Havelok the Dane is one of the most interesting of the romances produced in medieval England. It displays the customary patterns of romance: The hero is noble, brave, and pure. The heroine is noble, beautiful, and pure. The poem is exceptional for its rousing, energetic spirit of adventure. As one is carried along by the intricacy and suspense of the plot, one notices the unusually realistic detail that is the poem’s most outstanding asset.
Havelok the Dane is not generally considered among the great works of Middle English literature, but this is as much the fault of critical neglect as it is of any weakness of the poem itself. Havelok the Dane may lack the literary polish of the works of, for example, Geoffrey Chaucer, but the poem should be appreciated on its own terms and enjoyed for what it has to offer. Along with King Horn (c. 1225)—often associated with Havelok the Dane in literary history because of common themes, though the two works are clearly by different authors—Havelok the Dane offers a compelling story of adventure, love, honor, and personal vindication.
Havelok the Dane is one of the most approachable known Middle English poems. The protagonist is likeable, and it is easy for a reader to understand his adventures on a human level. Unlike the idealized courtly romances that flourished on the European continent, Havelok the Dane is among the most...
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