Knighthood in Le Morte D’Arthur: Recapitulation of Development of Medieval Chivalric Literature
Masaryk University: Faculty of Arts Department of English And American Studies English Language and Literature (2013)
Undoubtedly chivalry belongs among the most influential phenomena in medieval Europe. Since its emergence in the eleventh century chivalry with its concept of knighthood is adopted by various European countries in the era as one of the principal codes applied not only in military campaigns but also in the sphere of morality as well as the social stratification of the monarchies. However, long before the institutional merits that chivalry delivered, it had been also firmly embodied in art, especially in literature. And it is by the means of literature that chivalry eventually affects the whole society in a variety of other areas such as fashion and leisure. In addition to that, it is believed that the influence of chivalry in particular consequently overlaps into the political field. Despite the overall impact that chivalry casts on the then society, it is not the goal of this thesis to inform about the fact. Rather it is hoped that this thesis should concentrate on literary works which were completed in the period of knightly dominance and which deal with chivalry, or at least contemplate the general ideas of chivalric values, and investigate them for any connecting fragments present or absent.
The reason for doing so lies in an assumption that due to a constant progression of the European social environment, the meaning of chivalry in the affected societies underwent a significant development since it was first introduced. And so did chivalric literature. After reading a considerable number of major literary texts dating from the beginning of the eleventh century to the end of the fifteenth century, one may observe that certain symbols of chivalry change or disappear entirely from the texts, whereas other distinctive features remain unimpaired. Apart from these alterations, there also occur many additions to the original aspects of chivalric literature, which fact contributes to even sharpening the difference in the mood of the texts.