Form and genre

Dream visions, heroic poetry, riddles and mystery plays: approach medieval literature through the lens of form and genre.

Mystery plays and medieval drama

Medieval drama and the mystery plays

Article by:
Hetta Elizabeth Howes

The mystery plays and morality plays of the 15th and 16th centuries were very different from modern drama. They were performed in public spaces by ordinary people, and organised and funded by guilds of craftsmen and merchants. Hetta Howes takes us back in time to show how these plays portrayed scenes from the Bible, conveyed religious doctrine and encouraged their audiences to lead Christian lives.

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Dream visions

Dream visions

Article by:
Mary Wellesley

Used by diverse writers throughout the Middle Ages, the dream vision as a form was as popular in the late medieval period as the novel is today. From courtly comedy to social critique, via feminist polemic, Mary Wellesley explores some of the most captivating works of the medieval period.

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Waves to illustrate the elegies of the Exeter Book

The elegies of the Exeter Book

Article by:
Michael Bintley

The poems in the Exeter Book known as the 'Old English elegies' focus on loss, separation and the transience of earthly things. Mike Bintley explores these poems, which include The Wanderer and The Wife's Lament, and highlights the parallels between the elegies and the riddles in the Exeter Book.

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Aldhelm's riddles, to illustrate the Exeter Book riddles in context

The Exeter Book riddles in context

Article by:
Megan Cavell

The Exeter Book, compiled by 10th-century clerics, contains a number of surprisingly euphemistic riddles. Megan Cavell explores what these bawdy puzzles tell us about sex and gender in Anglo-Saxon England.

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Old English heroic poetry

Old English heroic poetry

Article by:
Michael Bintley

Old English heroic poetry celebrates ancient and contemporary warriors, but it also celebrates acts of self-sacrifice and the stories of brave women, and combines pagan and Christian values. Mike Bintley introduces some of the key texts of the genre, including Beowulf, The Battle of Maldon, The Dream of the Rood and Judith.

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Love and chivalry in the Middle Ages

Love and chivalry in the Middle Ages

Article by:
Laura Ashe

In the Middle Ages, the greatest knight was not simply the greatest warrior. He was also kind, courteous, generous and devoted to his lady: qualities that combined to produce perfect chivalry. Laura Ashe explores the ideal of chivalry through several works of the period.

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Experiencing medieval literature

Experiencing medieval literature

Article by:
Tom White

Literacy rates in the Middle Ages were low, but those who were unable to read could experience literature through ways other than private, silent reading. Tom White explains how 'illiterate' individuals encountered literary texts and traditions through textiles, wall paintings, sculptures and listening to works read aloud.

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makars

The Makars: Medieval Scottish poetry

Article by:
Joanna Martin

From morality to migraines: Joanna Martin analyses key concerns in the late medieval poetry of Robert Henryson and William Dunbar.

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Further themes

Language and voice

From the development of Old and Middle English to the innovations of William Caxton and the printing press: explore language and voice in the medieval period.

Heroes and heroines

Discover some of the earliest heroes and heroines in English literature, from Beowulf to King Arthur. What are the typical characteristics of a medieval hero, and what can this reveal about society in the Middle Ages?

Gender and sexuality

Examine representations of gender, sex and relationships in medieval literature, from the works of women's writers to tales of courtly love to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.

Myths, monsters and the imagination

A shadowy man-eating monster, a strange green knight, and fictional accounts of journeys around the world: investigate the boundaries between the real and imaginary in medieval literature.

Faith and religion

From stories of saints and demons to reflections on life and death, God and salvation: discover how medieval literature navigates matters of faith and religion.

Form and genre

Dream visions, heroic poetry, riddles and mystery plays: approach medieval literature through the lens of form and genre.