British Literature Study Questions

Click The works below to get to the Study Questions for each work.

Time Periods and special Handouts

AngloSaxon Later Medieval Early Modern Neoclassical/PreRomantics Special Handouts


Anglo-Saxon/Old English Works

Dream of Rood Battle of Maldon Wanderer Wulf and Eadwacer O.E. Riddles
Beowulf Seafarer Wife's Lament    

Later Medieval Works

Malory/Arthur Malory/Tristram Marie De France Gawain Chaucer
Mystery Plays Morality Plays      

Early Modern Works

Skelton Wyatt Surrey More Spenser
Isabella Whitney Ann Askew Mary Herbert Sidney Shakespeare (Titus)
Marlowe Raleigh Queen Elizabeth Vaughn Campion
Donne Ben Jonson Herrick Herbert Spanish Tragedy
Marvel Milton Mary Worth Amelia Lanyer  Katherine Philips
Doctor Faustus
Antonio's Revenge

Neoclassical/Pre Romantics

Jonathan Swift John Dryden Aphra Behn Fanny Burney  Mary Wortley
Alexaqnder Pope Samuel Johnson ProtoRomantics Thomas Hobbes
Olahdah Equiano


Special Handouts

Chivalry Courtly Love Epic Conventions Renaissance Courtiers Metaphysicals
Cavaliers Renaissance Humanism Revenge Tragedy  Renaisance Sonnets


Dream of the Rood

How is the Christ in this poem Anglo-Saxon-like? What about him seems different from a more traditional Christian portrayal of his crucifixion?

How is the Cross like the "sin-stained" dreamer? How is it like the "lord of Victories" (Christ)? How is its relationship to each important?

How is the Cross paradoxically a "gallows-tree" (gealg-treowe) and a "victory-tree" (sige-beam) ? Why is this dual nature important for the dreamer?

List some of the Warrior-like language and descriptions you find in the poem. Does the language seem appropriate? Why or why not?

What evidence of the Comitatus tradition do you see in this poem?

In the early years of converting the Germanic peoples to Christianity, much emphasis was placed on introducing the Anglo-Saxon-like people to the Old Testament before discussing the ideas of the New Testament. Why might that have been effective?

What Religious value might a poem like this have? Why might this poem be effective?

The Wife’s Lament

Tell about the woman in the poem. What is she like? How does she feel? What has happened to her?

What does this poem reveal about Anglo-Saxon marriages? What does it reveal about women/men?

How does this poem participate in Ubi Sunt (Where are they now?) Tradition?

What in this poem seems to embrace the ideals of the comitatus and a warrior code of honor?

Explain the relationship between the woman and her husband. Speculate as to how they feel about each other.


The Wanderer

Find and explain the importance of several of the Anglo-Saxon sentiments in the poem?

What is the plight of the wanderer "earth-walker"? How did he become what he is? What is he seeking?

Do you see some Christian elements blending with the warrior-like beliefs? Where? What?

What does the Wanderer’s philosophizing about horses and young warriors result in? What is the answer to his despair?

Are there similarities between the ideas expressed in this poem and those of The Wife’s Lament or The Dream of the Rood? What and Why?


The Battle of Maldon


How do Boasts and Speeches play an important part of the action of the poem? Give some examples

What do Godric, Godwine and Godwig do? What is the result of Godric’s choice of horse? What do you suppose will be the results to them from their actions?

Pick three scenes that show the Comitatus in action–working properly?

How does the importance of one’s reputation and fame work to support the comitatus here?

What do you make of Birhtnoth’s overconfidence? What purpose does it serve? Why does he do it?

What is Pagan about this piece? In what ways is it christian?

In what ways can you relate the concerns of this poem with those of The Wanderer?

Beowulf Questions

Discuss how the comitatus code can be seen to function in the first half of the poem?

Why is it significant that Beowulf borrows Unferth’s sword before battling Grendel’s mother?

How does the flyting (taunting) tradition make Unferth’s opposition to Beowulf necessary? (33-)

What is the state of Heorot before Beowulf’s arrives?

Describe Grendel. Why does he hate Heorot?

What does Beowulf’s contest against Breca add to the story(33-)?

Describe and characterize the following characters: Hrothgar, Hygelac, Unferth, Wealtheow, Aeschere Coastguard, Wulfgar–Why are they important?

Describe the fight between Grendel and Beowulf. Speculate about why it ioccurs as it does?

How do Beowulf’s Thanes feel about Beowulf Fighting Grendel?

What purpose do the snippets of bard song in the poem serve?

Name some of the Christian or Old Testament allusions in the poem. Do you see the Christian influence as strong or weak?

Critics have occasionally called Beowulf an allegory. How might Beowulf be seen as a Christian Allegory of good against evil? How might this be refuted

Why must Beowulf descend into the Mere? What is it like in the Mere? How does Beowulf Get there? Why is the Mere Important?

Why is it significant that Beowulf borrows Unferth’s sword before battling Grendel’s mother?

Why Does Grendel’s Mother attack? How does this show that even monsters accept Anglo-Saxon virtues?

How and why is the fact that Beowulf’s father received a favor from Hrothgar important?

How does the inclusion of queen Modthrytho comment on Anglo-Saxon beliefs (52)?

What will be the difficulty with Freawaru’s marriage? Why would she be called a peace weaver? (53)

Discuss four examples of characters who exhibit good or bad leadership in the poem. What are their main attributes?

Discuss why Beowulf fights Grendel, Grendel’s Mother, and The Dragon from an Anglo-Saxon point of view? How are Christian explanations for his actions different?

What are the results of Beowulf’s visit to Heorot? What does Beowulf Do when he gets home? Why?

Why would the story of Beowulf’s deeds need to be repeated to Hygelac? For what poetic and audience -based reasons?

How do Beowulf’s thanes behave during the Dragon Episode. What does their behavior mean? Why is Wiglaf important?

How is Beowulf buried and what is the significance of this?

What will Beowulf’s kingdom be like after he has gone? Why?

What is the importance of being a good king? How does one behave like a good king? Why is Beowulf a good King? Why is Hrothgar one?

What type of Eternal Reward does Beowulf hope for? Explain this and relate it to Christian expectations for the poem?

Does the Comitatus Code have any relevance today?

Is Beowulf Right or wrong to fight the Dragon? Defend or attack his actions.

What do you make of the blend of pagan and Christian elements in the poem? Which predominate? Why? What does this mean?

Why do we read Beowulf? What is its value?

What does the poetry we have read so far tell us about Anglo-Saxons? What do they like and dislike? What are they not interested in? Can we make determinations about people based on their poetry?


The Seafarer

Are there similarities between the ideas expressed in this poem and those of The Wanderer, Wulf and Eadwacer, or Wife’s Lament? What and Why?

What is the seafarer’s life like and what kind of man is he?

How are the sentiments of the Seafarer similar to thos of the Wanderer? How are they different?

Has the Seafarer chosen to live his life as he does? What makes you believe he did? What makes you believe he might not have?

What does the Seafarer say about normal men–what are they like–how do they differ from the Seafarer?

How is both God and Nature important to the Seafarer and his understanding of the the world


Wulf and Eadwacer

Create a story a back story for the people in the poem. What is Eadwacer’s problem?

Why are Wulf and Eadwacer apart? What is their relationship?

What do we learn about Anglo-Saxon life from this poem?


Pick a Riddle and prove it means what you think it means.

Morte Darthur 1

How are Arthur, Lancelot, Guinevere, and Gawain characterized in the sections we read?

Why must Lancelot be caught in the act of treachery, and how will Mordred and Agravain manage it?

Why does Mordred want to expose Lancelot and Guinevere?

Why does Gawain not want to expose Lancelot and Guinevere?

Why will Gawain fight Lancelot? What are his feelings toward Lancelot and how do they change?

How is Arthur wounded and what happens to him? What is his and Bedivere’s concern about Excalibur? How do their attitudes differ?

How do the sections of Malory included in your reading support what you know of about the code of Chivalry or Courtly Love? Identify three main tenets of Courtly Love and Chivalry and show how they are upheld or not by the story?

What happens to Lancelot, Sir Bors, Bedivere and Sir Ector after Arthur’s Death? Why?

What enables Mordred to start a war with Arthur? What allows him to seize power? How is Gawain involved?

What is important about Arthur’s burial and the inscription on his tomb?

What part do dreams play in the sections we read for today? What similarities are there between the dreams?


Morte Darthur 2

How is the xeroxed section different/more confusing than the section in the book? Why?

How does King Marc Behave towards Tristram? Why?

What is the importance of the Sir Sewardes and his wife–incident. What does it show?

Why is the relationship between King Agwisance and Tristram important? How does Tristram use this to his advantage?

Characterize Tristram, Sir Bleoberis, And Isoud.

Characterize Breunor and his lady what is their pastime? What happens in this incident?

How is the relationship between Tristram and Isoud similar and different from Lancelot and Guinevere.

How well does Tristram fulfill the code of Chivalry?

How good a courtly lover is Tristram?

Compare and Contrast Tristram and Lancelot? What do you make of their similarities?


Marie De France

Relate the ideas in Lanval to The Courtly Love Ideals. How is Lanval in a Courtly Love relationship?

Relate the ideas in Lanval to the Code of Chivalry. Who behaves Chivalrously and how?

Characterize Guinevere, Arthur, Gawain, Lanval and his Fairy Lover. Why do they act the way they do?

Why does Lanval reveal his fairy lover’s existence to Guinevere?

What similarities do you see between Chivalric stories and Anglo-Saxon Comitatus stories?

What do you make of the emphasis on physical beauty in Lanval? For men and for women? Are looks tied to character?

Why do some Knights dislike Lanval? Why do others like him?

How is Justice an important idea in this story?

How does this compare to the Lancelot Guinevere story?


How is "The Wolf and Lamb" a radical account of Feudalism?

What is the moral of this fable? How are the roles appropriate?

What is the Moral of "The Wolf and the Sow"?

How does the "Wolf and the Sow" recognize a way to empower women?

How does the "Wolf and the Sow" make clear the plight of women?


Is there a noticeable difference in Marie De France’s writing that might signal her different status as a woman?


Gawain and the Green Knight

How is the appearance of Gawain and the appearance of the Green Knight important to the story? What does each look like? What is the significance of the way they dress/look?

What is important about Arthur’s role in the Beheading Game?

Compare Camelot with the second castle. How are the celebrations similar and different? How are the people Similar and different?

How is the Season important?

What is Gawain’s journey to seek the Green Chapel like? Is it eventful? Why are we told so little about it?

What "magic" do both the Green Knight and Gawain possess? How can you find magic or supernatural power in the stories of each one?

Why is there a mention of Troy at the start of the poem? What does this refer to? Why?

What is the problem with Arthur accepting the Green Knights Challenge?

Characterize Arthur, Guinevere, Gawain, and the Green Knight. How do they differ from expectations or evidence in other poems?

What is Anglo-Saxon-like about this text?

Discuss the Pentangle what is it’s importance?

Discuss the actions of and expectations about Gawain in the Northern Castle (Sir Bercilak’s).


More Sir Gawain and The Green Knight

Given that Courtly love involved the use of courteous speech to establish a formalized love relationship between the knight and his lady.

How does Gawain uphold or fall short of the conventions for Courtly love?

Note two or three exchanges of dialog between Lady de Hautdesert and Gawain. Where do you see in them the conventions of courtly love upheld or shattered?

Why does Gawain behave toward the lady as he does? Is his behavior defensible? How?

Given that Chivalry involves not only skill in warfare but courtly skills such as, courtesy, generosity, and piousness.

Show how Gawain’s behavior throughout the poem is or is not chivalric.

How does chivalry act to protect Gawain from the lady’s temptations?

What is the Round Table’s reaction to Gawain’s lapse of chivalry? What comment does that make about Gawain or the Round Table?

Look at the three hunting scenes in the poem.

How do the hunted animals on each day in some way     mirror Gawain’s actions back at the castle de Hautdesert?

How is hunting an appropriate metaphor for what happens back at the castle each day?

The first two days Gawain goes to Mass after his encounter with Lady de Hautdesert; on the final day he goes to confession. What do you make of that?

There are a number of symbols which seem fitting within the story.

How is the greenness of the Green Knight an appropriate color?

How is the pentangle an appropriate symbol for Gawain to carry.

What do you make of the image of Mary Painted on Gawain’s shield? What is its significance?

Many of the Elements of Old English Poetry remain or resurface in Gawain.

How is the poem structurally like an Old English Poem?

Discuss the similarities of the chivalric code and the comitatus bond between liege and warrior as shown in the poem?

What occurrences seem particularly Old English/Norse/Germanic within the poem?


How might the story be different if Gawain were Beowulf? How would the stories meaning and impact change?

How might the story be different if Gawain were Lancelot? How would the stories meaning and impact change?

How might the story be different if Lady de Hautdesert were an Anglo Saxon queen? How would the stories meaning and impact change?



Prologue Knight's Miller's Reeve's Wife of Bath's
Prioress's Summoner's Friar's Franklin's Pardoner"s
Nun's Priest's Clerk's Merchant's Short poems  Troilus and Criseyde


General Prologue

What is the season and setting of the General Prologue and how are these important to the Tale?

In what order are the pilgrims introduced? Does the order and grouping of pilgrims suggest anything about medieval English society?

Pick any two pilgrims describe what they look and act like. Can you provide an analogous modern example of who or what the pilgrims might be like?

Critics find that some of the characters are being satired in their initial presentation. Pick two characters--one presented seriously (or respectfully) and the other satired. Describe why you selected each and why they fit into that category.

How does Harry Bailey become involved in the pilgrimage and how does the tales contest evolve?

Show how the differences in the three estates, Nobility, Clergy, and Workers are reflected in the Prologue. Pick one good example of each estate and explain why they are appropriate representations of their class.


Knight’s Tale Questions for Consideration

Who is Theseus and why is he important?

How is the knight selected to tell the first tale?

How is the subject matter of this tale appropriate to the knight?

How and why are the Amazon’s important to any of this story?

How and why is Creon (of Thebes) important?

How are Theseus’s actions concerning Thebes ones that reflect his interest in propriety?

How do Arcite and Palamon end up in an Athenian Prison?

Why do Palamon and Arcite argue about Emelye?

What are their different positions in the argument?

How is this a story about the hazardous effects of love sickness?

How is Arcite Freed?

Who is more unfortunate the banished Arcite or the imprisoned Palamon? Why is that at all important?

What Boethian ideas or reverberations do you see in the text?

Why does Arcite return to Athens after two years?

What makes his disguise possible?

What are some of the jobs Arcite lands in Athens?

How does Palamon get out of prison?

How do Arcite and Palamon meet back up?

How does Palamon recognize the disguised Arcite (Philostrate)?

Why do Palamon and Arcite not immediately fight to the death?

How does Theseus eventually become involved?

In what way does Theseus consider Emelye in the resolution of the dispute?

What is Theseus’s plan for Palamon and Arcite to solve their problems?

How are other Thebans involved in the Palamon and Arcite dispute?

How and why is the battle stadium specifically constructed?

Describe the interior adornments of the three main temples?

What are the pros and cons of having 101 warriors vs. 101 warriors?

Why do they eventually fight one on one?

Why are there so many vivid descriptions of men, arms, and architecture?

What do Emelye, Palamon, and Arcite pray for? Why?

How are their prayers answered and not answered?

What is the meaning of this poem in terms of women’s rights?

What is the meaning of this poem in terms of war and violence?

Does the tale end happily ever after?

Is the Knight or Theseus a devotee of Boethius? Why or why not?

Chaucer is none for Irony and Satire–is there any here? Where? What?

Does this fit with the idea of estates satire?

How are chance, fate, religion, free will involved in this story?


The Miller’s Prologue and Tale

Why does the Miller insist on telling the next tale (a number of factors contribute)? How might it be seen as a reaction to The Knights Tale?

Compare this tale, in content and style, to the Knight’s Tale.

Describe the four main characters in this poem and how they act.

What is Nicholas’s plan for attaining Alison, and how does he manage the plan?

What type of biblical parallels do you see in the tale? Explain them.

Why would readers find this tale funny or entertaining? Why might some object to its variety of humor?

What about the descriptions we have of the Miller make this tale seem appropriate for him to tell?

How does Chaucer try to distance himself from what The Miller says? Why?

Discuss Absolon as a Courtly Lover and the reasons why this might be funny?

Discuss the last 15 lines of the poem (737-751). What happens in these lines how do they resolve the story? Is there a moral to this story?

How does this relate/compare to the source material?

Where do you find a character who mirrors the Miller?

Why would the Reve be angry?

Are glosses that make the Miller’s Language less offensive appropriate?

What type of commentary does this tale make on Clerks?

In what ways in Nicholas Handy (Hende)?

How and to what effect does the Miller successfully employ Animal Imagery? Why is it appropriate?

What seems especially heretical in the Tale?


The Reve’s Tale

How is this tale an attempt to "quite" the Miller? Why?

What is odd about Simkin’s wife’s lineage? Of what importance is it?

Compare this to the French source (303)or the Italian source (307). How does the presentation of individual characters differ? How do the changes from the source affect the tales meaning?

How is Justice a part of this tale and a catalyst of this tale?

Is there a moral to this tale? Why or why not?

Describe the different people within Chaucer’s version of the tale? Why are they important to the story?

How do the incidents included in this tale affect you understanding of Chaucer as a writer? Is he responsible for the content? If he is, how is such content defensible?

Is the tale more than a dirty Joke–if so what? How does it achieve this greater purpose?

Is the Reve’s Fabliau in significant ways different from the Millers? How is his tone, style and story different? What differences are significant?

How does the Reve’s tale relate to the Knight’s? What is their relation to the Miller’s tale?


The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale

What is The Wife’s attitude towards marriage and sex and how is that surprising or important?

The Wife catalogues a number of antifeminist beliefs of the medieval period and then turns them around to support her "prowife" cause. Name some of the antifeminist beliefs that she cites and what they would have meant before Alison got a hold of them.

Some critics find that Alison is merely an example of a bad wife and not a sound proponent for feminist viewpoints. What do you think?

How does her prologue make "The Wife"ness of her characterization clearly important? How is her experience of being a wife immensely important?

How does Alison treat her husbands, and how do they treat her?

What does Alison seek in marriage? How does she behave once she has it?

How does Alison use scriptures and church beliefs to present her argument? Give examples.

How does Alison use common sense and life experience to improve her argument? Give examples

Characterize her first four marriages in particular. How do the differ? What do they reveal about the Wife.

Discuss her relationship with husband five, his devotion to books, and her ultimate happiness with him?

The Tale

How is her tale appropriate to her person and similar to the ideas expressed in the prologue.

How is the Arthurian content of The Wife’s tale important to its meaning and relation to the prologue?

Retell the story briefly. How is the knights punishment appropriate? How does the knight’s reward at the end affect the story?

Women in the tale play a large part in the action. Discuss three or four interaction between women and the knight. How do women influence the outcome of the story?

Explain the ending of the tale. What are the benefits of being poor, old, and ugly according to the hag? Why does the hag change?

The Sources

Show how one or two of the sources are important to understanding the attitudes expressed in the wife’s prologue or tale.

Rank three or four of these sources according to their antifeminist sentiment and give a brief synopsis of each.

Pick one of these sources that you believe Chaucer may have had knowledge of and show why you think he knew that source.


Summoner’s Tale Study Questions

Explain the Joke of the prologue and it’s significance.

How is Summoner’s Friar like Friar Hubbard?

List some of the many signs of the Summoner’s Friar’s Hypocrisy.

Why should one purchase Trentals (masses for the dead)?

How does the Friar treat Thomas’s family? How does he act with them?

What has the Friar done for the family–or claims to have done?

Describe the sermon on Anger, why its there and what its significance to the tale might be.

Why are Friar’s prayers so much more effective?

What are the three examples of Ire , why are they there, what do they mean?

What is the result of the Joke?

How does the Friar act at the Lords? How is this different than how he acts with Thomas’s family?

What is the squires solution and how does it use Ars-metrick?

What are the similarities between this tale and the wife of Baths and the Friar’s tale and the wife of bath?

How is this a different kind of Fabliau? Compare it to others we’ve read.

How might this be a parody of the Pentecost story from the bible–where the spirit descends in tongues of fire on the apostles/disciples.


The Merchant’s Tale

Detail a few of the similarities between this tale and the Wife of Bath Tale (in content or theme).

Detail a few of the similarities between this tale and the Knights Tale (in content, plot, or theme).

Detail a few of the similarities between this tale and the other fabliaux (in content, details, plot, or theme).

Can you reconstruct a short Dirty Joke out of this tale? How is this tale more than just a dirty Joke?

Discuss the negative attitudes toward women put forward in this poem. What defenses are provided to women–if any? What is the Tales rating on the misogyny meter and why?

What use of biblical sources do you see? include the Song of Songs and Lines 2138-2150. What odd biblical comparisons/inversions do you see?

How do greek gods play an important part of this story? How is what gods are included important?

What does this story have to say about marriage, wedding vows, and lechery in marriage? Why is that at all important?

Detail some of the animals associated with the characters–January has many–but see what you can find for others?

How is this work anti idealistic? What makes it so?

How do spring (and other seasons) and fertility work into this poem?

How is age described in this story and what is it responsible for? Is there ageism in here?

How do men cause women to stray? How does that affect our reception of the story? Is this story redeemable for women?

How is self delusion a theme that not only ends the story, but runs throughout the poem?

Many scholars believe this was not originally intended for the Merchant to tell? What other individual might have told this story and why?

                    Medieval mirrors?

Clerks’s Tale

How is the Clerk like Grisilde?

How is this Tale a reaction to the Wife of Bath?

How and where do we recognize the Clerkness of the Clerk?

What Biblical parallels do you see?

Compare this tale to the Merchant’s Tale.

Compare this tale to the Wife of Bath’s Tale?

What other than Marriage is this tale about?

How is this tale both pro and anti woman?

Does Walter’s behavior seem consistent throughout?

When do you begin to doubt Walter’s judgement?

What qualities do you value in Grisilde and why?

How do we see Grisilde as a good ruler?

What qualities do you disapprove of in Gruisilde?

What qualities are good and Bad in Walter?

More Clerk and More

Group 1

What is the Moral of the Clerks Tale and how is it to be applied. Do you agree theat the tale means what the Clerk says it means? What other meanins migh the clerks tale have?

Look at the Envoy (p 167). What does it mean? Why is it there? How does it relate back to wife of Baths?

Argue for the Clerks tale as the best Canterbury Tale? Why is it the Best/

Group 2

What are Grisildis feelings about her treatment by Walter? How do we know this? What is her concern for his treatment of his "new wife"?

How does this tale relate to the wife of Baths tale? Argue that one of these tales presents the more positive view of marriage and explain why you believe that.

Argue for the Wife of Baths Tale as the most important tale we’ve read. What evidence can you use to support your assertion.

Group 3

What is remarkable about the way Grisildis reacts to all of her adversity? How does she react to her children? What strikes you as the oddest thing about how she reacts in any of these circumstances?

Another of the marriage tales is the Merchants Tale (which follows this one). Relate this tale to that and the different opinions expressed about marriage in the Canterbury Tales.

Argue for The Merchant’s Tale, Reeve’s Tale or Miller’s Tale as the best of the Canterbury Tales. Defend you assertions?

Group 4

What is the worst thing Walter does to Grisildis and why? Maybe list the three worst things in order. Does Grisildis reactions affect how bad her treatment seems? Why or why not?

Argue that this tale is an evening of the score with the Wife of Bath. Relate this to the one-upmanship between the Miller and Reeve, and the Friar and Summoner–Who oneups the best?

Argue for the Friar, Summoner, or Reeve as the best tale in the Canterbury Tales.


Franklin’s Tale

What is the Franklin like and how does this have any bearing on his tale?

How is this tale in anyway similar to the Wife of Bath's Tale? Can it be read as a reaction to the Wife's attitudes toward marriage?

What type of example marriage does the Franklin establish within his tale? Describe the relationship between Arveragus and Dorigen?

Explain Dorigen's "rash promise" and how it becomes the driving force of the story?

What attitudes toward women, love, and honor are represented in the story? How do these attitudes sometimes clash?

How is this a Tale about:

tact, courtesy,


vertu (manly characteristics of a nobel)

Good woman list (from jerome)

breton lai mini Romance (psychological bent)

source 399-403

rash promise

pagan gods


Social climber


Sovereignty, Patience, Obedience


Marriage Group

Merchant’s Tale, Knights" Tale

Respect for Authority

Pagan Vs. Christian


Who is the most Generous ?



The Nun’s Priest’s Tale

Where is this tale set and what is important about its setting?

What are Chauntecleer and Pertelote like? What is their importance in the world in which they live?

What is Chauntecleer’s dream? What does Pertelotte believe about the dream?

How are medieval medical beliefs (especially about the Humors) important to Pertelote’s discussion of the dream?

What does Chauntecleer’s discussion of medieval dream theory add to the piece?

What happens between Chauntecleer and Daun Russel and what is the moral of the story?

Discuss some of the ways that the animals are made more human, and how the tale also reinforces their bestial nature.

How is the Nun’s priest like Chauntecleer?

What are the specifics of the three dreams Chauntecleer cites as authority for the importance of dream interpretation?

How is Chauntecleer Courtly?

To what effect is elevated language used in the tale? Give an example.

Look at some of the authorial intrusions (moments when the nun’s priest reminds you that there is a narrator). What do you make of them?


The Pardoner’s Tale Study Questions

Look at the pardoner’s portrayal in the General Prologue (page 16) and compare it to what we know about him from his prologue and story (58-73).

Is the Pardoner concerned about outward appearance? What type of image does he like to project?

Look at the Friar in the prologue and his tale and contrast him with the Pardoner.

Which of the seven deadly sins (sloth, lechery, avarice, gluttony, wrath, pride, envy) can you find in the Pardoner’s personal actions?

What are some of the things he does that make him a bad clergy person?

What is it that makes him a successful clergy person? Explain why he is successful?

In what ways is the Pardoner being confessional? How is this not a confession?

How might you defend the Pardoner not as a good person but as a good preacher? Does it matter to others that there is a difference? Why or why not?

What is the pardoner’s job? What does he do? Can you say that he does his job well in any way?

How does his prologue to his tale differ from the tale itself?

How does he make people buy his relics, believe his sermons, and ignore that he is a sinful man?

Why does the Pardoner preach and on what topics? How does this help his success?

At the beginning of the tale before he tells the specifics of the actual tale–he talks of various evils people indulge in? Summarize these evils briefly?

Look at question 11–don’t summarize now–but speculate as to why the pardoner included this information immediately before his tale.

Find a few modern examples of pardoner types. How are they like the pardoner? How far can you take the comparison? Look for the most extreme examples.

Summarize the main plot of the Pardoners tale.

What sins do the three young men commit?

Why is Harry Bailey (the host) so upset by the Pardoner? How do we know he is upset? What might be the reasons?

How is the story ironic and the pardoner’s relationship to the story ironic?

Which of the seven deadly sins (sloth, lechery, avarice, gluttony, wrath, pride, envy) can you find in the Pardoner’s Tale?

How does his prologue to his tale differ from the tale itself?

Why does The Pardoner attempt to sell his relics at the end of the seermon?

Find a few modern examples of pardoner types. How are they like the pardoner? How far can you take the comparison? Look for the most extreme examples.

Summarize the main plot of the Pardoners tale.

What sins do the three young men commit?

Why is Harry Bailey (the host) so upset by the Pardoner? How do we know he is upset? What might be the reasons?

How is the story ironic and the pardoner’s relationship to the story ironic?

How does the Pardoner’s attitude toward what he does and sells cheapen the very notion of pilgrimage?

Why are the pilgrims going to Canterbury?

Who or what is the Old man in the Tale? Different people have answered differently.

Look at the picture given to you why is it a good example of the sin it depicts?

Who is involved in the altercation at the end of the tale? What happens, Why, and how is it resolved?

Describe the Pardoner. What is he like? How does his honesty in his Prologue prove him to be an disreputable churchman?

What are the Pardoner's methods in preaching and why?

What is hypocritical about the Pardoner's emphasizing "The Love of Money is the Root of All Evil"?

What does the Pardoner say about Gluttony? Why do you think he includes this? What is its impact?

Recount the story the Pardoner tells and explain what it means? Why does the Pardoner use this story?

How is the story he recounts related to his own desire to attain others' wealth? How does it represent societal concerns of the times?


Study Questions Prioresses Tale

What is the Prioress Like–from her General Prologue and Prologue/Tale information?

What specific Reasons can you give for someone like the prioress to be interested in telling the tale she does?

Why would the Prioress Emphasize the specifics of the miracle as she does?

Why attack the Jews?

Why include the grain under the tongue detail–as opposed to the pebble or the lillie in other sources?

What makes the boy in the story saintlike?

How is being a saint such as the boy represents a powerful thing? What type of power does it recognize?

What characters are heroic in the tale? Who are the principal characters?

What is the importance of the Jews’ punishment as compared to the sources?

How do the Herod and Rachel Old Testament stories relate to this tale?


Prioresses Tale Issues:






Murder of Innocents



Hugh of Lincoln


fruit and Chaff

While Lilly

Chaucer or Prioress

"Quod she"

Mother /Son

mary parallels



Saint’s Life




Chaucer Short Poems


  1. What does Chaucer say in his Retraction? Why might he feel the need for a Retraction?
  2. Do you think Chaucer is serious in his disapproval of some of the works he created? Why or why not?
  3. The Retraction occurs at the end of the Parson’s Tale in the Canterbury Tales. How is that interesting or odd?
  4. Read the end of the retraction and speculate about what Chaucer would have done after completing it.

Troilus’s Song

  1. What meanings does "love" have in the poem? How do they differ? What is the importance of that?
  2. In what ways is this the song of a courtly lover? What details show this?
  3. What is the problem with lamenting or being sorrowful about "love" expressed by the poem?


  1. What does each stanza say–how do they differ?
  2. How is the envoy different in tone? Why might that be?
  3. How does this attitude go against the idea of upward mobility?
  4. Could this doctrine be used to oppress? How so?


  1. What are Chaucer’s concerns here? What do his concerns say about his attitude toward what he wrote?

Complaint to His Purse

  1. How is this poem like a love poem?
  2. How is the purse like a lady?
  3. What different levels of meaning do you see in this poem?


  1. What is "gentilesse"?
  2. How do you get/achieve/become gentilesse?
  3. Is it hereditary?
  4. What does it have to do with Nobility and nobles?
  5. How is this doctrine beneficial to men like Chaucer?

Lak of Steadfatnesse

  1. What does Chaucer lament in the poem?
  2. How is this a modern poem as well?
  3. What is the intent of the lenvoy of the poem?
  4. Can you relate this to the poem "truth" or "gentillesse"?

Troilus and Criseyde Book I

1.       The poem begins with an invocation to the fury Thesiphone.  How is that odd?

 2.       Looking at the list of “Love Rules” on page xxiv talk about how Troilus is suffering from a textbook case of courtly love.  Give Examples.

3.       Describe the backdrop to this “love story,” in what ways does the background play an important role in the story?

4.       Readers generally acknowledge four main characters in the text.  Outline what we know about: Troilus, The Narrator, Pandarus, and Criseyde.

5.       What elements of the tale feel familiar from your reading of the Canterbury Tales?

6.       How is Troilus and Criseyde entirely different from the Canterbury Tales? 

7.       How is foreknowledge, Fate, and Fortune operating in the poem? Do the three differ?

8.       In what ways is the text philosophizing and about what?

9.       How is the God of Love important to this tale?  In what ways does he insist upon his importance?

10.     Why, how, and in what ways is Troilus’s great love ironic?

11.     What are some of the paradoxes which love causes?  How do paradoxes become the definition of love?

12.     Troilus has always been a great fighter.  How does this love influence his battle prowess?  Why?

 13.     What are Pandarus’s motivations for helping Troilus?  How might we believe he is in an odd situation?

 14 .   Why does Troilus confide in Pandarus?  Why did he delay to do so?

 15 .   Pandarus (in line 809) says “Unkown, unkissed, and lost is that which is unsought.”  What does this mean for Troilus?

16.   In what ways in Pandarus a pragmatist and Troilus and Idealist?

Troilus and Criseyde Book Two lines 1-900


1.      How is the Narrator establishing himself as a character at the beginning of this book?  What is he like?
2.      How is the opening a long apologia how and for what is he apologizing?
3.      Lines 22-28 are important,  (especially to your professor) why?  What do they say/imply?
4.      How are lovers cautioned about how they judge this book?  Why?
5.      How is May third a good day for this portion of the tale to begin? Why?
6.      How and why is Pandarus behaving oddly?  What’s up with him?
7.      How is the birds’ allusion to the Procne/Philomela story appropriate?  What does it mean?
8.      How is the mention of Amphiorax (line 105) possibly useful to the development of the story?
9.      Why won’t Criseyde dance with Pandarus?
10.  Why does Pandarus mention a secret that he claims he’ll never tell?
11.   How does Pandarus get Criseyde thinking about Troilus?  Why?
12.  Why are they talking about Hector?
13.  What are Troilus’s positive attributes, according to Pandarus?
14.  How and why has Pandarus made Criseyde and himself nervous?
15.  What are the different effects on Criseyde of the knowledge of Troilus’s love?
16.  Why is Criseyde so concerned and worried?
17.   Criseyde agrees to “pity” Troilus.  Why?  What does that entail?
18.  What tricks does Pandarus use to get Criseyde interested in Troilus?
19.  How does Fate help to increase Criseyde’s interest in Troilus?
20.  Describe and discuss Criseyde’s differing reasons to love and not love Troilus.
21.  How and why is marriage and love more dangerous for women?
22.  How is Criseyde’s niece’s song important (827-875)?
23.  How is love different for different lovers and how is that important?

Troilus and Criseyde Book 2b

1.       How do we see Criseyde changing her attitude toward love?

2.       Why is Pandarus so happy and excited?

3.       How and why does Troilus write Criseyde a letter?

4.       How good is the letter?  How do you know?

5.       What does one need to consider when writing such a letter?

6.       How does this fulfill many courtly love ideals?

7.       What moments do you find Pandarus’s behavior odd?

8.       Why should one fear a letter?  Why should one not?

9.       What does Criseyde’s reply say?  Why?

10.   What is Pandarus’s advice to Criseyde?  Why?

11.   How does Criseyde feel about Troilus?   Why does she hide her feelings?

12.   How does Troilus interpret Criseyde’s letter?

13.   How does Criseyde feel when Troilus is around?  How does his “sickness” affect her?

14.   What is Pandarus’s ingenious plan to get T and C in the same room?

15.   Why is it so convoluted?

16.   Why does Criseyde need help from so many famous Greeks?  How does this help Troilus?

17.   How and why is Deiphebus so important to the plan?

18.   Why does the group assembled to help Criseyde end up talking about Troilus?

19.   How does Pandarus work it so Troilus and Criseyde can appropriately be in a bedroom together?

20.   How much does Troilus know about Pandarus’s clever plan?  Why do you think this?

21.   Why should Criseyde pity Troilus?  Why might she?  Is she being manipulated?   Is it entirely wrong?

Troilus and Criseyde Book 3 lines 1-1200

1.       Why so much praising of Venus at the beginning of Book 3?

2.       Why invoke Caliope (Epic Muse) at line 45?  Is this a switch?

3.       How is Troilus being disingenuous during Criseyde’s visit?

4.       How does Troilus behave during this first moment alone?  How does Criseyde?  Why the difference?

5.       In what ways is Pandarus emotionally involved?  Why?

6.       What does Troilus say he wants from Criseyde?

7.       How is his request reasonable?  What dangers does it hold for Criseyde?

8.       How has this entire scene been carefully choreographed by Pandarus?

9.       How does Helen’s and Deiphebus’s presence point out Troilus’s involvement?

10.   Does Pandarus seem to be pimping his niece?  Why or why not?

11.   Why does Pandarus say he helps Troilus?  Does that explain it?

12.   Why is Pandarus afraid that Criseyde may receive shame?

13.   Why must women be careful about entering into a relationship with a man?

14.   Why is Troilus’s woe gone?

15.   In what ways does Troilus recognize that Pandarus’s aid could be misinterpreted?

16.   How is Troilus’s life different now that Criseyde has accepted his service?

17.   Describe and discuss the love of Troilus and the love of Criseyde.  Do they differ?

18.   What are Troilus and Criseyde looking forward to now that they admit their love?  Are their expectations different? How?

19.   How can you tell it’s easier to sneak around as a man than as a woman?

20.   What’s Pandarus’s plan for T &C’s next meeting?

21.   Why is the rain important?

22.   How is Troilus far more aware of his part of the plan than Criseyde?  Why?

23.   How is the plan, odd, creepy, brilliant, etc.?

24.   How experienced is Pandarus at love?

25.   Why is Troilus nervous?  Should he be?

26.   What is interesting, odd, amazing about Pandarus’s conversation about Troilus being at his house?

27.   Why does Criseyde think Troilus is being Jealous?

28.   Is Troilus jealous?  Why is he there?

29.   Why is Pandarus unwilling to wait to let Criseyde fix Troilus’s jealousy the next morning?

30.   Why does Pandarus want to lead Troilus to Criseyde’s bed?

31.   Why does she object?  How does here objection prove her innocence?

32.   How and why does Troilus go along with Criseyde thinking he is jealous?

33.   How does Troilus feel about the deception implicit in Pandarus’s plan?

34.   Why does Pandarus jump in bed with Criseyde?

35.   Why does Pandarus leave with the candle?

36.   How is Troilus cured?

37.   Why is his constraint of Criseyde important?

38.   Is Criseyde raped? Date Raped? Coerced inappropriately?

Troilus and Criseyde Book 3 Line 1200- Book 4 Line 500


1.     How and why is the constraint of Criseyde important?

2.     How and why is Troilus now cured?

3.     What evidence is there that this scene is mutually consensual?

4.     What do you make of Troilus’s thanking of the gods?

5.     Why must the Narrator remind us he is citing an Author?

6.     Why must lovers judge whether this depiction is accurate?

7.     How and why is generosity an important part of love?

8.     What is the problem with Morning and sunrise?

9.     How is evening and night more appropriate for lovers?

10.    How and why does Troilus become sorrowful again?

11.    How would you characterize the love of Troilus and the love of Criseyde? Does it differ?

12.    In what ways and how much does Criseyde blame Pandarus for the affair?

13.    How is the discussion between Troilus and Pandarus different than the discussion between Pandarus and Criseyde?

14.    How have Troilus’s feelings of love changed?

15.    How are their subsequent liaisons better?  Why?

16.    What are the effects of the affair on Troilus and Criseyde?  How do they differ?

17.    Why is the opening of Book 4 so ominous?

18.    In what ways is Criseyde “unkynde”?

19.    How do prisoners affect the storyline?

20.    What is Calchas’s involvement?

21.    Why does Calchas become involved?

22.    Why do so many support the trade of Criseyde for Antenor?

23.    Why does Hector oppose it?

24.    Why don’t Pandarus, Troilus or Criseyde do anything?

25.    What are Troilus’s reaction to the proposed trade?

26.     What do you make of the lament about Fortune?

27.     How might you accuse Troilus of being a wimpy cry baby?

28.     What is Pandarus’s consolation to Troilus?

29.     Why does Troilus object to Pandarus’s consolation?

Troilus and Criseyde Book 4 lines 500-1700

1.      Why does Pandarus tell Troilus to forget Criseyde at line 495?

2.      What is Pandarus’s next solution?  Evaluate it.

3.      Why is Troilus opposed to claiming Criseyde by force?

4.      Why might publically stopping the trade anger Criseyde?

5.      How is this text interrogating the conventions of Courtly Love?

6.      How is love an acceptable reason to break rules?

7.      Troilus is concerned about what Criseyde will think if he acts.  What question does this beg?

8.      How does Criseyde feel about the trade?

9.      How does the presence of the Trojan women affect Criseyde’s sorrow?

10.  Why so much talk of death?

11.  What does Pandarus think when he sees Criseyde?

12.  Why must Criseyde change her attitude, according to Pandarus?

13.  Why do Troilus and Criseyde plan to meet?

14.  Why does Troilus go all Boethian on us?

15.  Why does he suspect the gods have always been against him?

16.  How is Foreknowledge of the gods difficult to rectify with Free Will?

17.  What are some of the speculations of Troilus?

18.  How and why does god cause me to sit?

19.  How and why does men’s sitting not cause god to know what he knows?

20.  How id Free Will not impeded by Foreknowledge? (ask Boethius)

21.  What constitutes the largest portion of their time during the meeting?  Why?

22.  Why does Troilus almost attempt to kill himself?

23.  Why is Criseyde the one with the plan?

24.  Why do they follow her plan?

25.  What is Troilus’s plan?  Is it his?

26.  So how is Criseyde’s plan supposed to work?

27.  Why does Troilus accept Criseyde’s plan?

28.  What does swearing by “Cinthia” (the moon) mean?

29.   What are Troilus’s misgivings?  Why?

30.  Why is Criseyde sure of Troilus and herself?

Troilus and Criseyde Book 5a

1.      Why are the furies and fates back in the invocation to book 5?

2.      Describe the scene as Criseyde leaves troy and comment on what it means.

3.      How could Troilus change this scene, according to Troilus?

4.      Troilus and Diomede share a look in line 89, what does it mean?

5.      What is interesting about Diomede’s interaction with Criseyde?

6.      How is Diomede trying to change Criseyde’s mind about Greeks?

7.      Why is Criseyde distracted during their conversation?  How might that help?

8.      Why is Troilus’s pillow-hugging behavior not unexpected?

9.      What is going on with Troilus’s dreams?

10.  What is Chaucer doing with the dreams?

11.  Why do we know Troilus’s funeral arrangements?

12.  Why party at Sarpedon’s?

13.  How is Troilus consistent to his character even at a party?

14.  What are the different opinions of Pandarus and Troilus about the party?

15.  Why does Troilus ride by Criseyde’s house?

16.  How and why does all of Troy remind Troilus of Criseyde?

17.  Why is Troilus’s lament to love so ironic?

18.  What’s Troilus’s song about?

19.  What are Criseyde’s principle problems in the Greek camp?

20.  How has she changed her mind about her plan?

21.  Why does Diomede talk to Criseyde about her Trojan lover?

22.   Why tell us about Criseyde’s “slydynge of corage”?

23.  Does Criseyde know Diomede is wooing her?  Why or why not?  How is that effective?

24.  What are some reasons Criseyde should stay with Greeks?

25.  When do you believe Criseyde begins to warm toward Diomede?

26.  How are Troilus and Diomede similar and different?

27.  What does Criseyde tell Diomede about her Trojan lover?  Why?

28.  What is Criseyde’s promise to Diomede around line 1000?



The Mystery Plays


In what ways does Noah’s Flood differ from the biblical story of Noah? What is the effect of some of the changes?

Discuss how this play is both information and entertainment. How is it informative how is it entertaining?

Summarize what the characters of God, Noah, Noah’s Wife, and Noah’s sons and daughter-in-laws are like.

What are some of the differences between the women and men made apparent by the play?

The play is a product of composite authorship. How does this fact affect the content and the impact of the story?

How does remembering that the Bible and Church services were mostly in Latin affect the importance of this work?

Discuss the stage directions. How are they important to the story?

These play festivals were heavily attended (especially by the lower classes). Why? What does that mean in terms of our critical approach to them?

Why is Humor so important to the story? How?


Second Shepherd’s Play

What is the effect of making the Characters in The Second Shepard’s Play dress and act like medieval people?

Who are Mak, Gill, Coll, Daw, and Gib? Characterize each and what his/her primary concerns are.

What affect do the comedic scenes (like the sheep stealing scenes) have on the impact of the play? Why are they included?

Do the comedic and secular aspects of the play affect the religious meaning of the play? Why or why not?

Why don’t the Shepherds punish Mak more severely? What affect does that have on the play’s impact–socially and religiously?

Discuss the play as one about the nativity of Christ.

How is Mak and Gill’s behavior essential to showing the character of the simple shepherds?

Why are these three Shepherds invited to the nativity?

How do the shepherd’s feel about being invited to the nativity? Why are these shepherds invited?

What does The Second Shepherd’s Play reveal about medieval society?

These play festivals were heavily attended (especially by the lower classes). Why? What does that mean in terms of our critical approach to them?

Discuss how this play is both information and entertainment. How is it informative how is it entertaining?



Morality Plays


What Lesson does Everyman teach and how is that lesson made clear for any who views the play?

What is humorous or ironic in the play? What is the affect of the humor/irony?

Some critics believe that our contemporary concept of individuality began to emerge during the late medieval period. How might Everyman serve as an example of how people in the Middle Ages conceive of their individual selves?

Which elements of Everyman’s physical life prove to be the least useful when he is about to die? Why?

Does Everyman deserve to be saved? Does he get off too easy? Why or why not?

What elements are realistic within the play? What elements are emblematic or symbolic?

What is the attitude toward religion in the play? Does it seem to differ from the attitudes toward religion in other Middle English works? Explain your answer.

Can you make sense of the way the following characters behave: Good Deeds, Knowledge, Five Wits, Strength, Beauty? In what ways do they help and in what order do they desert Everyman? Explain.

Compare this to the Second Shepherd’s Play. What differences do you see? What does each teach? What is the appeal of each?

Explain the view of the afterlife presented in Everyman. What is significant and or surprising about this view?

How might Everyman be used to keep peasants from objecting to their limited opportunities in life?



What would Mankind teach a medieval audience. Why do you say this?

What does it teach a contemporary audience? How does this differ from a medieval audience? Why?

What is funny about Mankind? How would this humor appeal to the masses? Does the humor detract from the sentiment of the play?

Why would the Vices and Devils be such interesting characters? Is this wrong? Why or why not?

How are their multiple time frames working within this play (very non-Aristotelean)? Why?

How is this play realistic? How is it symbolic or emblematic?

What techniques of humor or dramatic intrigue used in Mankind still get used today? Why? How?



Early Modern Period



Discuss Skelton’s presentation of women within the poems we have read? What similarities are there? What differences?

Look at these poems and try to find moments of tension between different possible meanings--within discreet lines and within the poem as a whole.

Discuss how Skelton uses images and dialog to create meanings you perceive in the poems.




Select one of Wyatt’s or Surrey’s sonnets. What is the conceit? Explain the meaning of the first eight lines and how that meaning turns or is modified in the concluding six.

Discuss Wyatt’s or Surrey’s attitude toward women and love and how that attitude fits within the sonnet tradition?

Select a few poems by Wyatt or Surrey. How does nature play a part in those poems? Is it positive or negative? Provide examples.

Discuss how a poem or poems by either Wyatt or Surrey make a comment on English society. What is significant about that comment?

Determine what you believe is the overall message of the poem.  What metaphors run through the quatrains, sestets, or octaves.   How and why are those metaphors individually important and important to the overall meaning you perceive?



Select one of Wyatt’s or Surrey’s sonnets. What is the conceit? Explain the meaning of the first eight lines and how that meaning turns or is modified in the concluding six.

Discuss Wyatt’s or Surrey’s attitude toward women and love and how that attitude fits within the sonnet tradition?

Select a few poems by Wyatt or Surrey. How does nature play a part in those poems? Is it positive or negative? Provide examples.

Discuss how a poem or poems by either Wyatt or Surrey make a comment on English society. What is significant about that comment?

Determine what you believe is the overall message of the poem.  What metaphors run through the quatrains, sestets, or octaves.   How and why are those metaphors individually important and important to the overall meaning you perceive?




Study Questions on Utopia

In what ways is Utopia a more perfect place than More’s England?

What do the Utopians value? How does their system of valuation differ from England’s?

What are the Utopians beliefs about marriage? How does this help fidelity?

What is the Utopians attitude toward religious belief? What is the predominant belief of the Island?

Utopia is intended to satire More’s contemporary England, but would More have approved of Utopia? Why or why not?

What elements of Renaissance Humanism are reflected in the selections we read from Utopia?

In What ways do you see the importance of Renaissance Humanism reflected in Book I?

How do you view Book I as a whole? Is More always Satirical? Does he always agree with Hythlodaeus?

What is the usefulness of Book I to the work as a whole? Why does it need to exist?

What do we learn about More form Book I?

What types of things does More include to make the story seem more real?

Why use Hytholdaeus and Peter Giles as devices?

Why does Hythlodaeus not want to be a King's Counselor?

What ideas are advanced about crimes and punishment in Book I and do you think More agrees with them? Do You?

What is the problem with Kings' Exploration/colonization ventures?

Why is having a group of Counselors/courtiers counter productive to arriving a Philosophically sound answers?

What, if anything, is More Satirizing in England?

What are the problems caused by riches and private property? How do they affect Monarchs?

Do you feel prepared to learn about this new culture (Utopia)? Has More interested you or intrigued you? How? Why?

Why does More’s book begin with a preface directed to Peter Giles? What purpose does it serve?

Why are More’s attempts to assure the reader that he is striving for accuracy in his recounting these events comical?

Why are his concerns about his audiences acceptance/reception of the book also disingenuous?

How and Why does More meet Raphael Hythlodaeus? What does this add to the book?

What is Hythlodaeus background? What is his travel experience? Why is his background important?

How is the use of the compas taught to the natives in paragraph 1 694 both positive and negative? Why include this?

What’s the difference between servitude and service? What is Hythlodaeus’s take on this? Why?

Why is it so difficult to be an advisor to a king? What are the problems one encounters?

What is Raphael’s attitude toward England’s killing of thieves? How is this important?

How do noble’s corrupt the and weaken the best of their retainers?

How have noble’s created thieves from peasants?

Why are England’s large number of sheep a problemm?

How is gamboling, drinking, whoring, just as responsible for the thieving problem as the thieves themselves?

What’s the problem with punishing murderers and thieves the same?

How is the Polyerite penal system a good one?

How do they (Polyerites) control slaves from plotting escapes?

How does the Cardinal build on what the Polyertites do? What effect does it have on listeners?

What reinforces the fickleness of courtiers? How and why do they corrupt each other?

How do Marcarians control kings greed?

What are some of the scams kings can be counseled to use to raise money?

How does private property cause problems in society?Why?

Utopia Book II

How is the Geology of "the island" important to supporting their way of life?

How important is their engineering of Architecture and Building? Why?

Describe the life in the Rural areas. How might it be a commentary on England?

Describe the City Life. What do you see as positive and negative attributes of that life ?

How and why is slavery necessary within Utopia?

Pick five things that you feel are different about life in Utopia, Why are they different do you think?

Describe their political system. Why would More consider this superior or inferior to Renaissance political systems?

Why limit the occupations people can pursue? What might be positive and negative results of this?

How does Barter Create a better world? Or does it?

What do you perceive as misogynistic in More's description of social matters?

In what ways is Utopia a more perfect place than More’s England?

What are their attitudes toward Health and Health Care?

What do the Utopians value? How does their system of valuation differ from England’s?

What are the Utopians beliefs about marriage? How does this help fidelity?

What is the Utopians attitude toward religious belief? What is the predominant belief of the Island?

Utopia is intended to satire More’s contemporary England, but would More have approved of Utopia? Why or why not?

What elements of Renaissance Humanism are reflected in the selections we read from Utopia?


Government/Self-Government Historical Perspectives


  • Select any of the excerpts. Why is it included? What is it’s principal points? How does it agree with or differ from other excerpts? Does it give you new perspective on More’s Utopia?
  • What do you learn about attitudes toward religion from these excerpts? How are these attitudes surprising or important?
  • Including Vives’s piece what do you learn about attitudes toward women? What other pieces add to this perspective? Does this blend with attitudes toward power, authority, religion, politics?
  • How and why are the divine rights of Kings or Absolute Monarchy discussed, questioned and/or supported by these readings? Which readings? How?
  • How and why is education important in these readings? What attitudes towards the masses do you see? Should we educate all? Should we educate all the same? Why might there be differences?
  • How and why do we see hostility between Catholics and Protestants?
  • How are the hierarchical values of England being both interrogated and supported by these readings?



    Mary Herbert


    Compare Herbert’s Psalm(s) to the Biblical Psalm. How is hers different, what does that mean? Is there a difference in content, emphasis, tone?

    What are the principal images invoked in Herbert’s Psalm? How are these important to it’s overall Meaning?

    How does translating the Psalms pay tribute to her brother (Phillip Sydney) and to Queen Elizabeth?

    How does "Even Now That Care" pay tribute to Elizabeth and serve as a fitting introduction to her Psalms?

    Compare And Contrast "To Thee Prute Sprite" and "The Doleful Lay of Clorinda". How is each an important poem? Which do you find superior? Why?

    Some Critics doubt Herbert Authored "The Doleful Lay of Clorinda." Side with them or against them using evidence from the poems we have read.


    Aemilia Lanyer

    Discuss "The Description of Cookham."  What type of poem is it?  What does it attempt to do?

    Look at the imagery within  "The Description of Cookham."  What images take on especially dense meaning?  How? Why?

    Why would Lanyer write "The Description of Cookham?"  

    How is Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum a feminist text?

    How does Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum depend on the Old Testament in numerous ways?

    Why address different types of readers in the prologue?

    What images does Lanyer primarily rely on? Is her point convincing?

    In what ways does Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum fall short of goals attributed to contemporary feminism?

    How does Lanyer sometimes reinterpret and sometimes accept traditional, stereotypical ideas about women? What do you make of this?



    Queen Elizabeth

    Using images and ideas from the poems tell what "The Doubt of Future Foes" and "On Monsieur’s Departure" are about?

    What do we learn about Queen Elizabeth through reading these poems?

    Which piece do you find the most surprising? What about it is unexpected? How does it alter your appreciation of Elizabeth?

    What do you make of Elizabeth’s attitudes toward Fortune in "Written on a Wall at Woodstock"?

    Elizabeth careful created and acted out her roles as Monarch. Discuss one or more of these roles as you see them presented out in her writings.

    Looking at any one or more of her speeches. First identify what you believe the primary purpose of the speech was (what purpose was it created to fulfill), then look for other issues she introduces into the document and speculate as to why she included them.



    Ann Askew

    Anne Askew was a militant reform protestant in the still pretty catholic England of Henry VIII. She is convicted of Heresy for not believing in Transubstantiation (the physical, actual presence of Christ's body in the Eucharist). She is burned at the stake (1546) for her crime (and for refusing to name any other radical protestants).

    How are documents such as the Examinations of Anne Askew important to literature students?

    What genre coincide with the form of her writings?

    What does her writing reveal about the England of her day?

    How and why might these documents be important to someone studying the position of women in society?

    Where do you see misogyny in her piece?  Is any of it of her own making?

    Where do you see her making savvy or interesting rhetorical moves in her writing?

    What does the poem "The Ballad of Anne Askew" add to your understanding of this historical figure?

    How does this piece make important social, cultural, and historical commentary on the period?  Does the poem add anything to this?


    Isabella Whitney

    The editors of your text make much of Whitney's "modest literary background" and informal education.  Do you get a sense of this from the poems?   How are their comments on this front helpful or useful? 

    What do you make of Whitney's extensive use of allusion to classical mythology and literature?  For what reasons might she do this?  What expectations does she have of a reader?

    How does her poetry focus on "the delights and horrors of urban life."  What points does she make about urban life?

    In what ways is Whitney explicitly a social or cultural commentator about her own time?

    Whitney is preoccupied by Love in a number of poems.  Discuss this preoccupation and how it results in the poems she creates.

    In what ways is Whitney a feminist writer?  In what ways is she an Urban writer?  How and why is the combination possibly interesting?

    Create an obscure biography of Whitney based on the little data we get from her poems.  How is your story limited and why?  How is your story defensible, all the same?

    What are some of you favorite metaphors or allusions that Whitney uses?  Why do you remember them?  In what ways are they effective/non-effective?

     How is London important to her writing?  What important information and perspective does she give us about London?





    Basic Faerie Queene Questions:

    Here are some very basic ideas relating to Understanding, appreciating, interrogating Spenser's Faerie Queene.

    I had in instructor whose favorite Faerie-Queene saying was, " In the Faerie Queene you are who you meet.  Think about some of the ways that is true for the sections you're reading.

    The Faerie Queene is historical, moral, allegorical, and literal.  Think about the different ways that this is so for the sections you've read.

    In what ways can you see the section you've read as commenting on religious or cultural turmoil in England, Ireland or the Continent.

    How is the episode you're considering an important part of the character's growth?  What could it mean for the reader's growth?

    How is this section important in the larger scheme of the poem?

    It what ways is what you're reading Epic and in what ways is it Romance?

    How does Arthur play and important part in this book? 

    What do other Characters represent in this book?  How is their portrayal important or interesting?




    Faerie Queene Book One Review: (RCK=Red Cross Knight)

    If you can figure out what these characters are doing in each canto then you’ve got a basic grasp of the story.

    Canto One

    Red Cross, Una, Dragon error (little) Archimago, evil spirits, evil dreams

    Canto Two

    imitation una and lover, RCK and dwarf, Una alone, imitation RCK, Sans Foy, Duessa, Fidessa, Fradubio, Fraelisa,

    Canto Three

    Lion and Una, Abessa, Corceca, Kirkapine, Una and imitation RCK, Sans Loy,

    Canto Four

    RCK and Fidessa/Duessa, Lucifera, Noble men and ladies, Castle Pride, Idelness, Gluttony, Lechery, Avarice, Envy, Wrath, and Sathan, Sans Joy

    Canto Five

    RCK and Sans Joy, Duessa, victory party, dark cloud, Night, Descent into Hell, Hell dwellers, Aesculapius, Pride’s Dungeon, Dwarf, RCK

    Canto Six

    Sans Loy and Una, fauns and satyrs, Sylvanus, Satyrane, Pilgrim/man, Sans Loy and Satyrane, Una, Pilgrim/Archimago

    Canto Seven

    Red Cross Knight, Duessa, Cristall Cleere Streame, Giant Orgoglio, Orgoglio’s Castle, Duessa’s Beast, Una , The Dwarf, Arthur, Timias

    Canto Eight

    Arthur, Orgoglio, Timias, Arthur’s Shield, Duessa’s Beast, Cutting Giant down to size, Deflating Giant, Freeing prisoners, Duessa exposed, RCK’s frame of mind,

    Canto Nine

    Arthur, RedCK, Una, Arthur’s Love, Arthur’s Dream, Sir Trevisian, Despayre, Darkesome cave, Despayre’s rhetorical abilities, Una’s intervention

    Canto Ten

    Una, Caelia, RCK Fidelia, Sperenza, Charissa, Humilita, Reverence, RCK rehabilitation program, Repentance, Mercy,Contemplation, RCK’s vision

    Canto Eleven

    RCK, Adam, Eve, Satan, Dragon, Una, Battle, one, Battle Two, Battle, Three, well of life, tree of life,

    Canto Twelve

    RCK, Una, Her Parents, Betrothal, Objections, Archimago, Duessa, leniency, escape, What the escape means.

    Sidney and Spenser Sonnets

    Many critics recognize a "lose framework" for sonnet sequences

    1) the lover’s attraction to the lady’s beauty

    2) The various trials, sufferings, conflicts and encouragements the lover experiences an unresolved conclusion.

    Some other traditional sonnet characteristics are:

    idealized female beloved

    suffering and wounded man

    beloved both earthly and divine

    beloved ennobling

    associating beloved with poetry, eternity, salvation, Beauty

    Oxymorons: sighs, tears, wounds, freezing fire, burning ice, power in lady’s eyes, lover captured


    Look closely at some specific sonnets.

    1. How do they participate in the sonnet framework/ characteristics?

    2. What are the primary images used?

    3. How do the ideas relate to other ideas expressed in the cycle?

    4. What does each sonnet mean?



    Sidney's Apology for Poetry

    1. What are the three types of poetry and how and why is the "right poet" superior?

    2. How and why is Poetry superior to Moral Philosophy?

    3. What makes the incidents portrayed in poetry superior to a simple transmission of historical facts?

    4. What are the two ends of poetry and what effect should it ultimately have on people?

    5. What do Comedy, Tragedy, Lyric, and Heroic achieve when done correctly?

    6. Why is the poet not a liar, and why is it the most fruitful knowledge?

    7. What is the matter with poetry (particularly drama) in England?

    Sidney and Spenser Sonnets

    Many critics recognize a "lose framework" for sonnet sequences

    1) the lover’s attraction to the lady’s beauty

    2) The various trials, sufferings, conflicts and encouragements the lover experiences an unresolved conclusion.

    Some other traditional sonnet characteristics are:

    idealized female beloved

    suffering and wounded man

    beloved both earthly and divine

    beloved ennobling

    associating beloved with poetry, eternity, salvation, Beauty

    Oxymorons: sighs, tears, wounds, freezing fire, burning ice, power in lady’s eyes, lover captured


    Look closely at a few specific sonnets.

    1. How do they participate in the sonnet framework/ characteristics?

    2. What are the primary images used?

    3. How do the ideas relate to other ideas expressed in the cycle?

    4. What does each sonnet mean?

    Sidney's Arcadia

    How is Sidney's arcadia pastoral?  What rural or shepherd values does it include?  Do these ideas comment on life in the country or life at court or both?

    How is this actually a story of courtly love?

    What do we learn from Duke Basilius and Philanax?

    Is the Duke a good judge of character?  A good person?  A good ruler?  Why and why not?

    How does love sickness and traditional conceptions of love play into the story?

    What is the purpose or importance of the Oracle?

    How do disguises function to question both gender and class assumptions?

    Is the pastoral life upheld as superior to life at court?  Why / why not?

    Chart some of the relationships in the story?  Who loves who?  Who lusts after who?  What loves are best?  How are characters motivated by love?

    Look at some of the verse in the story.  How is it useful or valuable? What is it's purpose?

    How is Dametas important?  Why is he included in the story?

    How are heroism, love, virtue, honor etc.  important to this story and related to one another in this story? 



    Hero and Leander Questions

    "Leander was a youth of Abydos, a town of the Asian side of the strait which separates Asia and Europe. On the opposite shore, in the town of Sestos, lived the maiden Hero, a priestess of Aphrodite.  Leander loved her, and used to swim the strait nightly to enjoy the company of his mistress, guided by a torch which she reared upon the tower for the purpose. But one night a tempest arose and the sea was rough; his strength failed, and he was drowned. The waves bore his body to the European shore, where Hero became aware of his death, and in her despair cast herself down from the tower into the sea and perished."

    - from Bulfinch's Mythology

    Describe the lovers Hero and Leander? In what ways are they suited to each other? What things stand in the way of their love?

    What has Hero’s experience been with Previous admirers and what has their’s been with her?

    How, when and where do Hero and Leander first meet?

    How is Cupid involved in the story at different times?

    What is significant of the statues in Venus’s Temple and the depictions in Venus’s Glass?

    How is love at first sight important?

    Why is Hero so reluctant to love Leander?

    Is Hero a positive or negative female character in terms of misogyny?

    What are some of Leander’s seduction arguments? Any that you like better than others?

    How is this poem interpretable as a male sexual fantasy poem?

    What do you make of the Homoeroticism of the poem?

    Sometimes Leander seems sexually experienced and other times he seems naive. Find some of these moments and explain them.

    Is Hero a "big teaser"? Why or why not?

    How does Leander get into bed with Hero? Why does she let him?

    Is Hero the victim of sexual assault ? Is Leander’s behavior criminal?

    Why do women use only half their strength when the resist men? (Line 768)

    Look at the numerous mythological images included (in addition to our main characters) how are the stories mentioned appropriate to Marlowe’s topic?




    Sir Walter Raleigh

    Why read The Discovery . . . of Guiana, when Raleigh has some admirable poetry that we could focus on?

    What do we learn from the Discovery and the related source information in the book?

    How and why is Raleigh’s personal life important to understanding numerous parts of his Discovery?

    How and why have some detractors have tried to cast dispersions on the veracity of Raleigh’s account?

    How would the gold and treasure Raleigh discusses be important to England?

    What are the natives like and what is interesting about that?

    How would England be helping the natives by setting up a colony?

    Why include the Amazons? What appeal do they have?

    How is Arthur Barlow’s account of different natives oddly similar to Raleigh’s?

    How is Thomas Hariot’s possibly different from Barlow’s and Raleigh’s account?

    What is Hariot’s attitude toward the natives and their attitude toward the English?

    Laudonniere is adventuring for France? What most interests him and why?




    Marlowe and Ralegh's Nymphs and Shepherds

    1. How is Marlowe’s "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love"(p. 989) both about life/love at court and in the country at the same time?

    2. What is Ralegh’s nymph’s attitude toward the love offered by a shepherd "The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd" (p. 879)? What would move her to love him?

    3. Compare Ralegh’s reply to Marlowe’s poem. How are the sentiments similar and different? What attitudes does Ralegh make clear?



    Titus Andronicus Questions

    How do you see Revenge Conventions working in this play?

    How and why has Titus proven his loyalty to Rome in the past and throughout the play?

    How is paganism and human sacrifice important to the play?

    How is Barbarian vs. Civilized a central issue in the play?

    How is Titus both mad and not mad at the same time? When does he go mad?

    What are the situations in the play that require vengence?

    How is Justice flawed?

    How and why is language shown to be insufficient?

    How is Aaron an important Character? Is he a Vice figure?

    Discuss the following characters;

                                                        Tamora, Lucius, Lavinia, Chiron and Demetrius, Bassianus, Saturninus

            What are they like? How do they move the play along? Why are they important to the development of the                      action?   How  are they involved in the revenge machinations?

    How is Titus shown to be more interested in Honor than anything else? In what ways could you prove this? Why is this so?

    How is Aaron a catalyst for revenge? Is he truly a catalyst?

    How is the Philomel myth important to the story line?

    What ancient stories are alluded to that you took note of?

    Compare this to the earlier Spanish Tragedy? Does this exceed its spectacle? Does it try?

    Some critics argue that this mocks the revenge traditions. Would you agree? Why or why not?




    Spanish Tragedy

    Spanish Tragedy Questions

    What is the historical situation at the start of the play?

    Why is Andreas dead and why does he want revenge?

    How are different levels of nobility/ levels of powerfulness examined in the play?

    Where is there use of the play within a play?

    How are trials and judgments important?

    How is investigation important to the gathering of the Truth?

    Where are supernatural elements present?

    How is love/ attraction important?

    How is Madness important?

    Where is there excessive violence and why?

    How are words and violence used to bring about the resolution of the play?

    Why is Andreas surprised by Horatio’s death?

    Describe the actions of individual characters as part of the revenge tradition or justice.

                        What significance can you attribute to the fact that Hieronimo’s play uses numerous different languages?

    Which significant Characters do you find the most likeable? Which the most reprehensible?

    Why is the painter included in the play?

    How is the presence of Revenge and Andreas’s ghost on stage interesting?

    What is your attitude toward Bel-Imperia and how and why does it change throughout the play?

    What do you make of the final destinations of the numerous dead at the end of the play?

    How is Hieronimo’s position as Marshal (or magistrate) important to the overall meaning of the play?

                        How do you see the Revenge Tragedy conventions functioning in this play?

    Questions to Consider Antonio's Revenge


    1.    What is the overall mood of the play and how does Marston create this mood?

    2.    Describe the story between Antonio, Andrugio, Maria, Piero, and Mellida before the play opens.

    3.    What does Piero do to make himself a noteworthy revenger?  Why does he proceed as he does?

    4.    Does Maria seem likely to marry Piero from what you read of her character in the play?

    5.    Who is Strotzo and how is he important to the action of the play?

    6.    Who is Balurdo and what purpose does he serve?

    7.    Find a few moments in the text where you believe Piero, Pandulpho, or Antonio so exceed audience expectations in their speech and behavior that the audience might laugh.

    8.    What was Andrugio like when he was alive?  Is he an evil spirit now that he=s dead?

    9.    What do you make of Pandulpho=s philosophical stoicism?  What does it add to the play?

    10.    How is this play about Justice?  Is Justice restored through the play?

    11.    How is Strotzo=s death managed?  How does Piero benefit?

    12.    What do you make of Julio?  What is his purpose in the play?

    13.    How is this play about revenge?  What revenges are exacted?  Is it the most Revengiest?

    14.    Where do we see supernatural forces operating in the play.  Describe a few different instances?

    15.    How is Piero eventually exposed?

    16.    Why would Piero shame his own daughter?

    17.    Are the metadramatic moments (those when the players call attention to the ideas of being in a play) interesting/distracting/helpful?

    18.    Sometimes the characters seem to be competing for who is the most aggrieved in the play.  Who is the most aggrieved and why?

    19.     Compare this to Titus and the Spanish Tragedy.  Tell us one thing that is better and one thing that is worse.

    20.    Why do the revengers not die at the end of the Play?  What purpose does that serve?

    21.    Why do the revengers refuse to become the future rulers?

    22.    How, why and when does Pandulpho finally give up his stoic inaction?                   

     Questions to Consider Marlow's Dr. Faustus

    1.  Why does Faustus get involved with Black Magic?

    2.  What other careers has he tried and what has been his success?

    3.  What do other Scholars think of Faustus?

    4.  Why does Mephostophilis appear to Faustus?

    5.  Why is Mephosophilis allowed out of Hell?  What does he say about Hell?

    6.  What are some of the many things Faustus hopes/plans to do with his power?

    7.  Why cant Mephostophilis bring Faustus a Bride?  What does he bring him instead?

    8.  How does the scene with Wagner and the Clown comment on the main plot?

    9.  What do the Good and Bad Angels do?

    10.  What’s the problem with the contract?  Why does it occur?

    11.  What is the problem with Faustus’s early professed disbelief in Hell?

    12.  What types of things does Faustus actually do with his powers?

    13.  What is the Good Angel’s message–what is the Bad Angel’s?

    14.   How do the scenes between Robin and Rafe comment on Faustus’s use of power?

    15.  What happens in the scene with the Pope?

    16.  What happens in the scene with the Emperor?

    17.  What happens to the Horse Courser?

    18.  What does Faustus do for the Duke and Duchess?

    19.  What is the significance of the old man and his dealings with the devils?

    20.  Why does Faustus want Helen of Troy?

    21.  What do the scholars advise Faustus to do?

    22.  Why can’t Faustus repent?

    23.  How is this a story of Pride?

    24.  How is this a story of ambition?

    25.  How is this a tragedy?

    26.  Why is Faustus Damned?

    27.  How do the comic scenes comment directly on the serious scenes?

    28.  How might Faustus be the epitome of the Renaissance man?

    29.  What is Marlowe getting at ?  Is Faustus a medieval man or a Renaissance man?

    John Donne

    AThe Flea@

    1.  Explain the conceit (extended metaphor) in this poem.  Look at all three stanzas.

    2.  How do the last four lines of the poem turn AThe Flea@ into a clever argument?

    3.  Is Donne=s use of science effective?


    “The Good Morrow@                                        

    1.  Name three separate metaphors and how Donne uses them?

    2.  What does the poem mean and how do the individual stanzas advance that meaning?

    3.  Is this an effective love poemBfor you?



    AThe Sun Rising@

    1.  What metaphor(s) are being employed by doneBto what purpose?

    2.  How is the Sun less than all powerful?  How do the lovers defeat or ignore him?

    3.Show using the individual stanzas how and why this poem is a love poem.


    ABreak of Day@ (1088)

    1.  Why is it important to finding meaning in the poem that the speaker is a woman?

    2.  Using the separate stanzas, explain her argument for staying in bed.

    3.  Is this a love poem?  Why and/or why not?



    AThe Canonization@ (1086)

    1.  What is to story or message of the poem (support this from the individual stanzas)?

    2.  How and why is the title appropriate?  Explain who these saints are and who follows them.

    3.  How might the first stanza comment on Donne=s personal life?


    AAir and Angels@ (1088)

    1.  What is the importance of the female lover as AAngel@ to the poem?

    2.  How is Donne and his lover different in their AAngel@ness?  How does this tie to the final two lines?


    The Apparition@ (1093)

    1. Imagine what the relationship between the speaker and the lady in the poem is.  Why do you believe this?

    2.  Pick three images from the poem and explain them?

    3.  What type of poem is this?  What is it about?  Are the speakers feelings believable?  Why?


    “A Valediction Forbidding Mourning”

    1. Why forbid mourning?
    2. How is their love different from other loves?
    3. In what way is the mathematical compass image appropriate?


    “The Ecstasy”

    1. How are eyes an important image in this poem?
    2. What is the poet saying about the lovers’ souls?
    3. Why emphasize the embodiment of their souls?


    “The Relic”

    1. Why use the Catholic term “Relic”?
    2. Why set a love poem in a cemetery?
    3. How does nature treat love differently than religion?

    Donne’s Elegies

    What is the story told in the elegy?

    How does Donne manipulate language to achieve purposeful ambiguity?

    What images/ideas did you find the most striking?

    What can you do to relate these ideas to the ideas expressed in the Holy Sonnets?

    Donne’s Holy Sonnets

    Select a sonnet and discuss its overall meaning.

    What metaphors and conceits does Donne employ to achieve this meaning?

    Look at different moments in the sonnet.  Discuss how they contribute to you proposed meaning.

    Can you rectify these religious poems with Donne’s more secular poetry? How?

    Ben Jonson


    1.   Where do you see Cavalier characteristics in Jonson’s Poetry?

    2.   How and where do you see Jonson managing his persona’s image? Why?

    3.   Look at the poems on the death of children?  How are they similar different?  Why?  What is effective about them?

    4.   What does Jonson value as important as revealed within his poems?

    5.   What do you make of Jonson’s treatment of women within these poems?

    6.   What is noteworthy about the Penshurst poem?  How is it about more than just the building?

    7.   What general observations can you make about Jonson’s style based upon these poems?


    Robert Herrick

    1.   Look at the definition of a cavalier poet and discuss how Herrick fulfills that definition/ 

    2.   Why is there delight in disorder?  Is it a disorderly poem?  Why or Why not?

    3.   Is Herrick sexist in his poetry?  Why a or why not?  How?

    4.   Does Herrick truly admire rural life or id he making broader commentary for the court?  Why do you think this?

    5.   Is Carpe Diem a valuable sentiment or is it merely an excuse for forward behavior?  For Herrick? For his time period? Today?


    George Herbert

    1.   What are the conceits in the poems?  Explain them?

    2.   What do you see as Herbert’s primary religious concerns?  How are they represented by the poem?

    3.   Compare ATime@ with Donne=s ADeath Be Not Proud@.  How do they both cover a similar topic?  What do they do differently? 

    4.   Some critics argue that Herbert is a superior poet to Donne.  What makes Herbert=s poems interesting?  What is the significant difference from Donne?

    5.   Discuss a religious image in Herbert that you see as striking and effective.

    6.   Where do you see Herbert citing or rephrasing biblical ideas in his poetry?

    Katherine Philips

    A Married State

    ·        Discuss the attitude towards husbands and marriage presented in the poem.

    ·        Why is the virginal state preferable?  Is it really?

    Murder of Charles I

    ·        In what way is Philips’ a royalist?  Show a few different moments in the poem?

    ·        How does this poem offer a sort of excuse for Charles?

    ·        Does this poem present Charles as unworthy of blame?  Why/why not?  How?

    Friendship’s mystery

    ·        Why does Philips write this poem?

    ·        Explain the nature of the friendship between the two women?

    ·        Select two images from the poem and comment on what they add to its meaning.

    Death of Hector Philips

    ·        Compare this poem to Jonson’s poems to his son and daughter on page 710-11.  In what ways are they similar and different?  Speculate as to why.

    ·        How does Philips attempt to console herself with this poem?

    Mary Wroth

    1.      How do these poems differ from the earlier sonnet sequences we read (Wyatt, Surrey, Spenser, Sidney) in tone and content?

    2.      Are there elements to the poem(s) that seem particularly inspired by her sex?

    3.      Discuss the personification of love within the poem(s).

    4.      Select a specific image or two from a poem and discuss how it functions to support what you believe is the poems overall meaning.

    Mary Wroth From”Pamphilia to Amphilanthus”

    Andrew Marvell

    John Milton
    Study Questions on Paradise Lost

    Book I
    1.    Describe the style and tone of the poem what makes these important?
    2.    How does Milton Christianize the epic conventions of: epic simile, catalog, descent to hell, invocation, strength or guile heroes, story of great importance?  Give examples from the poem.
    3.    Describe Satan and explain his actions in Book one and his state of mind.
    4.    Describe and characterize the following demons: Beelzebub, Moloch, Belial, Chemos, Dagon, Mammon, and Mulciber.
    5.    What is the state of mind of the demons?  How does Satan Rally them?  What do they build and how?
    6.    Find two of Milton’s epic similes that interest you and explain them.

    Book IX
    7.    In what ways is Paradise Lost a Heroic work?  How does that Heroism differ from classical epics?
    8.    What is the effect of Paradise on Satan?  What is the effect of Eve on him?
    9.    Why does Satan choose the snake?  What is the snake’s nature like before and after the fall? 
    10.    How is god’s creation of man directly related to the Fall of Devils?  What will be Humankind’s job in Paradise if they don’t Fall?
    11.    Why does Satan decide to tempt Man?  Give some of his many reasons and make references to the text.
    12.    Why, according to Eve, must she be able to go around the Garden alone?  Provide some of her reasons.
    13.    What is Adam’s argument about Eve going alone.  Explain his various attempts to keep her near him?
    14.    Why does Eve Think Satan will not attempt to tempt her in particular?  Why does Satan decide on Eve in Particular?
    15.    Why does Eve Eat the Apple?  Why Does Adam?
    16.    How is their world (and relationship) immediately changed by eating the fruit?

    Richard Lovelace

    Questions for Consideration: Margaret Cavendish

    1.       Why would her contemporary audience possibly find elements of her writing disgraceful?  Are there elements of her writing that 21st century audiences might find disgraceful?  How and why are these different?

    2.       The Blazing World is partially political, partially philosophical, and partially fantastical.  Identify and explain each of these aspects.

    3.       How is the Blazing World about writing?  What purpose does the emphasis on writing serve for the author and for the audience?  How do these purposes differ?

    4.       If this is a “Utopia?”  How is it a “Utopia?”  What would this perfect world be like?  Find examples from the text or the introduction?

    5.       How is this a manifesto of sorts about the position of women in society?  What stands does she take on women?  Where do you find her adopting the social mores of her time?  Where is she breaking with ideas about women from her time?

    Aphra Behn

    Questions for Consideration: Oroonoko: Or The Royal Slave

    1.      In what ways is Oroonoko nonfiction?

    2.      In what ways is Oroonoko a torrid fantasy story?

    3.      Discuss the general attributes of the three racial types in the story (Whites, Black, and Indians).

    4.      In what different ways does Aphra Behn identify with each of the three racial types in the story.

    5.      How is Behn’s status as a woman important to our understanding of the story?

    6.      In what ways do you perceive racism in the story?

    7.      Describe Oroonoko and discuss him in relation to the other “slaves” in the story?

    8.      Describe the love affair between Oroonoko and Imoinda?  How does the progression of the affair affect our attitude toward the couple?

    9.      What elements of the story do you find the most surprising?  The most shocking?

    10. In what ways is Oroonoko a slave trader?  How does this affect your appreciation of him?

    11. Discuss Imoinda as a character?  In what ways do you see her as an equal to Oroonoko?  Does she fall short?

    12. Discuss the different ways that whites interact with Oroonoko.  In what ways is he different from a slave?  Why?

    13. In what ways (if any) is slavery presented as positive?

    14. What elements of the story helped it to be wildly popular and widely influencial?

    15. What do you make of the death of Imoinda?

    16. What do you make of the death of Oroonoko?

    17. What is the importance of Aphra Behn in the narrative?

    Thomas Hobbes

    Leviathan Stuff

    Summum Bonum/ Malum

    Mechanistic Universe

    State of Nature

    Social Contract Theory

    Geometric proof



    ·       Monarchy

    ·       Aristocracy




    1.       What side effects do you imagine accompany Hobbes’s attitude to political organization?

    2.       What seems valuable about Hobbes’s attitude to creating a Commonwealth?

    3.       In what ways do Hobbes’s ideas seem pessimistic?

    4.       Why might Hobbes’s contemporaries have thought he was an Atheist?

    Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

    1.    What do you learn about English and Turkish Customs from Lady Montagu’s letter?

    2.    In what ways do Montagu’s letters reveal life both in England and Abroad?  Why?

    3.    Does Montagu come across as particularly feminist?  Why or why not?

    4.    Discuss how the “Epistle from Mrs Yonge to Her Husband” exposes some of the inequities in marriage in Montagu’s time.

    Fanny Burney

    1.    What do we learn about life in Burney’s England from her letters?

    2.    How does her journal concerning George III humanize both the king and Burney herself?

    3.    Do we learn anything about attitudes about mental illness from her interactions with the King?

    4.    What do we learn about the medical industry in Burney’s time from her journal on her mastectomy?

         5.    How and why are the writings of Burney interesting/important?

    John Dryden

    Study Questions on John Dryden

    “Mac Flecknoe”

    1.      Describe the physical and intellectual portrait of Flecknoe and Mac Flecknoe?

    2.      Find three sets of allusive lines and discuss what they allude to and why?

    3.      What is funny or witty about the place for Mac Flecknoe’s coronation and the description of the kingdom he rules?

    4.      How is scatological imagery effective and even necessary to this poem?

    5.     Discuss three ways that Thomas Shadwell is specifically linked to this poem and ridiculed.

    6.      Define a Mock heroic and discuss Mac Flecknoe as one.

    Song For St Cecilia’s Day

    1.  How does the poem rely on medieval beliefs about God, the music of the sphere’s and the great chain of being?

    2.  Dryden supposedly tried to echo or imitate musical instruments in different stanzas. Can you identify some?

    3. What power does music have in this piece?  What metaphors and allusions are used to show music’s power?

    To the memory of Mr. Oldham
    1.    What do we learn about Oldham in the poem?
    2.    What does the poem teach us about Dryden?
    3.    How is the poem a fitting tribute?

    Jonathan Swift

    Gulliver’s Travels 1


    1.               What do we learn from Gulliver’s letter to his Cousin?  How might this information be important?

    2.               Why is Gulliver upset about his books publication?Ba few reasons

    3.               What do we learn about Gulliver and his reputation from the Letter to the Reader (from the Publisher)?

    4.               What is Gulliver’s life and history like before he leaves for sea on the Antelope?  What do these details reveal about Gulliver?

    5.               What type of person is Gulliver?  What are his main Character traits?  What do you surmise about his intelligence?

    6.               How does Gulliver end up in Lilliput? How is he treated there?

    7.               What types of details does Gulliver include about his life in Lilliput?  What do these details reveal about him?

    8.               How is the size difference between Gulliver and the Lilliputians, both very important yet often inconsequential?

    9.               Why did the Lilliputians have to tie down Gulliver?

    10.            How and why is he taken to the capital?

    11.            How do they maintain Gulliver (keep him alive)?

    12.            What are some of the specifics of his being made comfortable?

    13.            How does he learn to speak Lilliputian?

    14.            What is in Gulliver’s pockets and how is it at all important?

    15.            What does Gulliver’s translation of the list of things found in his pocket say about him or the Lilliputians?

    16.            What does Gulliver hide from the Emperor and why?

    17.            Chapter 3 describes some of the things Gulliver does to ingratiate himself to the powers of Lilliput.  What are these things?  What is their significance?

    18.            What are the stipulations made by the court concerning Gulliver’s freedom?  Why are they important?

    19.            In Chapter 4 we learn about high heels, low heels, big ender, little enders, and the beliefs of Lilliputian science about Gulliver’s race.  Explain each of these.

    20.            What is Gulliver’s part in the Naval battle with Blefuscu?  How does he open himself up to charges of treason?  Why does he act as he does?

    21.            How does Gulliver extinguish the fire in the Empress’s Chambers?  What is her reaction and what are the repercussions of the event?

    22.            What is interesting and important about the flora and fauna of Lilliput?  How does it aid Gulliver when he returns to human civilization?

    23.            What is the Lilliputian attitude toward education/ Describe their educational system for boys and girls?

    24.            What are the principal Treason charges against Gulliver?  How is his friendship with Reldresal helpful with these charges?

    25.            Characterize and describe, Flipnap, Reldresal, Skyresh Bolgolm, the anonymous Noble Lord, The Emperor of Lilliput and discuss their importance to the story.

    26.            What Leniency does Reldressal get for Gulliver?  In what ways is this not leniency and leniency at the same time?  Why do they reject the plan?

    27.            What is their ultimate plan for punishing Gulliver?  What do they consider and reject?  Why?

    28.            Why might Flipnap be angry with Gulliver?  What does Gulliver say to dispute the false charges?  What does Gulliver fail to say?  What does this mean?

    29.            Who is the considerable person of the court who visits Gulliver?  Might it be some character we have met?

    30.            What will they do with Gulliver once he is dead?

    31.            How does Gulliver escape the Lilliputians?  What does he do then?

    32.            How does Gulliver get back home?  What happens along the way?

    33.            What is important about Gulliver’s stay at home?  What does it tell us about him?

    34.            Why did Swift tell this story?

    Samuel Johnson

    The Vanity of Human Wishes


    1.               How or why is this juvenalian satire?


    2.               What type of personifications are used in the poem and to what extent?


    3.               Why is Democritus mentioned in line 49?


    4.               What does Johnson have to say about courtiers and statesmen?  How does it relate to the overall meaning of the poem?


    5.               In what way is the work of scholars/writers vain?  What is the problem with their valuation by the world?


    6.               What does Johnson have to say of soldiers and warriors?  What is important about the way they die?


    7.               What is the problem with change and the passage of time?


    8.               Why is Swift’s mention in line 318 important? How?


    9.               What is the problem with a long life?


    10.            Is Johnson entirely pessimistic? Why or Why not?


     On Shakespeare


    11.            In what ways are critics mistaken in their estimations of Shakespeare?


    12.            What is wrong with modern Dramatists in Johnson’s time?  How does Shakespeare differ?


    13.            What are Shakespeare’s greatest real faults according to Johnson?


    14.            What does Johnson say about Shakespeare’s adherence to the unities of Action, Time and Place?  Which unity is the important one to Johnson?  Why?



    Alexander Pope

    Study Questions for Pope’s Rape of the Lock

    1.    What are sylphs?  What do they do?  What did they used to be?  How are they an appropriate part of a mock epic?

    2.    What is the significance of the speech at Canto I line 90-104?  Why does Ariel send the dream to Belinda?  What effect does it have on her?

    3.    Can you find the epic component--invocation, argument, prophesy, arming of hero--in Canto I?

    4.    What do the lines surrounding the description of Belinda’s cross Canto II line 7 say about Belinda and the company she keeps?

    5.    What is the significance of line 100-110 in Canto II?  How is high and low equated and to what effect?

    6.    Can you find the heroic/epic components--sacrifice to the gods, description of shield, descent into hell?

    7.    How is the card game Ombre a battle in disguise?

    8.    What is the importance of the coffee in Canto III?

    9.    How does the Baron get his weapon?  What happens to Ariel?  Why?  What happens to the sylph who protects Belinda’s lock?

    10.    How does Pope mock Belinda’s anger in Canto IV 1-10?

    11.    Why does Umbriel descend into the Cave of Spleen?  How is this epical?  What is the result of his trip?

    12.    What is the importance of the concluding speech of Canto IV lines 145+?

    13.    How is the killing in the battle of Canto V different from a normal epic?  What is the same about it?  Can you relate the behavior of the men to the punning of dying with sex?

    14.    What are the sentiments toward the impending war of Belinda, Thalestris, and Clarissa?

    15.    How is the poem resolved?

    Study Questions Olahdah Equiano

    1.   What similarities do you see to Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko?  What do you make of that?

    2.   In what ways is the excerpt we read an adventure story?

    3.   In what ways is the excerpt we read an abolitionist track?

    4.   In what ways is it a travel memoir?

    5.   What was the most interesting thing it told about the slave trade?

    6.   Does it matter if there are fictional elements to this account?  Why or why Not?

    7.   In what ways is the excerpt we read reveal Equiano’s skills as a writer?

    8.   What do we learn about African culture from this?

    9.   What do we learn about British culture from this?

    ProtoRomantic Poets



    ·                 Reaction to Neoclassicism

    ·                 innate goodness of man

    ·                 reverence for nature

    ·                 philosophic idealism

    ·                 primitivism–attribute superior virtue to primitive people

    ·                 free thought

    ·                 religious mysticism

    ·                 revolt against political and social authority

    ·                 exaltation of physical passion

    ·                 cultivation of emotion and sensation

    ·                 sentimentalism

    ·                 attraction to the supernatural

    ·                 acceptance of the morbid and cruel

    ·                 reveling in melancholy

    * How do the protoromantic poets show a transition from NeoClassicism to Romanticism?

    Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard


    Describe the speaker of the poem?  What is he like?  What are his pastimes?  What does he think about and why?  What does he wonder about these dead farmers?  How ambitious or self-contented does he imagine these farmers to have been?  What does his epitaph mean?


    Collins’s Ode To Evening


    What does the speaker like about evening?  Why?  How is this a romantic/sentimental work?

    Is this poem particularly Alyrical@ and Afanciful@ as Collins hoped?  How so or why not?  How can you tell this is not neoclassical?


    Christopher Smart [my cat Jeoffrey]

    What is the point of this poem?  How is the poem religious?  Is its religiosity convincing?

    Select a number of moments from the poem that use description of a cat to make commentary on the nature of life.  What is that commentary?


    Cowper The Castaway


    What are the main images in this poem and what do they mean?  How is this a sentimental/romantic poem?  How is nature used and to what effect? How is the poem both description and commentary simultaneously?

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