The Faerie Queene: the Knight of Holiness and the House of Pride

The Faerie Queene: Redcrosse Knight and the House of Pride

            The Faerie Queene is a story about the Knight of holiness named Redcrosse. Redcrosse is on a journey as he accompanies a woman by the name of Una. Along their way, they encounter a sorcerer named Archimago whom casts a spell to make Redcrosse angry with Una and leave her. He then encounters Archimago’s other plan otherwise known as a woman named Duessa

            Along their journey, Redcrosse loses Una to a battle and continues on his journey with Duessa. They run into an area where Redcrosse breaks a branch on one of the trees depicting it to have previously been a person. The Tree begins to tell Redcrosse his story as he states, “But once a man Fradubio, now a tree,/ Wretched man, wretched tree; whose nature weake,/ A cruell witch her cursed will to wreake,/ Hath thus transformd, and plast in open plaines,/ Where Boreas doth blow full bitter bleake,/ And scorching Sunne does dry my secret vaines:/For though a tree I seeme, yet cold and heat me paines” (Spencer). The tree warns Redcrosse of his story about how he won a beautiful woman in a duel just as Redcrosse did. That woman turned out to be Duessa who then turned him in to a tree. This illustrates Redcrosse’s first incident of stupidy. Obviously he is too naïve and big in the head to wake up and realize that the tree’s story is identical to his. One would think that he would remain cautcous with Duessa, but she still holds the temptation in his journey.

            Duessa then leads Redcrosse to the House of Pride. The House of Pride is described as a beautiful and large palace. Redcrosse and Duessa are then greeted by the Queen Lucifera as she introduces her subjects that pull her couch; coincidentally all possess names of the seven deadly sins: Idleness, Gluttony, Lechery, Avarice, Envy, and Wrath. Pride is the last and final of these deadly sins, the queen full of pride herself making that complete. Sansjoy then arrives and challenges Redcrosse to a duel. Redcrosse proves to be the better of the two as he wins the duel. Redcrosse then returns to the House of Pride where he finds out that in the dungeons of the palace are thousands of bodies who were overcome with pride and could not leave the palace. He and the dwarf then decide to escape the House of Pride. This depicts the second episode of Redcrosse’s stupidity. He sees what is going on in the House of Pride, but he does not want to leave. It does not dawn on him that they could end up in the dungeon. The Dwarf has to practically hit him on the head and tell him they need to leave the palace instantly for the sake of their lives.            

            The House of Pride depicts the Christianity allegory of sin and evil and is characterizes the palace by the seven deadly sins. Of all the seven deadly sins, Christianity views pride the evilest of all of them and the greatest sin to possess as arrogant pride was what caused Satan to descend to Hell. Satan was arrogant and thought he was better than the creator, just as Lucifera finds herself better than others as she crowned herself to rule. Satan then can be compared to the queen because of her name Lucifera which is an allegory for Satan’s name Lucifer. It can be interpreted that Lucifera depicts the arrogant pride that Satan possessed as the dungeons symbolize the hell in the palace that no one is allowed to leave once they depict the sin of pride. Since pride was depicted as the worst of all sins because it Satan possessed it, the deep dark dungeons can symbolize Hell because those that lie in their unable to leave the House of Pride are subjects that exhibit arrogant pride in themselves.

The Queen Lucifera can also be a political allegory for Queen Elizabeth. The representation of Queen Lucifera is depicted as an anti-representation of Queen Elizabeth. Queen Elizabeth was a joyful and Christian queen who ruled with justice, while Queen Lucifera represents devilish characteristics who rules unlawfully. Queen Lucifera made herself the queen while Queen Elizabeth ruled the thrown rightfully.

            Why has Redcrosse been taken to the House of Pride? Was Redcrosse’s pride becoming the best of him? Redcrosse is a very idiot, naive knight whom fights on instinct as he wanted to be a worthy knight. The dwarf even has to tell Redcrosse to leave the House of Pride once they see what is held in the dungeons. This illustrates that Redcrosse is stupid as the House of Pride does not serve its purpose in being a sort of warning or wakeup call for him.

Redcrosse then encounters a giant in a spot that would not typically be an area that one would encounter a giant. The area is beautiful, serene, peaceful and looks like a safe place to relax. Spencer described the siatutiaon as “He feedes vpon the cooling shade, and bayes/ His sweatie forehead in the breathing wind,/ Which through the tre[m]bling leaues full gently playes/ Wherein the cherefull birds of sundry kind/ Do chaunt sweet musick, to delight his mind:/ The Witch approching gan him fairely greet,/ And with reproch of carelesnesse vnkind/ Vpbrayd, for leauing her in place vnmeet,/With fowle words tempring faire, soure gall with hony sweet” (Spencer). The problem is that Redcrosse is engaged in Duessa and is full of Pride, full of himself, has a big head, and is careless. This is the perfect time for a giant to come and attach Redcrosse. Redcrosse’s pride is making him a careless knight, and because of this the Giant throws Redcrosse into the dungeon. Redcrosse is weak and vulnerable as Duessa calls him her prey. Redcrosse is “ Both carelesse of his health, and of his famec” and unfortunately when he sees the night it is noted: “But ere he could his armour on him dight” (Spencer). Basically, Redcrosse is even more careless in this moment because he takes off his armor. What kind of knight takes of his armor and is not prepared at all times for a fight. I mean he has just left the House of Pride where he has seen what evils were beheld in that place and now he is leaving himself without armor. This not only illustrates Redcrosse’s stupidity, but it also shows how temptation and pride can result in negative results. Redcrosse is fascinated with Duessa right now and is on top of the world so he probably thinks to himself why he would need armor at a time and in a place like this.

Redcrosse is too consumed with pride he does not understand the significance of the evens in his life. He finds that he is fighting these fights and handling all of the situations the way he is because he is a knight and that is was expectations of a knight. He does not understand that as a knight, you are going to be tested and you are going to face lessons placed in front of you. Redcrosse’s stupidity keeps him from realizing the importance of the duels because Pride is not only affecting his decision making, but his common sense.

Works Cited

“The Faerie Queene: Book I.” Luminarium: Anthology of English Literature.

            <http://www.luminarium.org/renascence-editions/queene1.html&gt;.

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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: Chivalry’s test

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

            Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is probably the best known Arthurian romance in today’s existence. Its text is rich in symbolism, description and themes as 14th century poems traditionally were. Although the author is unknown, this work has valuable information about the culture of the audience it was written for and their value system. A reader can decipher the poem and reconstruct from the values it, who the implied readers were and how they compare to earlier audiences such as those of Geoffrey of Monmouth. Key themes to look at it include; the role of chivalry, the lessons gained through game playing and how women are depicted within the poem. However, the author appears to combine all aspects in an attempt to make a tale of the honor of truth and faithfulness where chivalry is tested.  

              Throughout Sir Gawain and the Green Knight the chivalry of Sir Gawain is tested to withstand against temptation and remain a loyal and courteous knight. A majority of the text explores the specific temptation of Sir Gawain by his host’s wife and her effort to seduce him. As a game, Sir Gawain agrees to the host’s proposed covenant that “Whatsoever I win in the wood shall be yours, and whatever may fall to your share, that shall ye exchange for it” (Sir Gawain 11) This covenant is a mark of Sir Gawain’s word and his adherence to it is a testimony to honor and honesty, two main components of chivalry. Needless to say, his adherence to this covenant was of great importance to him and would take great care and difficulty to try and keep.

              Sir Gawain is tested three times by the lord of the castle and his wife before he re-encounters the Green Knight. Prior to any of tests these test, the narrator makes it clear that Sir Gawain thought the lord’s wife to be the most beautiful woman in the castle and that he was very attracted to her. The first time he is tested by the wife, her intentions are made explicitly clear. She sneaks into his bedroom as he is sleeping and tells him that she “shall bind you [him] in your bed” (Sir Gawain 12). Being a courteous knight, Sir Gawain promises, “I will do your will” but quickly follows with the request for him to “get me from bed, and array me better” (Sir Gawain 12). Doing his best to keep this covenant and his word as a knight is expected to do; he treads this fine line between his honor to the King and his honor towards a woman of the court. After traversing this request cunningly, he is further pressured by the lady when she reminds the undressed Sir Gawain that “we are alone, my lord and his men are afield, the serving men in their beds, and my maidens also, and the door shut upon us” (Sir Gawain 13). Yet, he continues to decline her advances and suggestions in ways that still compliment the lady and remain loyal to his host and their covenant. He “turned her speech aside” and feared “he had lacked in some courtesy” agreed by use of her pressure to “kiss at your commandment as a true knight” (Sir Gawain 13). As agreed by the covenant between himself and the lord of the castle, Sir Gawain returns the kiss to his host upon his return and exchange of winnings. This first encounter between Sir Gawain and the lady is only the beginning of the tests he endures and yet it sets the stage for the dilemmas that he will face throughout the work. As a chivalrous knight, his word and honesty are of great importance to him but they are uniquely challenged by his loyalty to treat a woman of the court, especially a host, with courtesy and obedience.

             Although the lady’s first test was the most seductive of them all, she does not fail to use flattery, logic and the very idea of what a chivalrous knight is against the knight in an effort to seduce him. Upon the second morning of the covenant, she again comes to his bed chamber early in the morning. She quickly reminds him that “it behoves a courteous knight quickly to claim a kiss” and being a courteous knight himself and wanting to abide by the ideals of chivalry, he tells her, “I am at your commandment to kiss when ye like” (Sir Gawain 15). With his concedence, she kisses him and proceeds to use the ideal of what a chivalrous knight is against his refusal of her more devious advances. She claims that a knight known as ‘the head of all chivalry” should be so well known in the wisdom and love and war that he should teach her about the ways of love (Sir Gawain 15) In addition to referencing the idea of chivalry to persuade the knight, she again challenges his adherence to these standards by insinuating that he may think that she is not worthy of his advances (Sir Gawain 15). Again, Sir Gawain masterly treads the line between the honor of his word and his courtly “love” by flattering the lady and promising, “I will work your will to the best of my might as I am bounden, and evermore will be your servant” (Sir Gawain 15). The narrator even compliments Sir Gawain’s ability to traverse the situation and notes that “he defended himself so fairly that none might in any wise blame him, and naught but bliss and harmless jesting was there between them” (Sir Gawain 15). Finally, she kisses him again and took her leave of him. Having survived yet another encounter with the lady, Sir Gawain honors his word and remains honest when he returns the two kisses to the lord of the castle in exchange for the wild boar he caught. Unfortunately, this would not be the hardest temptation he faced.

             Without fail, Sir Gawain was greeted by the lady of the castle the next morning. This morning she “clad herself in rich mantle… bordered and lined with costly furs” and came exuberantly dressed to visit with him (Sir Gawain 17). She kissed him and he admired how beautiful she was but “she might win no more of her knight… He cared for his courtesy, lest he be deemed churlish and yet more for his honour lest he be a traitor to his host” (Sir Gawain 17). It is clear by the narrator’s notation that his honour mattered more to him that his courtesy to the lady and that her seduction via her dress and words were unsuccessful yet these were not the only tools at her disposal to challenge his true chivalry. She kisses him again and uses her final tactic to make Sir Gawain takes something from him. She tells him that the silk from her kirtle when worn by a knight shall not allow “no man under heaven can overcome him, for he may not be slain for any magic on earth” (Sir Gawain 18). Seeing that this could save him from the fate that awaited him with the Green Knight, he conceded to accept her gift and not to reveal it to her lord. The lady leaves him with a final kiss and the joy that he might live past his encounter with the Green Knight. It is only upon the return of the lord that Sir Gawain makes the foolish decision to only exchange the three kisses he had received for the lord’s winnings. It is here that Sir Gawain dishonors himself and his knighthood as he breaks the code of chivalry by not honoring his world to the host. He skillfully negotiated the tests that were presented him except when the possibility of life beyond the next day was presented to him. Even though the desire for life is one of natural instinct, he failed to honor his word more than himself and this is where he falls short of what chivalry, according to this time period, meant.

           Sir Gawain’s chivalry was tested through seduction, logic, flattery and his desire for survival. Throughout the piece, his honesty and promises were tested and then pinned against his dedication to being courteous as a knight should be. Although all of these were parts of what chivalry encompassed, they were uniquely combined to test the knight’s honor above all. A reader can see through the text and the Green Knight’s cunning plan to test Sir Gawain that honoring promises and abiding by chivalry above all were of the greatest importance to readers of this time period. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight brilliantly depicts the moral dilemmas of a knight in this time period to abide by the various roles chivalry requires of him while presented with challenging situations. Sir Gawain’s struggle to meet these ideals and his valiant effort to do so are a testimony to how important these values were to the time period.

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The Faerie Queene: Redcross vs. Errour

            Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene is an epic romance of the sixteenth century yet is so rich in allegory that the characters and various plot lines are still relative to today’s religious readers. Each character in Spenser’s epic can be referenced somehow back to the church, political climate or controversies of his time period. Some of these references are easy to overlook especially without the historical context yet with a close reader, they become more evident. One of the greatest allegorical episodes in The Faerie Queene is Redcross’ fight with the Errour. Spenser uses allegory throughout the cantos of his book to make larger statements on the church of his time period and especially on the road to redemption.

            Redcross represents the knight of Holiness throughout the story yet it is easy to discern that he is not perfect and has not been tested before his journey with Una. Spenser makes it clear from the beginning that Redcross had “Yet armes till that time did he neuer wield” (1.1.1.5). This is Spenser’s way of telling the reader that Redcross has yet to be tested in battle and also in belief. However, he shortly receives his first test upon entering and exploring the woods with Una and her dwarfe. The three of them come across a cave in the woods. Both Una and the Dwarfe advise Redcross to use caution and even tells him that this is Errours den “A monster vile, whom God and mad does hate/therefore I read beware. Fly Fly/ this is no place for liuing men” (1.1.13.7-9). Yet this untested knight full of the ideas of grandeur and battle went in anyways to inquire as to the contents. The Holy knight discovers Errour in this den. She is half woman, half serpent and “full of vile disdaine” (1.1.14.9). This depiction of Errour as half woman and half serpent appears to be a biblical reference back to the story of Adam and Eve. Eve, having erred by eating an apple from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, was persuaded to do so by Satan in the form of a serpent. Spenser combines both of these elements to paint a clear picture of who Errour is and that even though she is half human, that part of her is also a woman who is the root of man’s decent into sin. To further this allegorical reference, Spenser points out that Errour hates light and “Ay wont in desert darkness to remaine” (1.1.16.8). Redcross literally causes the light to enter the cave as it bounces off his armor but he also is figuratively is the light. Representing the Knight of Holiness, his light is also his faith and Errour has no interest in the light he has to offer and only wants to remain in her darkness or lack of faith.

             Having painted a clear picture of Errour and her “dark” ways, Spenser moves forward with allegorical references to the political climate of his day regarding the various sects of the church that were rising up. These sects or different ideas can be tied to both her numerous offspring as well as her vomit. Her thousand offspring are said to be “sucking vpon her poisonous dugs, eachone / Of sundry shapes, yet all ill fauored” (1.1.15.7-8). Tying these offspring to the many offspring of the church a reader can see that Spenser does not really agree with the various schools of religious thought. The line “Of sundry shapes, yet all ill fauored” shows that he is aware that each one is different but does not believe any of them to be favored above the original interpretation. Furthering this idea that these offspring are impure is their decent back into their mother who has no interest in the “light” and wants to remain in “darkness”. Spenser near throws the allegories down the reader’s throat when Errour grabs hold of Redcross. He pleaded that “God helpe the man so wrapt in Errours endlesse traine” (1.1.18.9). Redcross, having gotten himself in a situation that he appeared too weak to overcome is pleaded for. Redcross not only represents the Knight of Holiness, he also represents new Christians. For instance, he had yet to have been tested because he is a new Christian but he also wants to be a pure as he can. As a new Christian, he also easily persuaded in the wrong direction and pleading for God’s help who is wrapped in error’s ways is a wonderful allegory to show that Redcross, as a new Christian is easily persuaded and that he needs God’s help to keep him from falling into this creature’s ways. Much to his luck, the more experienced Christian, Una, steps in to guide him in his battle. She tells him “Add faith vnto your force, and be not faint/ Strangle her, else she sure will strangle thee” (1.1.19.3-4). Una, representing a unified church, saves Redcross from impending doom with her advice.

             Furthermore, when Redcross strangles Errour she spews vomit full of books and papers with “loathly frogs and toades, which eyes did lacke” (1.1.20.6-7). These books and papers are the various pamphlets from the pamphlet wars of Spenser’s time period. These pamphlets were designed to persuade Christians towards each groups’ own religious ideals and ended up dividing the once unified church into a number of different groups. Spenser’s description of these books and papers as vomit is a real sign of his own personal belief in a unified church. Additionally, Spenser’s use of toades is a reference to the false prophet and the beast as depicted in revelations that also have frogs come out of their mouth. Combing the pamphlets and the frogs, a reader becomes aware that Error is not only producing various off-springs of thinking but these offspring are also untrue as the false prophet’s prophecies are in fact false. Even when Errour’s offspring spewed out, they were unable to harm Redcross. He was easily able to brush them off of him and “oft doth mar their murmurings” (1.1.23.9). Having thrown off her offspring so easily, he is renewed in strength and able to “raft her hateful head without remorse” (1.1.24.8). Ironically, this “dark” and “evil” monster’s blood is black and lacks the life and color of a normal human. This black blood is also a reference to the lack of the blood of Christ within the beast because the blood of Christ is red. Even when she was slain, her offspring immediately began to drink her blood making “her death their life, and eke her hurt their good” (1.1.25.9). This is another stab at the various schools of thought swirling around Spenser’s time period. These offspring took advantage of their mother’s suffering to their benefit, not properly mourning her or her life. This behavior can be related to these various sects feeding off of the blood that had been spilt by the beheadings of the time period of others who had already broken off from the unified church and using it for their own benefit to further their causes. Additionally both the offspring and the various sects of the time period no longer required Redcross’s attention because “his foes haue saline themselues” (1.1.26.9). After this victory, Redcross is able to find a path and stick to it, similar to that of a founded Christian. Through this path, he is led out of the woods with his brood intact.

            Spenser’s allegory throughout The Faerie Queene is something that so vividly screams at the readers of the time period as to the current religious and political turmoil occurring within their lives. At first glance, it would appear that Spenser simply referenced the struggles but through the word choice and descriptions of vomit and blood-thirsty offspring that Spenser was anything but indifferent to the struggles. Clearly this book was dedicated to Queen Elizabeth and meant to be a flattering portrayal of her and her ideals as evidenced in the dedication but Spenser used both the history of his people as well as the bible to add important context to his epic romance.

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The Chivalric Code in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

 

Chivalry in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Sir Gawain in the Green Knight is a story about chivalrous values and trickery. This story involves the Green knight’s arrival at King Arthur’s feast one evening. The green knight challenges the king to his game and just as King Arthur accepts Sir Gawain insists on accepting the challenge instead. The Green knight is beheaded, but picks his head up and tells Sir Gawain that he must meet him in one year so that he can return the challenge. Sir Gawain sets off on his journey one year later and arrives at a castle along his way. He is graciously let inside where he stays a few days. The lord of the castle creates a game of his own involving the Lord hunting and Sir Gawain remaining at the castle and the two exchanging their winnings at the end of each night. The lord of the castle, also known as the Green Knight, is testing the chivalrous values of Sir Gawain throughout the story through use of games.

Geoffrey Chaucer was a prominent writer of this time period. His stories were meant to be read aloud to entertain the courts as this was part of his job.  The author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is unknown; however, there are many translations; the translation the reader is best familiar with being that of J.R.R Tolkien.  Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was written during the same time period as Geoffrey Chaucer and can be assumed his intended audience was that of the courts. Even in the story, King Arthur’s court engaged in storytelling; storytelling was a very common thing to use as entertaining to the courts. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight therefore can be assumed that it was used for storytelling and entertainment.

The first motif present in the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is game playing. The Green knight presents Sir Gawain with games in terms of his wife, acting as the host, supplying winnings, and the overall challenge of meeting the Green Knight. The act of game playing in the story acts as a motif for the overall theme of Chivalry. Chivalry was a very important code to live by during this time period. Chivalry during the 1300 -1400’s is best seen as “the lifestyle and moral code followed by medieval knights. Chivalry included the values of honor, valor, courtesy, and purity, as well as loyalty to a lord, a cause, or a noble woman” (Novelguide.com). Sir Gawain proves his loyalty as a knight initially when he takes the place of King Arthur challenging the Green Knight. The Green Knight initially challenges the court and King Arthur is the only to accept, but Sir Gawain acts as his right-hand-man and steps in place of his king. Chivalry and the game playing presented by the Green Knight go hand-in-hand because the Green Knight uses the game playing to test Sir Gawain’s inner worth and honor as a knight.

Sir Gawain’s chivalry is tested throughout the story by the Green Knight who is also Bertilak the host of the castle and Bertilak’s wife. Sir Gawain’s chivalry is first tested as the overall plot to the story is unfolded. The Green Knight challenges Sir Gawain to meet him one year from the moment he asks him to so that the Green Knight can return the blow he received. This challenges Sir Gawain’s chivalry because if he does not meet the green knight then he is perceived as a dishonorable man who does not keep his word. An important characteristic of a knight was courage whereas Sir Gawain must keep his word to prove his courage and bravery as a knight otherwise he would be useless. The second moment of chivalry that is tested involves encounters between Sir Gawain and Bertilak’s wife. Bertilak leaves each day to go hunting as he plans to return with winnings to compare with Sir Gawain. Sir Gawain lies in bed as Bertilak’s wife comes in asking for her “way” with him. Over the course of Sir Gawain’s time spent in the castle, the wife kisses Gawain on three different occasions. He is to give these kisses to the Green Knight during their exchange of winnings. On the final night of winnings, the wife presents Sir Gawain with a green girdle that will protect him from the Green Knight. Sir Gawain presents Bertilak with the kisses, but does not tell him about the green girdle. Sir Gawain’s chivalry is tested here in terms of how he treats the wife. It is stated that a part of the chivalrous code, a knight is to have loyalty to a lord or noble woman. The lord or host of the castle was not shown such loyalty when he allowed the wife to kiss him. He was also displaying un-chivalrous characteristics when he failed to tell the Green Knight about the green girdle that was given to him that helped him remain alive during their meeting. It can be assumed that not only is Sir Gawain’s chivalrous code being tested/questioned, but the chivalrous code as a whole as well.  Sir Gawain was perceived as one of the most chivalrous men in Arthur’s court, but he is capable of human error. Is the code too strict?  It can be understood that knights should be able to make these human minor errors without their chivalrous honor being questioned. Chivalry was also linked very much with religion. A knight’s sword was supposed to uphold the dignity and honor of the church. His honor was to be centered on the church as well as all of his values.

The chivalric expectations of a knight in Arthur’s court are that of loyalty. Knights, in this case Sir Gawain, were to remain loyal to God, his King, and in this case to Lady Guinevere. Knights were also to strive to exhibit courage, courtesy towards others, and keep to their word.  According to the court’s standards, when a knight possessed these expectations/qualities he was seen as a true and noble knight. Sir Gawain exemplified all of these qualities according to Arthur and his court. Arthur originally was going to take on the Green knight, but Sir Gawain stepped forth as a mark of his loyalty to his King. This is especially important for Sir Gawain because he is not only is he Arthur’s best knight, but he is closest to Arthur.  Sir Gawain kept his word as a knight and followed up the Green Knight with his request to meet Sir Gawain one year from the date requested. Sir Gawain allowed the Green Knight to return the blow to his head as requested thereby keeping all terms of his word.

Sir Gawain’s chivalric expectations of a knight prove to be stricter than that of the Green Knight and King Arthur.  According to Sir Gawain the chivalric expectations of a knight were not met after his final meeting with the Green Knight. Sir Gawain failed to tell the Green Knight about the green girdle given to him by Lady Bertilak to ensure his survival in the fight against the Green Knight. Due to his failure to follow the rules of the game, the Green Knight puts a slight cut on Sir Gawain’s neck from the axe as punishment. Sir Gawain is ashamed and disappointed in himself for his failure to follow by the rules and keep his complete word as a knight. In Sir Gawain’s eyes, he is a failure and a knight who has sinned. He believes he has not met the expectations of a knight while the court believes he has through his courage, bravery, and ability to remain alive and return to him safely as loyalty to King Arthur.

The Green Knight’s view of chivalry seems much lighter than that of the court, King Arthur, and Sir Gawain. The Green Knight viewed Sir Gawain as a worthy knight despite Sir Gawain’s view of himself after their final meeting. The Green Knight believes that because Sir Gawain has confessed his sin that all is well and he is a trustworthy knight; however, Sir Gawain feels that his trust as a knight has been compromised by his sin and failure to follow the rules. He laughs off Sir Gawain’s disappointment in his failure and still calls him the worthiest of all knights. This shows that the Green Knight does not follow what can be depicted as the court’s or Sir Gawain’s chivalric expectations. The Green knight is much more lenient when it comes to the expectations and does not account for the human mistakes that Sir Gawain has made. He recognizes them as human mistakes and still finds Sir Gawain a brave, courageous, and commendable knight of Arthur’s court.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a poem for entertaining during the Renaissance era. It illustrates the chivalry that knights were meant to follow and base their life upon. The values of chivalry are tested throughout the story as well as the chivalry system as a whole through use of trickery and game playing. Essentially Gawain loses his moral innocence as he falls victim to the archetype of the temptress. He finds failure in himself as a person and as a knight. He no longer views himself as the knight that exemplifies all the chivalric expectations a knight should possess despite the expectations of King Arthur and the Green knight.

 

 

 

Works Cited

Anonymous. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Trans. J.R.R. Tolkien. Kindle.

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Spenser’s The Faerie Queen

   Image Detail                                       Redcrosse and Orgoglio

The birds sing as a cool breeze sweeps across the blades of grass causing them to dance in the sweet rays of the warming sun. A pool of water sits in the distance and everything seems perfect as if nothing could possibly go wrong, right? Wrong, anything can happen and Redcrosse has to learn that lesson the hard way in his episode with the giant, Orgoglio. This episode can be interpreted as using religious and moral allegories.

At the end of Canto VI Redcrosse has escaped the House of Pride, but why had he been taken to the House of Pride in the first place? I feel that Redcrosse was taken there, because he was getting the big head, in that he was fighting on impulse, fighting because that’s what knights did, and when he fought with Sansjoy I couldn’t help but compare it to an Aesop fable about two roosters that fight in order to see who would become the head rooster. In the end the victorious rooster is eaten by an eagle, while the other rooster who had hidden himself away, then becomes the victorious rooster. At the end of the fable Aesop writes, “Pride comes before the fall.”

So, to me, the House of Pride is supposed to be a wakeup call for the young knight, but because he is naïve and oblivious to the world around him, he doesn’t get it, and it is the dwarf that has to tell Redcrosse that the two of them should probably leave. This marks the second time that Redcrosse fleas from a situation instead of facing it head on, and fully taking the time to understand what is going on. He doesn’t seem to understand that he is being tested. The first time occurred after Redcrosse had had a dream about Una, and he flees running into Duessa, who is evil, but Redcrosse is unaware of this.

Spenser sets up the beginning of Canto VII with Redcrosse and his horse in a serene place where birds are chirping; everything seems perfect. “He feedes vpon the cooling shade, and bayes his sweatie forehead in the breathing wind, which through the tre[m] bling leaues full gently playes where in the cherefull birds of sundry kind do chaunt sweet musick, to delight his mind…” (Spenser Book I canto vii lines 19-23). Redcrosse is also not wearing any of his army, making him an easy target, Duessa’s prey. To me this is a sign of his naivety, because it only seems logical that Redcrosse would want to be on his guard a little bit, seeing how he just escaped something dreadful and that the rest of his journey has been quite a trial. But, no, he is blissfully unaware of his surroundings as he sits listening to birds chirp.

I believe that there is a moral allegory to this in that it is always better to be prepared than it is to be surprised or caught off guard by something unexpected. This scene reminds me of a cartoon where the scenery is bright and it seems as if nothing could go wrong, but something does always seem to occur causing the little cartoon bunny to run in terror of the dark clouds rising, but when Duessa approaches Redcrosse he does not run. “The witch approaching gan him fairely greet, and with reproach of carelesnesse vnkind vpbrayd, for leauing her in place vnmeet, with fowle words tempring faire, soure gall with hony sweet” (Spenser Book I canto vii lines 24-27).  Redcrosse actually apologizes to Duessa for leaving her, when in reality; she is the one that left Redcrosse, so there is no need for an apology.

Again it only seems logical to this reader that Redcrosse would want to stay away from her, because every time he is with her she causes nothing, but trouble. This only provides more evidence against Redcrosse when it comes to his oblivious and naïve thinking on everything around him. Another moral allegory that can I interpret through this episode, is the little pool of water. It seems like any other pool of water, and seems as if though it would provide tasty water  for drinking, but things aren’t always what they appear to be. I’m not saying that someone should be incredibly paranoid of everything around them, but it is always best to stay on one’s toes, and always be prepared for the unexpected, as the saying goes don’t judge a book by it’s cover, and in Redcrosse’s case don’t judge a pool of water by its…well appearance. He drinks from the pool of water and becomes sick, but even though he is sick he still finds time to cozy up with Duessa, “yet goodly court he made still to his dame, pourd out in loosness on the grassy ground, both careless of his health, and of his fame…” (Spenser Book I canto vii lines 55-57).

I’m beginning to think that Redcrosse has no common sense what-so-ever, because he is not worried about his health, having his armor on, or is even thinking about how something terrible and dreadful could possibly happen to him. No instead, he is only concentrated on Duessa when suddenly, “till at last he heard a dreadful sownd, which through the wood loud bellowing, did rebownd, that all the earth for terror seemed to shake, and trees did tremble. Th’Elfe therewith astownd, vpstarted lightly from his looser make, and his vnready wearpons gan in hand to take” (Spenser Book I canto vii lines 58-63). Enter Orgoglio, the giant; somehow Redcrosse didn’t see that coming, which only adds more evidence against Redcrosse that he’s naïve and completely clueless.

The moral allegory that I can see and interpret in this episode between Redcrosse and Orgoglio is that it is always best to be prepared and ready for the unexpected. Some people do manage to walk through life never really thinking or worrying about what they do, but walking around carelessly is rather dangerous. I feel that Redcrosse is learning this lesson the hard way, but he’s really not learning his lesson at all, and also that he let his pride be his down fall like the first rooster in Aesop’s fable.

There is a lot of religious allegory going on in this episode between Redcrosse and Orgoglio. First there is the matter dealing with Redcrosse himself, because the whole reason Redcrosse is taken to the House of Pride, at least this is how I interpret it as a religious allegory, is because he is indeed very prideful, which is one of the seven deadly sins. He had been victorious in all of his battles, but he doesn’t internally understanding why he has to go through all of these trials and tribulations. He is only going through the motions of it all, and by only doing this then he is never really able to comprehend the meaning of it all, and therefore, is unable to learn any kind of lesson at all. He is not doing it, because it is the right thing to do, but only because it is what he is supposed to do as a knight, and if he does that then he can then boast about his accomplishments.

It’s not that Redcrosse ever clearly boast about anything, but it his arrogance and carelessness that make him so prideful and seem as if though he is boasting quietly to himself. The place in which Redcrosse is resting is externally beautiful, but internally it has some ugly secrets, such as the tainted pool of water. Duessa herself is externally beautiful, but internally she is as ugly as can be. The reason that I interpret this as a religious allegory is because it reminds me of how the Protestants viewed the Roman Catholics. I think to Spenser the Catholics only externally worshiped, and they were only going through the motions of their rituals.

Orgoglio, to me, is a manifestation of Redcrosse’s pride. Pride, because instead of being ready for anything and continuing  on with his mission to save Una’s parents, he is relaxing, giving off the impression that nothing could touch him, because why else would he let his guard down and not have his armor ready?  It is obvious that he did not learn his lesson from the House of Pride.

When Spenser writes, “the greatest Earth his vncouth mother was, and blustering Aeolus his boaster sire, who with his world doth pas…brought forth this monstrous masse of earthly slime, puft vp with emptie wind, and fild with sinfull crime. So growen great through arrogant delight of th’high descent, whereof he was yborne…through presumption of his matchlesse might” to me is all of Redcrosse’s internal feelings, his pride that he is completely oblivious to, have become externalized in the shape of Orgoglio. Also it relates back to the Genesis chapter in the Bible where God first breathes life into Adam. It is a breath, but here it is a wind, and is more violent, and I feel this is because Orgoglio himself is a violent character.  Redcrosse’s pride blew a violent wind into Orgoglio creating him as an external manifestation of Redcrosse’s pride.

Redcrosse has much to learn, especially in this episode, and until he starts to internalize and fully grasps everything that he is going through then he will never grow or become a good Christian. He has much to learn and must undergo a process and growth in order to reach his full potential. It isn’t always an easy road to travel down, but having a little common sense and being aware that things come up and being able to handle those surprises in a logical manner that make the journey a little easier, so that way the same mistake doesn’t have to be made twice.

 

 

 

  Works Cited

Aesop, D. L. Ashliman, and Arthur Rackham. Aesop’s Fables. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2003. Print.

“The Faerie Queene: Book I.” Luminarium: Anthology of English Literature. Web. 08 Dec. 2011. <http://www.luminarium.org/renascence-editions/queene1.html&gt;.

 

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A Journey Through “The Canterbury Tales”

 

  A Journey through The Canterbury Tales

There are three characters that I feel stick out the most in “the General Prologue” of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. They are the Knyght, the Persoun, and the Plowman. The reason why I have chosen these three and why they stick out the most to me is that they are the representation of St. Benedict of Nursia’s three estates of those who fight, those who pray, and those who work.

The Knyght is a representative of those who fight. Chaucer describes him by writing, “…to riden out, he loved chivalrie, trouthe and honour, fredom and curtesie. Ful worthy was he in his lords werre, and therto hadde he riden, no man ferre, as wel in cristendom as in hethenesse, and evere honoured for his worthyness” (lines 45-50). Chaucer goes on to write about the many wars that the Knyght had been a part of, and how he had attained victory throughout all of them. He fought for faith and “he nevere yet no vileyne ne sayde in al his lyf unto no maner wight. He was a verray, parfit gentil Knyght” (lines 70-72). The Knyght was a noble man that knew the role in which a knyght should play. By that I mean, he lived for serving or in this case fighting for a cause, and being the best Knyght that he could be.

“A good man was ther of religioun, and was a povre Persoun OF A TOUN, but riche he was of hooly thought and werk” (lines 479-481). The Persoun is the representative of those who pray. This Persoun may be poor, but he is constantly giving to others. He is the type of person that rarely thinks of himself and is very honest in contrast to some of Chaucer’s other characters. The Persoun is a good priest learning the rules and then teaching them to others. He never leaves his church, nor does he ever get greedy with power. “To drawen folk to hevene by fairness, by good ensample, this was his business” (lines 521-522). The Persoun is an honest man, while the Pardoner is not. He is a hard worker that never takes a day off come rain or shine he always makes a point to visit the people of his village. Chaucer adds, “a better preest I trowe, that nowher noon ys” (line 526).

Along with the Persoun is the Plowman who is a representative for those who work. He, much like his brother, is an honest man. “God loved he best with all his hole herte at alle tymes, thogh him gamed or smerte, and thane his neighebor right as hym-selve” (Lines 535-537).  The Plowman loved God and worked hard just like his brother. He worshiped God through the good days and the bad days.

I believe that Chaucer was very fond of these three characters, because he only has good things to write about them. I do believe that they were meant to represent St. Benedict’s three estates of those who fight, those who pray, and those who work. Whereas the other characters of the General Prologue, to me, represent a social satire, because Chaucer either pokes fun at them and their social ranking in a negative fashion or the character is just there, and he doesn’t  have much to say about them. Examples of this would be the Chaucer’s depiction of the Monk and the Yeman.

It is through satire and sarcasm that Chaucer describes the Monk. He writes that the Monk does not follow the rules of old, “the reule of Seint Maure, or of Seint Beneit, by cause that it was old and samdel streit this ilke Monk leet olde thynges pace, and heeld after the newe world the space” (173-176). The Monk also didn’t read the holy texts, because the texts said that hunters were unholy men, and the Monk enjoyed hunting. It is in this line that I feel Chaucer uses a sarcastic tone, “And I seyde his opinion was good. What sholde he studie, and make hymselven wood, upon a book in cloystre alwey to poure, or swynken with his hands and lboure, as Austyn bit? How shal the world be served? (lines 183-187). I feel that Chaucer is saying this in a sarcastic tone, much like the way a parent would say, “Of course, you’re right, you shouldn’t have to do all homework for class. You’re right it’s too stressful.” That is the tone that I feel Chaucer is using in this line.

The Monk is supposed to spend his life studying the texts and living as simple man, but this monk spends his time ignoring the texts and doing as he pleases instead of what he is supposed to be doing. He doesn’t act the way a monk is supposed to act, and I feel that Chaucer doesn’t care for him what-so-ever.

There are other characters like the Yeman that Chaucer neither likes nor dislikes. They are just simply there to accompany the other characters. With some characters Chaucer just lays it all out on the line, but with others I feel that through his satire and sarcasm that he’s trying to convey some sort of moral lesson. The Knyght, the Persoun, and the Plowman are three characters that are very honest simple men. While the other characters are used as some sort of moral lesson, because they are so different than the three honorable characters in that they are not honorable people. The moral lesson that I believe Chaucer is trying to convey with the other characters is that it is important to be real and follow a moral code instead of doing as you please. It is possible to be yourself and still follow a set of rules, being a noble and honorable person shouldn’t have to be such a chore.

It’s hard to say whether or not Chaucer is contrasting an “old” vision with a contemporary one, for, I believe that The Canterbury Tales is a classic in that while it was written in the fourteenth century audiences today can still find it relevant even now in the twenty-first century. What Chaucer has done with the “General Prologue” had been so incredibly unique during that time, and the story is a classic in the sense that it is still very much relatable with audiences today. All of the characters were representatives of the people of that time period, and still those same characters still exist even in today’s society. Perhaps, Chaucer was trying to convey an old vision with a more contemporary one, but I feel that if that was the case, then he did it to show how time changes, but people tend to stay the same. The troubles that occurred then can still be applied to the troubles of today.

I think there were no people in particular that Chaucer aimed for, however, since he does tend to poke fun at some of the clergymen and everyday workers that perhaps he was aiming to a particular crowd, but I’m not quite sure who that audience would be. It’s hard to say, because I’m still stuck on the fact that this story from centuries ago is still very relevant today. I find that to be truly remarkable. If I had to relate it to today, then I would say that it would be intended for everyone. It’s a story about people on a spiritual journey and the demands of the physical being.

For the Knyght, the Persoun, and the Plowman they all represent the purest of all men. They are all very spiritual and pure for their journey, because they are truly there for the spiritual aspect of the journey unlike characters such as the Pardoner. Also, their physical being is very strong, meaning that even by temptation they still do the right thing.

Their physical beings are simple and they are not too obsessed with their physical characteristics. The Plowman, although poor, he works his fingers to the bone and always puts his faith in God. The three wear simple clothing and nothing too extravagant or outlandish. Their main goals in life are to live an honorable one. The other characters don’t possess the same qualities that these three have.

In conclusion I believe that the “General Prologue” of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales was meant to be reads as a satire, and that there is a moral lesson to the story. The three characters that represent St. Benedict’s three estates of those who fight, those who pray, and those who work are portrayed by the Knyght, the Persoun, and the Plowman, they are all honorable men. The other characters are either regular average Joes, while the others like the Monk are used in contrast to the three honorable characters. Unlike the three honorable characters the others tend to live by their own rules and follow no moral conduct. They often abuse their social standings to their advantage and trick others around them.

 

 

  Work Cited

From “The Canterbury Tales”: General Prologue (modern English and Middle English).”   Georffrey Chaucer (1342-1400) – “The Canterbury Tales” (in middle English and Modern English). Web. 14 Nov. 2001. <http://www.librarius.com/canttran/gptrfs.htm&gt;

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An Interpretation of “The Battle of Maldon”

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                                                          “I Need a Hero”

            In every good war story there is always an underdog, a hero, who is forced out of duty and respect for his country to defend his land against any invader. Nine times out of ten the underdog’s army contains fewer men then that of his foe’s army. The poem “The Battle of Maldon” depicts the story of Byrhtnoth, an Anglo-Saxon wanting to defend the land of his ancestors. His army was not as big or skilled as the Viking army, but Byrhtnoth would not back down. At the beginning of the poem a messenger for Olaf, the leader of the Vikings, comes and offers Byrhtnoth a plea bargain, but Byrhtnoth refuses saying, “We will pay you with spear tips and sword blades.”

The Vikings say that if they are paid in gold and amour that they would leave peacefully, but Byrhtnoth does not accept this bargain allowing the Vikings to enter the mainland where the two forces begin to do battle. Byrhtnoth and his men were outnumbered and lost the battle. Some of Byrhtnoth’s men retreated, and one man even rode away on Byrhtnoth’s horse.  The reader can’t help but wonder if the battle was necessary. If Byrhtnoth had taken the plea bargain from the Vikings then he and his men would not have died. Did he fight against the Vikings out of pride?

Scholars argue about whether or not Byrhtnoth’s ofermod was due to pride or great mindedness. Some scholars believe that it was Byrhtnoth’s pride that allowed the Vikings to defeat the Anglo-Saxons. However, this reader would like to think that Byrhtnoth’s ofermod was both his pride and great mindedness.

This story reminded me of other war like stories such as 300, Braveheart, and Troy. In the story of Troy Prince Hector must fight a battle that his brother, Paris, started. He knows it is not fair to his men that they should have to fight against the Greek army, but out of love for his brother and his country he does so. The story of the three hundred Spartans against the multitude of Persians also reminds me of the Battle of Maldon. The leader of the Spartans could have easily submitted to the Persians, but he did not. Was it a case of Pride? Perhaps, but in what war story or any other sort of situation in life should someone just give up?

Shakespeare once said, “A coward dies a thousand deaths, but a hero only dies once.” Everyone has a sense of pride, and while it is true that pride can get the best of some of us I don’t think it was Byrhtnoth’s ultimate downfall. Some men fight for the glory of it so that their names can live on forever, but that doesn’t seem like the case when it comes to Byrhtnoth.  I generally feel that he was fighting for his land, people, and everything he believed in.

Sometimes giving up may seem like the easiest thing to do, but if he had done this it would not have been just his pride that would have been tarnished, but also his honor. If Byrhtnoth and his men had had better tactic styles then perhaps the Anglo-Saxons would have had a better chance of defeating the Vikings.

Alfred the Great had developed a military system where they attacked head on and developed a shield or wall around their enemies, but when their enemies would sneak up on them taking them by surprised then the Anglo-Saxons would not be prepared or have to recuperate. The Anglo-Saxons seemed to fight fairly while other countries fought rather dirty.

I believe that Byrhtnoth was a strong hero for his land. It was not his fault entirely that the Vikings won. I think Byrhtnoth died in honor and that if he had submitted to the Vikings that he would have been angry with himself, not because his pride had been wounded, but because he did not fight for what he believed in.

There will always be wars and every war will have an underdog. While it is easier to submit and accept defeat, it is not always the best option. To me, Byrhtnoth is much like Prince Hector, the leader of the Spartans, and William Wallace. He fought for what he believed in and he never backed down. Pride is something that every individual has, but not having pride is worse than having no pride at all.

A hero is someone who does the right thing without recognition. They are not driven by the desire to be famous or go down in the history books. A hero is someone that follows their heart and cares about the well-being of others. Was Byrhtnoth’s ultimate goal to have his name live on forever? The poem does not make him out to be that type of man. He was a man that loved his country and did not want to see it over run with Vikings. He died for what he believed in which made him honorable and someone that the other Anglo-Saxons could look up to in a sense. He took on a battle and had hope, even when it seemed like all hope was gone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Work Cited

http://www.enotes.com/topic/The_Battle_of_Maldon

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