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The Fifteenth Century Literature

The 15th cent. is not distinguished in English letters, due in part to the social dislocation caused by the prolonged Wars of the Roses. Of the many 15th-century imitators of Chaucer the best-known are John Lydgate and Thomas Hoccleve. Other poets of the time include Stephen Hawes and Alexander Barclay and the Scots poets William Dunbar, Robert Henryson, and Gawin Douglas. The poetry of John Skelton, which is mostly satiric, combines medieval and Renaissance elements. William Caxton introduced printing to England in 1475 and in 1485 printed Sir Thomas Malory's Morte d'Arthur. This prose work, written in the twilight of chivalry, casts the Arthurian tales into coherent form and views them with an awareness that they represent a vanishing way of life. The miracle play, a long cycle of short plays based upon biblical episodes, was popular throughout the Middle Ages in England. The morality play, an allegorical drama centering on the struggle for man's soul, originated in the 15th cent. The finest of the genre is Everyman. Ballad Definition: A narrative poem (a poem that tells a story) that was originally composed to be sung or recited.
Folk ballads hale from the oral tradition of storytelling, and have come to be considered part of folk literature. Just like Beowulf was once recited and passed down through the generations, these songs were composed, sung, and passed down long before they were ever written down. Most ballads are composed anonymously by entertainers and musicians who borrowed from each other and taught them to others.
By the time they were written down, some ballads had acquired many different versions. "Lord Randall," for example is known in dozens of countries from Italy to Iceland.

"Lord Randall" by Anonymous Lord Randall "O where ha you been, Lord Randal, my son? And where ha you been, my handsome young man?" "I ha been at the greenwood; mother, mak my bed soon, For I'm wearied wi hunting, and fain wad lie down." "An wha met ye there, Lord Randal, my son? And wha met ye there, my handsome young man?" "O I met wi my true-love; mother, mak my bed soon, For I'm wearied wi huntin, and fain wad lie down." "And what did she give you, Lord Randal, My son? And wha did she give you, my handsome young man?" "Eels fried in a pan; mother, mak my bed soon, For I'm wearied wi huntin, and fein wad lie down." "And what gat your leavins, Lord Randal my son? And wha gat your leavins, my handsome young man?" "My hawks and my hounds; mother, mak my bed soon, For I'm wearied wi huntin, and fein wad lie down." "And what becam of them, Lord Randal, my son? And what becam of them, my handsome young man? "They stretched their legs out and died; mother mak my bed soon, For I'm wearied wi huntin, and fain wad lie down." "O I fear you are poisoned, Lord Randal, my son! I fear you are poisoned, my handsome young man!" "O yes, I am poisoned; mother, mak my bed soon, For I'm sick at the heart, and fain wad lie down." "What d'ye leave to your mother, Lord Randal, my son? What d'ye leave to your mother, my handsome young man?" "Four and twenty milk kye; mother, mak my bed soon, For I'm sick at the heart, and I fain wad lie down." "What d'ye leave to your sister, Lord Randal, my son? What d'ye leave to your sister, my handsome young man?" "My gold and my silver; mother mak my bed soon, For I'm sick at the heart, an I fain wad lie down." "What d'ye leave to your brother, Lord Randal, my son? What d'ye leave to your brother, my handsome young man?" "My houses and my lands; mother, mak my bed soon, For I'm sick at the heart, and I fain wad lie down." "What d'ye leave to your true-love, Lord Randal, my son? What d'ye leave to your true-love, my handsome young man?" "I leave her hell and fire; mother mak my bed soon, For I'm sick at the heart, and I fain wad lie down." Common Characteristics 1. Understanding Dialogue: A ballad usually is conversational, with two characters speaking in a pattern. Make sure you know who the speakers are and that you recognize the pattern. In "Lord Randall," the speakers are Lord Randall and his mother, and the pattern is that the mother speaks for two lines and then Lord Randall replies for two lines. 2. Study the Notes: Middle English is much closer to the English we use today, but still make sure that you are relying on the side notes in order to interpret the language and the context of the language used in the ballad. 3. Summarize the Plot: A ballad tells a story, so don't get so caught up in the language that you're missing the plot. 4. Appreciate the Form: Many ballads were inspired by true events, and many ballads end in death. The deaths could be accidental, murder, suicide, or it could be the dead returning to life. Also, the focus is on the climax of the story, usually the death, so there are often gaps in the plot and characters are lacking motivation. Also, notice the legacies doled out by the dying: this is the character showing their dedication to their family as they will out their possessions before dying. Lord Randal leaves his mother the cow, his sister his gold, and his brother his land. 5. Note the Symbolism: Symbols for death, love, and valor are often repeated. Feeding someone eels is a repeated symbol of poisoning someone. A narrow bed is symbolic of death. Lord Randall is poisoned by eels and he is asking for a bed. 6. Let the Repetition have its effect: Repetition of certain lines is a refrain. When those lines change slightly by small increments as the ballad continues, it is called incremental repetition. The mother repeats her question and tags on the same ending lines. Lord Randall's replies show repetition, and also incremental repetition as he changes from "For I'm weary wi' hunting, and fain wald lie down" to "For I'm sich at the heart, and I fain wald lie down." Terms To Know: Narrative: tells a story Ballad: a narrative poem that was written to be sung or recited Legacy: Bequeathing your earthly possessions before death Refrain: Repeated lines throughout a ballad Incremental Repetition: A slight variation to repeated lines in the Ballad

Date: 2015-02-16; view: 682


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