The Anglo-Saxon Conquest of A. D. 450 along with the Christian Invasion of 597 began the age of heroism; St. Augustine helped this along by arriving in Kent at this time and beginning the Anglo-Saxon conversion to Christianity. The next 1,085 years included special events such as the Norman Conquest and the beginnings of English literature. By 1485 the Old English Period was ended by the composition of Everyman, the last morality play, and the Middle English Period was kicked of with Henry VII’s access to the throne. Between 1485 and 1603 theaters were built and the Spanish
Armada was defeated. The Middle English Period was ended in 1603 by the death of Elizabeth I. This essay will focus on the positive and negative values of the age of heroism and faith: bravery, courage, protectiveness, disloyalty, pride, envy, and humility along with others. It will also illustrate how the literature in this period expressed these values. Bravery, courage, protectiveness, stout heartedness, boldness, craftiness, and physical strength are some of the positive values expressed in English literature during the age of heroism. For example in “Beowulf”, irectly before Beowulf’s battle with Grendel’s mother he says, “With Hrunting I shall gain glory or die” (59: l. 1491).
“I risked my life often when I was young. Now I am old, but as king of the people I shall pursue this fight for the glory of winning, if the evil one will only abandon his earth-fort and face me in the open” (81: ll. 2511-2515). “I won’t shift a foot when I meet the cave-guard: what occurs on the wall between the two of us will turn out as fate, overseer of men, decides, I am resolved” (81: 2524-2527). The previous passages show the bravery, courage, and loyalty hat are instilled in Beowulf. “He first created the earth for the children heaven as a roof, holy Creator; then the earth mankind’s Guardian, eternal Lord afterwards created for men as earth, Lord Almighty” (Caedmon’s Hymn: ll. 5-9).
Disloyalty, weakness, and no generosity are a few of the negative values that are portrayed in “Beowulf. ” “Mighty and canny, Hygelac’s kinsman was keenly watching for the first move the monster would make. Nor did the creature keep him waiting but struck suddenly and started in; he grabbed and mauled a man on his bench, bit into his bone-lappings, bolted own his blood and gorged on him in lumps, leaving the body utterly lifeless, eaten up hand and foot”(42: ll. 735-744). “Every bone in his body quailed and recoiled, but he could not escape. He was desperate to flee to his den and hide with the devil’s litter, for all his days he had never been clamped or cornered like this” (42-43: 752-756). In the age of faith, pride is illustrated as a negative value in English literature along with envy, anger, gluttony, and lechery. In “Everyman” is states very clearly that pride is not considered a positive value in the age of faith.
For example, “Ye herers, take it of worth, olde and yonge, And forsake Pryde, for he deceyueth you in the ende; And remembre eaute, V. Wyttes, Strength, & Dyscrecyon, They all at the last do Eueryman forsake, Saue his Good Dedes there dothe he take” (Everyman: ll. 903-907). During the beheading game in “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”, red illustrates evil and green illustrates envy. The green knight in “green with envy”, as his name suggests. “The stranger on his green steed stirred in the saddle, and roisterously his red eyes he rolled all about, bent his ristling brows, that were bright green, wagged his beard as he watched who would arise”(127-128: ll. 304-306). “The Parson’s Tale” describes all of the chief negative values, in the age of faith, in a sermon. ” Pride is shown in many form: arrogance, impudence, boasting, hypocrisy, joy in having done harm, etc”(The Parson’s Tale: ll. 15-16). “Envy is sorrow at the prosperity of others and joy in their hurt” (The Parson’s Tale: l. 21).
“Anger is the wicked will to vengeance. Accidie does all tasks with vexatiom, slackly and without joy, and is encumbered by doing good. Avarice s a lecherous desire for earthy things, a kind of idolatry. Gluttony is an immeasurable appetite to eat or drink. Lechery is near cousin to gluttony, it has many form and is the greatest son of theft there is, for is steals body and soul,” (The Parson’s Tale: ll. 25, 30, 33, 37, 40-41). “Address of Satan to his followers (Genesis, ll. 442-460)” is yet another illustration of evil in English literature. “He would fain ensnare God’s servants unto sin, seduce them and deceive them that they might be displeasing to the Lord,” (Address of Satan to his followers (Genesis, ll. 42-460)). In “The Nun’s Priests Tale” Chauntecleer’s, the rooster, pride gets him in a heap of trouble.
“This Chauntecleer sttod hye unpon his toos, stretching his nekkle, and held his y(n cloos, and gan to crowe loude for the nones; and daun Russel the fox sterte up atones, and by the gargat hente Chauntecleer, and on his bak toward the wode his beer, for yit ne was no man that him sued” (271: ll. 511-517). But his pride also helped him in the long run. “Now goode men, I praye you herkneth alle: lo, how fortune turneth sodeinly he hope and pride eek of hir enemy. This cok that lay upon the foxes bak, in al his drede unto the fox he spak, and saide, “Sire, if that I were as ye, yit sholde sayn, as wis God helps me, ‘Turneth again, ye proud cherles alle! ‘” (272: ll. 582-589). In the age of faith, humility is illustrated as a positive value in English literature.
Sir Gawain portrays humility when he states, “I am the weakest, well know, and of wit feeblest; and the loss of my life would be the least of any; that I have you for uncle is my only praise; my body but or your blood, is barren of worth; and for that this folly befits not a king. And ’tis I that have asked it, it ought to be mine, and if my claim be not comely let all this court judge in sight” (128-129: ll. 354-361). “The Parson’s Tale” also talks about confession and satisfaction as positive values in the age of faith. For example, “Confession must be freely willed and made in full faith. A man must only confess his own sins, and truthfully with his own mouth, not painted with subtle words. Satisfaction consists generally in alms-giving, penance, fasting, and bodily pains.
Its fruit is endless bliss in Heaven,” (The Parson’s Tale: ll. 43-44, 46-47). In a way Chaucer was expressing his own humility in “The Canterbury Tales. ” “In the ‘Retraction’ the follows The Parson’s Tale, Chaucer acknowledges, lists, revokes, and asks forgiveness for his ‘giltes’ ( that is, his sins), which consist of having written most of the works on which his reputation as a great poet depends. He thanks Christ and Mary for his religious and moral works. One need not take this as evidence of a spiritual crisis or conversion at the end of his life. ” (274: ll. 18-22).