Re-Setting Narrative Expectations

The Twenty-first century’s expectations of narrative are markedly different to those of the Fourteenth. In Chaucer’s time a tale was expected to have some sort of moral message which would often be linked to the older tales of the Bible’s Old and New Testaments. Allegorical sense was an important part of Middle English literature communicating spiritual truisms and insights. In The Stonecutter’s Tale allegory plays a smaller part within the main narrative of the mystery of Saint Erkenwald and is arguably absent from the folk-tale sub-plot of The Peddler of Swaffham. Another factor in the writing of such a narrative poem was to be able to create a picture of London in Medieval times using the form most commonly in use at the time. Saint Erkenwald was written as an alliterative long line poem with little or no rhyme. This was unusual and proved less popular than the rhymed couplets and blank verse that was to later dominate English Literature. The Peddler of Swaffham is a tale that although set in Medieval England is unlikely to have been first written in the period. The earliest version that I have come across has been a prose rendering which nonetheless does not rule out a poetic origin for the story.

Another factor in the writing of such a narrative poem was to be able to create a picture of London in Medieval times using the form most commonly in use at the time. Saint Erkenwald was written as an alliterative long line poem with little or no rhyme.  This was unusual and proved less popular than the rhymed couplets and blank verse that was to later dominate English Literature. The Peddler of Swaffham is a tale that although set in Medieval England is unlikely to have been first written in the period. The earliest version that I have come across has been a prose rendering which nonetheless does not rule out a poetic origin for the story.

About 14thcenturypoet

Author of Mandorlinfiore, an historical fantasy based on traditional Italian folk tales...
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