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Women's View Of Chivarly In King Arthur's Court

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Women's view of Chivalry in King Arthur's Court

King Arthur's court is often presented as home to noble knights; however it may also be found that opposing views exist of how Knights of the Roundtable carried themselves, such as presented in Marie de France's Lanval and Chaucer's Wife of Bath, where one knight is being mistreated by his fellow brothers-in-arms and another knight is simply a rapist. These authors question the nobility of the knights as well as of the ladies and through their literary works they both critique the male world as well as the upper class.

Marie de France in her description of King Arthur's court and its rules leaves a romantic notion, as to how noble knight shall carry himself as true gentleman. Her Lanval is formerly "a prince of great estate" (Lanval, line 26), who was also handsome, strong and courageous. Lanval, a foreigner in the land of King Arthur, is nevertheless a loyal subject sworn to serve the king. Yet, his fellow knights are not so good to him, neither is King Arthur who was never rewarded Lanval for his service, therefore it is shown that Arthurian world had its' flaws and chivalry was not always practiced.

The world in which Lanval lives is inhabited with fairies; it's a superficial world, world where people of Marie de France's and Wife of Bath's time wanted to escape into and where superficial saves the protagonist. Both of these literary works, written with two centuries in between of them share the same value system where upper classes are not all that perfect but females of all social standings are actively seeking their knights in shining armor. For Marie de France it's someone like Lanval while for Wife of Bath it's some "lusty bacheler" who could satisfy her desires. Perhaps, Wife of Bath in her tale when speaking of an old, ugly woman and thinks that with young knight by her side would regain her youthfulness. Even though Wife of Bath's description can be considered both like criticisms of chivalry and as suggestion that even such a noble institute such as order of noble knights had its own fallacies, she wouldn't mind to get her hands on young man such as described in her tale. The Wife of Bath tells us a story of "a lusty bacheler" (line 889) who rapes a young virgin lady and therefore is condemned by King Arthur's court to die. Still, at queen's and other ladies' request, his life is given into their hands so that they can decide how to punish him better or not. King Arthur acts as the true gentleman and submits to lady's desire or perhaps out of notion that female can select a better choice of punishment since one of their own was taken advantage of. Perhaps, Wife of Bath being a lusty woman herself pictured herself in queen's shoes and thus wouldn't dare killing a bachelor that she might had an eye on. Yet, it doesn't seem that the knight on trial is as a gentleman as it was expected from persons of his stature. He had not only dishonored a maiden but when sent by queen on the journey in search of the answer to her question he almost dishonors himself upon reappearing in queen's court again.



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