Every year, at the Christian feast of Pentecost, the Knights of the Round Table renew their oaths to follow the code of chivalry as proclaimed by King Arthur. Chivalry includes showing mercy, fighting for good, and protecting ladies whenever they may be in harm. This is a code that is meant to govern the knights’ actions throughout Le morte d’Arthur—however, Malory also takes care to show just how difficult, if not impossible, this code proves for many of the knights, as well as how it can be easily corrupted through circumstance and human folly.
Malory’s collected stories contrast the results of following the code of chivalry with what happens when a knight breaks that code or succumbs to temptation. Sir Gawaine, for instance, refuses to grant mercy to a man who asks for it (thus breaking part of the code) and, as his lover hurls herself forward to protect him, accidentally kills the lady—carrying the shame of this act with him for the rest of his adventures. Conversely, Launcelot always grants mercy to a knight that asks for it, underlining his characterization as an honorable knight—in battle, if not in spiritual purity.
Indeed, Malory’s view of the knights and of Arthurian society in general often verges on the cynical, as he shows how various knights succumb to the temptations of lust or of the selfish search for glory. For instance, only Galahad, who steers clear of both (mostly because he is so young and is also divinely fated to do so), can attain the Holy Grail, while the other knights are not “pure” enough—that is, they lack the greatest honor and chivalry. Malory thus shows how deep of a gap there is between the chivalric ideal and the sorry morals of those inhabiting it. Besides, even this chivalric ideal is internally contradictory: the ideal of chastity is somewhat at odds with the ideal of defending a lady, for instance, and Malory never explicitly condemns Launcelot’s affair with Guenever—even though it leads to a tragic end—simply because their love is so strong and “pure,” and because Launcelot is such a skilled knight in other aspects. Instead, Malory seems content to describe these contradictions as they are without reconciling them, and without explicitly condemning them to hypocrisy.
The Impact Of King Arthur And The Chivalric Code
The Impact of King Arthur and the Chivalric Code
Today, many young children when asked who their favorite hero is will tell you many of the super heroes seen on television. Before Superman, Batman and even Spiderman there was the legend of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table. The heroic knights and their king’s tales gave western society a great literature that is still well- known today. King Arthur, Guinevere, and Sir Lancelot did not really exist, but the stories of gallant knights in shining armour, elegant women in medieval castles, and the heroic quests for the Holy Grail played a major role in developing and creating the brave courageous superheros that beacame throughout time. King Arthur along with the theme of chivalry greatly impacted not only western civilization, but all of society throughtout the centuries.
King Arthur and his Knights of the round table have been around for thousands of years but are only legends. The first reference to King Arthur was in the Historia Brittonum written by Nennius a Welsh monk around 830A.D. The fascinating legends however did not come until 1133A.D in the work Historia Regum Britaniae written by a Welsh cleric, Geoffrey of Monmouth. His work was actually meant to be a historical document, but over time many other writers added on fictional tales. The Round Table was added in 1155 A.D by a French poet Maistre Wace. Also between the years 1160 and 1180 another Frenchmen, Chretien de Troyes, added the themes of chivalry and courtly love. Then the quest for the Holy Grail was developed by Robert de Boron from Burgundy. (“How the Legend Developed”) The greatest contribution to the Arthurian Legend is credited to Sir Thomas Malory. He brought together all the different Arthurian stories and related Celtic myths into one, the Le Morte d'Arthur. Sir Thomas Malory wrote eight books: The Tale of King Arthur, The Tale of the Noble King Arthur and the Emperor Lucius, The Noble Tale of Sir Launcelot du Lake, The Tale of Sir Gareth of Orkney, The Book of Sir Tristram de Lyones, The Quest of the Holy Grail, The Book of Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere, and The Tale of the Death of King Arthur. These tales describe the romantic and gallant knights along with the growth of King Arthur as a heroic figure. (Taylor) Thanks to the early stories, King Arther and the Knights of the round table over time became a well known piece of literature in the western civilizations. The legends spread thorughout time and impacted much of society.
The word chivalry is derived from the French 'chevalier' which means 'a man on horseback' but chivalry was used to encapsulate the code of values appropriate to knighthood and if a knight were to stray from these values in any way their behaviors were seen to be unchivalrous. Knights were not only supposed to be strong and brave but also display chivalry. There are many different versions of chivalric code but all focused around a moral system with...
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