Theme: Multilingual Medieval England

  • Ancrene Wisse
  • Ayenbite of Inwit
  • Le Fiz Marie
  • Mandeville's Travels
  • Sir Orfeo
  • Syng I Wold

  • Introduction

    Although this anthology is focused on Middle English, it is of course important to keep in mind that English was by no means the only language spoken in medieval England. This point is very clearly illustrated by the trilingual Psalter included in this anthology, which combines Latin, Hebrew and French. The lyric known as “Le fiz marie, cil ke tut le munde fist,” which blends French and English, and the lyric known as “Syng I wolde,” which blends Latin and English, both speak to rich traditions of multilingualism.

    Several of the works included in this anthology were translations from French; these include the Ayenbite of Inwyt (c. 1340) which was a translation of a late thirteenth century French guide known as the Somme le roi. Sir Orfeo, one of the best-known of the Middle English Breton lays, may have also originated as a French work. And several of the texts in this anthology circulated in a variety of other languages; this includes Ancrene Wisse, Mandeville’s Travel’s, both of which circulated in Latin and French versions. Works such as these offer a glimpse into the wide range of voices, dialects and languages that made up the cultural fabric of medieval England.

    Krista A. Murchison, General Editor