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EH 2301. The audience largely made up of women. The queen, duchess or countess and the other ladies of her court. These women naturally tended to be interested.

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Presentation on theme: "EH 2301. The audience largely made up of women. The queen, duchess or countess and the other ladies of her court. These women naturally tended to be interested."— Presentation transcript:

1 EH 2301

2 The audience largely made up of women. The queen, duchess or countess and the other ladies of her court. These women naturally tended to be interested in stories in which women played more central roles Germanic epics, such as Beowulf, centered almost exclusively on the exploits of male warriors. Narratives written for these courts tended to focus on other plot developments than the fighting and male-bonding emphasized in epic poetry.

3 Narratives written for the courts tended to focus on other plot developments than the fighting and male-bonding emphasized in epic poetry. The narratives still concern the deeds of brave warriors, but the Middle English knight is motivated by love for his lady. Women play an increasingly important and active role.

4 Relationship is modeled on the feudal relationship between a knight and his lord or king. The knight serves his courtly lady with the same obedience and loyalty which he owes to his king. She is in complete control of the love relationship He owes her obedience and submission

5 The knight's love for the lady inspires him to do great deeds in order to be worthy of her love or to win her favor. Was a driving force for him whether or not it was consummated whether or not the lady knew about the knight's love or even loved him in return

6 Relationship typically was not between husband and wife, not because the poets and the audience were inherently immoral, but because it was an idealized sort of relationship that could not exist within the context of "real life" medieval marriages. In the middle ages, marriages amongst the nobility were typically based on practical and dynastic concerns rather than on love. The idea that a marriage could be based on love was a radical notion.

7 Audience for romance was perfectly aware that these romances were fictions, not models for actual behavior. The adulterous aspect is beside the main point, which was to explore the potential influence of love on human behavior.

8 The behavior of the knight and lady in love was drawn partly from troubadour poetry and partly from a set of literary conventions derived from the Latin poet Ovid. Described the "symptoms" of love as if it were a sickness. The "lovesick" knight became a conventional figure in medieval romance. Typical symptoms: sighing, turning pale, turning red, fever, inability to sleep, eat or drink. Romances often contained long interior monologues in which the lovers describe their feelings.

9 The stories of Arthur, his knights, and his court are considered romances. The Arthur stories, prevalent in France, Germany, Italy, and Britain, reflect European medieval culture as it was emerging from the chaotic Dark Ages in the centuries after the fall of Rome. Rome had given Europe order, laws, judges, roads, improved farming methods, and an educated bureaucracy. When the Germanic barbarians (Anglo-Saxons, et al.) destroyed all this --starting in the fifth century A.D. -- people had to start all over again, that is reinvent civilization.

10 In Arthur's court we have a miniature, speeded-up story of European society reinventing itself: without Rome with a strong Christian sensibility

11 Knights typically go out on adventures and face the forces of good and evil, uncertain how to balance bravery and Christianity. As a Christian knight, he must decide how best to act in ambiguous situations. Knight must return to the court and report his actions. Important for the development and instruction of society Only in this way can the court learn from the individuals' experiences.

12 Sir Thomas Malory

13 First true novel written in English. Written by Sir Thomas Malory Most well known in modern day from a version printed by William Caxton in 1485 Caxton divided the text into 21 books Manuscript version makes it clear that Malory originally broke his work into eight books or "tales"

14 The birth and crowning of Arthur, from the French Prose Merlin. Invasion of France and Rome, from the English Alliterative Morte ArthureMorte Arthure Mostly concerning Lancelot, from the French prose Lancelot Gawain's brother Gareth, based on a lost English poem Tristram and Isolde, based on the French Prose Tristan The coming of the Grail, based on the French Quest de Saint GraalQuest de Saint Graal The romance of Lancelot and Guenivere, based mostly on the French Mort Artu and the English Stanzaic Le Morte ArthurLe Morte Arthur The discovery of Lancelot and Guenivere's adultery, and the battle between Mordred and Arthur, also from the French Mort Artu and the English Stanzaic Le Morte ArthurLe Morte Arthur

15 Whatever the factual origins of King Arthur are, he and the Knights of Camelot passed into popular legend from the early Middle Ages. As the field of European literature developed (British and French, especially) so did versions and variations on the Arthurian tale, proliferating both in books and in poetry. Today, Arthurian legend is understood for what it is - just legend - and King Arthur and his knights are enjoyed as imaginary figures rather than ones based on historical fact.

16 The romantic concepts of chivalry and heroic quest, in an age of religious purity and secular glory, were the perfect platform for early poets. By the beginning of the 13th century, the myths surrounding Arthur and his Knights were becoming considerably expanded by writers and poets who adopted the theme of Arthurian Legend to elaborate issues of the day.

17 King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table were also linked to actual locations and a connection with the Holy Land and the Crusades interwove the concepts of a rescue of the Grail with that of purge of the "heathen occupation" of Jerusalem – a sort of divine justification for the barbarism of the Crusades Arthurian legend was adapted by the mood of the time into propaganda for the preservation of Christianity. Arthur was transformed from Celtic warlord into a true Christian hero.


19 Greatest of the Arthurian romances produced in England. Embraces the highest aspirations of the late medieval aristocratic world, both courtly and religious.

20 Comes down from a single copy. Anonymous author known as the Pearl Poet Pearl Purity Patience

21 Written in narrative tradition Unrhymed alliterative long line (roots in Anglo-Saxon poetry), each ending with five shorter rhymed lines (bob-and-wheel stanza)

22 Romance attaches itself to society and history. Opens and closes by referring to Troy, the ancient, fallen empire whose survivors were legendary founders of Britain. They were foiled by adulterous desire and political infidelity.

23 By the time it was written (close of 14 th century), Gawain was a famous Arthurian hero. Ambiguous reputation… Arthurs faithful retainer and nephew Suave seducer Which would he be in this poem? Would he stand for civilization of Christian chivalry? Would he be a cynical sophisticate?

24 Courtly love Religion Importance of knights troth and word The breaking point of a person

25 Court life a haven of safety, refinement, order, culture, pleasure, entertainment The Outside World harsh nature, battles to be fought, wild animals, bad weather, war, chaos The Green Knight represents nature and primitive instincts but is also very civilized

26 This poem is truly Christian. The season for the story's setting is Christmas, the biggest Christian ritual in the world. The solstices and the equinoxes were important to European countries. People marked the seasons of the year this way, so they would know when to plant and harvest.

27 Gawain goes out into the wilderness to face the Green Knight as he has honorably promised. Prides himself on being the perfect Christian knight. His shield and its symbolism are to constantly remind him to act like Christ. But here is the problem facing the Christian knights: How can one emulate Christ and be a soldier living in the real world? Is it possible to be like Christ? Have the knights set themselves a goal they will surely fail to achieve?

28 The Beheading Game occurs in earlier eighth and ninth century Irish (Celtic) romances. In this story, the Green Knight invites Gawain to exchange blows, not to chop off his head. Is this wrong on Gawain's part? Is this his first mistake: to yield to temptation of anger? He is insulted because the Green Knight belittles the valor of Arthur's court.

29 In earlier tales Gawain is linked to the sun god, another fertility deity. Since the Green Knight represents fertility, Gawain represents chastity, a Christian virtue. We see how devoted he is to his chastity in the Temptation Game he plays with the Lady.

30 The lord of the house goes hunting every morning for three days. What he is hunting outside symbolizes the temptations Gawain faces inside. Hind-hunt temptation of lust Boar-hunt temptation of pride Fox-hunt temptation of avarice Gawain's failure in truth

31 On the first day after being told she would marry him if she could, he says, "You are bound to a better man, yet I prize the praise you have proffered me here." On the second day, she tempts him as she did the first. She wants to know why he's not living up to his reputation. "Instruct me a little, do, While my husband is not nearby." His honor prevents him from doing what she wants, but he really wants to. She has "stirred his stout heart."

32 On the third day, we see how increasingly difficult it becomes for Sir Gawain. She shows up in his room "Hir brest bare bifore & behinde eke." (She displays her breasts & back for him. ) He is successful at avoiding her continuing advances So uncommonly kind and complaisant was she, With sweet stolen glances, that stirred his stout heart, That he was at his wits' end, and wondrous vexed; But he could not rebuff her, for courtesy forbade

33 Throughout these tests, the author allows us to glimpse what Gawain is thinking, and we see that he sometimes works hard at being courteous and loyal. These scenes give us insight into how hard he tries to be as perfect as possible. A lesser man would have easily given in, yet Gawain holds himself to a higher standard.

34 Gawain is concentrating so hard on being courteous and remaining true to Bercilak that he is tricked into taking a girdle of green silk from her and thus betraying Bercilak. She persuades him to accept the girdle and keep it a secret by telling him that if he wears the girdle "no hand under heaven...could hew him down, for he could not be killed by any craft on earth. That night he does not tell Bercilak of the gift. With this simple omission, he has betrayed his host, lied to him, and compromised his own standards.

35 When Gawain arrives at the Green Chapel and faces the Green Knight for the return blow, the Green Knight explains that he is Bercilak, and he has been testing Gawain all along. "She made trial of a man most faultless by far of all that ever walked over the wide earth" and "Yet you lacked, sir, a little in loyalty there, but the cause was not cunning, nor courtship either, but that you loved your own life; the less, then, to blame.

36 Bercilak explains the three strikes: The first time signified the agreement they originally made & Gawain's keeping of it. The second time signified the two kisses that Gawain gave the host, who was the Green Knight. He again kept his word. The third time signified Gawain's partial failure in keeping the girdle. He therefore hit Gawain that time. It was a set-up all along, and the host had intentionally sent his wife to tempt Gawain.

37 The Green Knight gives Gawain the green girdle as a token of his weakness. He has achieved the maturity of recognizing his own failure and his need for forgiveness. The green girdle will be the sign of Gawain's "cowardice and coveting."

38 It doesn't matter to Gawain that the Green Knight forgives him or understands why he did what he did. In his own eyes, he has failed. Gawain only sees that he has been inconsistent in upholding the chivalric code, and this means failure to him. This is an indication of the standard Gawain has set for himself, and we see why he has the reputation he has. Despite all that has happened, Gawain is still a loyal, noble, honest and courteous knight.

39 The green girdle is the boon he brings back to his community to reduce the pride of the whole court. The whole court agrees to wear a similar girdle as a sash as a sign of their own weakness and of their knowledge of that own weakness of sin and regeneration the "Order of the Garter"

40 Stories of ancient fertility gods that have survived in Greek and Middle Eastern myths demonstrate ancient people's belief that a god was in charge of all that grew and died. The fertility god was believed to follow the pattern observable in nature: Winter and death of all vegetation followed by spring and the rebirth or regeneration of the land. This death followed by rebirth was believed to be caused by a fertility god who dies in winter but comes alive again in the spring in a never-ending cycle.

41 The Green Knight is portrayed with the symbols of fertility. He is green, the color of the land in the spring and summer. His clothes are embroidered in gold, the color of the sun. He wears holly which is a plant that does not die in the winter. an ideal plant specimen for a creature that represents the eternality of life His beard is like a bush - vibrantly green represents the life force in nature and in human beings. The life force is what makes human beings strive so hard to survive and what makes human beings reproduce: fertility, at least in human kind, is sexual. The Green Knight's as a figure of the life force is key to the meaning of the poem.

42 "In the earliest Arthurian stories, Sir Gawain was the greatest of the Knights of the Round Table. He was famed for his prowess at arms and, above all, for his courtesy.... Here Gawain is the perfect knight; he is so recognized by the various characters in the story and, for all his modesty, implicitly in his view of himself. To the others his greatest qualities are his knightly courtesy and his success in battle. To Gawain these are important, but he seems to set an even higher value on his courage and integrity, the two central pillars of his manhood. The story is concerned with the conflict between his conception of himself and the reality. He is not quite so brave or so honorable as he thought he was, but he is still very brave, very honorable. He cannot quite see this, but the reader can. …

43 …The character of Sir Gawain is relatively fixed by tradition; he cannot act very differently from the way he does. In consequence, his character is static--is, indeed, less interesting than that of his adversary, the Green Knight. But it is for other qualities than character interest that Sir Gawain and The Green Knight is valued." (G. B. Pace, 35)

44 What appears on the outside of his shield? What appears on the inside? What does the pentangle stand for? What, especially, do the fifth five mean? (In the original, the five are fraunchyse, felawschyp, clannes, cortaysye, and pité.) The author stresses that all of the fives are linked. What happens in such a structure if any one of the elements gives way?

45 TOKEN OF TRUTH Five senses faultless Five fingers that never failed Five wounds of Christ Five joys of Mary: Annunciation Nativity Resurrection Ascension Assumption Gawain's five virtues: boundless beneficence brotherly love pure mind manners compassion

46 What is really being tested? (This is not a simple question.) How does Gawain do? What are we supposed to think of… the Green Knight? Bercilak's wife? Gawain himself?

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