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Medieval Arthurian Romance The Story of the Grail English 257.

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1 Medieval Arthurian Romance The Story of the Grail English 257

2 The Twelfth-Century Renaissance Most medievalists think of the 12 th century as the beginning of the European renaissance. By the 12th century, the manorial feudal system dominates western Europe. The 12 th century saw the rise of the university system, a rediscovery of classical texts, the philosophical school of Scholasticism, and the construction of the great Gothic cathedrals. 12 th century also famous for its outpouring of great literature, including Chretien. We also see a renewed interest in the individual.

3 The Cult of Mary In the 12 th century, there is great religious emphasis on the Virgin Mary. Many of the great Gothic cathedrals, including Notre Dame (which means Our Lady) in Paris, are built in her honor. Mary serves as a merciful intercessor, a worker of miracles who offers salvation. This offers a powerful female role in Christianity, and elevates the role of women in general. Previously, the model had been Eve. Shift from veneration of martyred saints to virgin indicates an optimistic shift in religious sensibility as well.

4 Chivalry Chivalry literally means horsemanship, and was initially used to distinguish nobles from non-nobles. However, in the 12 th century it was expected this nobility be accompanied by other personal virtues, such as honor, truth, piety, bravery, and deference to women. The virtues of love and holiness and the virtues of the warrior exist very ambiguously in chivalric society. Chivalry is often associated with fin amor, or courtly love.

5 Courtly Love Fin amor, or courtly love, probably began with the 12 th century French troubadors. Its origins are hotly debated. First began in the courts of southern France, but spread throughout Europe. C.S. Lewis suggested that the cornerstones of courtly love were humility, courtesy, adultery, and the religion of love. Andreas Capellanus book, the Art of Courtly (or Honest) Love, gives the rules of love. Whether courtly love really was a social practice or just a literary convention is still debated.

6 Medieval Romance The romance became the dominant literary genre in England, France and Germany during the 12 th century. Takes its name from being written in a romance or vernacular language, rather than Latin. Romances take chivalric and courtly concerns as their themes, and courtly love plays a large role. Romances tend to be episodic, to focus on the individual rather than the group, and to be highly symbolic and metaphoric. They often dabble with the fantastic and otherworldly as well.

7 Arthurian Romance Arthurian legend originates in Wales and western England, but Celtic refugees carry it with them to Brittany. Bretons introduce the legend to French literature, and the combination of Celtic magic and French romance is developed in such works of Marie de Frances Lais.

8 Chretien de Troyes Chretien wrote in the courts of Henry II of England and Marie de Champagne. His most famous works are his Arthurian romances, including Erec and Enide, Yvain, Cliges, Lancelot, and The Story of the Grail. Chretien is one of the great innovators in Arthurian legend, introducing such themes as the Grail and such characters as Lancelot du Lake.

9 The Grail Though Chretien is the first author to write about the Grail, Celtic Arthurian stories tell of horns of plenty and magic dishes. Chretien puts a specifically Christian spin on the grail, and emphasizes its healing properties. Later romancers will insist that the grail is the cup Christ used at the Last Supper, and the lance the Spear of Longinus. Of course, such recent works as Baigents Holy Blood and Holy Grail or Browns The Da Vinci Code see the Grail as Sangreal, or The Blood of the King. Much conspiracy and hilarity ensue.

10 Perceval the Innocent Perceval lives with his mother in the Wilds of Wales. One day, he meets a knight. Intrigued by his gear and bearing, he determines to be made one himself. Upon revealing this to his mother, she tries to dissuade him, but finally gives in and reveals his noble heritage. She also advises him to act honorably towards ladies, and seek out noble men. His innocence and ignorance are so complete that he doesnt even know what a church is, and he utterly fails romantically at his first meeting with a maiden.

11 Perceval in Arthurs Court Upon his arrival in Carlisle at Arthurs court, Perceval cannot even recognize the king. For this and other failings, he is abused by Sir Kay. When a maiden rallies to his defense, Kay strikes her. Perceval offers to destroy the red knight, an enemy of king Arthurs. With the guidance of a maiden named Yonet, he defeats the Red Knight and takes his armor. After being knighted by Arthur, Perceval leaves Carlisle and meets Gornemont of Gohort, who gives him more fateful advice.

12 Clamadeu Blancheflor Clamadeu and Blancheflor After leaving Gornemont, who has taught him fighting and courtesy, Perceval finds himself at the castle of the maiden Blancheflor. She comes to him in bed and asks his aid against Clamadeu and his seneschal, Anguingueron. He agrees, and they kiss a lot. Perceval defeats both Anguingueron and Clamadeu, and grants both of them mercy. After defeating them, he does not stay with Blancheflor, but leaves to see his mother, promising to return.

13 The Fisher King On his way home, Perceval comes across a fisherman, who offers him lodging at his home. This is the legendary Fisher King. The Fisher King is part of the larger Grail legend. Though Chretien does not explain his significance, he is often related to the Grail King. As such, he is typically wounded in the thighs (this is a sign of infertility and is connected to his lands desolation). T.S. Eliot uses this motif in The Wasteland.

14 The Cup, The Lance, The Question Arriving at the Grail Castle, Perceval sits down to dinner. After he is seated, a maiden appears carrying a Grail (a plate) and a young man carrying a white lance tipped with blood. Though Perceval desires to ask who is served by the Grail, he does not, mindful of Gornemonts advice. He spends the evening speaking with the maimed king. When he awakes, the castle is empty. He leaves, and comes across a maiden who informs him if he had asked the question the king and his land would be healed. He also learns his mother has died for his sin, which is never really explained.

15 Redemption After failing the Grail Test, Perceval slowly redeems himself. First, he saves the woman he disgraced at the beginning of his adventures. He then avenges himself on Sir Kay. Afterwards, he returns to Arthurs court. While other knights embark upon more worldly adventures, Perceval swears to discover the secret of the Grail.

16 The Lesson of the Grail Though Chretien never finishes The Story of the Grail, Perceval does have a bit of its secrets revealed to him. After five years of not thinking of God, Perceval meets a hermit on Good Friday. The hermit informs him that the Grail serves the king with a mass wafer, and this alone sustains him. He also reveals that some sin vaguely connected to his mother made him not ask the question. In the end, the hermit suggests that he live his life for God, not renown.

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