Brit Lit Midterm

  1. The Dream of the Rood
    • Author: Unknown
    • Story about the cross' experiences during the crucifixion
  2. Beowulf
    • Author: Unknown
    • POEM

    • Beowulf - The protagonist of the
    • epic, Beowulf is a Geatish hero who fights the monster Grendel, Grendel’s
    • mother, and a fire-breathing dragon. Beowulf’s boasts and encounters reveal him
    • to be the strongest, ablest warrior around. In his youth, he personifies all of
    • the best values of the heroic culture. In his old age, he proves a wise and
    • effective ruler.

    • King Hrothgar - The king of the Danes.
    • Hrothgar enjoys military success and prosperity until Grendel terrorizes his
    • realm. A wise and aged ruler, Hrothgar represents a different kind of
    • leadership from that exhibited by the youthful warrior Beowulf. He is a father
    • figure to Beowulf and a model for the kind of king that Beowulf becomes.

    • Grendel - A demon descended from
    • Cain, Grendel preys on Hrothgar’s warriors in the king’s mead-hall, Heorot.
    • Because his ruthless and miserable existence is part of the retribution exacted
    • by God for Cain’s murder of Abel, Grendel fits solidly within the ethos of
    • vengeance that governs the world of the poem.

    • Grendel’s mother - An unnamed swamp-hag,
    • Grendel’s mother seems to possess fewer human qualities than Grendel, although
    • her terrorization of Heorot is explained by her desire for vengeance—a human
    • motivation.

    • The dragon - An ancient, powerful
    • serpent, the dragon guards a horde of treasure in a hidden mound. Beowulf’s
    • fight with the dragon constitutes the third and final part of the epic.
  3. Lanval
    • Author: Marie De France
    • POEM

    • Lanval is a knight of King Arthur who displays
    • all necessary chivalric qualities, including valor, beauty, and largesse, but
    • is in despair over Arthur’s lack of generosity towards him. Lanval meets a beautiful woman and her attendants. They make love and she grants him access to
    • her infinite wealth, on the condition that he keeps their relationship secret.
    • One day,Arthur’s queen attempts to seduce Lanval, who rejects her. Angry, the queen accuses
    • Lanval of homosexuality, and he defends himself by telling her of his lover and
    • her great beauty. He tells her that even the poorest of his lover’s servants is
    • more beautiful than the queen.
  4. Eliduc
    • Author: Marie De France
    • PROSE

  5. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
    Author: unknown author, dubbed the "Pearl Poet" or "Gawain Poet"

    • The first day, the lord hunts a herd of does, while Gawain sleeps late in his
    • bedchambers. Gawain puts her off, but before
    • she leaves she steals one kiss from him. That evening, when the host gives
    • Gawain the venison he has captured, Gawain kisses him, since he has won one
    • kiss from the lady. The second day, the lord hunts a wild boar. The lady again
    • enters Gawain’s chambers, and this time she kisses Gawain twice. That evening
    • Gawain gives the host the two kisses in exchange for the boar’s head.

    • The
    • third day, the lord hunts a fox, and the lady kisses Gawain three times. She
    • also asks him for a love token, such as a ring or a glove. Gawain refuses to
    • give her anything and refuses to take anything from her, until the lady
    • mentions her girdle. The green silk girdle she wears around her waist is no
    • ordinary piece of cloth, the lady claims, but possesses the magical ability to
    • protect the person who wears it from death. Intrigued, Gawain accepts the
    • cloth, but when it comes time to exchange his winnings with the host, Gawain
    • gives the three kisses but does not mention the lady’s green girdle. The host
    • gives Gawain the fox skin he won that day, and they all go to bed happy, but
    • weighed down with the fact that Gawain must leave for the Green Chapel the
    • following morning to find the Green Knight.

    • New
    • Year’s Day arrives, and Gawain dons his armor, including the girdle, then sets
    • off with Gringolet to seek the Green Knight. A guide accompanies him out of the
    • estate grounds. When they reach the border of the forest, the guide promises
    • not to tell anyone if Gawain decides to give up the quest. Gawain refuses,
    • determined to meet his fate head-on. Eventually, he comes to a kind of crevice
    • in a rock, visible through the tall grasses. He hears the whirring of a
    • grindstone, confirming his suspicion that this strange cavern is in fact the
    • Green Chapel. Gawain calls out, and the Green Knight emerges to greet him.
    • Intent on fulfilling the terms of the contract, Gawain presents his neck to the
    • Green Knight, who proceeds to feign two blows. On the third feint, the Green
    • Knight nicks Gawain’s neck, barely drawing blood. Angered, Gawain shouts that
    • their contract has been met, but the Green Knight merely laughs.

    • The
    • Green Knight reveals his name, Bertilak, and explains that he is the lord of
    • the castle where Gawain recently stayed. Because Gawain did not honestly
    • exchange all of his winnings on the third day, Bertilak drew blood on his third
    • blow. Nevertheless, Gawain has proven himself a worthy knight, without equal in
    • all the land. When Gawain questions Bertilak further, Bertilak explains that
    • the old woman at the castle is really Morgan le Faye, Gawain’s aunt and King
    • Arthur’s half sister. She sent the Green Knight on his original errand and used
    • her magic to change Bertilak’s appearance. Relieved to be alive but extremely
    • guilty about his sinful failure to tell the whole truth, Gawain wears the
    • girdle on his arm as a reminder of his own failure. He returns to Arthur’s
    • court, where all the knights join Gawain, wearing girdles on their arms to show
    • their support.
  6. General Prologue
    • Author: Geoffrey Chaucer

    • The
    • narrator opens the General Prologue with a description of the return of spring.
    • He describes the April rains, the burgeoning flowers and leaves, and the
    • chirping birds. Around this time of year, the narrator says, people begin to
    • feel the desire to go on a pilgrimage. Many devout English pilgrims set off to
    • visit shrines in distant holy lands, but even more choose to travel to
    • Canterbury to visit the relics of Saint Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral,
    • where they thank the martyr for having helped them when they were in need. The
    • narrator tells us that as he prepared to go on such a pilgrimage, staying at a
    • tavern in Southwark called the Tabard Inn, a great company of twenty-nine
    • travelers entered. The travelers were a diverse group who, like the narrator,
    • were on their way to Canterbury. They happily agreed to let him join them. That
    • night, the group slept at the Tabard, and woke up early the next morning to set
    • off on their journey. Before continuing the tale, the narrator declares his
    • intent to list and describe each of the members of the group.
  7. The Knight's Tale
    Author: Geoffrey Chaucer

    • Long
    • ago in Ancient Greece, a great conqueror and duke named Theseus ruled the city
    • of Athens. One day, four women kneel in front of Theseus’s horse and weep,
    • halting his passage into the city. The eldest woman informs him that they are
    • grieving the loss of their husbands, who were killed at the siege of the city
    • of Thebes. Creon, the lord of Thebes, has dishonored them by refusing to bury
    • or cremate their bodies. Enraged at the ladies’ plight, Theseus marches on Thebes,
    • which he easily conquers. After returning the bones of their husbands to the
    • four women for the funeral rites, Theseus discovers two wounded enemy soldiers
    • lying on the battlefield, nearing death. Rather than kill them, he mercifully
    • heals the Theban soldiers’ injuries, but condemns them to a life of
    • imprisonment in an Athenian tower.

    • The
    • prisoners, named Palamon and Arcite, are cousins and sworn brothers. Both live
    • in the prison tower for several years. One spring morning, Palamon awakes
    • early, looks out the window, and sees fair-haired Emelye, Theseus’s
    • sister-in-law. She is making flower garlands, “To doon honour to May” (1047).
    • He falls in love and moans with heartache. His cry awakens Arcite, who comes to
    • investigate the matter. As Arcite peers out the window, he too falls in love
    • with the beautiful flower-clad maiden. They argue over her, but eventually
    • realize the futility of such a struggle when neither can ever leave the prison.

    • One
    • day, a duke named Perotheus, friend both to Theseus and Arcite, petitions for
    • Arcite’s freedom. Theseus agrees, on the condition that Arcite be banished
    • permanently from Athens on pain of death. Arcite returns to Thebes, miserable
    • and jealous of Palamon, who can still see Emelye every day from the tower. But
    • Palamon, too, grows more sorrowful than ever; he believes that Arcite will lay
    • siege to Athens and take Emelye by force. The knight poses the question to the
    • listeners, rhetorically: who is worse off, Arcite or Palamon?

    • Some
    • time later, winged Mercury, messenger to the gods, appears to Arcite in a dream
    • and urges him to return to Athens. By this time, Arcite has grown gaunt and
    • frail from lovesickness. He realizes that he could enter the city disguised and
    • not be recognized. He does so and takes on a job as a page in Emelye’s chamber
    • under the pseudonym Philostrate. This puts him close to Emelye but not close
    • enough. Wandering in the woods one spring day, he fashions garlands of leaves
    • and laments the conflict in his heart—his desire to return to Thebes and his
    • need to be near his beloved. As it -happens, Palamon has escaped from seven
    • years of imprisonment that very day and hears Arcite’s song and monologue while
    • -sneaking through the woods. They confront each other, each claiming the right
    • to Emelye. Arcite challenges his old friend to a duel the next day. They
    • meet in a field and bludgeon each other ruthlessly.

    • Theseus,
    • out on a hunt, finds these two warriors brutally hacking away at each other.
    • Palamon reveals their identities and love for Emelye. He implores the duke to
    • justly decide their fate, suggesting that they both deserve to die. Theseus is
    • about to respond by killing them, but the women of his court—especially his
    • queen and Emelye—intervene, pleading for Palamon and Arcite’s lives. The duke
    • consents and decides instead to hold a tournament fifty weeks from that day.
    • The two men will be pitted against one another, each with a hundred of the
    • finest men he can gather. The winner will be awarded Emelye’s hand.
  8. The Miller's Prologue and Tale
    • The pilgrims applaud the Knight’s Tale, and the pleased Host asks the Monk to match
    • it. Before the Monk can utter a word, however, the Miller interrupts. Drunk and
    • belligerent, he promises that he has a “noble” tale that will repay the
    • Knight’s (3126). The Host tries to persuade the Miller to let some “bettre” man
    • tell the next tale (3130). When the Miller threatens to leave, however, the
    • Host acquiesces. After the Miller reminds everyone that he is drunk and
    • therefore shouldn’t be held accountable for anything he says, he introduces his
    • tale as a legend and a life of a carpenter and of his wife, and of how a clerk
    • made a fool of the carpenter, which everyone understands to mean that the clerk
    • slept with the carpenter’s wife (3141–3143). The Reeve shouts out his immediate
    • objection to such ridicule, but the Miller insists on proceeding with his tale.
    • He points out that he is married himself, but doesn’t worry whether some other
    • man is sleeping with his wife, because it is none of his business. The narrator
    • apologizes to us in advance for the tale’s bawdiness, and warns that those who
    • are easily offended should skip to another

    • Oxford student named Nicholas,
    • boarded with a wealthy but ignorant old carpenter named John, who was jealous
    • and highly possessive of his sexy eighteen-year-old wife, Alisoun.

    • In the early dawn, Absolon passes by. Hoping to stop in for a kiss, or perhaps
    • more, from Alisoun, Absalon sidles up to the window and calls to her. She
    • harshly replies that she loves another. Absolon persists, and Alisoun offers
    • him one quick kiss in the dark.
  9. Morte D' Arthur

    BOOK 20
    Author: Sir Thomas Mallory

    • Agravaine finally catches an adulterous Launcelot and Guenevere, Arthur
    • sentences her for treason, Launcelot rescues her from being burnt at
    • the stake (for the third and last time) and Arthur lays siege to his
    • castle (his eighth battle), until the pope intervenes. Guenevere
    • returns to Arthur and Launcelot returns to France with his kin. Arthur
    • pursues Launcelot to France and Gawaine and Launcelot fight, but Arthur
    • receives news (about Mordred) that causes him to return to England.
  10. Morte D'Arthur
    Author: Sir Thomas Mallory

    • Book 21 - Mordred seizes his chance to usurp. Arthur returns and
    • defeats him at Dover (his ninth battle) and Barham Down (where Gawaine
    • dies, in his tenth battle). Father and son finally slay one another
    • near Salisbury, Arthur's eleventh and final battle.
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Brit Lit Midterm
Midterm Descriptions