History of British Literature

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Late Medieval Period 14th Century British Literature

14th and 15th were period of transition from feudalism to pre-industrial era. A time of political, social and ideological conflicts;
England was in war with France (the hundred year war 1337-1453 Edward’s claim to the French throne and attempt to bring England, Gascony and Flanders under unified political control). The defeats in France lead to deepening the internal crisis. The decline in agriculture together with the rise in the population resulted in frequent famines and helped the spread during the 14th c. of the “Black Death”. 1381 – The Peasants’ Revolt.
Culture: by 15th century England had become a nation with the sense of separate identity and indigenous culture
1362-
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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, by the same anonymous author, is also of high literary sophistication, and its intelligence, vividness, and symbolic interest render it possibly the finest Arthurian poem in English. Other important alliterative poems are the moral allegory Piers Plowman, attributed to William Langland, and the alliterative Morte Arthur, which, like nearly all English poetry until the mid-14th cent., was anonymous.

The works of Geoffrey Chaucer mark the brilliant culmination of Middle English literature. Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales are stories told each other by pilgrims–who comprise a very colorful cross section of 14th-century English society–on their way to the shrine at Canterbury. The tales are cast into many different verse forms and genres and collectively explore virtually every significant medieval theme. Chaucer's wise and humane work also illuminates the full scope of medieval thought. Overshadowed by Chaucer but of some note are the works of John Gower.

The Fifteenth Century:

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
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