During the latter years of the eighteenth century a fashionable craze developed for literature with medieval subjects, contexts or idiom. This followed on the heels of the amazing commercial success of Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, a gothic horror story set in thirteenth-century Italy. For inspiration and subject matter Romantic writers looked to the Middle Ages and in particular to Chaucer and Italian authors such as Giovanni Boccaccio. Imitations of medieval style and atmosphere proliferated (see Keats’s The Eve of St Mark for an example) and there were even forgeries of ‘lost’ documents. It was in this atmosphere that Keats wrote the first of the three poems analysed here, Isabella, begun in 1818.
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