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?

Old English

Monsters and heroes in Beowulf

Article by:
Victoria Symons

Victoria Symons puzzles out the meaning of monsters in Beowulf, comparing the hero with Grendel, Grendel's mother and the dragon.

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An introduction to Gawain and the Green Knight

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: an introduction

Article by:
Simon Armitage

Simon Armitage explores Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and reflects on how he approached his own translation of the poem.

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Legends of King Arthur

The legends of King Arthur

Article by:
Hetta Elizabeth Howes

Hetta Howes tracks the many appearances of King Arthur, from a 9th-century history to a Hollywood blockbuster, via the works of Chrétien de Troyes, Thomas Malory and the author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

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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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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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Saracens and racial Otherness in Middle English romance

Saracens and racial Otherness in Middle English romance

Article by:
Claire Harrill

Claire Harrill considers how 'Saracen' characters are portrayed in Middle English romances, and what these texts can reveal about ideas of Otherness in this period.

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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.