Perhaps the best way to start appreciating early English literature is to not think of it as literature at all. The earliest stories in the English language were not written for academic study but as an extension of the oral tradition of relating grand and fanciful tales for entertainment. 
   These stories, then, were the blockbuster summer movies of their day--tales of adventure and romance, with brave knights, beautiful women, horrible monsters, and mysterious spirits.
Over  the  centuries  these  stories  became  a  part  of English literature, and along the way, the gripping manner in which they were told made the leap from word of mouth to the page. This book will show how that transition was made as it takes you on a journey through time and literary development.  
   To  study  English  literature  from  the  Old  English period  to  the  Renaissance  is  to  witness  the  movement from one-dimensional action stories and religious lessons to stories with more subtleties of plot and character development  and  the  development  of  language  usage  from simple conventions to new uses of sound and meaning. In short, this period began the rich tradition of English literature that continues to grow today. 
Introduction:   10
Chapter 1: The Old 
English Period   21
Poetry  24
The Major Manuscripts     25
      Problems of Dating            25
      Religious Verse   26
      Elegiac and Heroic Verse    27
      Prose   29
      Early Translations 
into English   30
      Late 10th- and 
11th-Century Prose   32
      Signifi cant Figures 
      and Texts   33
      Notable Old
English Writers   33
      Notable Old 
English Texts   39
Chapter 2: The Middle
English Period   50
      Early Middle 
English Poetry   50
      Infl uence of French 
Poetry   51
Fabliau 53
      Didactic Poetry   54
      Verse Romance   54
Beast Epic 55
      Arthurian Legend  56
Breton Lay 59
      The Lyric  59
      Early Middle English Prose    61
      Later Middle 
English Poetry   63
      Alliterative Poetry  63
      Courtly Poetry  68
      Popular and 
Secular Verse   72
Political Verse 73
      Later Middle English Prose   73
      Religious Prose  74
      Secular Prose  75
      Middle English Drama          77
      Mystery Plays  77
      Morality Plays  81
Everyman 83
      Miracle Plays  83
      The Transition from 
Medieval to Renaissance      84
      Signifi cant Middle English
Literary Figures  86
      William Caxton  86
      Geoff rey Chaucer  88 
      John Gower  102
      Lawamon  104
      Robert Mannyng  104 
      Orm  106
      Richard Rolle  107
Chapter 3: The Renaissance
Period (1550–1660)  108
      Social Conditions  109
      Intellectual and Religious
      Revolution  109
      The Race for Cultural 
      Development  111
   Elizabethan Poetry
and Prose  114
      Development of the 
      English Language  115
      Sir Philip Sidney and 
Edmund Spenser  117
      Elizabethan Lyric   121
      The Sonnet Sequence       122
      Other Poetic Styles           123
      Prose Styles, 1550–1600   127
      Early Stuart Poetry 
      and Prose  130
House of Stuart  131
      The Metaphysical Poets    133
The Metaphysicals           133
      Ben Jonson and the 
Cavalier Poets  138
      Continued Infl uence of 
Spenser  140
Spenserian Stanza  141
      The Eff ect of Religion 
and Science on Early 
Stuart Prose   142
      Prose Styles  144
      John Milton and the 
Renaissance  146
      Milton’s Life 
and Works   148
      Milton’s Infl uence  173
Chapter 4: Elizabethan
and Early Stuart Drama  177
      Theatres in London 
and the Provinces  178
      Professional Playwrights     180
Blank Verse 181
   Christopher Marlowe          182
      Marlowe’s Works  184
      Literary Career  188
      Assessment  189
      William Shakespeare           191
      Shakespeare the Man        191
Early Plays  197
      Plays of the Middle 
and Late Years  207
      The Poems   233
Collaborations and 
Spurious Attributions       236
      Questions of 
Authorship  237
      Playwrights after 
Shakespeare  240
      Ben Jonson  241
      Other Jacobean 
Dramatists  244
      The Last Renaissance 
Dramatists   246
Epilogue  249
Glossary  251
Bibliography  253
Index  257

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