The Knights Sets Forth (2015)Resumen Español
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The Knight Sets Forth
Near the beginning of Chrétien de Troyes’ Yvain, a courtly romance of the second half of the
12thC, one of the knights of King Arthur’s court relates an adventure which once befell him:
It’s Pentecost, in Wales
King Arthur sleeps and the Queen goes with Dodinel, Sagremor Kay, Gawain,
Yvain & Calogrenant
Calogrenant tells his story 7 years ago he went on an adventure, entered into
a wood and arrived to Broceliande where he saw a wooden tower. The owner,
who had a beautiful daughter, gave lodge to him. At supper the owner asked him
that on his return he came back to see them and he agreed. He left the following
day he found a herd of bulls & the herdsman who told him of a magic spring.
He decided to go there but he found a knight who defeated him and he had to return to his host.
Calogrenant’s story makes a great impression on the knight’s at Arthur’s court.
The King decides to ride to the magic spring himself. But one of his knights, Calogrenant’s cousin Yvain, gets there before him, defeats and kills the knight of the spring, and, by means which are partly miraculous and partly very natural, wins the love of his widow.
Important aspect of the story: Written in a very natural narrative style with linked sentences “To the right” right way & right goal Fairy tale right road, castle sprung out of the ground, nature of the hero’s reception, beautiful maiden, strange silence of the lord of the castle (he doesn’t tell nth about the spring), magic spring, 7 years later he explains the story (7 is a fairy-tale number) Time doesn’t change nth, 7 years after everything is the same It hasn’t got symbolic, mythological or religious motifs, In Chrétien, and also in the later romance of adventure and the shorter verse narrative, the entire portrayal of life within feudal society is tuned to the same note, not only in the 12th but also in the 13th. In charmingly graceful, delicately painted, and crystalline verses, knightly society offers its own presentment; thousands of little scenes and pictures describe the habits, its views, and its social tone for us. There is a great deal of brilliance, of realistic flavour, of psychological refinement, and also a great deal of humour in these pictures. It is much richer, more varied, and more comprehensive world than the world of the chansons de geste, although it too is only the world of a single class. At time indeed Chrétien seems to break through this class confinement. However the distinction between classes remains strictly intact: the important, the meaningful, and the sublime on the one hand, and the low-grotesque-comic on the other hand.
Fairy tales economy, geography and social conditions are never explained. But the fairy-tale atmosphere is the true element of the courtly romance, which is not only interested in portraying external living conditions in the feudal society of the closing years of the 12thC but also in expressing its ideals.
Calogrenant sets out without a mission but that of self-realisation. The personal element in the courtly virtues is not simply a gift of nature; nor is it acquired by birth; to implant them now requires the unforced will to renew them by constant and tireless practice and proving.
Difference of adventure in courtly romance and in modern world: Courtly romance activity developed by courtly culture in which fantastic encounters and perils present themselves to the knight.
Modern world think of adventure as “accidental” Calogrenant seeks the right way and finds it, as said before. It is the right way into adventure, and this very seeking and finding of it show him to be one of the chosen, a true knight of Arthur’s Round Table. As a true knight worthy of adventure, he’s received by his host, who is also a knight, with delight and with blessings for having found the right way. Host and guest both belong to one social group, a sort of order, admission into which is through a ceremonial election and all members of which are bound to help one another. Calogrenant, then, is a true knight, one of the elect. But there’re many degrees of election. Not he, but only Yvain, proves capable of sustaining the adventure. The degrees of election and specific election for a specific adventure are sometimes more clearly emphasised in Perceval than in the Yvain; but the motif is unmistakeable wherever we have to do with courtly literature. The series of adventures is thus raised to the status of a fated and graduated test of election; it becomes the basis of a doctrine of personal perfection through a development dictated by fate, a doctrine which was later to break through the class barriers of courtly culture.
The world of knightly proving is a world of adventure. It not only contains a practically uninterrupted series of adventures; more specifically, it contains nth but the requisites of adventure.
The ethics of feudalism, the ideal conception of the perfect knight, thus attained a very considerable and very long-lived influence. Concepts associated with it (courage, honour, loyalty, mutual respect, refined manners, and service to women) continued to cast their spell on the contemporaries of completely changed cultural periods.
Feudal knighthood is still of crucial importance in military matters. The growth of an urban bourgeoisie and the growth of absolutism with its trend toward centralization are still in their earliest stage.
During Chrétien de Troyes’ life he saw how the feudal class was no longer the only ruling class.
The widespread and long-enduring flowering of the courtly-chivalric romance exerted a significant and, more precisely, a restrictive influence upon literary realism, even before the antique doctrine of different levels of style began to be influential in the same restrictive direction.
An elevated style of poetic expression had not yet been produced by the courtly epic.
On the contrary, it didn’t even employ the elements of sublimity present in the paratactic form of the heroic epic. Its style is rather pleasantly narrative than sublime; it’s suitable for any kind of subject matter. The later trend towards linguistic separation of styles goes back entirely to the influence of antiquity, and not to that of courtly chivalry. Restrictions in terms of subject matter, however, are all the stronger.
It was the emphasise laid on the inner values of the knightly ideal which caused the connection with the real things of this earth to become ever more fictitious and devoid of practical purpose. The relation of the courtly ideal to reality is determined by the fictitiousness and lack of practical purpose which, as we hope we have sufficiently shown, characterize it for the very first. Courtly culture gives rise to the idea, which long remained a factor of considerable importance in Europe, that nobility, greatness, and intrinsic values have nth in common with everyday reality. One way of turning away from reality is Platonism. There have been repeated attempts to show that Platonic elements were a contributing factor in the development of the courtly ideal.
Except feats of arms and love, nth can occur in the courtly world.
Love, being an essential and obligatory ingredient of knightly perfection, functions as a substitute for other possibilities of motivation which are here lacking. The implies, in general outline, the fictitious order of events in which the most significant actions are performed primarily for the sake of a lady’s favour; it also implies the superior rank assigned to love as a poetic theme which came to be so important for Europe literature.
SUMMARY: courtly culture was decidedly unfavourable to the development of a literary art which should apprehend reality in its full breadth and depth. Yet there were other forces at work in the 12th and 13thC which were able to nourish and further such a development.