Metrical Romances of the Middle Ages

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The very word 'romance' conjures up to our mind visions of battlemented castles, of fair ladies pining in the enchanters' castles and waiting for their brave knights to come to rescue them, of knights riding forth in search of gloriously impossible adventures.The Middle English romances were each a story of adventure,fictitious and frequently marvellous or super-natural, of tender love making, of tournaments and cavalcades. While reading these romances, we see that "humanity were on parade and life itself were one tumultuous holiday in the open air." (Long). The hero of each of them is a brave knight, and its characters are fair ladies in distress, warriors in armour, giants, dragons, enchanters and various enemies of church and state.He is a type rather than an individual. Thus Lancelot, Tristan and Gawain are hardly distinguishable from one another.The medieval romances can be broadly divided into four categories-the Matter of Rome,the Matter of France, the Matter of Britain and the "Matter of England." The matter of Rome deals with classical stories-the mightly exploits of Alexander, the Great, the Trojan war, the siege of Thebes, the siege of Troy, the adventures of Aeneas etc. It represents the ancient classical culture, as seen through medieval eyes. "This is not the world of Homer or of Pericles or of Virgil, but a curiously medievalized ancient world derived from sources and traditions far removed from what we would today consider the mainstream of classical culture." (D. Daiches). Of the matter of Rome King Alisaunder, and The Destruction of Troy are of more than average merit. The matter of France deals mainly with the heroic deeds of Charlemagne and his knights, and the chief of these Carlovingian cycles is the Chanson de Roland which tells the story of Roland's courageous fight against hopeless odds, ending with the hero's death. The ground-work of the Carlovingian Cycles is historical. The struggles depicted...
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