Glamour, money and love affairs Jehan de Saintre and the decline of chivalry
Iuliana Ilie, Ancuta
MA Thesis in Medieval Studies, Central European University, Budapest, May (2009)
In Jehan de Saintré, written by Antoine de la Sale in 1456, everyone shows off perfection in a story of a young man becoming a famous knight. The time of Lancelot and Tristan was long past, but the characters struggle under the weight of the past’s models, covering their imperfections in silk and damask. In this world, love in its courtly garments seems rather an anachronistic phenomenon. What is left of it is nothing but an inefficient crust. Above all, attire, adornments, expensive gifts, and money seems to shape the politics of this world. Saintré, a knight brought up with money, does not succeed in protecting the chivalric ideology. He dedicates his undertakings to a fabricated ideal and is left with only the search for vainglory. Belles Cousines, the female protagonist, in spite of her efforts to create a perfect relationship with Saintré, fails lamentably into the arms of an abbot. Starting from Huizinga’s observations on the preponderance of the visual at the end of the Middle Ages, corroborated by Michel Stanesco’s connections between flamboyant Gothic aesthetics and the Baroque, the thesis follows the structure of the fictitious world to offer an interpretation. Ostentation and luxury could not cover the incompatibilities and the contradictions of this world. The distance was sizeable between projection and accomplishment, between surface and depth. Jehan de Saintré may have been one among many knights declaring, victorious at the end, “I won,” but behind the glamorous image chivalry was facing its decline.