MEDIEVAL Literature

These are representative pieces from the earliest period of English language literature, the Anglo-Saxon or Old English period to the Middle English period. The texts used here are modern translations, of which there are many.

The beauty of the language is apparent in these audio excerpts, traditionally interpreted here – but we have a bit of fun with Chaucer in our LITbit treatment of The Wife of Bath’s Tale. The LITbit allows us to take a piece and give it a modern spin, yet with all the original language intact. A reworking such as this acts as a facelift for these ancient texts, and prompts us to look at them in a new light.


from Beowulf: Prologue (3:27)

This short clip from the Prologue to Beowulf in one modern translation illustrates the poetic grandeur of this earliest of vernacular European literature. When read orally, the poem’s strong rhythm and alliteration are evident.

Acting it out: choral reading, pantomime

from Beowulf: Chapter 33 (6:40)

In Chapter 33, Beowulf is filled with inner conflict, guilt and self doubt, yet he goes on to avenge the destruction of his homeland by taking on the dragon alone.

Acting it out: improv inner conflict

from Sir Gawain and The Green Knight, Part One (5:10)

King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table are celebrating the Christmas holidays when the ominous Green Knight appears and offers up a curious, seemingly fatal challenge. Sir Gawain comes forward to meet it.

Acting it out: improv a dare from a stranger

from Gawain and the Green Knight, Part Three (8:25)

Sir Gawain has been on his journey to meet the Green Knight and is staying the night at a host lord’s castle. While he is there, the lady of the castle tries to seduce him.

Acting it out: improv thoughts, soundtrack

LITbit: from The Canterbury Tales (Geoffrey Chaucer),
Wife of Bath’s Tale (6:18)

Our LITbit version of the Wife of Bath’s Tale, in which a condemned knight seeks to redeem himself by going on a quest to find out what all women want. As he does, he must marry an ugly, old, obnoxious woman in the bargain. However, the final transformation makes them both happy.

Acting it out: modern parallel characterization