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Series 1: 2. Revolution of the Dead



An alternative history of the Black Death of the Middle Ages and its bitter – but profoundly creative – aftermath. Contemporary artists and performers, alongside historians and curators, reveal how a century of creative renewal emerged from the chaos of plague as survivors found their voice, questioning authority and challenging status and class. Above all, writing in English was revived by works including Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, William Langland’s angry satire The Vision of Piers Plowman and breakthrough works by women like the spirited pilgrim Margery Kempe.\n\nPoet laureate Simon Armitage reflects on the poem of loss, Pearl, as a window into the medieval mind, and artist Sarah Maple shines a light on the subversive Lincoln Cathedral misericords, carved in the wake of plague. Meanwhile, writer Maria Fusco explores how the profound faith of female mystic Julian of Norwich is unshaken by illness. \n\nAs tensions rose over taxes on the plague’s survivors, the Peasants’ Revolt triggered a counter-reaction from an insecure king, Richard II. Royal photographer Chris Levine dissects the first portrait of a living English king, and artist Marc Quinn explores the beautiful but enigmatic Wilton Diptych, which Richard used to project his divine right to rule. We discover how this was also a moment of new imagination and new opportunities in cathedral-building and music as people increasingly sought their fortunes and patrons in towns and cities. Sarah Brown of the York Glaziers Trust shows us the magnificent, recently restored Great East Window at York Minster, a pinnacle of European stained glass art, and Rory McCleery and the Marian Consort perform John Dunstaple’s Veni Sancte Spiritus, a game changer for medieval music.

Source: BBC 2

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