Comedy, he also
wrote some other highly influential works. These include a collection of early
poems published in La Vita Nuova (c. 1293; The New Life). Written in
commemoration of Beatrices death, The New Life was a new, innovative
approach to love poetry and equates love with a mystical and spiritual
Structure of Inferno
As part of this work, Dante put real-life and
mythological figures in the Inferno based on what he
saw were their sins, making this work a political and
social commentary
He organized the work into Cantos, or short chapters,
much like Homers uses books in creating The
The sinners in the nine circles of hell are guilty of one of
three types of sin:
Incontinence: losing control of natural appetites and desires
Brutishness: attraction to things which repulse the healthy soul
Malice / Vice: abuse of reason, a human's most god-like
Structure of Inferno- Some Examples
Canto Region Sin People Punishment
Circle 7 Violent Against
neighbors &
fellow men;
murderers, war
Alexander the
Attila the Hun
Submerged in hot blood,
Guarded by centaurs, who
shoot any soul which
attempts to rise
Evil counselors Ulysses/
Concealed in flames
Round 3

Traitors to lords
and benefactors;
those who set out
to destroy the
rightful God
Judas, Brutus,
At the center of the Earth,
completely submerged in
ice. The three ultimate
traitors are held in
Lucifer's three mouths.
Lucifer's three wings send
forth freezing blasts of
impotence, ignorance and
Salvador Dalis Work inspired by Inferno
Canto 26-27
Evil counselors


Middle Ages: General Timeline
476 C.E.
Fall of
1066 C.E.
invasion of
Dantes Divine
1386 C.E.
100 Years War
France & England
1455 C.E.
850 C.E.
900 C.E.
Fall of
Empire with
invasion of
Ottoman Turks
306 C.E.
comes to
power in
Eastern Roman
beginning of
450 C.E.
1375-1400 Sir
Gawain &
Green Knight
Medieval Movie Clip
King Arthur Clip