In the early 1400s, playing cards made their first appearance in England. Those cards provide evidence of an early form of printing, but it would take another generation for Johannes Gutenberg to invent the printing press. In this episode we explore the history of playing cards and the printing press, and we also look at the end of the Hundred Years’ War. We also examine how these events contributed to the history of English and the transition from the Middle Ages to the modern era.
In the early 1400s, England welcomed a new king, a new ruling family, and a new role for the English language in the administration of government. In this episode, we explore the rise of the House of Lancaster and the emergence of a standard form of written English for the first time since the Norman Conquest.
In this episode, we explore words associated with mealtime in the Middle Ages. We also examine the important role of bread in medieval meals and impact of bread-related terms on the English language. Finally, we look at the important role of table manners as outlined in an early English etiquette guide called the Boke of Curtasye.
In the midst of the English literary revival of the late 1300s, the household chefs of Richard II compiled the first cookbook in the English language. In the episode, we examine the cookbook known as ‘The Forme of Cury,’ and we explore the nature of food and cooking in medieval England. We also look at how the culinary arts shaped the English language.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is one of the most popular English poems of the Middle Ages. In this episode, we explore the language and story of the poem. We also examine how the poem reflects certain changes that were taking place within the English language in the late 1300s.
Geoffrey Chaucer was one of the first English writers to compose dialogue in regional dialects to reflect the way characters spoke in the different parts of England. In this episode, we explore the dialogue of Chaucer’s northern students in the Reeve’s Tale, and we also examine the Second Shepherd’s Play from the north of England which reflects a similar approach to regional dialects.
Geoffrey Chaucer was one of the few poets of the Middle Ages to explore the vulgar side of English and the connection between the common people and their language. The Miller’s Tale exemplifies this style. In this episode, we explore the history of swearing and obscenities, and we examine Chaucer’s use of bawdy language in the Miller’s Tale.
In this bonus episode, Kevin interviews Allan Metcalf about his new book, “The Life of Guy: Guy Fawkes, the Gunpowder Plot, and the Unlikely History of an Indispensable Word.”
The Canterbury Tales is a collection of stories told by pilgrims during their trek to Canterbury Cathedral. The pilgrims represent a cross-section of English society in the late 1300s, and Geoffrey Chaucer paints a vivid picture of each one. He also modifies his language to fit the social class of each character. In this episode, we explore the descriptions of the various pilgrims in the General Prologue of the Canterbury Tales, and we examine how the language of the poem reflects the state of the English language in the late 1300s.
In the mid-1380s, Geoffrey Chaucer gave up his London job and residence and moved to Kent along the pilgrimage route to Canterbury. This move inspired the creation of the Canterbury Tales which remains the most well-known work of Middle English literature. In this episode, we explore the background of the poem and the circumstances which led Chaucer to abandon London in favor of Kent. We also examine the opening lines of the General Prologue of the poem.