Chivalry And Courtly Love Essay, Research Paper
Chivalry was the great code of conduct respected by the knights and heroes during the romantic medieval era. Marked by honor, courtesy, and generosity, chivalry included military skill, valor, loyalty to both God and the knight?s lord, and sympathy towards the sick, oppressed, and widowed. Within the realms of chivalry was also encompassed the policy of courtly love. This love was refined, elegant, gracious, and selfless. Though highly romantic, the devotion of this love was usually focused on a sexually unattainable woman. In two of the literary works we discussed in class, Eliduc, and Don Quixote, elements of both chivalry and courtly love are evident. However, in each of these pieces are also characters who stray from this ideal code of conduct.
In the beginning of the tale of Eliduc, the protagonist appears to be a character of great chivalry and high morale. He is a heroic knight whose courageous deeds earned him pride and honor, and he lives a happy and faithful life with his wife in the kingdom of Brittany. In every respect, he remains the ideal model of how a knight should act in society. Even when the king betrays him in exile, Eliduc?s loyalty remains strong. The king had only to summon him, and he was willing to leave behind the new life he had made overseas and return to Brittany.
However, there are certain aspects of Eliduc?s new life that violated his chivalry. Despite his promise to remain faithful to his wife while in exile, Eliduc falls in love with a young princess, Guilliadun. Through his illicit affair, he dishonors both the princess and her father. He refuses to seek permission from her father, and in doing so, betrays the trust and loyalty between them. He also neglects to tell the young girl he is already marries. Though their affair was never sexual, Eliduc still broke a rule of courtly love by obtaining the ?unattainable? woman.
Eliduc?s wife, Guildeluec, is the perfect example of courtly love in every respect. Her love for Eliduc is both strong and genuine, as if apparent in her grief while he is in exile. Even in his long absence, she remains the loyal wife that he had left behind, and displays great joy upon his return. The sorrow and depression that Eliduc presents, however, lead Guildeluec to seek out the roots of his sadness, despite the costs.
She investigates the whereabouts of her husband and discovers the princess, who is in a deep coma, in a church in the woods. Rather than feel anger and jealousy towards the girl, Guildeluec is moved with sympathy and says, ?So pretty?to have died so young. I feel only pity for her.? Guildeluec?s love for Eliduc is selfless and enduring. She wants Eliduc to be happy, even if it meant losing him, so she saves the princess from death and then promotes the relationship between them by renouncing her marriage with Eliduc.
The end of Eliduc tends to empathize the restoration of Eliduc?s chivalry. He leads a happy and full life with Guilliadun, both of them doing good works throughout society. In the end, he chooses to surrender himself to God. It is this loyalty towards God that marks the remainder of his life as chivalric. ?They gave a great deal away and performed many good deeds, so much so that in the end they also turned religious.?
Don Quixote, in contrast, opens with the satire of what would happen if a gentleman of the times decided to practice knighthood. This story parodies every facet of knighthood and courtly love, which in turn demonstrated just how much Europe had irreversibly changed since the true age of knights and castles. Still, for all its comedic moments, Don Quixote shows the flowery sweetness of the stereotypical romantic knight.
The hero of the comedy is a middle-aged gentleman who, gripped with the passionately chivalric lifestyle portrayed in the gallant books he reads, descends into a confusion in which he becomes Don Quixote de la Mancha, wandering knight extraordinaire. He sets out to right the world?s wrongs with his faithful sidekick, Sancho Panza. Don Quixote also has a lady-love, his gracious Dulcinea, who never actually appears in the novel. He extracts continuous motivation from what he assumes to be her refinement and ethereal beauty, although he has never met her. She represents to him every chivalric principle and virtue about which he has ever read, and also fulfills the rule of being the ?unattainable? woman.
Don Quixote has countless escapades in which he reunites lovers, protects the vulnerable, and liberates prisoners, and battles enemy soldiers and monsters. His sole problem is that more often than not, he gets things woefully wrong, falling off his horse, mistaking strangers for enemies, inns for castles, prostitutes for princesses, and being beaten to a pulp by mule-drivers. He travels throughout Spain for one reason alone?to right the all the wrongs in the world. He helps goatherds and gentlemen and gets into scourges, sometimes emerging exultant and sometimes muddy from being trampled by pigs. But in every feat he remains staunchly faithful to his fanciful outlook on the world, rather than protesting about his more-than-occasional shortcomings. ?And if I do not speak of my suffering, it is for the reason that it is not permitted knights-errant to complain of any wound whatsoever, even though their bowels may be dropping out.?
Don Quixote?s chivalry comes to an end when he is defeated by the Knight of the White Moon. This defeat is obviously painful for him, as is unmistakable when he pleads with the conquering ?knight? to kill him rather than disgrace Dulcinea by living. His penalty for defeat is to withdraw from knighthood for an entire year, but he soon hopes to permanently replace his errant lifestyle with the simple life of a shepherd. However, shortly after returning to his home, he falls ill and begins to prepare for his own death. His friends, who for so long saw his chivalric merit as lunacy, now miss his good-natured, gallant attitude, and beg him to return to his books of chivalry. But he refuses, and dies a peaceful man, if disillusioned about his life as a knight.
Both Don Quixote and Eliduc show great examples of courtly love and chivalry. While showing their personal shortcomings in the field of knighthood, these two stories also depict the courage and romance essential to a knight?s life. Chivalry and courtly love are too romantic and honorable to have made it to the 21st century without the aid of stories like these.
1)The Norton Anthology
Eliduc, pgs. 1680-1692
W.W. Norton and Co, New York
2)The Norton Anthology
Don Quixote, pgs. 2538-2578
W.W. Norton and Co, New York