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The Experience of PoetryFrom Homer's Listeners to Shakespeare's Readers$
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Derek Attridge

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198833154

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198833154.001.0001

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Lyric, Romance, and Alliterative Verse in Fourteenth-Century England

Lyric, Romance, and Alliterative Verse in Fourteenth-Century England

(p.206) 9Lyric, Romance, and Alliterative Verse in Fourteenth-Century England
The Experience of Poetry

Derek Attridge

Oxford University Press

Fourteenth-century Europe saw the spread of literacy and increasing numbers of educated laity, creating a large audience for poetry on the page. Dante in the Commedia, Petrarch, Machaut, and others testify to great sophistication in written poetry—though oral performance remained important. This chapter and those that follow concentrate on poetry in English, which eventually displaced French and Latin as the language of the court. Attention is given to the question whether Middle English romance was an oral or written form, and evidence for the widespread enjoyment of lyric poetry is assessed. The chapter considers the increasing importance of the large household as a venue for both performances of poetry and for private reading, and the alliterative poems that may have been produced in this context are discussed. Also in alliterative verse, but from a London base, was Langland’s poem Piers Plowman, which circulated widely in manuscript.

Keywords:   literacy, Dante, Petrarch, Machaut, medieval romance, medieval lyric, tail-rhyme, alliterative verse, Langland, Piers Plowman

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