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



all right so welcome to the compiled and crazy world of medieval literature I got you know I got dragons you got King Arthur we got Knights I got some more dragons it's pretty awesome I don't know about like I played with that Lego castle constantly and I would like design booby traps that were kind of like you know dumping stuff on people coming through the portcullis like I was obsessed with this stuff and you should be too and you should get yourself really exciting about all that stuff here so I'm really excited and that should help you get through what's kind of can be frustrating but also rewarding medieval literature right so we're going to start naturally with the early Middle Ages and this basically starts from right about when like when the Romans clear out and about 400 AD and the Romans have been hanging out there since like I don't know 50 ad or so and there's actually a lot of stuff in Britain it's got you know that's Rome and stuff like there's this town called bath and it's actually named after a Roman bath that was there and actually still is there you can still go and look at it it's kind of cool and that's that's the Romans so yeah so they clear out right again around like you know for 400 AD and there's kind of a period of chaos and like figuring out who should be in charge of stuff and then we get the Normans come in and they're invading from France and that's William the Conqueror's the guy who's associated with them and he comes in and he he conquers um you can kind of remember him because conquers things and this kind of scoots this long into what's known as the High Middle Ages um it's not you know it's not that kind of high it's just it's just high like like the big ones I don't know the late ones and I'm and that's kind of all the stuff that you might have seen like in Robin hood-like you know like King John and Richard the Lionheart soph at the Crusades I mean they weren't animals but they they were real um and that's that's kind of that period that's around you know 1150 1215 like that kind of time and then we kind of head into when you got the Black Plague the Black Death around 1350 and that was like you know I think you probably have heard of that you know tons of people died and stuff got crazy like there were these doctors that would go around but beaks on their nose to keep out the vapor like it was weird stuff and then a little bit you know kind of around that time a little bit after their fighting the Hundred Years War in France and that lasts for about a hundred years that's 1337 to 1453 and and then we're kind of moving out of the Middle Ages in 1485 the tutors take the throne and then we're kind of on our way into the Renaissance and that's the end of the Middle Ages um and you should can I advocate this watch the tutors you know don't believe it but watch it um anyway side note but uh so now it's not we've kind of laid out sort of the basic sweep and that was a lot of stuff we covered and for put like a long period of time kind of laid out the general sweep of things um it's time to figure out you know who was writing and what were they writing and there were a lot of people writing and they wrote a lot um but there actually weren't you know per capita there weren't a lot of people actually writing I suppose because not a lot of people were literate um and that's actually in a lot of cases you know like people associated with the church they could read people who were kind of you know highborn could probably read um but most things you know they couldn't really survive a lot of sort of oral tradition type things couldn't really survive unless you know someone who was literate wrote them down and that's actually what's the case and the first kind of piece of medieval that we're going to talk about it's called cavemens him and it's it's the earliest recorded poem in in Old English all Old English is just you know it's got English in it but you aren't going to be able to read it if you try it's it's super old obviously from the name and it's it's pretty far removed from from modern English it's a foreign language basically to us the asset came in himself he was illiterate so he was this was sort of composed you know in in an oral kind of way and it had it got written down by a guy named the venerable bead and around this around the 7th century AD and and he wrote down in Latin is that's the reason why we have it is because this you know literate guy wrote it down and just kind of a few things about about it is um it's composed in something that's called alliterative verse which is kind of an interesting thing it's like instead of rhyming basically in order to structure the poetry what they do is they have a bunch of the words and the same in a given line start with the same letter so I mean you probably heard of alliteration or like the the angry alligator ate Andy like it's basically that but in in poetry and again it's sort of instead of a rhyme structure they have this alliterative structure and need to eat each line in this hymn it's also got a it's also got a scissor ax which is basically just a break in the middle of the line so a lot of pause in the middle of each of each line um and you know to him it like modern hymns it was just it was about praising God that's cavemens him um so moving right along next we've got Beowulf which we will have a whole lesson on but we're going to give a little you know brief overview now and you know caimans him we know that the guide and cave and wrote it because that's what we call it but Beowulf we don't actually know who wrote it so it's it's anonymous we don't don't know the dude wrote Beowulf um it's actually you know it's quite similar in some ways to cavemens him a lot of Old English poetry does that alliterative verse and scissor a thing but it's also really really long so that's quite different in that respect um and it's actually it's called an epic that's that's the curved classification of Beowulf and it's about guiding Beowulf who goes to help out this guy named froth gar who's the king of the names such as Denmark basically but a long time ago um and Beowulf comes he kills Grendel who's been terrorizing their mead hall who not the mead hall it's like where they hang out and drink and then and then Beowulf oh sorry Grendel's mom comes and like takes revenge and Beowulf goes and kills her he goes home and becomes king of his people and ends up fighting a dragon and then he dies kind of a noble hero's death um and that this us for the very brief summary Beowulf um and but this kind of interesting thing about Beowulf there's sort of a lot of debate about whether it was you know passed down in the oral tradition for a while and then written down or whether it was sort of written down about when it was composed so we don't really know like it could have it was written down around you know a thousand ad could have been composed as early as a

17 thoughts on “Introduction to Medieval Literature: Old English, Middle English and Historical Context

  1. I agree that the lesson – which is just PARTIALLY available here, in case you didn't noticed – could have been a little more structured. But this is an INTRODUCTORY video that has the obvious purpose to present the subject in a light, not-boring way. That said, I loved the video. : )

  2. I realise that this is a quick appraisal of a very complex period, but you have left out a huge amount…not merely the entire Anglo Saxon period.

  3. "…then the Romans cleared out" ? ? and an ignoramus like you came to tell us a broken outline of history?? this is in one: trivial, wrong and disqualifying.

  4. The Romans clear out. "And then we have the Normans". Like, 600 years later. Come on!

  5. Why do all these videos cut off mid-sentence? Is there a longer version with all the information?

  6. you are incredibly relaxing, im spanish and i understand all you say. Very good work, Keep it up please

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