’Arthur – The Chivalric Code Essay, Research Paper
An act of chivalry is described as the qualifications or character of the ideal knight. Knights were expected to uphold this code of conduct. In the English literature Le Morte d’Arthur, French for ‘The Death of Arthur’, by Sir Thomas Malory, the characters display acts of chivalry from beginning to end. Though the code of chivalry contains many qualities or acts, nevertheless bravery, loyalty, and courtly love are demonstrated more throughout this literature.
Bravery is the mental or moral strength to venture and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty. Fear is what one feels when fighting, knowing that he or she could die. For example, when Sir Mordred and King Arthur were to fight, Arthur was told that if he fought Mordred, Arthur would die. Regardless, Arthur fought Mordred. Though not stated in the text, one would assume that Arthur had fear of himself dying running through his brain, and that would explain how his adrenaline got pumped up enough to kill Mordred. Difficulty is going against someone who is more skilled. When the young Sir Gryfflette challenged King Pellinore to a joust to avenge a knight’s death, Gryfflette lost, but because he went up against a more experienced person, he was demonstrating an act of bravery. The danger of the two is that one can always die in matters such as those.
Bravery and loyalty can go hand-in-hand with one another. Loyalty is being faithful to a cause, ideal or custom, and because of that, Sir Lancelot often displayed the acts of loyalty and bravery. In Book XVIII (Eighteen), Chapter VII (Seven), Sir Mador kidnapped Queen Guinevere. Lancelot knew that Mador was a strong knight, but because he was loyal to Guinevere and Arthur, he fought Mador. Another case of loyalty mixed with a touch of bravery is when Arthur’s knights fought to their death to save Arthur from Mordred.
Loyalty can also come without fight or bravery. When Arthur went to the lake to seek the sword Excalibur, he swore to grant Avalon’s Lady whatever gift she someday desired. Also, Merlin was known for telling Arthur about the future and what could happen if Arthur did not listen to him, and because of that, Arthur was loyal enough to Merlin to follow his wishes. Aside from being told what to do and what not to do, when Arthur was wounded and in the process of dying, Sir Lucan and Sir Bedivere were not going to leave Arthur unattended. They carried him to the next town. Also, when Queen Guinevere heard of the death of King Arthur, she ran off to Amesbury and became a nun, where she cursed herself for all her wrongdoing. Despite how it sounds, she expressed loyalty to the death of Arthur, by cleansing her soul so that she may join him again, one day in the after-life.
One of Queen Guinevere’s main objectives of cleansing her soul was allowing her to forgive herself for the courtly love expressed between her and Sir Lancelot. Courtly love was a secret part of the chivalric code. A knight falls in love with a married woman of a higher rank, in this case a queen. The knight has to prove his devotion to the woman, and once they have pledged themselves to one another and carried out their passion, complete secrecy had to be maintained.
Sir Lancelot proved his love to Queen Guinevere many times, especially when he went after her every time she was kidnapped, and fought for her, making sure that the kidnappers would not be able to take her again. Guinevere never expressed her love and admiration for Lancelot until Book XVIII (Eighteen), Chapter VII (Seven), when Sir Mador took her. After Lancelot sent Mador on his way, Guinevere held Lancelot and cried. She cried because of her ungratefulness to Lancelot in the past. That was only the beginning. In Book XIX (Nineteen), Chapter VI (Six), Lancelot went to great lengths to make his way into Guinevere’s bedroom from the window. He went through such great lengths that he pulled out the iron bars and cut his hand. This was another act of Lancelot’s love for the Queen. As his reward, Guinevere slept with Lancelot; they carried out their passions for one another. Courtly love is simply another form of adultery, however it was not taken lightly when the secret was revealed.
As previously stated, knights contain certain qualities that differentiate them from other people. In Le Morte d’Arthur, Malory expresses his work through the code of chivalry. The entire piece of literature revolves around the code. However, Malory displays bravery, loyalty, and courtly love most often.
Men who hold some of the qualities of a knight are now considered gentlemen. It’s nice to know that the qualities of the past have managed to remain a part of the present, if demonstrated properly.