The Decline Of Chivalry And Sir Gawain And The Green Knight



In the fourteenth century, chivalry was in decline due to drastic social and economic changes. Although feudalism-along with chivalry-would eventually fall for other reasons, including a decrease in cheap human resources due to a drop in population caused by plague epidemics and the emergence of a mercantile middle class, the Gawain author perceived a loss of religious values as the cause of its decline. Gawain and the Green Knight presents both a support of the old feudal hierarchies and an implicit criticism of changes by recalling chivalry in its idealized state in the court of King Arthur. The women in the story are the poet's primary instruments in this critique and reinforcement of ...

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Gawain's reliance on chivalry's outside form and substance at the expense of the original values of the Christian religion from which it sprang. The first knights were monastic ones, vowing chastity, poverty and service to God, and undertaking crusades for the good of their faith. The divergence between this early model and the fourteenth century knight came with the rise of courtly love in which the knights were led to their great deeds by devotion to a mistress rather than God. The discrepancy between this and the church's mistrust of women and desires of the flesh is obvious, and the poet uses women in the story to deliver this message. In contrast to reality at the time, women in the story are given great power: Mary, when properly worshiped, gives Gawain his power, Lady Bertilak operates alone in the bedroom and singlehandedly taints the chevalier, and Morgan the Fay instigates the entire plot, wielding enough power. The author is using them as a metaphor for other anti-social ...

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Gawain impresses courtiers of Bertilak's castle with his prowess in the field of courtly love rather than the feats of daring or his upholding of his honor, traits that would draw compliments in Arthur's court. Camelot is portrayed in its youth, long before it too is tainted by Lancelot and courtly love; Arthur is young, "child-like (86)" and the "fine fellowship [of Camelot] was in its fair prime." The analogy is obvious: Arthur's court embodies chivalry's pure roots, where martial exploits were the primary subject of interest, whereas Bertilak's castle represents the low point of the degeneration the poet perceives chivalry to have undergone.
The Lady's association with courtly love ...

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Added: 10/12/2006 08:52:45 PM
Category: English
Type: Premium Paper
Words: 2354
Pages: 9

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