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.

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Old English

Article by:
David Crystal

David Crystal charts the evolution of Old English through the 700 years during which it was written and spoken.

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Middle English

Article by:
David Crystal

David Crystal explains how Middle English developed from Old English, changing its grammar, pronunciation and spelling and borrowing words from French and Latin.

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William Caxton and the introduction of printing to England

Article by:
A S G Edwards

A S G Edwards explains how William Caxton brought the printing press to England, and published printed versions of works by writers including Chaucer, Malory, Gower, Cicero and Virgil.

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A close reading of Chaucer's ‘The Merchant’s Prologue and Tale'

Article by:
Jenny Stevens

Jenny Stevens introduces 'The Merchant's Prologue and Tale', exploring the way in which it combines literary genres and traditions, and refuses to give the reader a clear moral or message.

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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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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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The earliest world history in English

Article by:
Victoria Walker

The earliest history of the world in the English language was written between 870 and 930 CE by an anonymous Anglo-Saxon author. Victoria Walker considers what we can learn from the Old English Orosius about the Anglo-Saxons and their relationship to the wider world.

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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.