The Middle Ages covers roughly a thousand years, from approximately 400
to 1500 and the term generally refers to the changes that the European
society experienced during these years. Many agree that there was not just
one medieval civilization, but many. These civilizations are related to
each other in some ways, but they also have their own distinct
characteristics that set them apart from each other. Historians generally
agree that the Renaissance lasted approximately two centuries, beginning
with the mid-1300s and lasting until the1600s. Each era has defining
characteristics that that can be recognized through literature.
The Middle Ages represents a variety of literature. Literature about
kings flourished at this time. During this time, the heroic idea included
an aristocratic king. Literature of this time reflects an interesting
aspect, which is that by dying gloriously, one might achieve immortality.
(Abrams 3) Beowulf is one epic that has survived through the centuries.
Another great epic that has survived is Alexander the Great. The literature
of the Middle Ages touched practically every aspect of life and thought.
The Middle Ages, Barzun asserts, was not one, but many ages. They are
generally divided into two different periods of literary history--the Old
English and the Middle English. It is this variety that proved to inspire
the Renaissance. (Lucas 156) An interesting aspect of the Middle Ages is
the focus on courtly love. Courtly love is a "state of being like no other-
-out of bounds in relation to society and yet in many ways conventional"
(Barzun 233). This type of writing is called courtly because it revolves
around the ideas of chivalry.
The Middle Ages also contributed a great variety of poetry. Abrams
suggests that Christian ideals influenced how things were recorded and this
might also explain why some secular literature did not survive. Abrams
refers to Beowulf as ...