Designed as a companion volume to "A Guide to Old English" by Bruce Mitchell and Fred C. Robinson, this book is a straightforward introduction to Middle English, the language (or rather, the group of dialects) spoken and written in England from about 1100, after the Norman Conquest, to 1450/1500. The book begins with an overview of the basics, including dialects, grammar and pronunciation (which is described using modern British, rather than American, sounds). The rest of the book consists of examples of Middle English texts, from oldest to youngest -- mostly poetry, though some prose is included as well. Difficult or unusual terms are glossed at the bottom of the page, but for most definitions you'll have to turn to the glossary (dictionary) at the back of the book. Middle English is rich in dialectal and spellingvariants, but the authors are nice enough to refer to you the main entry in cases of variant spellings. Most of the texts are excerpts; you won't find the whole Canterbury Tales here, but rather two complete tales, with "The Parliament of Fowls [fools]" to round out the Chaucer offerings. Other highlights include Lazamon "Brut," (lines 10534-10706), an excerpt from "The Peterborough Chronicle" (1137), a "York Play of the Crucifixion" and small parts of "Piers Plowman" and "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight." There are plenty of bibliographical references for each text if you become interested in learning more. Don't expect facing-page modern-English translations -- the writers provide you the tools to decode the original texts for yourself. This a book primarily for those interested in linguistic and/or literary analysis. You'll also get plenty of insight into how different (and weirdly artificial) our standardized modern (especially American) English is from the chaos of the ME era. The writers point out right at the beginning that "authors in the twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth centuries generally wrote the English that they spoke -- whether in London, Hereford, Peterborough, or York." This book could easily be used by the non-specialist or curious reader who just wants an idea of what Middle English was, but it is probably best used as a textbook in a classroom setting. The independent reader might want to get one of the many good sound recordings of Chaucer's poetry in order to get an idea of what late Middle English sounded like. If you want to delve into the fascinating history of English, I'd recommend starting with a general history and then moving up to a book like this. You don't need a knowledge of Old English, however, to start studying ME -- in fact, it might even be easier to work your way back in history rather than forwards. All in all, a valuable book for those who want to know more about English.