Comparing Notions of Piety in The Wakefield Mystery Plays, The Book of Margery Kempe, and Le Morte D'Arthur
The monastic lifestyle that Launcelot and his knights adopt after their conversion is one that Margery Kempe might approve of -- doing penance, singing mass, fasting, and remaining abstinent. (MdA, 525) But Launcelot's change of heart is not motivated by the emotions that move Kempe, nor is his attitude towards God the same as can be found in The Book of Margery Kempe and The Wakefield Mystery Plays.
In the Wakefield plays, God wins piety through outright threats. He appears to his followers in visions, as he does in Kempe, but never as a benevolent or comforting presence. Kempe receives her only comfort in life through …show more content…
Malory never mentions Hell or the threat of damnation in his Guenever's explanation of her conversion. Guenever instead elucidates to Launcelot her desire to "have sight of the blessed face of Christ, and at doomsday to sit on His right side." (MdA, 523) Her desire to be close to the Lord arises not from fear, as does Abraham's, nor from a childish desire to be reassured of her central goodness in the face of contempt, as does Kempe's. She believes in a heavenly reward for her penitence, but does not mention terror or parental comfort. Malory might find offensive the idea that God would have to sink to bullying to enforce adherence to His orders.
But then, the courtly characters in Malory don't seem very interested in Biblical imperatives to begin with. Illegitimacy (Launcelot's sons), incest (Mordred's conception), killing, and lying (Launcelot's stalwart denial of his 40-year affair with Guenever) are rampant in the court and very little condemnation of this continual flouting of the rules is seen. What does upset one of the more righteous souls, Sir Gawain, are acts of
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Sir Gawain, nephew to the well-known King Arthur of the Round Table, is regarded as the most elite and noble of all the knights in the poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Yet, like anyone else in the world, Sir Gawain is far from perfect. Gawain, a courteous knight living a life dedicated to honor, courage, and self-preservation, is tested on his chivalrous code throughout his journey; a search for the Green Knight. Throughout the tests, Gawain’s actions reveal that even the best of men can be selfish and are subject to guilt and sin.
Thomas Malory’s “Le Morte d’Arthur,” and the Gawain Poet’s “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” are important works that should be considered when studying medieval literature. They both portray the style and structure of medieval romance. They also tackle the same topic of King Arthur and his knights, as well as share the same characters of King Arthur and Sir Gawain. In order to be able to go over these works and understand them, one must understand the aspects of literature of the time.
During a high point in medieval chivalric romance, both Marie de France’s Lanval and the anonymous Sir Gawain and the Green Knight tell fanciful tales of knighthood, chivalry, and spiritual and temporal (courtly) love. Both Lanval and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight portray their female characters as possessing considerable power and influence, within the events in the story and in the structure of the plot. Indeed, the female characters in both works function as the catalysts of the events within the stories, and also as instruments for each author's conveyed meaning. While Lanval presents its female characters in an unorthodox reversal of gender roles, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight employs the female characters as moral and spiritual trials for the hero, Sir Gawain. I will examine how the fairy princess and Queen Gwenevere in Marie de France's Lanval present a reversal of gender roles as was traditionally understood; she presents femininity as powerful, inspiring, and morally dynamic (for a woman can be ideal, or she can be corrupt). I will compare this to the representation of Lady Bertilak and Morgan le Fay in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, in which they are used to convey a “Biblical” warning for an ecclesiastical audience; particularly that of moral failure and the temptation of the flesh.
In the novel, King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, the author, Roger Lancelyn Green, makes numerous connections to the teachings of the Catholic church. These connections show the importance of the Catholic faith to the knights of Logres. Some of these examples, including the presence of a Jesus figure, the performing of miracles, and the betrayal of friends, relate to many of our central beliefs as Catholics.
The Influence of the Supernatural on Courtly Conduct, Christianity, and Chivalry in Lanval and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Two conflicting disciplines are prevalent throughout Arthurian Legend; that of chivalry and that of courtly love. The ideal of each clash throughout the medieval tales, and it is impossible to interfuse the two models for society. Chivalry is a masculine code, an aggressive discipline, whereas courtly love is based upon women - their needs, wants, and desires. The consistent problem if Lancelot and Guinevere’s adulterous relationship in different tellings of the affair relates back to the differences presented in chivalric code and courtly love ideals.
By portraying Gawain as noble and honorable, the poet is able to shock the reader with actions that are uncharacteristic of a chivalrous knight. The first of these conflicting actions is obvious in the temptation of Gawain by his host's lady. This lady, the huntress, seeks to pursue Gawain in order to fool him into actions that contrast the knightly ideal. She will do anything to accomplish these actions in him, even through sexual temptations. With another man's wife pursuing him, Gawain must be courtly to the lady, but at the same time must deny her advances. This unavoidable conflict creates a fear within Gawain. Upon discovering that the lovely lady was approaching him in bed, Gawain lays a sleep, in order to "try her intent" (1199). This action reveals Gawain's fear that his host's lady is pursuing him. This unavoidable fear causes his failure of courtliness, for Gawain would have claimed a kiss from the lady, but did not. The lady ridicules him for this, even though, the situation was unavoidable. Gawain must abide by his morals and abstain from immoral thoughts, while at the same time being a courteous guest. Moreover, Gawain is forced to make a choice between courtesy and adultery, either of which would result in the dishonor of the lady ,his host, or Gawain himself. By choosing to return each of the following kisses received, Gawain is able
The stories of Lancelot (The Knight of the Cart) and Perceval (The Story of the Grail) within Chrétien de Troyes’ Arthurian Romances depict a world of Medieval Romance that is somewhat different from one that was depicted in earlier epics. These romances are more focused on the battle between love and honor rather than on war and valor, which were depicted in earlier epics of de Troyes’ time. The tale of Lancelot follows a star-struck knight who undergoes an inner conflict between both the lover and hero inside him. His intense commitment to rescuing the queen causes him to make rash decisions which inevitably restrain him from controlling his own fate. Perceval’s story exhibits a different purpose for love in a knight’s life. Unlike Lancelot, he accepts love only when he believes it can further advance him in becoming the perfect knight. The two heroes’ actions showcase an inner conflict between maintaining their honor as knights and the love for another. Through these two tales, Chrétien de Troyes shows that that idealistic love and conscious chivalry cannot necessarily successfully coexist, yet it is the unachievable idealistic view that these two ideals do coexist.
In The Canterbury Tales, the host describes the Monk as a man who “let old precepts slide” and “took the modern practice as his guide”, directly contradicting the role of the monk as Father of the Church (Chaucer, 6). Furthermore, his sleeves were trimmed with “squirrel fur”, “the finest in the land”, and he fastened his hood with “an elaborate gold pin” (Chaucer, 6). Values of devotion to scholarly pursuits and withdrawal from the world do not exist in the Monk; instead, he adheres to secular and material values rather than religious values. His preoccupation with “hard riding” and “the hunting of the hare” rather than scholarly pursuits further his religious shortcomings (Chaucer, 5-6). Violations of the chastity requirement of Catholic monks are also evident
As the days continue to pass by, the skies seem to get darker and darker above my head. Paris’s culture and enlightenment is being decimated by the day. As I sit down on my cathedra, I wonder what could be happening at the third estates churches. Have the holy days turned into an immoral day? Have the enlightenment thoughts, exclaimed in the bible, been turned against. The world outside of the first estate is boiling up like a pot cooking a bowl of pasta. I could only imagine what their hearts are telling them to do.
Johannes argues that the knight of faith acts in total isolation from everyone else. His relation to God is a private one, and cannot be justified by an appeal to the universal. Though it is noble for the single individual to aspire to the universal, God may call for actions that cannot be justified in the
In the novel, Le Morte d’Arthur by Thomas Malory, Malory recounts the popular tale of King Arthur and the noble knights of the round table. However, Malory mirrored the Arthurian court in disposition to the current government by analyzing his ties to politics and life experiences. England encountered many difficulties during the 1500s and 1600s, for it was constantly in war while fearing its own revolution within its own government. Sir Thomas Malory lived dangerously as he constantly participated in heinous crimes, though being a knight of chivalry, however, the experiences of being a low-life citizen as well as an understanding of the government led Malory to write his own version of the Arthurian legend during imprisonment. Malory altered the legend to exhibit that chivalry contradicts with courtly love, where it will eventually lead to shame and loss of loyalty through his own experiences.
Overt sexual desires. A quick temper. Manipulative tendencies. These are just a few of the character flaws that a “bad boy” protagonist in literature often can demonstrate and still be upheld as the narrative’s hero. Yet if a female character exhibits these traits, she is condemned, even vitriolically so. Arthurian literature is not immune to this misconception, as seen in Alfred Tennyson’s Idylls of the King and Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur. Although Tennyson demonizes Vivien as maliciously manipulative and refuses to give her human complexity or realistic motivations, Malory chooses to combat the double standard by characterizing Nimue as opportunistic and shrewd, but still a character aligned with good.
The challenge of maintaining virtues becomes a psychological game as Gawain is separated from his peers. He battles foul enemies including “dragons/ ...wolves, and satyrs, / And forest trolls, / And bulls, and bears, and ivory-tusked boars, / And giant ogres” (lines 719-723), but his physical monsters are glossed over in comparison to the mental turmoil that Gawain faces during this segment of his journey. In his “friendless” (line 714) time “nowhere near home” (line 714), Gawain lacks the support system of his compassionate friends of the court. The only backbone he has is in his faith, leading to his prayers to Mary “To end his grief, / To guide his weary / Steps to relief” (lines 737-739) in an act of piety, another knightly virtue that Gawain embodies. Coincidentally, the pious act that grants him the salvation of discovering the castle and brings the joys of having human companionship again also leads him to his greatest challenge: the seduction of the Lady Bercilak.
The Situation of “the deceiver deceived” recurs throughout Defoe’s Moll Flanders. Consider the way that the novel explores this situation with reference either to the episode of Moll’s marriage to her third husband (the Virginian) – in particular, to the way that this marriage is entered into.