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Ch 2: Medieval Literature

About This Chapter

Watch our video lessons and learn how to read and understand Medieval literature. Delve into the meanings and characters of several literary works written during the Medieval Middle Ages.

The lessons in this chapter provide examples of famous literary works written during the Medieval Middle Ages. You'll start with an overview of Medieval literature, including how to read Old and Middle English and how to understand the historical context of Medieval stories and writing. You'll then apply that knowledge as you learn about the following literary works:

  • Beowulf
  • The Canterbury Tales
  • The Knight's Tale
  • The Wife of Bath's Tale
  • The Miller's Tale
  • Dante's Divine Comedy

You'll find these lessons comprehensive yet short and easy to understand, whether you're studying for a literature test, looking for a study aid to help with homework, or just learning about Medieval literature for the fun of it. To make sure you understand the essential elements of the lessons, take the brief quiz found within each lesson. If you still want more information about a point in a lesson or have questions about what you've learned, submit a note to our instructors, who are experts in Medieval literature.

7 Lessons in Chapter 2: Medieval Literature
Test your knowledge with a 30-question chapter practice test
Introduction to Medieval Literature: Old English, Middle English, and Historical Context

1. Introduction to Medieval Literature: Old English, Middle English, and Historical Context

We'll go over some quick medieval history to situate some of the major literary works of the time period. We're going from Caedmon and Beowulf, writing in Old English, all the way up to Sir Thomas Malory's collections of the Arthur myths in late Middle English.

Beowulf: Story, Characters, and Old English

2. Beowulf: Story, Characters, and Old English

In this lesson, we'll take a look at the Old English epic, Beowulf. We'll explore what happens, how it's written and why it has such a lasting legacy.

Introduction to Chaucer: Middle English and the Canterbury Tales

3. Introduction to Chaucer: Middle English and the Canterbury Tales

In this lesson, we'll introduce medieval writer Geoffrey Chaucer. We'll take a look at his life, his most famous works, including 'The Canterbury Tales,' and we'll spend some time learning how to read Middle English.

The Canterbury Tales General Prologue: Style, Structure, and Characters

4. The Canterbury Tales General Prologue: Style, Structure, and Characters

In this lesson, we'll go over the General Prologue to Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. We'll take a look at some of the most interesting pilgrims and establish the frame narrative for the rest of the work.

The Knight's Tale and the Wife of Bath's Tale: Two Approaches to Chivalric Romance

5. The Knight's Tale and the Wife of Bath's Tale: Two Approaches to Chivalric Romance

In this lesson, we'll outline some of the key features of the medieval genre of chivalric romance. Then we'll talk about two very different tales that are examples of this genre: The Knight's Tale and the Wife of Bath's Tale.

The Miller's Tale: Chaucer's Fabulous Fabliau

6. The Miller's Tale: Chaucer's Fabulous Fabliau

In this lesson we'll talk about the medieval genre of fabliau, which is full of wonderfully low-brow humor. We'll also discuss the plot of the Miller's Tale, a fabliau about a carpenter and his straying wife.

Dante's Divine Comedy and the Growth of Literature in the Middle Ages

7. Dante's Divine Comedy and the Growth of Literature in the Middle Ages

Dante Alighieri was a poet and philosopher from Florence during a time of political unrest. This article explores one of his most well-known poems and its impact on literature and Italian society.

Chapter Practice Exam
Test your knowledge of this chapter with a 30 question practice chapter exam.
Not Taken
Practice Final Exam
Test your knowledge of the entire course with a 50 question practice final exam.
Not Taken

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