The Bible in Middle English Literature

The Bible in Middle English Literature

The Bible in Middle English Literature

The Bible in Middle English Literature

Excerpt

Thus is the second of two studies devoted to the influence of the Bible on early English literature. The first, The Bible in Early English Literature, appeared in 1976 and was concerned primarily with general background and major examples of biblical influence in the Old and Middle English periods. The present study deals exclusively with the later period: the first two chapters survey the substantial categories of drama and lyric, while the next three chapters examine in some detail specific poems by major fourteenth-century authors--Chaucer Parliament of Fowls, works of the Pearl poet, and, deliberately in climactic position, Piers the Plowman, the most profound example of a work written in imitation of the Bible. In a sense, all the earlier studies could be regarded as preparation for an understanding of the poem that is the subject of the final chapter.

In the first two chapters of this volume I had the difficult task of compressing into relatively small space a large amount of material, while at the same time offering a few insights into the significance of this material as a reflection of biblical influences. Chapter One seeks to settle the dust of recent controversy over the origin and development of the medieval drama, to provide some examples of how the Bible was brought to life on the medieval stage, and to offer a possible explanation of the origin of the morality play in England. As the title of Chapter Two suggest, my effort here is to examine the shorter medieval lyrics as . . .

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