The Fifteenth Century Literature Viva

Q. 1. How will you account for the comparative barrenness of literary production after the death of Chaucer?
Ans. The period following the death of Chaucer (1450-1550) begins with wars, unrest, and chaos, and concludes with a settled dynasty, a reformed religion and a people united and progressive. Considering the length of the period the poverty of literary output is hard to explain. There is no English poet of any consequence; there was no outstanding achievement in prose, which appeared in theological works.

Q. 2. What was the cause of the development of drama after the age of Chaucer?
Ans. The popularity of the romance was almost gone; the drama, more suited to the growing intelligence of the time, was rapidly taking on a new importance. The professional actor and the playwright, owing to real demand for their services, were making their appearance.
Q. 3. What is the significance of the 15th century literature?
Ans. Apparently, this period has been characterised as barren and unproductive. In reality, it is a season of healthy fallow, of germination, of rest and recuperation. The literary impulse, slowly awakening, is waiting for the right moment. When that moment comes the long period of rest gives the new movement swift and enduring force.
Q. 4. The fifteenth century poetry has little or no originality’. Discuss.
Ans. The main tendency of the fifteenth century was to imitate Chaucer, and the weakness lay in the fact that the poetry thus produced was merely imitation, and showed little or no leaven of originality. The poets, too, often failed to understand Chaucer’s versification, and second unable to make their rhythm smooth or even to count the right number of syllables. Moreover, versification became a real problem because the final e sounded by Chaucer was dying out in pronunciation as modern English, with its dropping of terminations, quickly evolved.
Q. 5. What are your general remarks on the prose of 15th century?
Ans. Between Malory and the Elizaberthans there was, of course, considerable prose of many kinds. There were several histories, unscientific as history, and very pedestrian as prose; there were translations, too, and miscellaneous works; but except that they show that the medieval preference of Latin for serious prose works was passing away, they are of little or no interest. There were, in fact, no outstanding achievements in prose. But facts are helped to reveal the dwindling influence of Latin and the increasing importance given to English.
Q. 6. What is the importance of the establishment of the printing press in the fifteenth century?
Ans. There is not outstanding prose work to be named, in this century, but it is significant fact that the establishment of printing press in England by William Caxton meant more for prose than for poetry because it made possible the wide dissemination of knowledge of which prose is the popular vehicle. Besides, prose is the more popular medium for tales. Hence the printing press gave a very considerable impetus to prose and by leading to the writing of work of a more popular, and often of a more ephemeral kind.
Q. 7. How will you discuss Sir Thomas More’s ‘Utopia’?
Ans. Utopia is the description of an ideal commonwealth. This, however, was in Latin, but it was translated into English in 1551 by Ralph Robinson. It provides us with an example of pre-Elizabethan prose which is racy as a whole.
Q. 8. Who were the great translators of the Bible in the fifteenth century?
Ans. The greatest of all the translators was William Tyndale who did much to give the Bible its modern shape. Miles Coverdale carried on the work of Tyndale, though he lacked the latter’s scholarship. However, we had an exquisite taste for phrase and rhythm and many of the most beautiful Biblical expressions are of his workmanship.
Q.9. How will you discuss the literary style of fifteenth century?
Ans. In English poetry there was a marked decadence in style. In the works of Lydgate, Skelton and Hawes the metres often became doggerel; there was little trace of real poetical imagination and phrasing; and the actual vocabulary is not striking. Compared with that of Chaucer, their work seems childish and inept.
Q.10. What were the reasons of the collapse of style of this period?
Ans. Firstly, there is the sheer lack of talent. There is no body to carry on the Chaucerian tradition with credit. Secondly, there was the rapid decay of the use of final e which in the metre of Chaucer was an item of much moment. Finally pronunciation of English was rapidly changing and the new race of poets had not the requisite skill to modify the old metre to suit the new age.

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