The Old and Middle English Period Viva

Q.1. What do you know about Old English period?
Ans. The Old English vocabulary is for the most part native, though already there has been some borrowing from Latin. Its grammar shows declinable nouns, pronouns and adjectives and the more elaborate verbal system than that of to-day.

Q.2. What are the other important poems of the Old English Period?
Ans. Widsith, Waldere, The Fight at Finsburh, The Battle of Brunanburh and The Battle of Maldon. Among these poems Widsith is an Old English dramatic lyric. The sentiment is lyrical but the expression is epical. It describes the wanderings of an imaginary minstrel among the Germanic tribes in the fourth, fifth and sixty centuries.
Q.3. What do you understand about the Cynewulfian Group?
Ans. Four poems contain the signature of Cynewulf in characters, Juliana, Elene, Christ, and The Fates of the Apostles. This is all that is known of the poet, though unfortunately it has not prevented critics from ‘deducting’ additional facts about his life. Likewise other poems have little or no authority been ascribed to him, the most important being The Dream of the Road—undoubtedly the finest of all Old English religious poems in its intensity of feeling, brilliance of conception, and certainty of execution. It is the work of a real artist and poet.
Q.4. How will you discuss the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle?
Ans. It was inspired and organised by King Alfred and perhaps a part of it was written by him. The idea of a national chronicle seems to have been Alfred’s and the idea seems to have been carried out under his direct supervision. These manuscripts are more important that the others which are The Winchester Chronicle, The Abingdon Chronicle, The Worcester Chronicle, The Petersburgh Chronicle. Thus Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is the most important landmark of Anglo-Saxon prose.
Q. 5. How will you comment upon the prose of the Old English period?
Ans. Although much of Old English prose consists of translation from Latin and is clearly influenced by the originals, it is by no means correct to consider the prose of the period as lacking in originality or personal qualities. The homilies of Aelfric and Wulfstan are at the beginning of the true line of development to the prose of the Authorized Version. The beginnings of historical writings are to be seen in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and the development is clear by a comparison between the Cynewulf and Cynecheard episode in the annual for 755 and the later annals in the E.M.S.
Q. 6. What do you understand about the prose style of the Old English period?
Ans. Although the prose of this period has a limited scope, yet there is a great advance in style. From the earlier simple, halting prose of the chronicle and Alfred, from the period where sentence structure is rarely loose and lacking the final touches of rhythm and cadence, the prose is noteworthy for its fluency, its animation and its confidence. There is in the prose of Aelfric and Wulfstan, an excellent use of alliteration and the rhetorical figures.
Q. 7. What was the state of the English Language in the Middle English period?
Ans. The period sees the development of Middle English with the gradual weakening of the infexional system of the older period. The texts written down at the end of the Old English period are in the West Saxon dialect, but when texts reappear in the twelfth century they are written in the particular dialect of the author or scribe. Scandinavian and French loan-words are found; the latter in increasing numbers.
Q. 8. What do you know about the verse chronicles of Middle English Period?
Ans. During this period there is an unusual number of verse chronicles. They are distinguished by their use of stories which appear incredible, by their inventiveness, and in many cases by their vivacity of style. It should be remembered that in spite of the use of incredible adventures and the like the individual poets looked upon their work as history, though to the, present day they appear rather to fit into the category of romance.
Q. 9. What were the important verse chronicles of the Middle English period, according to your opinion?
Ans. Firstly, there was Lazamon’s Brut which illustrates the transitional stage in thought, language and metre. He turns to the old national verse and wrote this chronicle partly in alliterative lines and partly in rhymed couplets of unequal length. Secondly, Robert of Gloucester is known from his rhyming chronicle. He shows a true love of his country and for him. Arthur is the hero of his work. This chronicle is lively and thoroughly sincere but by no means outstanding in any way. Finally, Robert Manning of Brunne wrote Story of England. It begins with Noah and the Deluge and ends with the death of Edward I. His other work Handlying Synne was commenced in 1303. It is written in four-stress lines in couplets. It is a series of stories with tales and anecdotes as illustration.
Q. 10. How will you classify the Romance of the Middle period?
Ans. The very great number of romances in this period can be classified according to subject, though it should be noted that they are both alliterative and rhyming in metre.
Q. 11. What are the chief Romances in the Middle English period?
Ans. The Matter of England, The Matter of Britain and the Matter of Rome the Great and the group dealing with the Charelmagne legends, are the chief romances of the Middle.
Q. 12. Give your critical comments on the romances of the Middle English period.
Ans. The story of romances is usually long, with many intricacies of plot; above all’ the emphasis is on incident; martial exploits play a large part and are often made ridiculous (for the modern reader) by heaping battle on battle, exploit on exploit, so that the hero becomes again sometimes with ridiculous effect; characters are often of a type, though in the best example characterization is excellent, the style is often simple and direct with a lack of artistic finish though again the best examples must be absolved from such stricture. The spirited approach makes the best good adventure stories. In spite of the exaggerations, axtravagances, and ridiculous elements of the worst, the best of the romances provide a rich treasure-house of wonderful tales.
Q. 13. What is the poetical style of the Middle English period?
Ans. It is not too much of an exaggeration to say that from being artless the poet becomes the conscious artist. Often enough the poets when faced with more difficult material tend to become obscure, and again in handling some of the difficult metres which they attempted the same result is achieved. Though humour is often enough lacking, there are touches here and there, sometimes of a grim kind. Pathos, too, of a solemn and elevated kind is to be found as well as that of a more simple genre. In the best the style is lucid; controlled, and superb; in the worst, it has every possible fault.
Q. 14. What are your views regarding the prose of the Middle English period?
Ans. The prose for the main part is strictly practical in purpose, but the thread of a definite development has so often been demonstrated that the doctrine of the ‘Continuity of English Prose’ has become firmly rooted in English literary criticism today. The prose of the Ancrene Riwle and of the Katherine Group has at last been accepted for its true value.

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