Characteristics of the Middle Ages.
Characteristics of the Renaissance.
English literature is rich in a history that spans back before the beginnings of Christianity. From the first piece of literature ever known to exist to the classics given to us by Shakespeare, the changing times of England can be seen in its literature. There are three stages of English literature: the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the Restoration. It is evident that certain characteristics can be seen in each of these stages. .
The Middle Ages marked the beginning of English literature. The earliest known pieces of literature to survive dealt with Christianity, pagan views, and adventure.
First, Christianity is a prominent theme in the middle ages. For example, in the epic "Beowulf", Christianity is seen in the theme of good vs. evil. Beowulf, the good heroic figure battles three evil monsters, Grendel, the troll wife, and the dragon. Grendel, the monster, can also be a symbol of Christianity. He is said to be a descendent of Cain, a biblical figure, signifying fall from virtue. Beowulf himself can be seen as a Christ-like figure in his goodheartedness and his want to free people of oppression from evil monsters. He heroically battled Grendel and the troll wife out of charity to ride the country of evil. Likewise, he battles the dragon in his final battle because he wanted to avenge his kingdom. Like Jesus, his people also betrayed Beowulf. In his final battle with the dragon his men all run away cowardly and abandoned him to be fatally injured by the dragon which eventual killed him. Another example of Christianity can be seen in "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight". First the story begins with a Christmas celebration of the Knights of the round table. Sir Gawain's faith in God is seen in his journey to find the Green Knight, when he is on this journey he preys to God for his guidance. Sir Gawain's shield can be seen as a symbol of Christ, the pentangle representing the five wounds of Christ.