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HISTORY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE

Seminar journal questions, 2nd semester
Course Tutor
Dr. Carmen Dutu, Associate Professor

For the seminar you need to submit a written journal, with the questions below (ref. Sir
Gawayn, General Prologue – Canterbury Tales, The Wife of Bath, Utopia, Everyman). This
journal counts for 30% of your final grade.

I. SGK

1. Why are the narrative details included in SGK? What do they signify? What is the
relationship between the scenery and Sir Gawain's mental state?

Some argue that nature represents a chaotic, lawless order which is in direct confrontation
with the civilization of Camelot throughout Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The green
horse and rider that first invade Arthur’s peaceful halls are iconic representations of
nature's disturbance. Nature is presented throughout the poem as rough and indifferent,
constantly threatening the order of men and courtly life. Nature invades and disrupts order
in the major events of the narrative, both symbolically and through the inner nature of
humanity. This element appears first with the disruption caused by the Green Knight, later
when Gawain must fight off his natural lust for Bertilak’s wife, and again when Gawain
breaks his vow to Bertilak by choosing to keep the green girdle, valuing survival over virtue.
Represented by the sin-stained girdle, nature is an underlying force, forever within man and
keeping him imperfect, in a chivalric sense. In this view, Gawain is part of a wider conflict
between nature and chivalry, an examination of the ability of man's order to overcome the
chaos of nature.

2. What is the symbolism of the three beasts hunted by Bercilak? Which is most
dangerous?

Scholars have frequently noted the parallels between the three hunting scenes and the
three seduction scenes in Gawain. They are generally agreed that the fox chase has
significant parallels to the third seduction scene, in which Gawain accepts the girdle from
Bertilak's wife. Gawain, like the fox, fears for his life and is looking for a way to avoid death
from the Green Knight's axe.

The deer- and boar-hunting scenes are less clearly connected, although scholars have
attempted to link each animal to Gawain's reactions in the parallel seduction scene.
Attempts to connect the deer hunt with the first seduction scene have unearthed a few
parallels. Deer hunts of the time, like courtship, had to be done according to established

4. insisting that Gawain has a romantic reputation and that he must not disappoint her. no other symbol in the poem receives as much attention or is described in such detail. 3. He was a man of serious and devout mind. He removes its head and displays it on a pike. sometimes even watching while a deer was cleaned. Boars were (and are) much more difficult to hunt than deer. he had an interest in theology. the boar flees but is cornered before a ravine. reattaches it and tells Gawain to meet him at the Green Chapel at the stipulated time. How does Gawain distinguish himself in the opening scenes? How is he different from the other knights? Does he fulfill a chivalric duty that the other knights neglect? In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Bertilak dismounts and in the ensuing fight kills the boar. but Gawain takes his place and decapitates the Green Knight. Bertilak's wife. his faith found in the five . The boar-hunting scene is. so much his language shows. he had Latin and French and was well enough read in French books. the Green Knight appears before Arthur's court during a Christmas feast. only to have the Green Knight feint two blows. and bends to receive his blow. in contrast. approaching one with only a sword was akin to challenging a knight to single combat. In the hunting sequence. and that Morgan le Fay had given him the double identity to test Gawain and Arthur. From lines 640 to 654. Arthur accepts the challenge. though not without humour. the five points of the pentangle relate directly to Gawain in five ways: five senses. prepared to fight. saying that surely she knows more than he about love. but his home was in the West Midlands of England. and some knowledge of it. who retrieves his head. Gawain's host before his arrival at the Green Chapel. At Bercilak's castle. Gawain is submitted to tests of his loyalty and chastity. What is more. Gawain departs to the Green Chapel. both romantic and instructive. is successful in parrying her attacks. like the boar. At New Year's Day. What is the significance of the Pentangle? Why is it described in such detail? The pentangle on Gawain's shield is seen by many critics as signifying Gawain's perfection and power over evil. and his metre. At first. wherein Bercilak sends his wife to seduce Gawain and arranges that each time Bercilak gains prey in hunting. the knight issues a challenge: he will allow one man to strike him once with his axe. Women often favored suitors who hunted well and skinned their animals. his five fingers.rules. with the condition that he return the blow the next year. and his scenery. holding a bough of holly in one hand and a battle axe in the other. The poem describes the pentangle as a symbol of faithfulness and an "endless knot". laden with detail. Gawain. is more forward. He turns to face Bertilak with his back to the ravine. however. then barely nick him on the third. though an amateur knowledge perhaps. He then reveals that he is Bercilak. each shall exchange his gain for the other's. or Gawain any gift in the castle. The Knight features next as Bercilak de Hautedesert. In the seduction scene. The poem contains the only representation of such a symbol on Gawain's shield in the Gawain literature. the poet uses a total of 46 lines in order to describe the meaning of the pentangle. lord of a large castle. rather than a professional. Despite disclaim of war.

who cynically exploited religion. purity. the third king of Israel. London. the number five is considered a "circular number". one of the eight ecclesiastics among the pilgrims. Furthermore. by reproducing the number five. Then there was a Monk. But to some it was merely an adventure or a chance to see the world. Who is the "holy blissful martyr" and why is he of interest to the pilgrims? In what sense are they travelling to "seek" him? The Archbishop Thomas Beckett was the “holy blissful martyr". a Squire with curled locks. which he received from the archangel Michael. the five joys of Mary (whose face was on the inside of the shield) and finally friendship. as did the pilgrimage itself. Thus. along which religious houses offered rest and hospitality. in the 10th century BC. whose Tale was the longest. every pentangle has a smaller pentagon that allows a pentangle to be embedded in it and this "process may be repeated forever with decreasing pentangles". The pentagram seal on this ring was said to give Solomon power over demons. In medieval number theory. it replicates itself geometrically. He was in the company of his son. In line 625. II. since it "reproduces itself in its last digit when raised to its powers".wounds of Christ. Sometimes people were ordered to go on a pilgrimage by their priest as a penance for sins. fraternity. Others believed it would cure a disease or prevent peril. Taking care of pilgrims was seen as a charitable act that earned merit in Heaven..'wel nyne and twenty in a compaignye'. and their servant. politeness and pity (traits that Gawain possessed around others). From here they set out to the shrine of Thomas Beckett in Canterbury Cathedral. The fashionable Prioress was the first of Chaucer's female pilgrims. General Prologue 1. Pilgrimages occupied a central place in the Middle Ages. a Yeoman. Gawain's pentangle represents his eternal incorruptibility. Solomon. it is described as "a sign by Solomon". which in medieval number symbolism signified incorruptibility. for which the Summoner wants his revenge on him in his Tale about an ailing man who is preyed by the friar on his sickbed. The highest ranking pilgrim was the brave Knight. Chaucer's Limiter Friar was a hypocrite. she was together with three priests and another nun. who loved riding. where they hired horses and had a meal. They all had to take the discomforts of the travel for granted and the best way was to take the principal roads. After he was dead and canonized. was said to have the mark of the pentagram on his ring. 2. that is. he became a saint and pilgrims began arriving at the Cathedral soon afterwards. How many pilgrims are there? Are they a homogeneous group? What is the usefulness of this device to Chaucer? The pilgrims . so a group of about twenty-nine met at the Tabart Inn in Southwark. The Summoner was together with a .

a Pardoner . 5. and his eyes are bright. physiognomy was believed to be revealing of character). He. and who follows modern customs rather than old traditions. What do the descriptions reveal about the pilgrim’s character? The Monk is next. an extremely fine and handsome man who loves to hunt. Another hypocritical person was the Merchant . What seems to be Chaucer's attitude toward the Church? Is he anti-religious? What. whom we now call Lawyer. The task of a Reeve was to superintend the estates and tenants of a landowner.friend. a brute. What is the role of Chaucer the pilgrim within this group? Is he an objective observer? The purpose of the “The General Prologue” is to introduce the characters and show the variety of people. There was also a Franklin. gleaming like a furnace in his head. He presents these characters. but a man who keeps greyhounds to hunt the hare. Chaucer satirizes the religious hypocrisy in such tales as that of the Monk. as realistic and complex people. A good example of religious hypocrisy exists in the Summoner’s Tale in which indulgences and pardons are sold under false presences. draws attention to offences in the hope that society will rectify them. The Monk is well-fed. For instance. His descriptions set the stage for the tales that will follow. not as stereotypes but. the Monk has his robe luxuriously lined with fur. Pay attention to physical descriptions (in medieval times. pick out one pilgrim.if anything. fat. Chaucer. trades and social classes of this time period. a scholar from Oxford. Chaucer's Miller was a big fellow. These traits are contrary to the religious vows of poverty and chastity. and greedy into the bargain. As you read the various portraits. In Chaucer’s time. but she knew all about love and could laugh and joke. as a narrator. 4. Then there was the Clerk .is satirized? In Chaucer’s time. That he is familiar with women is certainly suggested in his tale. who is wordly and lusty as the narrator remarks. 3. corruption in the Catholic Church was quire prevalent as the practice of selling indulgences became one of deception and greed. studying in a cloister. who was characterized by his professional qualities. he enjoys wordly occupations such as hunting. . This is no bookish monk. The business Woman from Bath was a bit deaf. a freeholder who ranked next below the gentry. such an offence was punishable by fines. By exposing this hypocrisy with humor. like most satirists. more of an animal than a human. who earned his living by selling holy relics and indulgences. whose only interest was his study and the Sergeant-at-law. describes each character objectively.

While Chaucer's Wife of Bath is clearly familiar with the many ancient and medieval views on proper female behavior. The simple fact that she is a widow who has remarried more than once radically defies medieval conventions. / Thanne hadde he dampned weddyng with the dede. deportment books taught women that "the husband deserves control of the wife because he controls the estate" . Further evidence of this can be found through her observation: “For hadde God commanded maydenhede. for instance. How does the Wife of Bath (Alison) objects to the way in which the scriptural authorities . the purpose of which was to teach women how to be model wives.denigrate what she sees as an essential feminine "estate" worthy of respect. Cooper observes that the Wife's fifth husband. This can perhaps be attributed to his young age and lack of experience in relationships. too. are an example of how she mocks "clerical teaching concerning the remarriage of widows". III. the audience is shown what proper behaviour in marriage should be like. as does the Wife of . she also points out that it is men who constructed those ideals in the first place. Carruthers does note that the Wife does do a decent job of upholding her husbands’ public honour. in particular.” She refutes Jerome’s proposition concerning virginity and marriage by noting that God would have condemned marriage and procreation if He had commanded virginity. “a rich widow was considered to be a match equal to. Cooper also notes that behaviour in marriage is a theme that emerges in the Wife of Bath's Prologue. and attract a much younger man.most of them priests with no direct knowledge of marriage. Her repeated acts of remarriage. it is clear that the Wife is the one who controls certain aspects of her husband's behaviour in her various marriages. as he does change at the end. Through her nonconformity to the expectations of her role as a wife. she adds. as it shows how well-read she is. neither the Wife nor her husbands conform to any conventional ideals of marriage. illustrating this point by elaborating at length concerning her ability to remarry four times. or more desirable than. To what extent is her Prologue (and even her Tale) a response to clerical attitudes toward marriage and virginity? The Wife of Bath's Prologue simultaneously enumerates and critiques the long tradition of misogyny in ancient and medieval literature. He. a match with a virgin of property”. Carruthers notes how the Wife's behaviour in the first of her marriages “is almost everything the deportment-book writers say it should not be. Both Carruthers and Cooper reflect on the way that Chaucer's Wife of Bath does not behave as society dictates in any of her marriages.” For example. she lies to her old husbands about them getting drunk and saying some regrettable things. Furthermore. "cannot be taken as any principle of correct Christian marriage". Her decision to include God as a defence for her lustful appetites is significant. she also boldly questions their validity. Wife of Bath 1. Moreover. fails to exhibit behaviour conventionally expected within a marriage. While she gleefully confesses to the many ways in which she falls short of conventional ideals for women. Carruthers’ essay outlines the existence of deportment books. Yet.

Now that she has won power over him. or flattery. the poem exposes the complexity of the institution of marriage and of relationships more broadly. The Queen tells the knight that he will be spared his life if he can discover for her what it is that women most desire. consider Alice's tale of the rapist knight condemned to determine "what thing it is that wommen most desiren". They live happily into old age together. or clothes. The Knight turns to look at the old woman again. through both the Wife's and her fifth and favorite husband's failure to conform to expected behaviour in marriage. but now finds a young and lovely woman. or sexual pleasure. In the light of the Wife of Bath's Prologue. an answer which pleases her greatly. She reminds him that her looks can be an asset—she will be a virtuous wife to him because no other men would desire her. The old woman then explains to the court the deal she has struck with the Knight. Although aghast. She asks him what he would prefer—an old ugly wife who is loyal. and publicly requests his hand in marriage. 3. 2. accordingly. courtly love is more of a literary invention. and allots him a year and a day in which to roam wherever he pleases and return with an answer. The Knight responds by saying that the choice is hers. When at last the time comes for him to return to the Court. but "No two of those he questioned answered the same. promising both beauty and fidelity. in reality. The Knight explains the problem to the old woman. or freedom. With no other options left. he gives the answer that women most desire sovereignty over their husbands. free the Knight. she asks him to kiss her." The answers range from fame and riches to play. which is unanimously agreed to be true by the women of the court who. the Knight agrees. but Queen Guinevere intercedes on his behalf and asks the King to allow her to pass judgment upon him. Arriving at the court. he realises he has no other choice and eventually agrees. he still lacks the answer he so desperately needs. Through works such as Chrétien de Troyes’s Lancelot. When the knight is captured. and she forces him to promise to grant any favour she might ask of him in return. but when he approaches they disappear as if by magic. Everywhere the knight goes he explains his predicament to the women he meets and asks their opinion.Bath. Guilaume . and all that is left is an old woman. Outside a castle in the woods. he is condemned to death. On their wedding night the old woman is upset that he is repulsed by her in bed. true and humble or a beautiful young woman about whom he would always have doubts concerning her faithfulness. King Arthur issues a decree that the knight must be brought to justice. What is Courtly Love? How does it manifest itself in the tale? While this idea of daring exploits and melodramatic ideals is intriguing. Thus. he sees twenty-four maidens dancing and singing. What is the answer to this question? There was a knight in King Arthur's time who raped a fair young maiden. who is wise and may know the answer.

de Lorris’s Roman de la Rose. and Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde. does the institution serve the people and the State? . What value do the Utopians place on marriage? How. Influencing policy indeed! You wouldn't have a chance!". it exists in many spectrums. 3. or.S. Gaston Paris.” IV. Every ten Syphogranti have an elected Traniborus (more recently called a protophylarchus) ruling over them. each family consisting of between 10 and 16 adults. at the same time. if you remain honest and innocent. Since courtly love is not specifically defined. Observe Raphael's comments about the Utopian view of a successful marriage. Amaurot. an opposite idea of courtly love also exists. you will be made a screen for the [.. a French writer and scholar. Lewis. Utopia is a satirical reflection on the social and political problems of England in the sixteenth century. Hythloday tells Peter Giles and More that the Utopians are able to prevent conflict between citizens because they have adopted a form of communism. that is. How does the development of Utopia's urban areas differ from the way cities develop in the real world? What implied criticism is more making of town life and growth in his day? The island was originally a peninsula but a 15-mile wide channel was dug by the community's founder King Utopos to separate it from the mainland. He defined courtly love by the lover’s worship of an idealized lady based on sexual attraction and desire. Adultery. and the Religion of Love. showing ambiguity in the proposed solutions. While the ideals of courtly love were highly accepted and almost idealized in medieval society. suggests a worldly idea of courtly love with little attention given to morals. the origin of these ideals remains a mystery because the very definition of courtly love is debated among modern and ancient literary scholars. How does the society Raphael describes amount to something like "communism" Raphael believes morality is irreconcilable with the political world. The Utopia 1. Thirty households are grouped together and elect a Syphograntus (whom More says is now called a phylarchus). presents a conservative idea of courtly love based on religion and morality. The island contains 54 cities. a French theologian and literary critic. Courtesy. His summation of courtly love includes “Humility. The capital city. Each city has not more 6000 households. courtly love has evolved from an adventurous race towards love into one of the most important literary influences in Western culture (“Courtly Love”). In book two. while..] folly of others. C. is located directly in the middle of the crescent island. 2. the only two options are: "Either [self-interested courtiers] will seduce you. Each city is divided into four equal parts. Being a controversial idea.

and that he was writing to prove the perfect commonwealth could not occur with private property. but these are usually contrasted with the simple. Utopia has many of the characteristics of satire. Skinner sees Raphael Hythlodaeus as embodying the Platonic view that philosophers should not get involved in politics. Other significant innovations of Utopia include: a welfare state with free hospitals. and there are many jokes and satirical asides such as how honest people are in Europe. What is the status of religion in Utopia? It religion closely connected to the State. planet- worshipers. priests being allowed to marry. Only few widowed women become priests. The role allocated to women in Utopia might. The narrator "More" admits to being dubious about the prospects for actually achieving the reforms suggested by Raphael's his admiring presentation of Utopian customs. then. 5. sun-worshipers. Crucially. but each is tolerant of the others. Meals are taken in community dining halls and the job of feeding the population is given to a different household in turn. They are not banished. and will break the laws for their own gain. 4. what is it? What danger lies in not constructing Utopias and making the kinds of comparisons More offers? Most scholars see it as a comment on or criticism of 16th century Catholicism. or is it independent? How might Utopian customs imply criticism of European religious practices? There are several religions on the island: moon-worshipers. Some have argued that More was taking part in the Renaissance humanist debate over true nobility. While all are trained in military arts. uncomplicated society of the Utopians. Thus the . Indeed. but are encouraged to talk out their erroneous beliefs with the priests until they are convinced of their error. premarital sex punished by a lifetime of enforced celibacy and adultery being punished by enslavement. Gambling. have been seen as being more liberal from a contemporary point of view. What. for the evils of More's day are laid out in Book I and in many ways apparently solved in Book II. while the character of More embodies the more pragmatic Ciceronian view. Only atheists are despised (but allowed) in Utopia. The toleration of all other religious ideas is enshrined in a universal prayer all the Utopians recite. is the point of writing a story that compares a non-existent society with real ones? If the point isn't necessarily to change the real societies. ancestor-worshipers and monotheists. makeup and astrology are all discouraged in Utopia. Wives are subject to their husbands and husbands are subject to their wives although women are restricted to conducting household tasks for the most part. however. women confess their sins to their husbands once a month. divorce permitted. they have no reason to share the communistic life of Utopia. euthanasia permissible by the state. as they are seen as representing a danger to the state: since they do not believe in any punishment or reward after this life. hunting. Raphael says that through his teachings Christianity was beginning to take hold in Utopia.

or between the soul and the body. Everyman is being singled out because it is difficult for him to find characters to accompany him on his pilgrimage. etc. in which the characters personify moral qualities (such as charity or vice) or abstractions (as death or youth) and in which moral lessons are taught. The Ars Moriendi. and the Last Judgment.) What is the interplay of these various sorts of allegorical figure? The premise is that the good and evil deeds of one's life will be tallied by God after death. The mystery plays. supernatural forces. V. What are misteries. as in a ledger book. a literary or artistic representation of such a conflict. it was wiser to take a more pragmatic view. How is allegory used in Everyman? How many different categories of allegory do you find? (personal characteristics of Everyman. 3. which he saw no possibility of occurring. despite all the personified characters that were supposed necessities and friends to him. Morality play. usually representing biblical subjects. 2. (material) Goods. With what new companions does Good Deeds tell Everyman to replace his original companions? What is the difference between these two sets of friends? . In the course of the action. or "art of dying. But without communism. who represents all mankind." is a body of Christian literature that provided practical guidance for the dying and those attending them. Psychomachia is the conflict within the soul. also called morality. the murder of Abel. Everyman learns that when you are brought to death and placed before God. Everyman 1. society Raphael proposes is the ideal More would want. what are moralities? What is psychomachia psychomachia? What does ars moriendi mean? Mystery play. The conflict between good and evil is dramatised by the interactions between characters. one of three principal kinds of vernacular drama in Europe during the Middle Ages (along with the miracle play and the morality play). an instance of this. Adam and Eve. All the characters are also allegorical. The play is the allegorical accounting of the life of Everyman. each personifying an abstract idea such as Fellowship. all you are left with is your own good deeds. Everyman tries to convince other characters to accompany him in the hope of improving his account. an allegorical drama popular in Europe especially during the 15th and 16th centuries. developed from plays presented in Latin by churchmen on church premises and depicted such subjects as the Creation. and Knowledge. other people/things in his worldly life. Everyman eventually realizes through this pilgrimage that he is essentially alone.

who will not come: God's judgment will be severe because of the selfishness implied in Goods's presence.) Why might Everyman's voyage be called a "pilgrimage"? Compare with other depictions of pilgrims or pilgrimages encountered in your readings (The Canterbury Tales). The play is the allegorical accounting of the life of Everyman. Everyman tells them where his journey ends. In the presence of Confession. Even Knowledge cannot accompany him after he leaves his physical body. he learns that when you are brought to death and placed before God. Everyman is being singled out because it is difficult for him to find characters to accompany him on his pilgrimage. What conception of time/history underlies this play. The conflict between good and evil is dramatised by the interactions between characters. Death arrives at Everyman's side to tell him it is time to die and face judgment. What message are we meant to draw from the substitution? What is the message given by the play concerning the value of human qualities such as strength. Discretion and Five Wits to join them. Good Deeds becomes strong enough to accompany Everyman on his journey with Death. and they agree to accompany Everyman as he goes to a priest to take sacrament. Everyman asks Goods. who represents all mankind. but will stay with him until the . so He commands Death to go to Everyman and summon him to heaven to make his reckoning. and how is it related to the idea of a voyage? God laments that humans have become too absorbed in material wealth and riches to follow Him. Everyman then turns to Good Deeds. 4. Everyman is absolved of his sins. beauty. but will allow Everyman to find a companion for his journey. After his scourging. Death denies this. Cousin explains a fundamental reason why no people will accompany Everyman: they have their own accounts to write as well. Strength. intelligence and knowledge? When Everyman's friend Fellowship hears of the true nature of Everyman's journey. Everyman tries to convince other characters to accompany him in the hope of improving his account. Everyman eventually realizes through this pilgrimage that he is essentially alone. Everyman begs God for forgiveness and repents his sins. but she is too weak as Everyman has not loved her in his life. In particular. who says she would go with him. Upon hearing this. Afterwards. and together they go to see Confession. so begs for more time. and as a result. Everyman is about to embark on a long journey repeatedly referred to as a "pilgrimage" (line 68 etc. except for Good Deeds. Everyman then calls on Kindred and Cousin and asks them to go with him. and again they all abandon him. all you are left with is your own good After the sacrament. Good Deeds summons her sister Knowledge to accompany them. Good Deeds then summons Beauty. Everyman is distressed. but they both refuse. he refuses to go. punishing himself with a scourge.

after which they ascend together into heaven. Penance. Viaticum and receiving the Eucharist.Engleza . The play closes as the Doctor enters and explains that in the end. a man will only have his Good Deeds to accompany him beyond the grave.time of death. where they are welcomed by an Angel. Content at last. The cultural setting is based on the Roman Catholicism of the era. in particular Confession. Everyman attains afterlife in heaven by means of good works and the Catholic Sacraments. Maschio Serena Mihaela Deborah Anul III Germana . Unction. Everyman climbs into his grave with Good Deeds at his side and dies.

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