Middle English all around us

In my salon group yesterday, we talked a lot about classic medieval romances that we’d studied in courses previous to this one. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and Beowulf were all stories that we were familiar with and that immediately came to mind when we thought of medieval literature. This being said, we found it very odd that both Sir Gawain and Beowulf were not widely read during their time. As we mentioned in our last class, the tale of Sir Gawain disappeared for a moment in time and wasn’t read and studied near as much as it is today. My salon group found this very interesting; how could a story that is so well known, liked and studied today fail to be circulated during its time?

After watching the “Mini Documentary: Romance of the Middle Ages” I was impressed how seemingly well preserved many of the manuscripts were. It was also interesting that upon the development of the printing press and a more advanced method of printing and publishing, many printed books took on the same look and style of classical manuscripts. The documentary also discussed how beginning in the 19th century there was a peak in interest of all things medieval. Walter Scott and William Morris both used medieval plots and nostalgia, as well as some more modern writers like C.S. Lewis. I found it so interesting that in the documentary they had a copy of a book of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight that belonged to C.S. Lewis. In it he kept extensive notes and even drew small pictures that helped him better understand the Middle English text. Even the 1970s film Monty Python and the Holy Grail parodies medieval romance. It seems that the influence of Middle English manuscripts is all around us to this day, not only in our written language, but even in genres and modern forms of entertainment such as Monty Python.

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