British Literature Class Notes


A) Content is mainly narrative with some ambiguity with the facts and details. Simply, ballads are songs that tell stories.

B) Ballad meter tends to be 8-8 or 8-6 with some variations and a strong musical quality.

C) Ballad rhyme schemes are based on the quatrain, again with variations. Basic forms are

(- A - A) (A A B B) (A B A B)

D) Ballad authorship is unknown for older ballads which were mainly oral literature as opposed to the known authors of modern ballads who publish poetry or record songs.

Canterbury Tales Characters

All characters represent the middle class.

These characters represent the soldiers and officers of the law.

KNIGHT: fought in many foreign wars but was still mild and respectful in manners to all--the image of chivalry

SQUIRE: the knight's son who is also a part of knightly activities but is not as serious as his father; tends to wear "fashionable" clothes

YEOMAN: traveling forester with numerous weapons, knew all the ways of the woods

MANCIPLE: works for lawyers and tries to steal all he can from them and others with his sharp wit and precise ways

SERGEANT OF LAW: (or lawyer) who makes a great show of his learning with his "wise sayings" and knowledge of the justice system

SHIPMAN: skilled sailing captain and also a smuggler with a special taste for wine and making prisoners "walk the plank"

These characters represent the church.

PRIORESS (head nun): religious figure who seems too delicate and cultivated for this trip; she's very concerned about her appearance

MONK: a large, aggressive man who would rather be hunting or eating than reading books or performing church services

FRIAR HERBERT: religious figure with good humor who flirts with the opposite sex and desires greater wealth and pleasure in his life

SECOND NUN: accompanies the prioress, and brings three priests with her as attendants

PARDONER: bulb-eyed, goat-voiced, relic-carrying traveler from Rome who's friendly with the Summoner

OXFORD CLERIC: religious figure whose life was spent studying his books he's thin, unemployed, and poor

PARSON: religious figure who would help anyone at any time, regardless of social class, and teaches by example

SUMMONER: a disgusting man who drinks a lot and rides with the Pardoner; his job is to deliver messages from head church officials

These characters represent the merchants, craftsmen, and skilled specialists.

DOCTER: an expert in his profession as a master of knowledge of the humors, but more interested in gold than a patient's health

MILLER: large, bold bagpipe-playing, brash thief of farmers with a thumb of gold" that he uses to steal grain from poor farmers

REEVE: a sharp-dealing manager-type who got rich skimming off of others' business

MERCHANT: a tight-lipped man of business with motley dress; he's an expert at currency exchange and money lending

FRANKLIN: a rich landlord who always keeps the best provisions for his table; had been a member of parliament

WOMAN OF BATH: named Alice, a slightly deaf cloth maker with a great deal of experience with the opposite sex due to numerous husbands

COOK: named Roger , a "rollicking" fellow with a great sense of taste but unfortunately had a painful ulcer on his knee

PLOWMAN: the honest and hard-working brother of the Parson, who lives a good life according to the rules of the church


TAPESTRY MAKER: all are members of guilds, each is of important rank within his profession and is respected

(CHAUCER is the tale's narrator and the HOST who is owner of the Talbard Inn complete the group of travelers --the second nun's priest named John is the teller of one of the stories)

Review for Unit One Test

Multiple Choice Topics:

5 questions from Beowulf dealing with.....

Beowulf's ability as a king
Beowulf's motivations for his three key battles
the symbolic reason's behind Beowulf's mode of death
Beowulf classified as a literary work
realism in Beowulf's characterization

4 questions from "The Seafarer" & "The Wanderer"

themes & topics within "The Seafarer"
the "human paradox" within "The Seafarer"
tone & mood within "The Wanderer"
speaker at the start and end of "The Wanderer"

7 questions from the Folk Ballads

general features of folk ballads
reason for fragmented plots in folk ballads
contents of the letter in "Sir Patrick Spens"
Barbara's grudge against John in "The Bonny Barbara Allen"
ironic aspects of "Get up and Bar the Door"
the eventual outcome or fate for the couple in "The Highwayman"
elements of color and imagery in "The Highwayman"

4 questions on Bede's History of the English Church and People

reasons behind Edwin's conversion to Christianity
ways that Edwin's Coifi supported the Christian missionary
Caedmon's special talents or abilities
Caedmon's personal qualities or traits

4 questions on The Canterbury Tales "Prologue"

background on the author's biography
information about the nature of the "frame" Chaucer used
overview features of the 29 pilgrims
importance of The Canterbury Tales in ther world of literature

2 questions on the "Pardoner's Tale"

reasons for the deaths of the 3 central characters
the moral or theme of this tale

2 questions on the "Woman of Bath's Tale"

the exact nature and purpose of the knight's quest
reasons for the sorceress's deception of the knight

4 questions on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

literary terms which apply to this unique poem
specific seasonal aspects that relate to both beginning and end
symbolic elements of the "magic" green girdle
the 3 major settings where the action takes place

4 questions on Morte D'Arthur

Malory's reasons for the final conflict
Gawain's fate within the context of this version
events leading up to the final battle (setting)
elements of the confrontation between Arthur and Mordred

2 questions on Everyman

symbolic (allegorical) representations of the play's characters
key purposes or themes of the play

2 questions on The Diary of Margery Kempe

elements leading up to Kempe's episode of insanity
Kempe's vision of Christ and the effect on her that it had

Essay Question Topics:

the meaning of the "lordship" to the Anglo-Saxon tribe
narrative elements of "The Seafarer" & "The Wanderer"
Bede's biography of Caedmon--overview details
plot & structural elements of The Canterbury Tales "Prologue"
literary terms related to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Malory's biographical background & the writing of Morte D'Arthur

The English Royalty



For more information, go to
History of the British Monarchy


William I
William II
Henry I
by conquest
Third son of William I
Youngest son of William I
Third son of Stephen, Count of Blois
1135 1154


Henry II
Richard I
Henry III
Edward I
Edward II
Edward III
Richard II
Son of Henry I's daughter
Eldest surviving son of Henry II
Youngest son of Henry II
Eldest son of John
Eldest son of Henry III
Eldest surviving son of Edward I
Eldest son of Edward II
*Grandson of Edward III*


Henry IV
Henry V
Henry VI
*Grandson of Edward III*
Edlest Son of Henry IV
Only son of Henry V
1422--1461 & 1470--1471


Edward IV
Edward V
Richard III
*Great-grandson of Edward III*
Eldest son of Edward IV
Younger brother of Edward IV


Henry VII
Henry VIII
Edward VI
Mary I
Elizabeth I
*Great-great-grandson of Edward III*
Only surviving son of Henry VII
Son of Henry VIII by Jane Seymour
Daughter of Henry VIII by Katharine
Daughter of Henry VIII by Anne Boleyn


A) Every sonnet consists of fourteen lines with iambic pentameter, a set rhyme scheme, and a lyric content.

B) English style sonnets have three quatrains (sections of four lines) and one couplet (two lines). There are two leading rhyme schemes for the English style:

1. Shakespearean--A B A B C D C D E F E F G G
2. Spenserian-----A B A B B C B C C D C D E E

C) Italian sonnets (Petrarchian as introduced by Thomas Wyatt) are constructed of two sections: an octave (eight lines with a rhyme scheme of A B B A A B B A) and a sestet (six lines with a variable rhyme scheme using C D E).

D) A sonnet sequence or cycle (introduced to England by Phillip Sidney) is a group of sonnets that deal with a central topic or subject.

**NOTE** Even though the sonnet was the most important poetic format during the English Renaissance, Spenser's "The Faerie Queen" (an epic narrative) was the most important poetic work of the era.

Review for Unit Two Test

***Matching for Biographies of Sixteen Period Authors***

Multiple Choice Topics:
1. results from the delay of the English Renaissance
2. chief ruler of the English Renaissance
3. Mary Queen of Scot's claim to the English crown
4. key events in the rule of Henry VIII (things he's noted for)
5. the participants and issues behind the Wars of the Roses
6. patronage and commercialism concerning writers of the renaissance
7. causes of the English Civil War
8. literary "schools" during the Civil War period
9. events that brought the Civil War period to a close
10. the central subject of Sir Thomas Wyatt's "Whoso List to Hunt"
11. the speaker's main complaint in Sir Thomas Wyatt's "The Lover Showeth"
12. autobiographical elements of Queen Elizabeth's "On Monsieur's Departure"
13. the theme of Sir Phillip Sidney's set of sonnets and how they were autobiographical
14. the theme of "Canto I" of "Book I" from Spenser's The Faerie Queen
15. characterization of "Errour" from Spenser's The Faerie Queen
16. characterization of "the lady in mourning" from Spenser's The Faerie Queen
17. Edmund Spenser's rhyme scheme for his sonnets
18. main point of Edmund Spenser's "fire & ice" sonnet
19. main point of Edmund Spenser's "writing in sand" sonnet
20. shepherd's primary motivation in Marlowe's "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love"
21. the girl's chief concern in Raleigh's "The Nymph's Reply"
22. the main ideas of Francis Bacon's analysis of studies
23. William Shakespeare's career and biographical background
24. key point of Shakespeare's "Let me not to the marriage of true minds" sonnet
25. conclusion of Shakespeare's "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun" sonnet
26. conclusion of Shakespeare's "That time of year thou mayst in me behold" sonnet
27. chief issue in Shakespeare's "When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes" sonnet
28. themes from the two Shakespeare songs--"Heat of the Sun" & "Winter Wind"
29. chief themes from the King James Bible "Genesis" and "Psalm 23"
30. themes in the King James Bible's Old and New Testaments
31. main themes of the metaphysical writers
32. the main idea of Donne's "Song"
33. Donne's treatment of Death in his "Death Be Not Proud"
34. Donne's main message to his wife in "Valediction: Forbidding Mourning"
35. Jonson's "mistake" in "To His Son"
36. the main ideas of Jonson's "Song to Celia"
37. the poet's advice in Herrick's "To the Virgins to Make Much of Time"
38. what Suckling suggests about himself in "The Constant Lover"
39. Suckling's advice in "Why So Pale and Wan, Fond Lover"
40. Lovelace's logical reasoning in "To Lucasta, on Going to the Wars"
41. Lovelace's depiction of freedom in "To Althea, from Prison"
42. Marvell's thematic concerns in "To His Coy Mistress"
43. Milton's belief about himself in "How Soon Hath Time"
44. Milton's chief themes in "When I Consider How My Light Is Spent"
45. Satan's refusal to submit in Milton's Paradise Lost
46. Satan's goals or ambitions in Milton's Paradise Lost
47. general treatment of the Pilgrims in Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress

Essay Question Topics:
A. Detail Henry VII plans for a western empire and why they failed
B. the ways and reasons Spenser's The Faerie Queen was constructed
C. autobiographical aspects of Sir Phillip Sidney's set of "Astrophel and Stella" sonnets
D. connect Bacon's "Of Studies" with the development of the Scientific Method.
E. patronage and commercialism concerning Shakespeare's career
F. Oliver Cromwell's biographical background & causes of the civil war
G. themes and writing styles Cavalier and Metaphysical writing movements
H. compare biographical backgrounds of John Milton and John Bunyan

Review for Unit Three Test

IMPORTANT: know biographies of the unit's writers
1. important writers of the Restoration Period
2. the Glorious Revolution of 1688
3. writing styles of the Restoration Period (x2)
4. meanings behind Pope's Epigrams
5. theme of Pope's "Essay on Man"
6. Pope's other satirical works
7. John Dryden's literary biography
8. main idea of Dryden's "Essay on Dramatic Posey"
9. Aphra Behn's biography
10. main idea of Behn's "On Her Loving Two Equally"
11. writing style of Swift's "A Modest Proposal"
12. "tone" of Swift's "A Modest Proposal"
13. reasons for 18th. century being the age of prose
14. writer's purpose of Swift's Gulliver's Travels
15. main idea of the four books of Swift's Gulliver's Travels
16. central idea of Montagu's "Letter to Her Daughter"
17. the importance of The Spectator in its time
18. main idea of Steele's "Sir Roger de Coverly"
19. main idea of Addison's "Country Manners"
20. Samuel Pepys's literary biography
21. main idea of Pepys's "The London Fire"
22. main idea of Pepys's "The Coronation of Charles II"
23. reason for the decline of English theater
24. Daniel Defoe's biography
25. content of Defoe's Journel of the Plague Year
26. formation of Whig & Tory parties
27. mood and theme of Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard"
28. Samuel Johnson's biography
29. history behind Samuel Johnson's Dictionary
30. construction of Samuel Johnson's Dictionary
31. the main idea of Johnson's "Letter to Lord Chesterfield"
32. Johnson's self-defense in the "Preface to the Dictionary"
33. Boswell's plan in writing the Life of Samuel Johnson
34. distinction between Pre-Romantics and Romantics

Review for Unit Four Test

1. background on the rule of George I of Hanover
2. the purpose of The Union Act of 1707
3. British social or political changes in the 18th. century
4. the central themes of the Romantic movement
5. the role of the Jacobite "Pretenders" in the 17th. and 18th. centuries
6. the main ideas of Wollstonecraft's "A Vindication of the Rights of Women"
7. reasons why Wollstonecraft's early efforts in feminism were revolutionary
8. Wollstonecraft's stated opinions from "A Vindication of the Rights of Women"
9. Wollstonecraft's views on marriage
10. William Blake's biography
11. differing views Blake's "Holy Thursday" poems
12. the key issue being examined in Blake's "The Poison Tree"
13. the key issue of Blake's "The Lamb" and "The Tyger" poems
14. Robert Burns's biography
15. the mood of Burns's "John Anderson, My Jo"
16. the overall conclusion of Burns's "To a Mouse,"
17. William Wordsworth's biography
18. the main focus William Wordsworth's "The World Is Too Much with Us"
19. main ideas William Wordsworth's "It Is Beauteous Evening"
20. the "child" philosophy of William Wordsworth's "My Heart Leaps up"
21. the "real" setting of William Wordsworth's ".....Tintern Abbey"
22. the spiritual theme of William Wordsworth's ".....Tintern Abbey"
23. main subjects of Dorothy Wordsworth's journal entries
24. Samuel Coleridge's biography
25. the key concepts in Coleridge's "Kubla Kahn"
26. parts of the frame story in Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner"
27. plot details from Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner"
28. the primary lesson in Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner"
29. the biography of Lord Byron
30. details about the entire Childe Harold's Pilgrimage by Byron
31. central subject of Byron's "She Walks in Beauty"
32. the biography of Percy Shelley
33. the possible subjects of Percy Shelley's "Ozymandias"
34. key concepts of Percy Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind"
35. the contents of Percy Shelley's "To a Skylark"
36. main connection between Shelley's "To a Skylark" and "Ode to the West Wind"
37. the biography of Mary Shelley
38. the background behind Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
39. the biography of John Keats
40. the plot of Keats's "La Belle Dame sans Merci"
41. the mystery at the end of Keats's "Ode to a Nightengale"
42. the conclusion of Keats's "When I Have Fears That I May Cease to Be"
43. the subjects of analysis in Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn"
44. the main idea of Keats's "To Autumn"
**45. matching biographical details for the ten authors**