Monday, July 21, 2008

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village

**This review was created for an assignment at Texas Woman's University**

Book Review: Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village

Schlitz, Laura. 2007. GOOD MASTERS! SWEET LADIES! VOICES FROM A MEDIEVAL VILLAGE. Cambridge: Candlewick Press.
ISBN: 9780763615780

The doctor’s son, the tanner's apprentice, and the glassblower’s daughters are all characters readers will meet in Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village. This stunning collection of plays contains twenty-two monologues and dialogues written about life in England during the year 1255. The author wrote these plays to be read or to be performed. The plays included in this collection are written in prose and verse. Background information is included for topics that will help the reader with historical information and context during the Middle

Topics included in this collection include ways of life in a medieval village and towns, a structured social caste system, farming techniques, medieval pilgrimages, the crusades, and falconry. The characters included in this collection breathe life and witty dialogue into a fascinating time period of history.

This Newberry Award winning book provides readers an opportunity to interact with the figures and voices from of a medieval village in a dramatic fashion. Schlitz describes her purpose for writing the book in an engaging forward, where she describes the students whom she wrote the plays for. Her intent was to give them engaging dialogue to perform to supplement their excitement and passion for their study of medieval history.

The topics that Schlitz offers readers about the Medieval Ages are historically accurate and well researched. She includes an extensive bibliography at the end of the text allowing students to do more research about this time period if they please. The plays themselves cover a wide range of medieval life offering readers a glimpse into life inside a medieval village through the eyes of different individuals within medieval society. She includes footnotes throughout her writing giving readers “on the spot” background information as they read. These notes deepen the comprehension of the text and offer details that help enrich the reading experience. The collection also features background notes at several points in the book giving readers factual information about topics such as the three-field farming system, medieval pilgrimages, and falconry.

Each play in the collection has it’s own unique plot, characters, setting, and theme. Some characters appear more then once in the collection showing up in several plays. Schlitz uses a combination of dialogue, prose, and verse throughout the plays giving readers a different experience with each story. Her writing reflects the written and spoken language of the Middle Ages.

One play, Alice, the Shepherdess, offers a song with notes and lyrics at the end of the monologue where the words are changed to reflect a young shepherdess’s prayers for her ailing sheep, “God restore thee, thou heavenly sheep, hark to my music and heal in thy sleep. Do not forsake me, my sister, my sheep, slumber ye gently and heal in thy sleep.”

Another play, Otho, The Miller’s Son is written in verse with a repeated chorus throughout,

“Oh, God makes the water, and the water makes the river,
And the river turn the mill wheel
And the wheel goes on forever.
Every man’s a cheater, and so every man is fed,
For we feed upon each other,
when we seek our daily bread.”

The illustrations that accompany this collection of plays adds depth and drama to the pages including a detailed map of village that shows careful attention to the setting and the characters included in the book.

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village is a well crafted collection of plays that will delight readers and those who may witness the performances of students who choose to dramatize stories included in the book.

*Teachers and librarians can use this book as an engaging tool to read and share with students prior to or in conjunction with a social studies unit on the Middle Ages.
*Students can perform the monologues and dialogues as intended by the author.
*Teachers and students can use the extensive bibliography in this book extend their study of this time period in history.

Newberry Medal, 2008


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