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Unveiling the past of Chivalry

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It is not uncommon to hear the words “chivalry is dead” in the 21st Century. This comment usually implies that there is a lack of polite behavior amongst men; however, the term chivalry was originally used in the medieval era to describe knights. In fact, the phrase “chivalry is dead” is entirely contradictory to the word chivalry’s initial meaning. During the middle ages, the description of a knight as chivalrous was attached to the ideas of high morals, polite conduct, and loyal bravery.

In Layamon’s Brut, an extended adaptation of Wace’s Roman de Brut, the morals, conduct, and bravery aforementioned are the quintessential characteristics of the good knight who is so faithful to King Arthur. The first time that the knight is mentioned in Layamon’s text he is described as a “…bold man on horseback…” (125). The description of the knight as bold suggests that he is a confident, brave man. He is also referred to as “…a good knight…” which implies that he is respectable and kind-hearted (Layamon 125).

The first words that this good knight speaks are to King Arthur and he asks, “My Lord, how did you get on last night” (Layamon 125). This inquiry reveals that the knight is concerned about the King. He knows that he must relay disturbing news to the King, but he also seems to detect something amiss in the King’s disposition. Due to this, he begins by asking the King how he got on last night; he notices the King seems upset about something and is considerate of that fact. The knight’s reverence for the King is also evident in his address to him at the beginning of the question. He calls him My Lord, which demonstrates an understanding of his position in comparison to the King’s, as well as, is a sign of respect.

Geoffrey Chaucer...

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...alities of those men in the knighthood during the middle ages through his descriptions of King Arthur’s loyal and brave knight. This good knight possesses all of the characteristics that Chaucer describes and is even more esteemed because of his retention of these traits in his Lord’s time of need.

Works Cited

Chaucer. “From The Canterbury Tales”. The Norton Anthology of English Literature THE MIDDLE AGES Volume A. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 2006. Page 219.

David and Simpson. The Norton Anthology of English Literature THE MIDDLE AGES Volume A. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 2006. Page 8.

Layamon. “From Brut [Arthur’s Dream]”. The Norton Anthology of English Literature THE MIDDLE AGES Volume A. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 2006. Pages 125-127.