The Canterbury Tales And Sir Gawain And The Green Knight

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The Canterbury Tales, written by Chaucer, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, written by an anonymous author, are both sophisticated fourteenth-century examples of medieval romance. Medieval romances captured the heart of their audiences as narratives and stories that featured a protagonist, often a knight, and dealt with religious allegories, chivalry, courtly love, and heroic epics. The concept of the knight emerged from the remnants of the Anglo-saxon literature and ideals and influence of the Christian religion and church. There is a distinct difference between the famous pagan heroic like Beowulf and the romantic medieval tales like Sir Gawain and the Green Knight of the Canterbury Tale. The Anglo-Saxon hero Beowulf exemplified qualities expected of warriors who could attain kingship by their heroism and battle deeds. They possessed the qualities of valor, military prowess, generosity, and honor. The hero fights for the survival of their tribe and nation, and it is in battle that the mettle of the epic hero is ultimately tested. The romantic conventions , influenced by Christianity and French ideals, created a new chivalric knight who sets out on a trial or adventure. They possessed similar qualities to their epic hero counterparts – valor, loyalty, honor, and skill in battle – but differed in knowing temperance, courtesy towards women, and courtly skills. The hero is no longer fighting for his people but for his ideals. By the 14th century, The Tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and The Canterbury Tales have began to criticize the notion of chivalry which had become old and obsolete in their society; the idealization of chivalry practiced by knights could longer withstand the complexities and indeterminateness of situa...

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...ghthood within their story. Both poets remind the readers of the disparity between the ideals of chivalries presented in romances, and the reality of lived knighthood, highlighting how problematic the understanding of chivalry and Christianity (knighthood) could be for medieval audiences. Though chivalry shines as a brilliant light of the high civilization in the fourteenth century, both tales suggests that chivalry is at best a limited system, which achieves its brilliant at the cost of a distortion of natural life. It was part of the social and ethical system but did not take into account the entire range of human needs, mainly the fact of human morality and sense of human frailty. The context in which knights are depicted and celebrated in the medieval romance does not support a smooth connection between the harsh realities of a century of internecine strife.
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