The medieval institution of knighthood lived and died by a code of chivalry that included courage, honor, loyalty, and consideration for others. The influences of Christianity and courtly love expanded the code of chivalry to include religious piety as well as refined social grace and manners. But despite the respectable nature of all it stood for, this knightly code of honor was depicted as having many problematic aspects in Chretien de Troyes' Erec and Enide. These problems stemmed from a knight's sense of pride, a feeling of obligation to avenge the wronged, and the eternal search for adventure and honor.
The story begins with King Arthur's wish to revive the custom of the hunt for the white stag. The custom is such that, whoever kills the white stag, has the right to kiss the most beautiful maiden at court. This is complicated by the fact that there are at least five hundred beautiful young ladies in attendance whose knights would be greatly angered and insulted if the one that they served was not chosen as the loveliest of all. This could obviously cause many fights between the knights since their maiden's beauty helped to distinguish them amongst themselves. Pride goes hand in hand with knighthood, and in this situation much pride would be hurt, and possibly cause rifts between friends as well as lovers.
It was during this hunt, that Erec son of Lac accompanies Queen Guinevere and her maid in waiting into the forest. A horrible dwarf in service of a knight lashes the lady in waiting for no reason at all. The queen asks Erec to approach the knight as a favor to her. Erec tries, but he too is lashed by the dwarf, and because "folly...
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...ed as well, and everything can be seen as disrespectful and in need of avenging. This is what got Erec into trouble in the first place. The search for adventure can also be seen as problematic, because he could have very well lost his life to Maboagrain. Gaining honor is a competition that all knights are involved in. They will risk their lives, and get into many troubles along the way, as can be seen with Erec.
Chretien de Troyes' romance Erec and Enide depicts the code of chivalry to be quite problematic to its' characters. In their attempt to be the most renowned, these knights risk their lives as well as their self-esteem continuously. Erec tested his own courage as well as Enide's love for him, and although it was chivalry that got him into many troubles in the first place, Erec came out the victor in the end, and he was all the more renowned for it.
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