Said in jest: Who’s laughing at the Middle Ages (and when)?


The essay begins with a negative image of a medieval scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which is used to point out that the scene is a knowing parody rather than founded on a genuine belief in an unmitigatedly dark age

Courtesy and Politeness in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Gawain and the Green Knight

A close reading of three selected passages of the Middle English alliterative romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight provides a detailed picture of fictional and fairy-tale manifestations of courtly and polite behaviour in Middle English, a period that imported many new terms of courtesy and politeness from French.

30 Sagas in 30 Days on Twitter

30 Sagas in 30 Days on Twitter

This month, a scholar is using Twitter to tell the stories of thirty lesser known tales written by Icelanders.

Teaching Tolkien’s Translations of Medieval Literature: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Sir Orfeo and Pearl

Gawain and the Green Knight tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien, the medievalist who became the father of modern fantasy literature, translated many poems out of Old English, Old Norse and Middle English into carefully versified modern English

Hair and Masculinity in the Alliterative Morte Arthure

King Arthur as one of the Nine Worthies, detail from the "Christian Heroes Tapestry" dated c. 1385

This essay examines the use of forced hair cutting in the late fourteenth‐century alliterative romance, Morte Arthure, to show how it is used to develop characters that reflect the tension surrounding the English king Richard II and the tyranny that characterized the final years of his reign.

Last Laughs: Torture in Medieval Icelandic Literature

Hrafnkels saga

Medieval Icelandic literature is full of violence, calculated and reasoned violence, narrated in such a way as to focus largely on issues of personal honor and justice, less so on the spectacle of blood so common in the modem Hollywood action film.

Literature in an Apocalyptic Age; or, How to End a Romance

Yvain fighting Gawain. Medieval illumination from Chrétien de Troyes's romance, Yvain, le Chevalier au Lion

No literature of the Middle Ages has so successfully captured the imagination of recent times as has the medieval romance.

Senses of the Past: The Old English Vocabulary of History

Page from Beowulf, now at the British Library

How did the Anglo-Saxons think about history?

5 Fun Facts About Robin Hood

robin hood facts

Robin Hood has enthralled generations of readers and movie goers. This English outlaw-hero has become of symbol of freedom against tyranny, stealing from the rich to give to the poor. But who was Robin Hood? How much is grounded in myth and how much is reality?

The Priest and the Fox: Tricksters in Chaucer’s Nun’s Priest’s Tale

Chanticleer and the Fox in a mediaeval manuscript miniature

Although the figure of Reynard is prevalent in trickster lore, the primary trickster at play in the Nun’s Priest’s Tale may be not the fox but the teller of the tale, the Nun’s Priest himself who travels the road to Canterbury.

Movie Review: Tristan and Isolde

Tristan and Isolde, starring James Franco and Sophia Myles.

As far as medieval movies go, Tristan and Isolde definitely isn’t the worst I’ve seen. I was looking for a movie to watch after work, and I thought, hey, James Franco, Sophia Moyles, Henry Cavill, and Rufus Sewell, all directed by Ridley Scott?! – this can’t be that bad. Well, it was pretty bad, but it wasn’t the worst 2 hours of my life. So what went wrong?

Fourteenth-Century Weaponry, Armour and Warfare in Chaucer and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Gawain and the Green Knight

This essay attempts to re-appraise selected passages of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight from a wider military historical and archaeological perspective.

Hostages in Old English Literature

Byrhtnoth - photo by Andrew Barclay / Flickr

Hostages in Old English Literature examines the various roles that hostages have played in Anglo-Saxon texts, specifically focusing on the characterization of Æscferth in The Battle of Maldon.

What Is Medieval European Literature?

medieval armenian manuscript - Photo by Retlaw Snellac Photography / Flickr

It is a great pleasure for us to publish the first issue of Interfaces. A Journal of Medieval European Literatures, offering free availability for all.

Five Ways Gawain Kicks Lancelot’s Ass

Sir Gawain, by Howard Pyle from The Story of King Arthur and His Knights (1903)

Here are five ways in which Gawain shows Lancelot who’s boss!

What Does Normal Look Like?

Stephanie Trigg

Thomas Hoccleve was a fifteenth-century clerk and poet who suffered a mental breakdown around 1416. In his poem, which we now call Hoccleve’s Compleint, he describes his depression and anxiety about not being able to convince his friends and co-workers that he has recovered.

Is it better to be right or left-handed? The view from the 9th century

left handed - photo by Derek Bruff / Flickr

Was it really bad to be left-handed in the Middle Ages? Or was it better than being right-handed? The 9th century writer of all things unusual, al-Jahiz, weighs in.

A Comparative Analysis of the Concepts of Holy War and the Idealized Topos of Holy Warrior In Medieval Anatolian And European Sources

story of the crusaders

This thesis focuses on the relations between the idea of holy war and the portrayals of holy warriors in medieval narratives composed by those in the service of power-holders.

The Experience of Growing Up in Medieval Society

Medieval Children - Omne Bonum - Royal 6 E.VII, f.67v (det). Wiki Commons.

This session (#508) was one of several at Leeds devoted to exploring childhood in the Middle Ages. Our presenters talked about the stereotypes of adolescence, and what the coroner’s rolls revealed about the deaths (and lives) of medieval children.

Pearl, translated by Sophie Jewett


We are very proud to offer our first ebook: Pearl, translated by Sophie Jewett.

Magna Carta Conference Offers New Insights Into The 800-year-old Document

British Library's Magna Carta, photo credit Joseph Turp

Magna Carta just celebrated its 800th birthday this past Monday. In honour of this incredible milestone, King’s College London, and the Magna Carta Project, hosted a 3 day conference dedicated to this historic document.

The Medieval Sleeping Beauty

medieval sleeping beauty - by Henry Meynell Rheam

I’ve since read an early version of the Sleeping Beauty story from the actual fourteenth century, and it’s much darker than the modern version, although it does hold an interesting secret for those who love the stories of the Round Table.

Genre Medievalisms: Geek Goes Chic!

Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in HBO's, 'Game of Thrones'. Photo courtesy of (TV Guide)

Is Cersei a collection of bad medieval stereotypes? Have nerds gone mainstream? Were American cowboys a modern retelling of the medieval knight? Put down that comic, put away your bag of dice, and indulge your inner nerd.

Courtly Magic in the Middle Ages

British Library - Additional 10292   f. 87   Merlin gives letter to Pendragon and Uther

The possibility of the everyday use of magic by courtiers is emphasized by the employment of magic advisors and, very frequently, astrologists. The medieval court was a place for the elite, and thus the educated sector of society at this time.

Merlin: The Medieval Embodiment of Overcoming the Devil

Merlin and Uther Pendragon - British Library Royal 20 A II   f. 3v

Merlin, child of a demon and pious woman, first appears in late twelfth century literature and develops uncanny prophetic abilities and unnatural powers rooted in his supernatural heritage, transforming him into a mysterious figure empowered by knowledge and cloaked in dichotomies resulting from his mixed parentage.

medievalverse magazine