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Chivalry and Knighthood in the Canterbury Tales

Updated January 11, 2022
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Chivalry and Knighthood in the Canterbury Tales essay

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In the days from Adam and Eve to the people of the Middle ages, people have drastically shown what Knighthood and chivalry are meant to be. How does Knighthood and Chivalry impact the way men and women are viewed then and now? Knighthood and chivalry has declined and really disappeared since the middle ages. It doesn’t matter how events and the time periods caused it to decline. But what people have done to show what it really should and should not be.

When people of the middle ages till the twenty first century look at what knighthood and chivalry are, they are similar in the way of how men should view women and how people should view society. Chivalry is not just based for men, but based for the people and how they can impact others in the ways of kindness and respect. In the Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer reveals through his characters that knighthood and chivalry were declining during the Middle Ages.

In The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer shows characters who are involved in a story that will tell the tales about certain instances that they went through and life lessons. One character introduced is the Knight. Chaucer describes the Knight as “an honored man” and his image of the Knight is highly complemented by other people. Chaucer states that the knight needs to show Chivalry and Knighthood.

Swisher stated that “Chivalry provided a code of conduct observed across much of English society. Chivalry was rooted in personal honor and the disgraced one experienced for failing to live up to one’s obligations. Nobody embodied the chivalric ideal more than the knight. A knight had to be faithful to his lord and the vows he had taken“ (Swisher 28-29). Another Knight in the “Canterbury Tales” is the rapist knight. Which who in the Wife of Bath’s Tale is not a very kind knight and doesn’t follow the chivalric code. “Chivalry brought about an idealized attitude toward women, but it did little to improve their actual position” (Leming 3).

This knight is more than the “stereotypical knight” that Chaucer describes in the Prologue, because “ knighthood was very barbarous.” (Jones 1:20-31) and “in the male-dominated world where they objectified women in the eye of courtly love was chauvinist and that it was “machismo” (Jones 2:25). Despite the accounts of the chivalrous lives of knights, the Knight¹s, Squire’s, and Wife of Bath’s Tale proves to be more than a romantic story with a happy ending or people living up to the standards that they are told to. For beneath this stands a deeper meaning into the declining world where reality gives way to different emotions that are sacrificed for their honor.

‘The Knight’s Tale’ is the story that represents the old school violent warriors. In this tale, two knights from Thebes who fall in love with the same woman, a princess named Emily. Since the two have sworn to support each other in everything, each one’s love for Emily does not go well. They needed to be willing to do anything to win her, which includes breaking their promise to one another. “The knights role is to fight, win and move on… have a religious character, but not a religious aim” (lambdin).

The Wife of Bath’s tale tells of a knight who fails to live up to chivalric code but reforms. In ‘The Wife of Bath’s Tale,’ the knight makes decisions that make for a first impression, and he’s not a very good knight. Knights are expected to protect women; but instead, he rapes one. “She desires respect or opinion, she desires intelligence resulting in an equal relationship”. Knights are also held for their promises; he complains and tries to get his way out of the promises, but turns out that one of them meant to marry this commoner lady. Knights are also expected to be respectful of their elders; on the wedding night, he tells the lady ,to her face, that she’s ugly and old. “He was a lusty knight condemned for sexual intimacy.”

The knight judged his wife based on her appearance and social status. The code of chivalry holds knights responsible for unfairness and meanness. But the knight could not give that to his wife. After all, it was not her fault that she was commoner. The knight learned his lesson on what a real knight should be when his wife showed him with both grace and knowledge pn what he is expected to do. In conclusion, the knight in The Wife of Bath’s Tale was not chivalrous or worthy of being a knight.

Chivalry and Knighthood in the Canterbury Tales essay

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Chivalry and Knighthood in the Canterbury Tales. (2022, Jan 11). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/chivalry-and-knighthood-in-the-canterbury-tales/

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