The Middle Ages 
A list of useful names, dates, literary figures, 
symbols, and critical terms  
 
Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) Italian poet; author of the medieval epic The Divine Comedy.
Beatrice Allegorical symbol of Love, Grace, and Womanhood in Dante's poem.
Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400) Renowned English poet; author of the Canterbury Tales.
The Romance of the Rose Allegorical poem about love by medieval French poets Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun; one of the major documents in the culture of courtly love.
Mystery plays  Plays based on biblical characters and stories that were produced by medieval guilds and performed publicly on holidays. Also called miracle or morality plays.
Pierre Abelard (1079-1142)  Famed logician and theologian; partner with his student Heloise in one of history's most sensational and celebrated love affairs.
Heloise (1101-1164)  Pierre Abelard's devoted student and secret lover.
Chrétien de Troyes (1140-91) Leading poet of the courtly love era and originator of much of the material of Arthurian and chivalric romance.
Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204) Vibrant and controversial queen of France (1137-52) and later of England (1154-1204); indefatigable promoter of chivalric literature and the courtly-love lifestyle.
Marie de Champagne Daughter of Eleanor of Acquitaine; patron of Chretien de Troyes and Andreas Capellanus; celebrated impresario for the culture of courtly love at her court at Poitiers.
Andreas Capellanus  
(12th cent.)
Literally, "Andrew the Chaplain." Supposed chaplain at the court of Marie de Champagne and author of the elaborately witty treatise On Love--a sort of manual and guide book on lovemaking in the courtly style. 
Thomas a Becket (1118-1170) Bishop of Canterbury, martyr and saint; pilgrimage to his shrine in Canterbury provides the fictional occasion for Chaucer's Tales.
Noah and his wife In the mystery plays, the archetypal beleaguered husband and his comically shrewish wife; a favorite with medieval audiences. (Note that both the Bible and subsequent literary tradition have left Mrs. Noah conspicuously nameless.)
Fabliaux French term for short verse fables, often racy and satirical, which were very popular in the middle ages. Chaucer's Miller's Tale and Reeve's Tale are typical examples.
Allegory A literary form or mode in which characters and events are used to express abstract metaphysical truths or moral meanings. Example: Dante's Divine Comedy.
Lancelot and Guinivere Camelot's leading knight and lady; the literary inspiration and model for courtly lovers everywhere. 
Romance Strictly speaking, a literary genre; originally a verse narrative of colorful adventure and gallant love.
Chivalry A strict medieval code of knightly conduct and manners; defined the ideals whereby a knight guided his relations with his peers, with subordinates, with his lady, with the Church, and with his feudal lord.
Heroic couplet Rhymed pairs of iambic pentameter--a standard form in English verse; originally adopted and made famous by Chaucer in the Canterbury Tales.
Troubadours Knightly minstrels and poets errant from the Languedoc who spread the gospel of wordly fashion and courtly love through medieval France.
La Gaya Scienza  Literally, "the gay science" or "happy wisdom"; the worldly and vaguely epicurean philosophy and lifestyle characteristic of the troubadours; also known as gai saber.
 
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