English 10: Writing Portfolio

Essay the third

Essay the fourth







































 Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Nun’s Priest Tale”, one of the stories told on the pilgrimage in the Canterbury Tales, brilliantly depicted the time period of the fourteenth century in England, giving dramatic flair to its characters as well as impressive styles of writing and various themes to his work. Chaucer’s work showed depth and sophistication as he provided a picture of what it was like in England at this feudalistic time period. Using the pilgrimage, he brought together people from the medieval society, the church, the court, and the common people. In these years, knights lived by the code of chivalry. The Roman Catholic Church was strong and it was important to be a worthy man in the English society, although the church often fell upon rumors of hypocrisy and corruption. Feudalism had taken root because the central government could not keep order.We were also bothered by some habits of the people in the Middle Ages, as they ate with their fingers and were not particularly  
 Chaucer was a master storyteller and his insight into human characters made them appear to be real. The characters in the “Nun’s Priest Tale” were memorable, clearly explained individuals whose personalities were unique, but whose character traits were universal.  Chaucer revealed the characters through action, thoughts and dialogue. He also revealed them through their physical appearance and habits. In the “Nun’s Priest Tale”, Chaucer used a mock-hero style to change an animal fable into a comedy. The author exaggerated this rooster as a kind of mock-hero. This domestic animal in the barnyard was described as a mighty warrior of a great epic. Chanticleer was often boastful about his appearance.              
 A fable was a tale about animals that ends with a moral lesson to be learned. It was a humorous story about a magnificent rooster named Chanticleer, who had terrible nightmares about something that was trying to kill him.The rooster’s hen-wife Pertelote, portrayed as noble lady, told him not to be afraid. She said that it was just his humors.Physiognomy was a science that judged a person’s temperament and character based on their anatomy.This played a big part in Chanticleer’s nightmares, as his wife believed that he was having the nightmares because he was ill. Finally, the fox flattered Chanticleer about his singing and Chanticleer became vulnerable as the fox grabbed Chanticleer’s throat. Although the rooster was clever and convinced the fox to let him go, we know that the moral or exemplum was “ never trust a flatterer.”  
 A major theme in the text was courtly romance, a popular literary motif in the fourteenth- century literature. Chanticleer and Pertelote were a couple that were very much in love. According to the tradition of courtly love, the lady’s role was to believe in the knight’s heroism and to inspire him with her devotion.True love was supposed to exist outside of marriage. True love was idealized and spiritual and existed without being physical. Pertelote expressed some of this courtly love to Chanticleer. The Canterbury Tales was a frame story; that is, it was a story that included other stories inside it, such as the “Nun’s Priest Tale”. There were actually 24 stories inside the Canterbury Tales. The stories were old familiar ones. The style parodied epic poetry, using apostrophes or formal language. Similes were often used to compare unlike things using like or as. Rhyming Couplets were used as the rhyme scheme in the “Nun’s Priest Tale”. The language of the Middle Ages had also shifted from Anglo-Saxon to an easier language to understand, called Middle English. When Middle English was read aloud and the words were pronounced, it was easier to understand.  
 In his own lifetime, Geoffrey Chaucer was considered the greatest English poet. Other than Shakespeare, no other writer has surpassed Chaucer’s achievements.The Canterbury tales is still a fine work of literature, as his reputation has not dimmed. It also provided us with the best contemporary picture we have of the fourteenth century in England. He has created literature and poetic language for all classes of society.

































   One description that comes to mind when I think of the late twentieth century in Great Britain is “diversity”. There were so many different significant historical and literary events that took place in this time period. World War II ended in 1945. Elizabeth II became queen of England in 1952. In 1956 British troops were sent to Egypt during the Suez crisis. Then, in 1979 Margaret Thatcher became the first female prime minister. In 1981, Britain was suffering the worst recession since the 1930s and the royal wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana took place.1 It is because of these many various events that I name this time
period “diverse”. British literature had many different facets also. I will discuss five pieces of literature that had some sort of transformational impact on England and the world during the late twentieth century. Using a short story, play, poem, song and novel, I will cite lines that depict the diversity of this time. Diversity is seen in Doris Lessing’s short story “The Small Personal Voice”. It is a powerful example of the turning point that the world takes in this time period. The contemporary British play “A Man for All Seasons”, by Robert Bolt, explores historical drama. The British poet Ted Hughes has exhibited a great deal of diversity in the form and context of his poetry. His best known volumes include the poem “Hawk in the Rain”. Thomas Wilson’s concerto “Introit” communicates remarkable musical sound of the time period. Finally, William Golding’s  The Lord of the Flies is a well- known literary novel that has had a lasting impact on classic British literature.  
    Doris Lessing was born in 1919 of British parents. Her family moved to Southern Africa where she spent most of her childhood. In 1949, she moved back to London. She is regarded as one of the most important post-war writers. Her novels, short stories and essays have focused on a wide range of twentieth-century issues and concerns; from the politics of race that she confronted in Africa, to the politics of the gender gap which led to her adoption by the feminist movement, to the role of the family and the individual in society. “ A Small Personal Voice ” is a collection of Lessing’s essays, reminiscences, reviews, appraisals and interviews over a period of seventeen years from 1956 to 1973. Together they demonstrate the extraordinary diversity of her interests when the world was experiencing so much turbulence. They also show the strength and authority of her beliefs and insights. She states that “ You should write, first of all, to please yourself. You shouldn’t care a d**n about anybody else at all.” 2She also talks about the fact that there are few women that are prepared to stand up for what they really think. Her opinion is given about oppressive institutions and about how relationships are what really matters in life. Finally, she says,” What we hear if we listen is that “ small, personal voice”. “ Everywhere,” she says, “if you keep your mind open, you will find the truth in words not written down.”3 Much truth is found in this book. Her short stories are not only distinguished for their breadth of subject matter but also for their breadth of vision.4
    A type of contemporary British play is the historical drama. It explores figures, events, and attitudes from times gone by. “A Man for All Seasons” made its debut on the London stage at the Globe Theater on May 1, 1960. It was written by Robert Bolt. His play is brilliant as it tells the story of Thomas More, the sixteenth-century scholar and Catholic martyr. It empowers powerful, almost Shakespearean language. It captures the grandeur of times past. Individualism is one of the major themes. In 1534, Parliament passed a bill requiring all subjects to take an oath acknowledging the supremacy of England’s king over all foreign sovereigns- including the Pope. More refused, was imprisoned, and finally was executed in 1535. Robert Bolt’s Thomas More tells his daughter that for a man to take an oath is to hold “his own self in his own hands,”5 a sentiment that was aligned with the individualism of the time period. Bolt also stated that “a man’s soul is his self”.6 Finally, he states, “The person of greatest virtue is a man who dies for his convictions.”7
    The British poet Ted Hughes was born in 1903. He served as Poet Laureate to Queen Elizabeth II from 1984 until his death in 1998. As a major poet, he has been widely praised for his portrayal of nature in all its fierceness and primitive cruelty. Hughes uses verbal violence finding links between its universal force and the human condition. His first book of poetry  “The Hawk in the Rain” appeared in 1957 and brought him immediate success. Hughes’s fascination with nature and animals can be traced throughout his works. He eventually studied anthropology and archaeology because of this interest. The poems in “The Hawk in the Rain” are not about cozy little animals though, they have lines such as, “ I kill what I please because it is all mine” and “My manners are tearing off heads”.8 The Hawk is personified and speaks for itself. Other lines of the poem are: “Bloodily grabbed dazed last-moment-counting Morsel in the earth’s mouth, strain toward the master- Fulcrum of violence where the hawk hangs still.”9 Hughes has been called the most important figure to emerge on the British poetic scene since WWII.
    Thomas Wilson was born of British parents. He has consistently played an active part in the musical life of Britain, holding executive and advisory positions in such organizations as The Arts Council and The Composer’s Guild of Great Britain (Chairman 1986-1989). Wilson’s music has been played all over the world and embraces all forms- orchestral, choral-orchestral, chamber-orchestral, opera, ballet, brass band, vocal music of different kinds. In 1990 Thomas Wilson was awarded the CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. His concerto “Introit” has been hailed by the critics saying, “… the sheer loving care of the craftsman’s ear and eye makes it worth repeated hearings.”10  Another said,  “…one of the very best British concertos. It is delicate music that is colorful and elegant.”11
    William Golding (1911-1993) was an English novelist whose exciting adventure stories deal with the conflict between mind and instinct. His novels are moral fables that reveal how dangerous and destructive human beings may be unless they are restrained by conscience. Golding won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1983. His most famous novel is The Lord of the Flies. It is a 1954 classic story of good and evil. A group of English schoolboys are ejected form an airplane during a deadly atomic war onto a tropical island. We would expect this to be a pleasant experience, but it turns out very different. They worry about isolation, food and insects. Who will be in charge? Things change when ordinary school controls are absent. Without social controls, we are left with the question of whether we believe that people are inherently good or evil. Perhaps the two most important lines in the novel are when Jack says,“ Bullock to the rules, why should we obey the rules?”12 and Ralph says,“Because the rules are the only things we have.”13 An example of a gruesome detail from the novel is the name that Simon gives to the head of a pig that the others have slaughtered. After the kill, the pig’s skull is put on a stick where it is infested by flies. It is a grim view of our future in chaos.
    The late twentieth century was certainly a “diverse” time; not only historically, but also in British literature. The examples that I have analyzed of a short story depicting feminism and racism, a play of historical drama, a poem about nature, a song with piano accompaniment, and a novel that is a futuristic moral tale, proves the diversity of the time. Indeed, it was a very important time in our history with many great literary innovations. We are fortunate to have experienced these works of British literature and I’m sure that they will continue to be popular in the future.