• Characteristics of Medieval Literature

Themes of Medieval Literature:

  • The Seven Deadly Sins
  • The Seven Heavenly Virtues
  • Physiognomy and "The Humours"
  • Values of "courtly love"
  • The Code of Chivalry(CF)

The Poets and Authors:

Caedmon: First English poet; author of "The Dream of the Holy Rood."
Venerable Bede: wrote the Ecclesiastical History of England and the scientific treatise, De Natura Rerum.
Geoffrey Chaucer: Famous Medieval author of the Canterbury Tales.
Margery Kempe: Author of the first autobiography in English.
John Gower: Medieval poet and friend of Geoffrey Chaucer
Francesco Petrarch: Italian poet, and a humanist. Famous for his poems addressed to Laura.
Dante: Medieval poet and politician.
Christine de Pizan: Medieval author and feminist.
William Longland: English poet who wrote the Vision of Piers Plowman.
Boccaccio: Italian writer who was famous for writing the Decameron.
Raphael Holinshed: Medieval author of Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland. (KM)


  • Chivalry was the reason behind this type of literature.
  • The greatest English example of the romance is Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
  • The romance hero-who often has the help of magic-undertakes a quest to conquer an evil enemy. (KM)

  • A system of ideals and social codes governing the behavior of knights and gentlewoman.
  • The rules included: taking an oath of loyalty to the overlord and observing certain rules of warfare.
  • Adoring a particular lady was seen as a means of self-improvement. (KM)

Courtly Love:
  • The idea that adoring a lady would make a knight braver and nobler was central to one aspect of chivalry, courtly love.
  • Courtly love was nonsexual
  • A knight might wear his lady's colors in battle.
  • The knight could glorify his lady in words, but the lady had to remain pure and out of reach. (KM)


  • The emerging merchant class expressed their point of view in ballads.
  • A ballad is a song or songlike poem that tells a story.
  • These were sung in alehouses and at firesides, mystery miracle plays performed outside, craft unions, and even cathedrals and municipal buildings. (KM)

How were books made back then?

  • Early medieval books were painstakingly hand-copied and illustrated by monks.
  • Paper was a rarity, with vellum, made from calf's skin, and parchment, made from lamb's skin, were the media of choice for writing.
  • Students learning to write used wooden tablets covered in green or black wax.
  • The greatest number of books during this era were bound with plain wooden boards, or with simple tooled leather for more expensive volumes.(SK)

Language in the middle ages:

  • Language saw further development during the Middle Ages.
  • Capital and lowercase letters were developed with rules for each.
  • Books were treasures, rarely shown openly in a library, but rather, kept safely under lock and key.
  • Finding someone who might loan you a book was a true friend.
  • Some might rent out their books, while others, desperate for cash, might turn to the book as a valuable item to be pawned.(SK)

Random Facts

  • The medieval literature talks about the dark ages of the western culture and civilization.

  • At this time , the church was a powerful institution that 's why the literature texts that could survive had to appeal to the teaching of the church,otherwise their writers would be condemned.

  • There was elegance of speech and manners.

  • is considered as a pure love, platonic and idealistic love. (SK)


  • Alchin, Linda. Medieval Life and Times. N.p. 20 December 2008. Web. 25 October 2011. (KM)
  • "The Middle Ages: Topics." The Norton Anthology of English Literature. W.W. Norton and Company, n.d. Web. 26 October 2011. (KM)
  • Beers, Kylene, and Lee Odell. Elements of Literature Sixth Course. New York: Holt, 2007. 116-129. Print. (KM)
  • "Medieval Literature." Medieval Life. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2011. <http://www.medieval-life.net/literature_main.htm> (SK)
  • "What are the characteristics of medieval literature." The Q&A wiki. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2011. <http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_are (SK)