With Chaucer English literature made a brilliant beginning, but it was only a beginning, and after his death we enter upon a long barren period i.e. one and a half century.
The poor quality and general lifelessness of the 15th century verse is suggested by the fact that the greater part of it is initiative. The poets tried their best to follow the footstep of Chaucer but had failed. The best known are Thomas Occleve (1370?-1450?) and John Lydgate (1370?-1451). Occleve wrote a long poem “The Governial Of Princess”, in Chaucer’s seven line stanza (ababbcc) and in the prologue, in which he tells us much about himself, describes his grief on Chaucer’s death and signs his master’s pieces. In “A Regiment Of Princess,” his attention to the fashions of the period, Lydgate’s longer productions being the “Storie Of Thebes”” (designed as a new Canterbury Tales”), the “Troy Boke” and the “Falls Of Princes”-the last based on a French paraphrase of a Latin work by Boccaccio.
During the 15th century prose made some leeway. Many remarkable works were produced. The learned Reginald (1390?-1460?) wrote two prose works—Repressor Of Overmuch Blaming Of The Clergy, and Boke Of Faith. His works are rugged and obscure but his vocabulary was excessive and bordered on the land of the tautology and redundancy. The political treatise of Sir John Fortescue (1394?-1476?) The Difference Between An Absolute And A Limited Monarchy and William Caxton’s (1422?-1491?) Recuryell Of The Histories Of Troye and The Game And The Plays Of Chess, remarks a good example. The best known among prose writers of the century is Thomas Malory (d. 1471?). His Morte D’Arthur is a compilation. The book is written with a uniform dignity and fervor. The style has a transparent clarity and a poetic sensitivity. The dialogue and narrative is full of flour and life.
Thus we find that the 15th century is a great era of preparation. H.S. Bennet writes, “the break up of the old memorial system, the decline of chivalry, the isolation caused by the hundred years war, the rise of middle class, the increasing ability to read and write English—things such as these helped to make the century a notable one, albeit puzzling, full of divided aims and lacking in much that encourage great literature.