MIDDLE ENGLISH PERIOD
v The Normans:
The name ‘Norman’ is basically a softened form of ‘Northman’. The Normans were originally the inhabitants of Scandinavia. At first they led their livelihood by plundering and adventuring in their Viking ships. Later they landed on the French coast and conquered the whole northern country and accepted the French ideals and spoke the French language. Slowly within a century they became the most polished and intellectual people in all Europe.
v The Norman Conquest:
In 1066, after the death of King Edward the confessor, William, the Duke of Normandy claimed the English crown as the next king. Harold, the English king took up position on a hill six miles from Hastings and ultimately the battle, known as ‘the Battle of Hastings’ took place (oct.14, 1066). William became the conqueror and it is truly said “the Norman conquest brought England more than a change of rulers”.
v Influence of the Norman Conquest:
After the conquest it is true that at first the Normans and the Saxons lived apart as masters and servants. As a result nearly 150 years the English literature remained almost silent; but the mixture started and the literature started developing. On English Literature Norman conquest exercised the far reaching influences in several ways-
(a) In form and tone the English Literature was thoroughly changed coming contact with the French Lit. It acquired an ease, a mastered skill and the polish which were not seen in Anglo-Saxon Lit.
(b) In place of heroic sagas there came a bright varied wonderful literature that is ever to be remembered. The English writers attempted every form of literature romances, story telling in verse, chronicles, allegorical, homilies legends etc.
(c) In place of the only alliterative metre that the Anglo-Saxon poets used, the variety of different syllables and rhymes stated to be used as well as experimented.
(d) The West-Saxon dialect as the language of writing lost its position. Writers writing in English preferred their native dialect and as a result all the dialects flourished at the same time. Towards the end of the Middle English period East Midland dialect became the standard literary language.
After the Norman Conquest the Normans made their literary pursuits in England; but their language was Latin and French. In 1204 the Normans lost Normandy and as a result they lost interest in Normandy and they started to consider themselves purely to England. Further they started to join with the stream of English nationality and the result was enormous. A new literature namely ‘Anglo-Norman Literature’ came after a long silence of nearly 150 years.