Chivalry is Yet, Not Dead
In some select stories of old/middle english, we can see that people have been fascinated by ideals of heroism, chivalry, and what we now refer to as romance for a very long time. I will argue in this document, that our fascination with such imaginary laws has never ceased, and in some ways is even more fantastic. Every further mention of romance will refer to all of these ideas, the way it did when the term was introduced into english. If all things are to be considered this short essay would turn into a book. I would like to compare and contrast Beowulf, Lanval, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight with some of the modern day creations especially in looking at the values, and belief systems in all of the three “classic” stories. I will apologize in advance to those who will read this and are not familiar to the texts that are mentioned, due to restrictions in size I must mention all of my topics without specific description of how the stories are told, please at least read “Beowulf” before considering this essay. Beowulf has and will live in the hearts of many people today, whether they have actually read and studied the text itself or they have merely been exposed to modern movies, books, and music that idealize a classical heroic ideal.
We might consider in this topic the modern police officer, soldier, paramedic, FBI/CIA agent, and any who take on with their livelihood the motto “to protect and to serve.” I believe we will most likely see and inherent desire for honor, and for glory. These in certain individuals seem to overpower the desire and will to help other people. A scholar by the name of George P. Fletcher states when looking at romanticism and its opposites, “On the one hand, we have stability, order, universality, and the boredom of the predictable and domestic. On the other hand, we have revolt, disorder, partiality, and the intense flames of lust and creativity. This is, of course, the way Romantics might describe the sentiments that move them” (p. 17). He even goes on to hint that the reason we have waged war on Iraq was because of romantic
ideas. We'll stay away from that debate in this essay and just say that the idea of glory and honor is summed up completely in “Beowulf” by the line ”Heaven swallowed the smoke” (L. 3155), in Lanval when he will not lie, despite the costs, despa...
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...ork: Norton. 2000.
Alexander, Michael, trans. Beowulf. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973.
Bradley, S. A. J., trans. “Beowulf.” Anglo-Saxon Poetry: An Anthology of Old English Poems in Prose Translation with Introduction and Headnotes by S. A. J. Bradley. Everyman's Library. London and Melbourne: Dent, 1982.
Chaucer, Geoffrey. “The Canterbury Tales.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature: 6th edition New York: Norton. 1996
Donaldson, E. Talbot. “Beowulf: A New Prose Translation.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature: 6th edition. New York: Norton. 1996.
Fletcher, George P. Romantics at War. Princeton: Princeton UP. 2002
Laven, David, and Lucy Riall. Napoleon's Legacy: Problems of Government in Restoration Europe. Berg. 2000
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