Middle Ages Lit project notes from 5

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The Lay of the Were-wolf Summary of Project

Summary of Literature

  • A popular baron from Brittany is a werewolf for three days a week. The only thing that turns him from a werewolfhuman is his clothes, which are hidden in the woods whenever he turns

  • The baron’s wife insists on knowing where his clothes are hidden. She, in turn, betrays her husband for her lover (who is a knight), and the baron is stuck as a werewolf

  • One year later, the king goes hunting and hunts down the werewolf, who surrenders itself

  • The king and the werewolf bond, and the werewolf shows amiable traits

  • When the werewolf sees his ex-wife and the knight that she married, he attacks them, making people question what the couple did to the werewolf (who was always friendly)

  • The wife is interrogated, and the king finds out that the werewolf is the missing baron

  • The werewolf is given back his clothes, which turns him back into a human

  • The baron is given back his stolen land, and the knight and unfaithful wife are banished

Literary Analysis:

  • Themes of trust, loyalty, and courtly love

  • Written in prose

  • Third person POV

  • The clothes symbolize the trust that the baron lost when his wife betrayed him, but regained when the king found him

  • Irony: In the beginning, the werewolf is described as a dangerous man-eater, but the werewolf is actually likeable and calm

Historical Content:

  • Courtly love: A socially acceptable custom during the Middle Ages, in which love was shared between a knight and a noblewoman, who may or may not be married

  • Chivalry: A code of conduct that every knight was supposed to follow; it includes religious, moral, and social conduct. Chivalry stresses loyalty to God, one’s lord, and one’s chosen lady.

Author Biography

  • First female French poet

  • Most of her works contain Norman bias by putting the Normans in a very positive light

  • Wrote 12 Lais (narrative poems written in octosyllabic couplets)

  • Wrote mainly about courtly love and chivalry

Summa Theologica Notes

  • Uses many biblical quotes

  • Christian Propaganda

  • Whether it is lawful for Clerics and Bishops to fight?

  • Is it sinful to wage war?

  • Whether it can be demonstrated that God exists?

  • Yes, they should. If it is in the name of God and they are doing what is called of them

  • When really: more men: higher chance of winning, and people might be more courageous if fighting for God

  • Song of Roland glorifies Christians and is propaganda towards their faith

  • Thomas Aquinas asks questions pertaining mainly to Christianity, morality and virtues

  • He states the objection for the negative side and then replies to the objections with the affirmative side’s reply objections

  • Aquinas uses a factual tone and refrains from using strong/foul language

  • War is always sinful unless it is needed

  • He believed that any Crusade was sinful

  • Summa Theologica was studied at monasteries and universities

Example of Writing Style:

Question: Is it always sinful to wage war?

Objection 1: ideas, reason and supporting information

Objection 2: ideas, reason and supporting information

Objection 3: ideas, reason and supporting information

Reply Objection 1: ideas, reason and supporting information

Reply Objection 2: ideas, reason and supporting information

Reply Objection 3: ideas, reason and supporting information

Thomas Aquinas’ own opinion: ideas, reason and supporting information
Wife of Bath’s Tale



    • Women were expected to support their husbands

    • Women did same jobs as men (hard labor), but were paid less.

    • Anything a woman owned before her marriage became her husband’s, and she could not own land unless she was widowed

    • Women spent most of their married lives pregnant, wanting to have as many boys as possible because they were vital to every family

    • 20% of women died in childbirth and if they lived past that, they typically only lived to the age of 40

    • Wet nurse cares for the children in rich families


    • The royal court was the center of the kingdom, with the monarch showing his power in the court with many large ceremonies, banquets, and celebrations

    • Kings thought they had absolute power because god had chosen them (idea like Bishop of Rome)

    • Different courts that had responsibility for different types of trials

      • Manor courts

      • Church courts

      • Village courts

    • Minor Punishments: stocks and mask of shame

    • Ordeal courts

      • Determined if the accused was innocent, the outcome of the ordeal was decided by God

    • Ordeals turned into Inquests where judges heard both sides of the story

    • Juries made up of about 12 people who were expected to make their own decisions

    • Most crimes had a specific punishment


    • Geoffrey Chaucer wrote the story to express his feelings about things that were not supposed to be talked about in public

    • He-she-he concept

      • Chaucer is writing in the point of view of a woman who acts like a man

      • Women had to act like men to gain power

    • Christian push for people to have children

      • The woman in the prologue disliked the idea of virginity and wanted to do her duty and have as many kids as possible

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