Mandeville’s Intolerance: The Contest for Souls and Sacred Sites in The Travels of Sir John Mandeville
Patterson, Robert Hakan
Doctor of Philosophy, Washington University in St. Louis, Paper 272, December (2009)
In the General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucerintroduces the knight before any other pilgrim. This chivalrous warrior has traveled farther than any other man and has fought in every major crusade campaign in which the English were involved in the fourteenth century. In Egypt, Prussia, Lithuania, Russia, Spain, Morocco, and Turkey, he has valiantly championed Christian causes against Muslims and pagans alike, and his past adventures seem to promise an exciting tale of crusaders marching against Christ’s enemies in strange and distant lands. When it comes time for this knight to tell the first tale of the pilgrimage, however, he chooses a story unrelated to his travels into “hethenesse.” Instead, the knight presents his fellow pilgrims with a romance in which two knights become prisoners of Theseus, duke of Athens, and fall in love with Emelye, Theseus‟ sister-in-law. The ensuing rivalry between the lovers has nothing to do with the crusades or with the foreign lands in which Chaucer’s knight has campaigned, and none of Chaucer’s surviving tales are about crusades of any kind. For a tale detailing the travels and adventures of an English knight who has seen the known world, medieval and modern readers alike must set aside Chaucer and turn to a text just as if not more popular than The Canterbury Tales during and after the Middle Ages: The Travels of Sir John Mandeville.