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We can, nonetheless, describe in a general way what the word means when applied to medieval narrative. The basic material of medieval romance is knightly activity and adventure; we might best define medieval romance as a story of adventure--fictitious, frequently marvelous or supernatural--in verse or prose. Earlier romances in English are in verse; those in prose (Malory, for example) are generally late.

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Little survives about adult attitudes to children during the Anglo-Saxon period from 500 to 1066, although burials show that children were often buried with grave-goods, like adults, and that children with deformities were cared for and enabled to grow up. Information about adult attitudes grows in the twelfth century, an age of law-making in both the Church and in lay society. Making laws involved arrangements for children, because they could not be expected to bear the same responsibilities and penalties as adults. Medieval law-makers tended to place the boundary between childhood and adulthood at puberty, coventionally 12 for girls and 14 for boys. The Church led the way in making distinctions between childhood and adulthood. It came to regard children under the age of puberty as too immature to commit sins or to understand adult concepts and duties. On these grounds they were forbidden to marry, excused from confessing to a priest, and excluded from sharing in the sacrament of the eucharist. Secular justice developed a similar concept of an age of legal responsibility beginning at about puberty, although there are rare references to children receiving adult punishments.


Medieval Essays: Christopher Dawson ..

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"In both French and English the history of the word 'romance' is a similar one. It originally denoted the vernacular language of France as distinct from the Latin from which it was derived, but it soon extended its meaning to cover works written in French, so that the medieval English word can often be translated into modern English as 'the French book'. Very gradually there is a further alteration of its meaning and it comes to be used for those tales of knights and their doings for which the French were first famous, without regard to the language in which they were written. But owing to its previous wider connotation, there is always a tendency to use it to mean any kind of fictitious narrative, and even books of other kinds in the French tongue" (2-3). Everett restricts herself in this essay to "romances of chivalry."


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Perhaps surprisingly, any "love interest" is likely to be incidental to the story of a medieval romance. An exception to this rule may be found in the : the term refers both to the relatively brief form of medieval French romances, professed to have been sung by Breton minstrels on Celtic themes, and to the English medieval poems written in imitation of such works. These romances often wove their stories around a famous legendary figure (Arthur, for example, or Tristram) and took as their immediate subject matter a love story of some kind.

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Everett notes that whatever the original provenance of a hero, he is always made to conform to medieval conceptions of a knight: everything is medievalized (true of most if not all medieval literature, not just romances). Everett believes that romances appealed to the fashionable society of the day, largely through their (then) modernity. Our distance, Everett argues, lends a mysterious charm to the heroes (etc.) of romance, but the mystery was probably a great deal less for a medieval audience.

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If the romances are not "romantic" in Ker's sense of the term (for Ker, is "the name for the sort of imagination that possesses the mystery and spell of everything remote and unattainable"), how do we explain the pervasive use of the "marvelous"?
The division between the possible and the impossible was not so sharp to the medieval audience as it is to us, according to Everett (cf. Carolly Erickson's [1976]). Everett finds the display of the marvelous in ME romance excessive and decides that it was employed to satisfy a medieval popular thirst for "incident" (writers--and their characters--tend to take a rather matter-of-fact attitude toward marvels) (10).

Medieval Japan Essays In Constitutional History

The Middle Age is divide for historians into three periods, Early medieval, Romanesque and Gothic because was the transition of create, designed, express and built monumental and famous places to represent the richness, complexity and innovation of a new cultures and with icons and symbols that represent and charact...