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Middle Ages Literature

In the Middle Ages, literature remained a vibrant form of art, even if the majority of Europeans were illiterate. Much of the work during the medieval period remains anonymous, in that the true author is lost to history, but some of the greatest works in the canon were produced during the Middle Ages, such as Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Canterbury Tales. Middle Ages Literature by Jeffrey Chaucer.

The literature of the Middle Ages can be divided both by region and by time. In the early Middle Ages, most everything was written in Latin, and religious writings dominated. There were histories as well, such as Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain, but such works were infused with both religious themes and myth. There was a great deal of poetry written as well, not just epics such as Beowulf but hymns and other religious-themed works. Allegory, or stories that conveyed a hidden meaning, were quite popular in medieval literature.

Secular literature emerged later in the Middle Ages. By the 11th century, poetry became concerned with courtly love, and soon writers began abandoning Latin in favor of the vernacular languages. Dante’s Divine Comedy, written by 1320, was one of the first major works of literature not published in Latin and was instrumental in developing the Italian language. The Canterbury Tales was written in Middle English and many works of Scandinavian literature were written in those native tongues.

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