Monstrous transformations: loyalty and community in four medieval poems
Master of Arts in English – Literary Studies, Paper 299, The Keep: Eastern Illinois University, January 1 (2010)
The thesis focuses on loyalty as performed by individuals within social community and on how loyalty is a necessity for knights. The four poems I examined Bisclavret , Guillaume of Palerne, The Wife of Bath and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight , include a transformation that enhances the acts of loyalty either by forcing characters and readers to focus on the acts themselves or by complicating the acts with the addition of social expectations and additional promises. The thesis is separated into two chapters categorized by transformation type. The human-to-animal transformation focuses on acts of loyalty and their ties to identity and rationality; the monstrous human transformation focuses on honesty and the spoken word. Each section also focuses on a specific character in each tale – Bisclavret in Bisclavret, Alphonse in Guillaume of Palerne, and the knight in The Wife of Bath’s Tale, and Gawain in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The thesis concludes with establishing two ideals of chivalric knights determined from the examination of these tales and from the observations of how certain characters fail to uphold these ideals. Loyalty is established as essential to knightly nobility and knightly ideals, and is established as including acts in service to a sovereign and the fulfillment of agreements.