Medieval prose


The work which stands as the first example of English narrative art and, at the same time, records the early history of Britain, is the Historia Regum Britanniae (1137), written in Latin by Geoffrey of Monmouth. Geoffrey was a Welshman, and drew on old British traditions while being very liberal with the facts. In his work the Kings of Britain are described from Brutus, the original conqueror of Britain and the grandson of Aeneas the Trojan. The Romans conquer Britain but the Britons reconquer Rome. The most interesting parts of his book are those which present Arthur as the heroic defender of the Britons and a model of knighthood and these were enthusiastically received by readers on both sides of the Chanel. Geoffrey's work is normally considered to be the first in the Arthurian cycle.
The main body of legends about King Arthur is collected in the best-known narrative work of the 15th century, Morte d'Arthur, written by Thomas Malory. Its simple, vigorous prose made this work, still enjoyed by modern readers, a rich source of inspiration to many writers.

A very important prose writer of the period is John Wycliffe, an Oxford theologian and religious reformer whose writing defended the poor, whom he considered to be oppressed by the power of the Church. He started the first translation of the Bible into English so that people could interpret Holy scripture for themselves.
It is worth remembering that while Chaucer's day books continued to be laboriously hand-written, the 15yh century saw the beginning of printing. In 1476 William Caxton stablished the first English press, out of which came the works of Chaucer, Malory and other popular and useful books of the day. For this particular reason, Caxton's contribution to English culture is precious.

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