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Geoffrey Chaucer(1340-1400)
I. title---“the father of English poetry”; the first to
compose verse using heroic couplets.
heroic couplet: A pair of rhymed lines written in
iambic pentameter.
II. Historical background
1. feudalism↓ 2. catholic church↓
→English Renaissance
III. Literary creation
1. The French period (The Book of the Duchess)
2. The Italian period (Troilus and Criseyde)
3. The mature period (The Canterbury Tales)
IV. contributions
1. Messenger of Humanism
 Affirm man's right to pursue earthly happiness
 Praise man's energy, intellect, quick wit and love of life
 Expose and satirize the social vices, including religious
2. The first important realistic writer
 Present a comprehensive realistic picture of the En society
 Create a gallery of vivid characters from all walks of life
 Explore the theme of the individual's relation to the society
3. “Father” of English poetry
 Introduce the rhymed stanzas of various types to English
poetry (e.g. heroic couplet)
 Develop his art of poetry
 Master of the English language
V. The Canterbury Tales
1. form: collections of Stories, just like:
 The Thousand and One Nights
 Confessio Amantis by Gower
 Metamorphoses by Ovid
 Decameron by Boccaccio
2. Chaucer’s plan
 30 pilgrims; 4 stories each; altogether 120 stories
3. structure: three parts
 The General Prologue
 24 tales, two of which left unfinished
 Separate prologues to each tale with links, comments, and
quarrels in between the Pilgrims.
4. The pilgrims:
 Five ideals Chaucer treats seriously (Knight, Squire,
Clerk, Parson, Plowman)
 Some he pokes fun at (Prioress, Monk, Wife of Bath)
 Some he is quiet about; short portraits with personal
view coming through (Prioress’s entourage)
 Some not very good; Chaucer is just a little negative
(Shipman, Manciple 伙食管理员)
 Hardened sinners, all of them religious officials
(Friar男修道士, Pardoner卖赦罪符者, Summoner)
5. The Opening Lines
 当四月的甘霖普降,
 使得山林莽原,
 遍吐嫩芽新条,
 青春的朝阳,已过半个白羊宫座,
(1) Cycles of time
 4 seasons of a year
 4 parts of a day
 4 phases of the moon
 4 stages of man
(2) Connotations of Spring
 Rebirth or revival of nature (biological, erotic)
 Reawakening of super-nature (religious)
(3) Two kinds of force----Natural force (to mellow vegetation,
stimulate birds and animals, stir up hearts of men)
Religious force (to waken man’s piety)
(4) Two kinds of love, voice, motivation---- earthly love,
divine love
(5) Structure: generality to specification; secular to religion
6. Chaucer goes to some trouble to create realism
A, Quarrels break out along the way, with several
pilgrims telling stories meant to insult another
B, When a story becomes tiresome, it is cut short
(Chaucer's Tale of Sir Thopas, the Monk’s tragedies)
C, The pilgrims are overtaken along the way by a
Canon and his yeoman, who talks too freely about
his master’s affairs, causing the Canon to ride off in
Popular Ballad(15thc)
I. Historical Background
 1. 1337-1453: war between England and France
 2. 1348-1369: black death
 3. 1455-1485: war of the Roses (civil war)
II. Definition
 Ballads are anonymous narrative songs that have been
preserved by oral transmission.
 A narrative song, or an oral form of verse
 Composed by common people during a long period of time
 An important stream of the Medieval folk literature
III. Theme
The themes of popular ballads are of a great variety: There
are romantic stories of love and friendship, of treachery and
murder, and supernatural tales about ghosts and spirits.
IV. Stylistic Features of the Ballads
1. Simple, plain language or dialect of the common people
with colloquial, vivid and, sometimes, idiomatic expressions
2. Composed in couplets or in quatrains known as the ballad
stanza, rhyming abab, with the first and third lines carrying
4 accented syllables and the second and fourth carrying 3.
3. Telling a good story with a vivid presentation around the
central plot.
4. Using a high proportion of dialogue with a romantic or
tragic dimension to achieve dramatic effect.
5. A dominant mood or tone, either tragic or comic.
6. Making full use of hyperbole with actions and events much
7. Using refrains and other kinds of repetitions.
V. samples
1. The Robin Hood Ballads reflects the social reality
in England in the second half of the 14th century.
At that time, peasants rose against their masters
and exploiters.
2. Get up and Bar the door is humorously told. It
shows the simple life and innocent fun of the
common people.
3. Sir Patrick Spens. The theme is about treachery
that leads to the tragic death of the hero.