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William Marshal

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Undoubtedly, Georges Duby is one of the century’s renowned medieval historians. He has created many fine works including the book William Marshal: The Flower of Chivalry. The book is based on a poem which was composed by, an author only known by his first name, Jean. The poem’s patron was the earl’s oldest son, who thought that “it was important that William Marshal’s valor be celebrated” (page 28). The book narrates the life of the great knight, beginning with his death and continuing with retrospection of how he earned his glory and the status of the most celebrated knight in medieval Europe. Duby uncovers many themes in his work, including the values of chivalry and Christianity. But the once that are still relevant nowadays are: the shabby treatment of women and children and the transactional concept of marriage.

The most notable differences between the society today and eight hundred years ago, is the way the women and children were treated and the way the marriage was interpreted. The women then were regarded as if they were lower species, like a commodity, with lot fewer rights than men. Their opinion was rarely taken in mind and in most cases they did not have the right of choice. The children’s life was also unenviable. If you are not the firstborn son, your life is going to be a lot more difficult. The daughters did not have any rights of choice regarding their life and the younger sons had to cope by themselves with the harsh life from early age. The parents weren’t concerned much about the wellbeing of their children. Along with these examples of inequality the reader might be shocked by the diminished values of marriage. Nowadays, the marriage is considered to be a sacred union based on love (in most cases) but in the book the author depicts it as nothing more than a way of getting rich or making peace with your enemy.

A child’s life during the dark ages was unenviable. If you were not the firstborn son your life was relegated to a second class status which you carried all the way through till adulthood. A general hardship, lack of choice and parental affection are very common characteristics of the life of children during the dark ages. In rich families, it was noted, that one of the sons was forced to go to church regardless of his preferences. Girls were often forced, through marriage, into sexual relationships with older men at the tender age of only twelve. Such relationships today would not only be considered as one of the most disgusting crimes against a child but would be labeled as sexually abusing a minor. Although in the thirteenth century, what would be considered criminal today was regarded as a normal relationship between a man and his wife. A young boy was often thrust out on his own around the age of ten to become a knight. Even William Marshall is no different as a parent in view of the fact that he loves his knights more than his children. His father was a great knight also and, it was noted that his actions demonstrated that, he did notcare much about his children either. Shocking in the story when John Marshal, informed that his son is taken hostage and is about to be executed, replies that “the boy’s life mattered little to him: he still possessed the hammer and the forge to produce another such, even finer” (page 63). Such action will be considered horrific in our modern world, but the reader is led to conclude that children were valued much like a plant. It was negligible if a child gets damaged or lost because they were seen as a cheap commodity and easily replaceable. This idea was further reinforced when the author states that the rate of child mortality was very high.

The women in medieval Europe were regarded as if they were a lower species or a commodity and had fewer rights than men. Their opinion was rarely taken into account and in most cases they did not have the basic right of making their own choices. The whole life of a woman during these harsh times of inequality was dictated by men. In their childhood their father had autocracy over every facet of their lives and ultimately decided even who they married. Afterwards a woman was passed onto another man through marriage who also dictated how they would live and their function in life. The life of most women was no more exciting than the life of the animals that they raised. The women had no choices and were of lower importance because “this is a masculine world, and in it only males count” (page 38). The author makes it clear from the beginning that the reader



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